BERLIN, March 17 Bayer Leverkusen take on
Schalke 04 on Sunday knowing their Bundesliga title chances are
at stake and the future of coach Jupp Heynckes is still a
Leverkusen, in second place nine points off leaders Borussia
Dortmund, would close to six points if Dortmund stumble against
Mainz 05 on Saturday but defeat could leave them 12 points
adrift and make a title challenge all but impossible.
The clash against Champions League quarter-finalists Schalke
has been overshadowed by the coaching sagas at both clubs.
Schalke sacked Felix Magath on Wednesday while Heynckes, who
has not yet signed a contract extension, is being linked with a
move south to Munich to succeed Louis van Gaal at champions
Heynckes, who has twice before coached Bayern and is a close
personal friend of club president Uli Hoeness, has not dismissed
the reports, saying a decision on whether he will stay on at
Leverkusen would fall early next week.
"On Monday or Tuesday we will sit down and announce a
decision on this. I am very relaxed about it," Heynckes said
before his team's Europa League match against Villarreal on
With reporters wanting to know whether this would be his
last European game at Leverkusen, the 65-year-old hinted he
could be on his way out at the end of the season.
"Not if we win by two goals (to advance)," he said with his
side having lost the first leg 3-2.
Leverkusen's good run this season has largely gone
unnoticed, with Dortmund's spectacular season and Bayern's
collapse in all competitions grabbing the headlines.
Heynckes' players want to keep it that way. "The team has
shown it can deal with all this noise," Heynckes said.
Schalke will have interim coach Seppo Eichkorn on the bench,
with the club seeking a permanent replacement as a bitter legal
wrangle with Magath over his compensation looms.
The Ruhr valley club have advanced to the Champions League
last eight and are also in the German Cup final but are out of
contention in the Bundesliga, down in 10th spot.
"We all have to pull together now," said Schalke defender
Benedikt Hoewedes. "After the club's decision it is important to
keep a cool head now."
Leaders Borussia Dortmund share none of their worries when
they host Mainz, in fifth place on 43, with their eyes firmly
set on their first Bundesliga title since 2002.
Fourth-placed Bayern, following their last-gasp Champions
League exit to Inter Milan in midweek, travel to Freiburg in a
bid to edge closer to Leverkusen and challenge for second place
and automatic Champions League qualification for next season.
They are seven points behind second spot.
(Writing by Karolos Grohmann, Editing by Martyn Herman. To
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