Bayern look for improvement against Schalke

November 2, 2006
By Kevin Fylan

HAMBURG, Germany, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Bayern Munich could do with a touch of their Champions League luck in the Bundesliga when they face Schalke 04 at their least favourite ground on Sunday.

Bayern lost on their first five visits to the new Arena Aufschalke and while they managed a draw there last season the experience was almost more painful.

In October last year, Bayern were leading 1-0 through a Roque Santa Cruz goal only for the referee to award a marginal penalty in stoppage time and hand Schalke a point.

Bayern went on to win the league by five points, while Schalke slipped out of the reckoning and failed even to qualify for the Champions League.

This season, Schalke have been looking much more solid, or at least they were until a 3-0 defeat away to VfB Stuttgart last weekend saw them slip three points behind leaders Werder Bremen.

Bayern are ahead of them in second only on goal difference after an indifferent start to the season.

The Bavarians have lost three times away from home in the league already this season and another defeat could prove costly.

Werder are at home to Energie Cottbus on Saturday and if they maintain their brilliant recent form, Bayern will be six points off the title pace by the time their match kicks off on Sunday.

WORST GAME

Bayer played poorly in the Champions League on Tuesday but escaped with a goalless draw at home to Sporting.

That was enough to secure their place in the last 16 of the competition with two games to spare.

'It was our worst game of the competition so far but we kept a clean sheet,' said centre-back Daniel van Buyten, who must have been shocked at the lack of help from his side's midfield against Sporting.

'The good thing is we're through. Now we have to concentrate on beating Schalke.'

Bayern expect to have Mark van Bommel back after injury and the Dutchman's return should give the team a more solid look.

'He'll be back,' coach Felix Magath confirmed on Wednesday. 'If the game on Tuesday had been the final he would have played.'

Bastian Schweinsteiger should also return after missing the Champions League game through suspension but Lucio, Lukas Podolski and Owen Hargreaves remain on the injured list. Schalke also have injury worries. Mladen Krstajic, Marcelo Bordon and Lincoln all missed training this week.

The loss of Lincoln, the Brazilian playmaker, would be a cruel blow for one of their biggest games of the season.

Cottbus, in sixth place with nine games played, will provide tricky opposition for Werder but Thomas Schaaf's side are in such good form that anything other than a home win would be a huge surprise.

Werder have scored 18 goals in the last four league games and they moved ahead of Barcelona in Champions League Group A thanks to a 3-0 win away to Levski Sofia on Tuesday.

Hanover 96 get the 10th round of Bundesliga matches underway with a home game against bottom club VfL Bochum on Friday.