Gomez to start as Bayern, Dortmund prepare for Champs League
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Mario Gomez is back in the spotlight, after a season of playing second fiddle to Mario Mandzukic.
Gomez was injured at the start of the season and Bayern Munich's new acquisition Mandzukic used the opportunity to establish himself at the center of Bayern's attack.
Now, Bayern is looking at Gomez again as it builds up to its Champions League seminal against Barcelona.
Bayern and Borussia Dortmund are expected to rest their top players in the Bundesliga weekend ahead of the Champions League semifinals. Bayern hosts Barcelona on Tuesday while Dortmund plays Real Madrid a day later.
In the Bundesliga, Bayern travels to Hannover bolstered by another big win after sweeping past Wolfsburg 6-1 to advance to the final of the German Cup. Dortmund hosts Mainz and is looking to all but seal second place.
Bayern used a second-string line-up last week against Nuremberg and won easily 4-0. Coach Jupp Heynckes then went back to his regulars and rolled over Wolfsburg.
Gomez scored three goals inside six minutes while spending less than 15 minutes on the field as a substitute for Mandzukic.
Xherdan Shaqiri, playing for the suspended Franck Ribery, scored a goal and set up three.
That leaves Heynckes wondering if maybe the two could get into the team for the Barcelona game. Gomez is expected to play anyway on Tuesday since Mandzukic is suspended.
"I wasn't worried that Mandzukic can't play, because I have the second best Champions league scorer from last season (Gomez),'' Heynckes said.
Gomez could gain some more match practice in Hannover.
Also this weekend, Greuther Fuerth's seemingly inevitable relegation could be confirmed. The club is nine points behind Hoffenheim and a loss at neighboring Nuremberg on Sunday would make it official.
Higher up in the table, Schalke is still hoping to wrest away third place from Leverkusen, which is four points ahead.
Schalke failed to gain ground on Leverkusen last week when it had to settle for a 2-2 draw at home and now travels to Eintracht Frankfurt, which is hoping to retain a place in the Europa League.
But Eintracht is in a deep slump, having won only one of its last nine games, and is four points behind Schalke and three points behind Freiburg in sixth.
"It's going to be close right up to the end,'' Schalke goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand said.
The top three places bring direct slots in the Champions League, fourth place means qualifying.
Places five and six mean Europa League. Freiburg failed to secure a place in the Europa League when it lost 2-1 at Stuttgart on Wednesday in the German Cup semifinals.
Stuttgart earned that place by qualifying for the final against Bayern, which will play in the Champions League again as the Bundesliga winner.
Schalke has not lost in 13 trips to Frankfurt.
Eintracht's coach Armin Veh has extended his contract in Frankfurt but the team is struggling to score goals. Its top scorer Alex Meier is missing because of an ankle injury and Frankfurt could face problems as it seeks a crucial win.
Freiburg has been the surprise of the season with its young team and no stars. It was outplayed in Stuttgart in the cup game and could make amends when the two sides meet again on Sunday in Stuttgart.
Borussia Moenchengladbach could still gain a place in the Europa League and travels Friday to Augsburg, which is three points away from safety.
On Saturday, Leverkusen hosts next-to-last Hoffenheim, Hamburg plays Fortuna Duesseldorf and Werder Bremen meets Wolfsburg. Neither Duesseldorf nor Werder are safe.