BERLIN - Schalke 04 have ridden the Bundesliga slipstream all season but now look poised to emerge from their position just behind the leaders to take over at the top.
Coach Felix Magath nevertheless still staunchly refuses to talk about winning back-to-back championship medals, despite steering VfL Wolfsburg from a similar position to a surprise title last season.
"Of course the table does not lie but it only says how good we are after 25 matches," the 56-year-old told reporters ahead of Friday's match against VfB Stuttgart.
The game against seventh-placed Stuttgart is the start of what Magath has described as "the weeks of truth," with Hamburg SV, Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich to follow.
"Only after this series of top matches we have coming up can we see if we are really heading towards a Champions League spot," Magath said.
"At the moment, I am just happy that we have reinforced our position in the standings."
Magath's words look to have been lifted directly from the same stage of last season, when Wolfsburg were second with the coach insisting they had no aspirations other than a top five finish.
Wolfsburg took over the lead on the 26th matchday and never looked back in a stunning run to their first title.
Going into the this season's 26th matchday, Schalke are in second place on 51 points - two behind leaders Bayern Munich - and a victory over Stuttgart would send them top, albeit only provisionally.
Magath will be happy to hear that Brazilian defender Marcelo Bordon and Peruvian striker Jefferson Farfan are available again, having recovered from minor injuries.
He can also count on a string of rejuvenated players with striker Kevin Kuranyi eager to add to his 13-goal tally as he eyes a spot in Germany's World Cup squad, and Brazilian midfielder Rafinha in outstanding form.
Bayern Munich are in action on Saturday at home to Freiburg while Bayer Leverkusen, in third place on 50 points, will have a tougher task when they host fourth-placed Hamburg SV on Sunday.comments