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Bundesliga preview: Leverkusen lead race for fourth

Bayer Leverkusen can increase their hold on an automatic UEFA Champions League qualifying berth when they travel to Schalke on Saturday.

Leverkusen, who sit third in the Bundesliga on 49 points, will increase their lead over fourth-placed Schalke (45 points) to seven points if they can win at Veltins-Arena for the fourth time in seven games.

With five games left this season in Germany’s top flight after this weekend, Leverkusen would be odds-on favourites to hold onto third position and qualify for the 2013/14 Champions League.

Schalke’s Veltins-Arena should hold no fear for Leverkusen, who have only lost one of their past seven games there, with that defeat coming in March last year when the home side won 2-0.

The hosts will still be a tough challenge for Sascha Lewandowski’s team, however, as Schalke have won their past three games at home, including a 2-1 triumph over archrivals Borussia Dortmund.

Lewandowski may be concerned by his team’s poor form heading into Saturday’s clash – Bayer have won just two of their past seven matches in all competitions.

If Schalke lose it will open the door for Freiburg, Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Moenchengladbach to make a move toward fourth spot on the Bundesliga table and a berth in the qualifying playoffs for next season’s Champions League.

Freiburg (42 points), who sit fifth, host Hannover on Friday, while Eintracht (42) will travel to lowly Augsburg on Sunday just after Gladbach (41) take on Stuttgart.

Having wrapped up the Bundesliga title last week, Bayern Munich will hope to celebrate their achievement with a victory over Nuremburg on Saturday.

At the other end of the table, Fortuna Duesseldorf will host Werder Bremen in a crucial match in the Bundesliga’s relegation battle.

Fortuna (29 points) sit 15th, just above the relegation playoff spot, while Bremen are two points ahead in 16th.

The winners at Duesseldorf’s ESPRIT Arena would take a significant step towards survival, while bottom club Greuther Fuerth could have another nail put in their top-flight coffin if they lose to second-placed Borussia Dortmund.

In other Bundesliga fixtures, Wolfsburg will take on Hoffenheim and Mainz will host Hamburg.

Thu 11 April, 2013
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