Bayern without Ribery in bid to go six clear
BERLIN, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Bayern Munich will have to make do without Franck Ribery when they bid to move six points clear in the Bundesliga by winning at home to Werder Bremen in their 'summit meeting' on Sunday (1600 GMT).
French midfielder Ribery, who signed from Olympique Marseille for 25 million euros ($36.62 million) last year, was Bayern's best player in the first half of the season and scored the opening goal in last weekend's 2-1 win over Hansa Rostock.
Unfortunately for the Bavarians, he went off at halftime with a hamstring injury and will be out for about three weeks.
The good news for coach Ottmar Hitzfeld is that striker Miroslav Klose is in great form, scoring his 37th international goal in Germany's 3-0 win over Austria on Wednesday.
Bayern will expect a furious challenge from Werder, who were stung by a 2-1 defeat at home to Bochum in their first league match back after the long mid-season break.
That result gave Bayern a three-point cushion at the top and, after Hamburg SV also dropped points, Hitzfeld's team suddenly have a chance to build a substantial lead.
'It would be a small milestone on the way to the title,' Hitzfeld told reporters with an eye on a win against Werder.
He also hopes to have Brazilian centre-back Lucio fit again after an Achilles problem.
That is important because the Bayern defence will have to be at their best to see off a Werder side who are by far the highest scorers in the Bundesliga with 43 goals.
Finland's Petri Pasanen could return for them at the Allianz Arena but influential midfielder Torsten Frings remains on the injured list.
There is another clash between two title candidates on Saturday, when Bayer Leverkusen host Hamburg SV in a battle between third and fourth. Both sides have 33 points, six behind Bayern.
Hamburg played poorly on their return to action last weekend, managing only a 1-1 draw at home to Hanover 96.
They had 10 players on international duty this week, leaving coach Huub Stevens frustrated as he looked ahead to the trip to Leverkusen.
'It's far from ideal preparation,' Stevens told the club's website.
Leverkusen won a breathless match at Energie Cottbus 3-2 last time out to leapfrog Hamburg into third place.
The 19th round of matches begins with a clash between Eintracht Frankfurt and Arminia Bielefeld on Friday.
Frankfurt fans will be eager to see Martin Fenin make his first home appearance after the Czech striker scored a hat-trick on his debut in last weekend's 3-0 win at Hertha Berlin.