Schalke and Bayern bid to save season

BERLIN - When last season's runners-up Schalke 04 host champions Bayern Munich on Saturday it will not be a clash for top spot in the Bundesliga but a bitter fight for both clubs to rescue their season.

Schalke are 15th in the 18-team league, just one point off the relegation zone, while Bayern only last week climbed to fifth, a massive 14 points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund.

With only three games left until the winter break the two teams are desperate for points so as not to miss out on their revised targets.

Bayern have not yet written off the title but clinching a Champions League spot is their new priority while Schalke will be happy to avoid the drop and finish in mid-table.

Both coaches received their clubs' support this week, Schalke's Felix Magath being backed during crisis talks on Wednesday and Louis van Gaal getting a standing ovation at Bayern's annual general meeting on Tuesday.

"It is normal for the board to sit down and discuss our sporting situation," said Magath who spent tens of millions of euros in the close season to buy strikers Raul and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

"I do not know if the board covered my back but I had the feeling everyone was confident," he told reporters.


Schalke have only won two matches at home this season and Magath has cracked down on his players this week, cutting their winter holidays and starting training sessions an hour earlier amid heavy snowfall.

Magath also banished three of his players to the reserve team for lack of commitment.

Schalke advanced to the Champions League round of 16 eight days ago - a major success - but last week slumped to an embarrassing 5-0 defeat at Kaiserslautern.

Bayern, also through in the Champions League, have recovered after a rocky start in the Bundesliga.

"Our aim is to go into the first knockout round with a small gap to the top," said striker Mario Gomez who has netted nine times in the league and six times in the Champions League after spending much of the early part of the season on the bench.

Having gone unbeaten in seven league games, Bayern look to be on the road to recovery.

Leaders Dortmund, with 37 points from 14 games, visit mid-table Nuremberg on Sunday.

Mainz 05, in second spot on 30 points, travel to Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday while third-placed Bayer Leverkusen host lowly Cologne on Sunday.