Adler back to his best as Hamburg hosts Bayern

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BERLIN (AP) -Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer could find his Germany place under threat if Rene Adler maintains his outstanding form for Hamburger SV.

The sides meet Saturday in the Bundesliga, where Adler is eager to show he's back to his best since recovering from right knee surgery that kept him out of last season, when Bayer Leverkusen allowed his contract expire after 12 years at the club.

Hamburg signed Adler on a free contract after Leverkusen decided to stick with Bernd Leno, whose loan deal from Stuttgart was made permanent.

The 27-year-old Adler's form for Hamburg has helped the side overcome three straight losses and move into seventh before Bayern's visit.

"He is so good I can't actually ask any more of him," said Hamburg coach Thorsten Fink, who spent most of his playing career at Bayern.

Adler was Germany's first-choice goalkeeper until a rib injury forced him out of the 2010 World Cup, allowing Neuer - then with Schalke - to take over.

"When Rene is fit, he's among the best German goalkeepers. He's a player that people like to watch," said Neuer, who was partly to blame as Germany conceded four goals in 30 minutes to allow Sweden to salvage a 4-4 draw in a World Cup qualifier in Berlin last month.

Adler insisted, however, that the national team is "not an issue for me at the moment. I know that the German coaching team is competent and always nominates the best players. Of course I'd be delighted if I got a call up, but it's not the end of the world if I didn't."

Bayern's record eight-game winning start was ended by Adler's former side Leverkusen last weekend, but the Bavarians bounced back with a 4-0 win over second-division Kaiserslautern in the German Cup on Wednesday.

"You could see the players' utter determination to reach the third round," Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes said.

Hamburg had already been knocked out in the first round, allowing Fink the luxury of focusing all his efforts in the Bundesliga after another offseason of rebuilding.

Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, Croatia forward Mladen Petric and Turkish prospect Goekhan Toere were allowed leave, while Netherlands midfielder Rafael van der Vaart returned amid much fanfare after spells at Real Madrid and Tottenham.

Adler has arguably had more of an impact on the side which struggled to finish 15th - one spot off the relegation playoff place - last season. He has not conceded in three of the last four games, and Hamburg has collected 13 points from a possible 18 in the last six games as his confidence has grown.

"I'm really looking forward to this game. There are three points at stake and we want to win," Adler said ahead of the league leader's visit. "The (Leverkusen) game showed that you can make it difficult for them with a compact team performance. No team is unbeatable."

Arjen Robben captained Bayern against Kaiserslautern, scoring twice in his first full game since the Netherlands winger returned from a month out with muscular problems.

Holger Badstuber is out after tearing a thigh muscle in the loss to Leverkusen, while fellow defender Daniel van Buyten is also doubtful.

Nine points behind Bayern in fourth, defending champion Borussia Dortmund hosts Stuttgart on Saturday.

Mats Hummels and Sebastian Kehl should play, but Sven Bender (hamstring) und Jakub Blaszczykowski (left ankle) remain out.

"Mats has light (muscular) problems but nothing major. Kehl has minor back problems," Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp said Thursday.

Also Saturday, second-place Schalke visits Hoffenheim, Freiburg visits Borussia Moenchengladbach, Hannover hosts Augsburg, and Wolfsburg hopes to continue its renaissance since Felix Magath's departure at Nuremberg.

Leverkusen hosts Fortuna Duesseldorf in a Rhine derby on Sunday, when Werder Bremen plays Mainz.

Third-place Eintracht Frankfurt hosts promoted Greuther Fuerth to get the 10th round underway on Friday.

Copyright 2014 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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