Amid marquee matchups, chance to pad lead

Posted by Susie Schaaf

Alexander Hassenstein/Getty ImagesBayern's Mario Gomez, right, will get his first start of the season Saturday

Six of the top eight Bundesliga teams meet in direct duels over the weekend, and first-place Bayern Munich is involved in one - a tasty match against sixth-place Hannover 96 Saturday in the Allianz Arena.

After disappointing consecutive draws to Nurnberg and Valencia, Munich is looking to overcome their November slump. If you recall last season, Matchdays 13 and 14 were disastrous for the Reds - losing to eventual champions Borussia Dortmund at home, and then to Mainz away.

The battle for second place features Schalke 04 and Eintracht Frankfurt in Gelsenkirchen. They are level on points (23), but hosts die Knappen lead die Adler by one goal. Frankfurt, newly promoted this season, has the advantage of not playing in Europe, while Schalke eked out a Champions League win over Olympiakos 1-0 on Wednesday.

Eighth-placed Mainz gets a visit from fourth-place Dortmund. Die Nullfuenfer also have the luxury of not playing in Europe, while visiting die Schwarzgelben have become the stars of the Champions League group stages, hammering Ajax 4-1 to win the Group of Death with a match to spare.

However, the reason we're all here is the Bayern-Hannover match. Mirko Slomka has taken his side from perennial Bundesliga bottom dwellers to European competitors. Jupp Heynckes can be glad the opposing die Roten will have less than two days rest after playing a 0-0 Europa League draw with FC Twente.

In encouraging injury news for Bayern, Jerome Boateng has shaken off his groin strain in two weeks and is expected to be named to the squad. Mario Gomez is set to make his first start of the season after getting a 15-minute spell against Valencia Tuesday. Franck Ribery, who played through pain Tuesday, has shaken off his rib injury and should start. Only Arjen Robben and Luis Gustavo will definitely not feature.

Bayern has not won a Matchday 13 in five seasons, but has not lost to Hannover since 2006. Hannover defender Lars Stindl thinks he has the key to get it done this year, saying on the team website: "FC Bayern are extremely strong offensively. We have to keep compact and allow very little through. If we defend well on the flanks and we’re quick with our counterattacks, it’s possible for us to create one or two chances. What’s important is that we’re clinical with them."

The best results for Munich this weekend would be to beat Hannover, have Schalke and Frankfurt draw and Mainz beat or draw with Dortmund. This would open up a 10-point lead at the top of the table. In the middle, only six points separates European competiton and relegation.

Amazingly, Schalke and Bayern are likely to top their respective Champions League groups, while Dortmund already has. And Hannover sit in first place in their Europa League group, while Leverkusen, Stuttgart and 'Gladbach are all second. It's a fantastic time to be a Bundesliga supporter!

Follow Susie on Twitter @fussballsusie


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