Bundesliga preview

Title race hots up

February 2, 2012

The Bundesliga will try to warm up football fans in Germany this weekend as the race for the title heats up in freezing conditions.

None of the nine fixtures is expected to be played in temperatures above zero, but the fans who brave the cold snap can expect entertainment as a four-horse race for glory intensifies.

Borussia Dortmund have won their last three games in a row, Schalke have tasted victory five times in succession and Borussia Monchengladbach have lost only once in their last nine games.

That streak includes a 3-1 win over current league leaders Bayern Munich, who have seen their advantage at the top of the table reduced to just four goals over Dortmund and 12 over Schalke. Gladbach are a point further behind.

Dortmund get the chance to land the first blow on Friday night when they go to Nurnberg.

Schalke host Mainz on Saturday afternoon with Gladbach heading to Wolfsburg, while Bayern Munich are the last of the big four in action in Hamburg on Saturday evening.

"Dortmund are certainly going to be a challenger," Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said this week. "They are going to make life difficult for us, as will Schalke."

Gladbach should also not be discarded as title candidates, according to one of the most famous members of their dominant side from the 1970s, Gunter Netzer.

"The others are going to have to take Gladbach more seriously," he said in Die Welt. "They are winning their games and making the most of the situation. It is a pure joy to watch them play."

Behind the top four, Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen remain separated by just a point in the race for a place in the Europa League following their draw last weekend.

Bremen travel to Freiburg on Sunday while Leverkusen can put an end to Stuttgart's hopes of catching the top six with a win at the BayArena on Saturday.

Hannover crept up to within three points of Leverkusen last weekend and will be aiming to keep up the pressure with victory over Hertha Berlin, whose coach Michael Skibbe is still looking for his first point since taking charge.

At the bottom of the table, Augsburg head to Hoffenheim in search of their fourth win of the season, while Kaiserslautern bid to end a run of five consecutive draws when they host fellow strugglers Cologne.