Schalke awaits Bayern Munich in Bundesliga

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BERLIN (AP) -Schalke coach Huub Stevens may need to revise his modest targets for the season if his side can continue its impressive form against visiting Bundesliga leader Bayern Munich on Saturday.

The Dutchman said his team is "fighting for third place." But Schalke's only blip on an otherwise perfect start to the season has been a 2-2 draw at Hannover on the opening weekend.

That followed a comfortable 5-0 win over Saarbruecken in the first round of the German Cup.

On Tuesday, Schalke beat Greek champion Olympiakos 2-1 to start a Champions League campaign with a win for the first time in five attempts.

A day later, Bayern beat Valencia 2-1 to extend its season-opening winning run to six games.

"There's a fire burning inside when you haven't won anything for two years," said Bayern attacker Thomas Mueller, overlooking his side's German Supercup win over Borussia Dortmund in August.

Also Saturday, defending champion Dortmund visits Hamburger SV with the team unbeaten in 31 games and closing in on the bottom side's record of 36 set in January, 1983.

"Hamburg will give everything. We're prepared for that," Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp said at Thursday's news conference.

Dortmund also got its Champions League campaign off to a winning start, Robert Lewandowski sparing Mats Hummels' blushes for missing a penalty by scoring late for a 1-0 victory over Ajax on Tuesday.

"The champions are coming at just the right time," Hamburg's under-pressure coach Thorsten Fink told Kicker magazine. "On Saturday we're rank outsiders who can only surprise."

Hamburg is knocked out of the German Cup, and has made its worst league start for 40 years, when it began with four defeats in a row,

Fink desperately needs a good performance to quell rising alarm that the only club to have played in the Bundesliga since its formation in 1963 could be relegated for the first time.

However, the former Bayern player will have to make do without the suspended Petr Jiracek, who was sent off in last weekend's defeat at Frankfurt.

Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller and midfielder Ilkay Guendogan are doubtful for the game with flu.

All three German teams in the Champions League had a penalty miss before winning their games, and Schalke striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar - who missed one against Olympiakos - was keen to focus on Bayern.

"The meeting is extremely important for us, to measure ourselves and see where we stand," the Dutchman told Schalke's website. "They're playing well and have already scored a lot of goals this season. It's a super team. But we shouldn't be looking at the opposition. What's important is what we can deliver."

Huntelaar played with a cold against Olympiakos and missed training on Thursday as his condition failed to improve.

Jermaine Jones is also a doubt for the home side after the U.S. midfielder limped off in the last minute of Tuesday's win with a left ankle injury.

Stevens admitted their absences would be a blow but called on his side to be "courageous."

Schalke has only one win and two draws to show from its last seven league meetings with Bayern in Gelsenkirchen.

"I hope we've learned from the last games against Bayern," Stevens said.

Bayern is awaiting news of Franck Ribery's condition after the French winger was substituted at halftime against Valencia with a recurrence of the muscular problems which kept him out against Mainz last weekend.

Also Saturday, Wolfsburg hosts promoted Greuther Fuerth, another promoted side Fortuna Duesseldorf hosts Freiburg, and Augsburg visits Mainz.

Nuremberg gets the weekend's action underway on Friday by hosting high-flying Eintracht Frankfurt, only the second promoted side ever to start a Bundesliga campaign with three wins after Bochum achieved the same feat in 2002.

The home side is also unbeaten after three games and looks to have pulled off the transfer coup of the summer in signing Japanese midfielder Hiroshi Kiyotake from J-League side Cerezo Osaka. Kiyotake set up two goals and scored another in Nuremberg's 3-2 win at Borussia Moenchengladbach last weekend.

Bayer Leverkusen hosts Borussia Moenchengladbach in a Rhine derby on Sunday, with both sides looking for a morale-boosting win after indifferent starts to the league.

Also Sunday, Werder Bremen hosts Stuttgart and Hannover visits troubled Hoffenheim, which appointed former Schalke general manager Andreas Mueller in a similar role on Tuesday.

Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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