BERLIN - Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich will have no time to celebrate their Champions League semi-final spot with coach Louis van Gaal isolating the team ahead of their crucial league match against Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday.
Bayern, fresh from Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final elimination of Manchester United, arrive in Duesseldorf later on Thursday and will remain in the area until the match in nearby Leverkusen that could largely decide their title chances.
Bayern are top on 59 points with five games left, one ahead of Schalke 04 whom they beat last week, with Leverkusen in third place on 53.
Victory at Leverkusen would essentially kill off the hosts' title hopes and keep Schalke, who travel to lowly Hanover 96, at bay.
"I think (not returning to Munich) is a good idea," said Bayern captain Mark van Bommel on Thursday. "From now on it is only the Leverkusen game that matters and that is where we have to focus now.
"This will be an even tougher match than against Schalke and we cannot allow ourselves any slip-ups. We want to become champions so we must win at Leverkusen to keep Schalke at a distance."
Bayern, who have a busy schedule with their Champions league semi-final matches against Olympique Lyon in late April and a German Cup final on May 15 as well, want to cement their lead at the top of the Bundesliga before attempting to reach the Champions League final.
"If we lose at Leverkusen then we are under extreme pressure in the league. Should we win then the pressure is lower and it also gives us a tailwind for the Champions League matches that follow," club president Uli Hoeness told reporters on Thursday.
Leverkusen are currently a long way away from the dominant team that was undefeated for the first 24 games of the season.
Jupp Heynckes' men have lost their four of their last five league matches, including the last three, all but falling out of title contention for yet another season.
They will also be missing defender Daniel Schwaab who was banned on Thursday for three games for a red card last week, though top striker Stefan Kiessling has fully recovered from an injury netting twice in their defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt last week.
At the other end of the table, bottom-placed Hertha Berlin, who have won seven points from their last three games, will be looking to keep their rescue operation alive when they host VfB Stuttgart.
Another win could see them lifted on to the relegation playoff spot and off the last place for the first time since mid-September.comments