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Neuer braced for spicy Schalke return

Germany keeper Neuer, attached to Schalke since he was five, joined bitter rivals Bayern Munich in June, a move seen by many Gelsenkirchen fans as the ultimate act of treason.

"I hope Manuel's return will not be made too difficult for him," Schalke captain Benedikt Hoewedes said on Thursday.

"He has not deserved a hostile welcome because he always put in sensational performances for us."

Hoewedes did, however, warn that Neuer could expect exactly that from the Schalke fans.

With Schalke just three points behind leaders Bayern and Werder Bremen, who are on 12, a win would catapult them back to the top.

But they first have to score a goal against Bayern, the first team to do so after seven consecutive clean sheets, including four in the league, in all competitions.

"That goal will eventually come but we are trying to postpone it as long as possible," Neuer told reporters.

"I look forward to the game and to meeting up with friends and colleagues," he added after Bayern's 2-0 win at Villarreal on Wednesday in their Champions League opener.

"For me it will be an interesting game," said Neuer, who made a brief return to Gelsenkirchen during Germany's Euro 2008 qualifier against Austria but received no hostile treatment.

"The ordinary Schalke fan is not necessarily a national team fan. I was welcomed very warmly there with the national team but I do not expect the same welcome this time.

"I think one fan or another will applaud because they have understood my decision. At the end of the day it is my profession and the way I earn a living."

Bayern could be without top striker Mario Gomez, who sustained a groin injury against Villarreal as well as central defender Daniel van Buyten, who limped off with a heel injury.

Second-placed Werder Bremen, also on 12 points, travel to Nuremberg on Saturday looking to extended their three-game winning streak.

Borussia Monchengladbach, in third on 10, take on bottom-placed Hamburg SV, who have yet to win a game this season.