BERLIN - Hamburg striker Mladen Petric has shaken off a thigh injury and cannot wait to face Bayern Munich in Friday's North-South derby, as the Croatian looks to build on a solid recent scoring record against the champions.
"I am ready to play," said the 29-year-old international, who returned to training this week having been sidelined since late September and will be hopeful of adding to the goals he scored in Hamburg's last two home matches against Bayern. "I have very good memories from the past games."
Hamburg have recovered from a poor start to the season to sit in fifth place on 14 points after victories in their last two league games, including a 1-0 win at Mainz 05, moved the side to within seven points off leaders Borussia Dortmund.
However, Petric refused to consider his team as favourites against an under-performing Bayern side languishing in 10th place on 11 points from eight matches.
"We do have very good chances to win that game but neither of us is a clear favourite," Petric told reporters during training this week.
"But Bayern, despite their current form remain the favourites for the Bundesliga title and this will stay like that for decades to come. It is them you will have to beat if you want to achieve something."
Despite Petric's cautious assessment, injury-plagued Bayern do appear to be a shadow of the team that won the domestic double and reached the Champions League final last season.
"If we lose against Hamburg we could find ourselves 13 points off the top and that would be very hard to recover," Bayern president Uli Hoeness admitted.
They will be hoping striker Mario Gomez, who has scored four goals in their last two matches, continues to find the target as injured forwards Ivica Olic and Miroslav Klose remain doubtful.
Leaders Borussia Dortmund will be looking to extend their seven-match winning streak when they host fourth-placed Hoffenheim on Saturday, while Schalke 04 will be hoping to launch a climb up the table against an in-form Eintracht Frankfurt.
Schalke, struggling in the relegation zone on five points from eight games, would like some of their Champions League form to rub off in the Bundesliga after they beat Hapoel Tel Aviv 3-1 on Wednesday.
Schalke are second in the European competition's Group B with two wins from three fixtures but have only managed one victory in the Bundesliga so far.
"Such a successful result (against Hapoel) does wonders for the team's confidence and I hope we can finally take that momentum into the league," defender Benedikt Hoewedes said.