Germans march on in Europe and look to the home front
There was a small footballing exodus from Germany this midweek. With the exception of Hamburger SV, who hosted Anderlecht in the Europa League last 32, the Bundesliga's continental hopefuls had to negotiate tricky away ties against some of EuropeÃ¢ÂÂs more refined sides.
Bayern MÃÂ¼nchen took a 2-1 lead from their Allianz Arena to Florence to face a fiesty Fiorentina determined to overturn the deficit and progress to the last eight of the competition.
Meanwhile, over in the Europa League, Werder Bremen travelled to the Estadio Mestalla in Valencia, stamping ground of the two Davids, Silva and Villa Ã¢ÂÂ while last yearÃ¢ÂÂs Bundesliga champions Wolfsburg travelled to Russia to face Rubin Kazan, Russian Premier League champions and conquerors of FC Barcelona at the Camp Nou in the Champions League group stage.
And the German clubs can be happy with their midweek's work. Both Bremen and Wolfsburg can afford goalless draws in their home legs after each drawing 1-1 away, while Hamburg are all but in the hat for the last 16 after Ruud van NistelrooyÃ¢ÂÂs 61st European strike helped Hamburg to a 3-1 victory.
Mathijsen, Van Nistelrooy and Jansen mark victory
No wonder daily newspaper Die Welt says "The northern trio from the Bundesliga are all in a good position to progressÃ¢ÂÂ. Although Wolfsburg went behind early on in Russia, a goal by Bosnian international Zvjezdan MisimoviÃÂ levelled up a relatively boring game, and the Wolves will be confident of progressing in front of their own fans.
For their part, Bremen will be delighted Ã¢ÂÂ firstly not to have lost the game, and secondly to have scored an away goal in a physical (read: dirty) match that saw nine yellow cards plus a straight red for Argentine and La Liga Loca favourite Ever Banega.
Valencia coach Unai Emery said he was Ã¢ÂÂoutragedÃ¢ÂÂ by English referee Martin AtkinsonÃ¢ÂÂs performance in their game, after he awarded Bremen a dodgy-looking penalty which Torsten Frings duly converted.
Game of the week has to be the Champions League thriller between Bayern and the Viola in Italy. Stunning goals by Dutch duo Mark van Bommel and Arjen Robben were enough to put die Bayern into the quarters, despite their team losing the leg 3-2. Fiorentina knew they had to win the game, and win it they did, but not without allowing Bayern to score two goals which saw them through on the away goals rule.
In all fairness, RobbenÃ¢ÂÂs goal was good enough to win any football match Ã¢ÂÂ after cutting in from the right, the ex-Chelsea and Real Madrid man, using only his left foot, jinked round two Fiorentina players before unleashing a thunderbolt of a strike into the top corner.
And so to this weekendÃ¢ÂÂs Bundesliga games. Two of the leagueÃ¢ÂÂs form teams meet tonight, with FC Schalke hosting VfB Stuttgart. The home side can at least momentarily top the league, as three points would put them one clear of Bayern.
SC Freiburg, who have earned 14 of their 20 points this season away from home, travel to the Allianz Arena, knowing that another three points will allow them to climb out of the relegation places. Will they manage to beat the mighty FCB? The short answer is no. And with Leverkusen facing Hamburger SV, die Bayern will be hopeful of extending their lead at the tableÃ¢ÂÂs top.
Down at tÃ¢ÂÂother end, there's a relegation six-pointer between Hertha BSC and FC NÃÂ¼rnberg. If Hertha lose, they'll be nine points from safety Ã¢ÂÂ and the Bundesliga would be in serious threat of losing its only Berlin-based team.
That would be a real shame. Can you imagine a Premier League without a London team? ItÃ¢ÂÂs not exactly the same, but for them to drop out of the league would be devastating for the club, as well as for the league to lose the 75,000 capacity Olympic Stadium from its roster.
This weekend's fixtures, along with The Fundesliga's predictions:
FC Schalke 2-1 VfB Stuttgart
Borussia MÃ¢ÂÂgladbach 1-2 VfL Wolfsburg
VfL Bochum 0-1 Borussia Dortmund
FSV Mainz 1-1 FC KÃÂ¶ln
Hannover 96 2-2 Eintracht Frankfurt
Hertha BSC 1-1 FC NÃÂ¼rnberg
FC Bayern MÃÂ¼nchen 3-0 SC Freiburg
1899 Hoffenheim 1-2 Werder Bremen
Bayer Leverkusen 2-2 Hamburger SV