Depleted Schalke battle for European spot

A string of injuries is making life hard for Schalke 04 who travel to Werder Bremen on Saturday in their quest to secure at least a Champions League qualifying spot for next season.

With Bayern Munich preparing to celebrate their 23rd German league title, and 22nd Bundesliga trophy, against Eintracht Frankfurt, Schalke, who reached the Champions League knockout stage this season, are desperate for a top-four finish.

The Gelsenkirchen club have recovered from their implosion midway through the campaign and their win against Hoffenheim last Saturday lifted them back to the fourth place that leads to the qualifying rounds of the Champions League.

With several key players injured going into the last seven games of the season, however, they have got their work cut out.

Central defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos (pictured) underwent another minor operation on his injured knee, delaying further his return to action, and striker Chinedu Obasi also remains on the injury list.

Defenders Christoph Metzelder and Benedikt Howedes missed some training this week with minor problems as did midfielder Jermaine Jones, who is nursing an ankle cut while on international duty.

Fellow strikers Ibrahim Afellay and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, recovering from injuries, are also still doubtful for the rest of the season.

"We know that there are seven finals coming our way," said midfielder Marco Hoger. "We have to get as many points out of them [as possible].

"We stayed patient at Hoffenheim and then solved that problem. It could be that Bremen is a similar game."

Schalke had to wait until the 71st minute to score against Hoffenheim last weekend, eventually winning 3-0.

"We have to stay focused throughout the game in Bremen because we need every point we can get to qualify for the Champions League," said Raffael, who scored last week along with Hoeger and Teemu Pukki.

Bremen, on the other hand, look set to miss out on European action for a third straight season after dropping to 14th place with long-time coach Thomas Schaaf under fire.

Schaaf ruled out stepping down after 14 years, saying the team were young and still developing.

A win over Schalke would go a long way towards silencing the critics and taking some relegation pressure off his team.

Bayern will secure the title with a win at Frankfurt on Saturday but could lift the trophy with a draw or even a loss if Borussia Dortmund, 20 points behind in second place on 52, draw or lose to Augsburg.

Third-placed Bayer Leverkusen, on 48 points and six ahead of Schalke, host VfL Wolfsburg.