Bundesliga preview: Schalke sense Champions League berth
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.