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No time for Schalke and Leverkusen to mourn European exit

Neither team will have much time to think about their Champions League round of 16 exit, Schalke bowing out to Real Madrid despite beating them 4-3 in Spain and Leverkusen beaten on penalties by Atletico Madrid.


On Saturday it will be all about the Champions League again when Leverkusen travel to Schalke in the Bundesliga with three points separating them.

Leverkusen are in fourth place, which leads to the Champions League qualifying rounds, on 42 points, with the Royal Blues three points behind in fifth.

A win for Leverkusen would instantly put a big buffer between them and their rivals with eight games left in the season.

“This is a real six-point game,” Leverkusen midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu said. “We want to go and win there to increase our advantage over them.”

Calhanoglu, arguably Leverkusen’s best player so far this season, will also be looking to make amends for his weak spot kick in the shootout against Atletico on Tuesday, one of three he and his teammates missed.

But with Schalke, who played their last European game of the season last week, needing to win to stay in contention, it will not be easy.

Schalke may be missing almost a dozen players through injury, including their top two goalkeepers.

They have won just one of their last five league games and are with their backs against the wall. They will also be without suspended captain Benedikt Hoewedes.

“Unfortunately it is nothing new for us to miss key players,” said fellow defender Joel Matip. “But we have managed as a team to compensate for any loss of an important player so far.

“Leverkusen are direct rivals and we want to win to improve our current position. We can calculate a lot but at the end it is about winning and getting points.”

Leaders Bayern Munich, 11 points clear at the top, host third-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach on Sunday.

VfL Wolfsburg, in second place on 53 points, travel to Mainz 05 while last season’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund will look to score their first league goals in March as they battle to climb up the table.

(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)