Bayer Leverkusen move up to fifth place in Bundesliga with a 2-0 win over Cologne
Werder Bremen drop to sixth after being beaten 1-0 by Nuremberg in late match
Three of the German league's top four teams will play on Sunday
With Germany’s title race set to resume in earnest on Sunday, Bayer Leverkusen took center stage in Saturday’s Bundesliga action by claiming fifth place with a 2-0 win at struggling Cologne.
Midfielder Lars Bender scored both goals to give Leverkusen successive victories for the first time since August and a one-point advantage over Werder Bremen, who crashed 1-0 at Nuremberg in the late kickoff.
But it still left Leverkusen seven points adrift of Schalke, who travel to third-placed Bayern Munich on Sunday.
Champions Borussia Dortmund, meanwhile, can stretch their two-point lead with victory at home to Hanover following second-placed Borussia Monchengladbach’s home draw with Hamburg on Friday.
It could be a pivotal round of matches, with five points separating the top four teams.
Nuremberg climbed eight points clear of the relegation zone as Alexander Esswein’s 65th-minute goal gave the visitors a second win in the last 10 meetings with the 2004 league champions.
Bremen hold a two-point advantage over Hanover in the race for the final Europa League qualification spot, with Stuttgart a further five points back despite the 4-1 win over bottom side Freiburg in which Martin Harnik scored twice.
Hoffenheim stayed behind their south-west rivals on goal difference after winning 2-1 at Wolfsburg, who dropped behind Hamburg and Mainz – 4-0 victors over second-bottom Kaiserslautern.
Cologne are four points above the relegation playoffs after a sixth defeat in seven, while Augsberg moved out of the bottom three with a 3-0 win over fellow strugglers Hertha Berlin thanks to two second-half goals from striker Torsten Oehrl.