The most highly anticipated match in Germany this weekend is between two Champions League hopefuls, as Bayer Leverkusen host Schalke.
Both teams have performed well this season, but naturally both are off the stunning pace set by Bayern Munich, who lead the Bundesliga by 13 points.
Leverkusen will be hoping to put some distance between themselves and their competition from Gelsenkirchen and have the opportunity to stretch their lead over them to nine points.
Sami Hyypia's side have recently stopped a poor run of form that saw them beaten three times in a row, per WhoScored.com, before consecutive victories over Stuttgart and Borussia Monchengladbach. Schalke are currently unbeaten in their last five matches.
Here is the essential viewing information followed by a preview of the match.
When: Saturday, Feb. 15, at 5:30 p.m. GMT/12.30 p.m. ET
Where: BayArena, Leverkusen, Germany.
TV Info: Live on BT Sport 1/BT Sport 1 HD
Live Stream: BT Online
Leverkusen will be licking their wounds after being dumped out of the German domestic cup competition by unfancied Kaiserslautern. The defeat was a crushing blow to their trophy ambitions, and they will be looking for some solace in a victory on Saturday.
The team's form has just started to become shaky at a time when stability and consistency is needed, and Schalke will fancy their chances.
Leverkusen will be hopeful that new loan signing Andres Guardado from Valencia can bring some flair and stability to their results after the recent cup shock.
The left-winger can provide the ammunition Bayer require in the second half of the season, having scored only 37 goals—the fewest of the top-four teams—in 20 league outings.
Guardado has previously earned good experience in La Liga with Valencia and will be a useful addition for Leverkusen as he can also play at left-back.
Rudi Voller spoke of the player in glowing terms. He said via the team's website:
Guardado is a very experienced player. He was a regular first choice at Valencia, he played for his club in the Champions League last season and is an established player in his national team. Andres meets our job profile based on his versatility. We are convinced he can give our team a boost.
Eyes will be fixed on the fitness of Schalke's wonderkid, Julian Draxler, who is racing to return to first-team action. Leverkusen is one of several big games the youngster will not want to miss during the February/March period.
The boy wonder has yet again been linked with a move to Arsenal, per ESPN.co.uk, and all eyes will be on his performances from now until the World Cup. The young star has played 19 times this season, per WhoScored.com, and his imminent return—as reported by Stephan Uersfeld of ESPN FC—will be a major boost for Schalke should he start.
This game hangs in the balance as Leverkusen seem to have hit a brick wall. Schalke have gained some momentum in recent weeks and will feel that this is their biggest chance of the season to penetrate the upper echelons of the table.
Leverkusen and Schalke both have big ambitions to one day win this title, but their quality base is so far behind Bayern Munich that they will struggle to get anything but second place.
That on its own brings the huge rewards of Champions League and the opportunity to play the best teams in Europe. This match is of huge significance to both teams.
A loss for either will position them in more dangerous waters. Leverkusen will feel the breath of Schalke on their neck, but if they can find a way to win at home, they will feel that second place is almost there for the taking.
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