Wolfsburg vs. Hamburger SV  2 - 1

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Bundesliga preview: Schalke sense Champions League berth

23 March 2012 23:14

Schalke can take a big step toward Champions League qualification if they defeat Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga on Saturday.

Coached by Dutchman Huub Stevens, Schalke came from a goal down to beat Kaiserslautern 4-1 away from home last Sunday.

A day earlier, fifth-placed Leverkusen went down 2-1 at home to Borussia Moenchengladbach.

The weekend's results left fourth-placed Schalke 10 points clear of Leverkusen, and with a firm grip on the final Champions League qualification berth.

Schalke welcome Leverkusen to the Veltins-Arena knowing a victory will increase their buffer to 13 points, with eight rounds of the Bundesliga season remaining.

"It's true," Schalke midfielder Lewis Holtby said when asked about his team's favourable situation.

"As far as that (Champions League qualification) goes we're in a comfortable situation now. We're aiming to keep the pressure on the teams above us."

Much of Schalke's success is down to their deadly strike partnership of Spanish veteran Raul and Netherlands international Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

Holtby offered a glowing endorsement of 34-year-old former Real Madrid captain Raul.

"Raul's a role-model, simple as that," he said.

"I'm thankful to God that I can play on the same team as him."

And according to Stevens, former Milan and Real striker Huntelaar is among the best goal-poachers in the sport.

"He's in a class of his own inside the penalty box, for me he's the best in the world there," Stevens said.

Elsewhere this week, the round begins on Friday with mid-table Wolfsburg in action at home to Hamburg.

Bayern Munich, second in the table, will look to continue their recent goal glut with victory at home to Hannover on Saturday.

Third-place Moenchengladbach await the visit of Hoffenheim, while second-bottom Hertha Berlin travel to Mainz.

After Kaiserslautern's loss against Schalke cost coach Marco Kurz his job, assistant Oliver Schaefer and goalkeeping coach Gerry Ehrmann will take charge of the team's crucial relegation battle away to third-bottom Freiburg.

And sixth-placed Werder Bremen host Augsburg, who are just one point outside the bottom three.

On Sunday, Nuremburg travel to face Stuttgart in a mid-table clash, and defending champions Borussia Dortmund are on the road at Cologne.

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Bundesliga: Wolfsburg 2 Hamburg 1

23 March 2012 22:46

Wolfsburg moved to eighth place in the Bundesliga table with a 2-1 home win over Hamburg on Friday.

After the teams went to the dressing rooms deadlocked at 0-0 at half-time, both sides quickly got off the mark when play resumed.

Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic gave Wolfsburg the lead 60 seconds after the re-start after good play by Iranian attacker Ashkan Dejegah.

Hamburg's Swedish striker Marcus Berg equalised a minute later, helped by strong work from defender Heiko Westermann.

The home side took a firm grip on the three points in the 75th minute when defender Marcel Schafer scored what proved to be the winner.

The victory was Wolfsburg's fourth in their past six matches while Hamburg continue to struggle in 14th place, having lost five of their past six matches, and with the threat of relegation growing.

Bundesliga table

# Team MP D P
1 34 +55 81
2 34 +55 73
3 34 +30 64
4 34 +25 60
5 34 +8 54
6 34 +17 53
7 34 -4 48
8 34 -13 44
9 34 -9 42
10 34 -11 42
11 34 -6 41
12 34 -16 40
13 34 -4 39
14 34 -13 38
15 34 -22 36
16 34 -26 31
17 34 -36 30
18 34 -30 23