BERLIN: The fate of Bayer Leverkusen coach Klaus Toppmoller hangs in the balance this weekend as last year's Bundesliga runners-up struggle against the drop.
Last year's Champions League finalists, thrashed 3-0 at home by bottom club Energie Cottbus last weekend, face a tough task when they host defending champions Borussia Dortmund tomorrow.
This year's championship is a far different story from 12 months ago when the two sides fought for the title.
The sale of Michael Ballack and Ze Roberto have left Bayer struggling with Toppmoller complaining that lack of funds have prevented him from improving his young squad.
The statistics tell their own story with the team scoring just 24 goals, 15 less than leaders Bayern Munich this season and losing six home games, leaving them 14th in the 18-team championship.
To add to their woes German international defender Jens Nowotny played his first game for nine months on Sunday, only to tear his cruciate ligament again, ruling him out for the remainder of the season.
Last weekend's hammering has, however, managed to release some funds for Toppmoller with Leverkusen drafting in Brazilian midfielder Cristiano Marques on a five-month loan worth US$800,000 from Cruzeiro.
Polish international midfielder Radoslaw Kaluzny is also set to leave Cottbus to join Bayer Leverkusen.
Dortmund, meanwhile, need to regain lost ground after dropping one spot to third last weekend, behind Werder Bremen, after a setback in Berlin.
Bremen face a tough task when they visit ninth-placed Hamburg, who have not lost a match since late October.
Both title chasers need to win to claw away at Bayern's eight-point cushion, the largest since Schalke 04 in the 1971/72 season.
Ottmar Hitzfeld's men are, however, favourites to come away with a further three points following their visit to 10th-placed Arminia Bielefeld today.
Further back, fourth and fifth placed Schalke 04 and VfB Stuttgart need to win to stay in the chasing pack as they are already some 11 points off the pace.
Schalke, whose European hopes were dashed this season, are now focusing on their league aspirations and host crisis-ridden Kaiserslautern.
Four-time Bundesliga champions Kaiserslautern are sinking both on and off the pitch.
Sitting second from bottom equal on 13 points with tailenders Cottbus, Kaiserslautern have been ordered to pay 12.9 million euros in back taxes with 8.3 million to be paid immediately.
“With these demands the situation (financial) of the club has dramatically worsened,” complained club president Rene Jaggi.
The club had already been struggling with debts of up to 30 million euros with France striker Youri Djorkaeff adding to their worries as he is demanding 300,000 euros in compensation for lost wages.
Further Bundesliga action this weekend sees Stuttgart, targeting a place in Europe next season, hosting Hertha Berlin; 1860 Munich host Hannover, as CfL Bochum, sitting seventh, travel to Cottbus.
Monchengladbach, also fighting oblivion, are hoping that newly-signed Finnish international striker Mikael Forssell, on loan from English outfit Chelsea, will inspire them to greatness against visiting VfL Wolfsburg. – AFP
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