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Runaway leaders Bayern host fifth-placed Schalke

Runaway Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich host fifth-placed Schalke Saturday who will be targetting their first win at the Allianz Arena since 2011. Bayern start the weekend a massive 18 points clear in the table with 21 of their 34 matches played.

They are threatening to break their own record for the earliest confirmed Bundesliga title, set in securing the 2013/14 title after 27 games under Pep Guardiola. After scoring twice on his debut Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi wants more goals for Borussia Dortmund on his first home appearance against Hamburg.

Dortmund’s Germany star Marco Reus could make his return eight months after tearing his cruciate knee ligament. Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski has dismissed fresh reports Real Madrid want to sign him as he looks to equal a Bundesliga goal-scoring record.

The Poland star has netted in all ten home games at the Allianz Arena this season and one more against Schalke will see him equal Jupp Heynckes’ record set in the 1970s. Spanish media reports have again linked Lewandowski to Real, but the 28-year-old is focused on records, not rumours. “Every year there is this speculation – the rumours don’t interest me,” said Lewandowski, who has scored 25 times in all competitions this season.

Keep an eye on whether Thomas Mueller lines up for Bayern against Schalke. The 28-year-old Germany star injured his thigh in setting up the first goal in Tuesday’s 6-0 German Cup romp at Paderborn.

He returned to training on Thursday, but Bayern need their linchpin fit, especially with their Champions League last 16 clash looming on February 19 when they host Besiktas in the first leg. Schalke’s visit to the Allianz Arena will carry extra spice for Leon Goretzka.

The 23-year-old Germany midfielder will leave Schalke to join Bayern next season on a free transfer. Disgruntled Bayern fans held up “No Neuer!” signs after Manuel Neuer, the last Schalke star to switch to Munich, announced he was joining Bayern in 2011.

“Of course, the whole situation will be bubbling up a bit now, but I think it will go down relatively quickly after the match,” said Goretzka optimistically. Batshuayi, on loan from Chelsea until May, is relishing his first Dortmund home match in front of the iconic ‘Yellow Wall’ south stand at Signal Iduna Park.

Dortmund fans are hoping Batshuayi will add to the two goals he scored in last Friday’s 3-2 win at bottom side Cologne on his club debut. “I have heard a lot about the stadium and the ‘yellow wall’,” said the Belgium striker with 25,000 set to fill the south stand against Hamburg on Saturday.

“The anticipation of playing in front of 80,000 at Signal Iduna Park is huge.” Marco Reus will have the final say in whether he makes his Dortmund return on Saturday, but Borussia are in no mood to rush their injury-prone winger.

Reus missed Germany’s 2014 World Cup win after injuring his ankle in the final warm-up game before flying to Brazil. A persistent groin injury also ruled him out of the Euro 2016 finals. Dortmund head coach Peter Stoeger has said Reus will have the final say whether or not he plays against Hamburg. -AFP

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