It’s a busy week in the Bundesliga, as September rounds off with two full match days before the resumption of Europa and Champions League. TheHardTackle has your one-stop preview for all the midweek action of match day five.
Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Dortmund
When the fixture list was drawn up, few could have guessed that this would prove to be one of the early marquee encounters of the season. After a weekend loss at Hamburg that snapped their 31-match unbeaten streak, Jürgen Klopp’s men now head for the Waldstadion to take on a rampantly in-form Eintracht Frankfurt. The Eagles have racked up four straight wins to kick off their Bundesliga return, and are currently topping the table alongside Bayern Munich. Though Frankfurt have downed the likes of Leverkusen and Nürnberg, Dortmund are another story altogether. This will be Armin Veh’s chance to prove that his team can continue to fly high in the face of a serious challenge.
Frankfurt are without the services of Olivier Occean, and captain Pirmin Schwegler is also doubtful. Lanig should take Schwegler’s place to link up with Rode, while Takashi Inui and Sebastian Jung will certainly be the players to watch. In goal, the young Kevin Trapp will have his hands full, dealing with Dortmund’s attack, which may well include a starting position for Ivan Perisic who put in a fantastic performance against HSV. Klopp may run into some issues with his midfield, however, as both Ilkay Gündogan and Sven Bender look set to miss the match due to illness.
The last time these two sides faced each other was on the last match day of 2010/11, when Dortmund handed out a 3-1 thumping at Signal Iduna Park. Now, Frankfurt will be looking to forget the past and continue their fairytale present, as this fixture shapes up to be the high-octane encounter of the week.
Bayern Munich v VfL Wolfsburg
The other team out to maintain a perfect record this match day is Bayern. The Bavarian giants have begun their title challenge in empathic style, winning four for four and scoring 14 goals in the process. On the other hand, they have yet to maintain a clean sheet at home, having conceded against both Mainz and Stuttgart earlier this month. But this trend may be coming to a swift end as they play host to VfL Wolfsburg on Tuesday.
Felix Magath’s men, touted as one of the outside favorites for 2012/13, have put in an aggressively mediocre start to the season. After eking out a win at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, Wolfsburg were hit for four by a visiting Hannover, then held to draws by bottom-of-the-table Augsburg and newly-promoted Greuther Furth.
Magath will continue to tweak his formations until he gets the formula just right, as is his wont. But against a red-hot Thomas Müller and a dominant Bayern defense, Wolfsburg should be prepared to be sent home with their tails between their legs.
Schalke 04 v Mainz 05
Huub Stevens and Thomas Tuchel found themselves on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum this weekend, as Schalke submitted to a 0-2 loss against Bayern, while Mainz picked up their first win since April with a 2-0 over Augsburg. The Royal Blues will be looking to turn last match day’s results on its head, and history is on their side.
Schalke have won five of their last eight competitive matches against Mainz, drawing two and losing only one. The 05ers have managed only one away win versus Schalke in the past eight years. And Mainz are currently buried in the mid-lower portion of the table, while Schalke have everything to fight for. They remain five points off co-leaders Bayern and Frankfurt, and three points would go a long way to bolstering Die Knappen’s position as serious contenders.
Despite some niggling injury concerns, the sheer size of Schalke’s squad should smooth over Stevens’ troubles, as Schalke look to stay in the title race with a comfortable win.
Hannover 96 v FC Nürnberg
With two wins, a draw and a loss apiece, Hannover and Nürnberg will be vying for three points this weekend to remain within touching distance of Bayern and Frankfurt at the top of the table. Both teams have exhibited similar form so far, and both suffered setbacks over the weekend: Hannover in a 3-1 loss to Hoffenheim, and Nürnberg losing 2-1 to Frankfurt.
This fixture will feature two of the most exciting names of the season, one of them being Hiroshi Kiyotake: after just four games in the Bundesliga, Nürnberg’s attacking midfielder has already become one of the must-watch players of the season. And the other, Hannover’s Szabolcs Huszti — most recently in the news for earning the quickest yellow-red in Bundesliga history, after putting in what was arguably the performance of the week in Hannover’s 3-2 win over Werder Bremen. Having served his one-match suspension, his return will be welcome news for everyone but his opponents.
Hannover have maintained a perfect home record, while both of Der Club’s wins so far have come on the road. It remains uncertain in whose favor the odds will tip. But either way, expect some scoring: Hannover and Nürnberg’s matches this season have already yielded 28 goals between them.
Greuther Furth v Fortuna Düsseldorf
The season’s first match between two newly-promoted sides sees Greuther Furth play host to Fortuna Düsseldorf. Norbert Meier remains stout in his commitment to defensive football, despite criticisms, and so far it has paid off: Düsseldorf are the only Bundesliga team to have kept four clean sheets.
On the other hand, an equally defensive-minded Mike Büskens has his work cut out, with a top-heavy Hinrunde that will have seen Greuther Furth face Bayern, Schalke, and Leverkusen all before September’s end. A draw against Wolfsburg last week was promising, and Büskens will be looking to build momentum off that hard-won point.
Of their previous six encounters in the 2.Bundesliga, three ended in draws, two in favor of Düsseldorf, while Greuther Furth’s last win was back in 2009. Between their history and the ideological deadlock of their respective coaches’ philosophies, this match seems fated to end in a draw.
SC Freiburg v Werder Bremen
Freiburg come into this fixture with an unbeaten home record stretching back to December 2011, and head coach Christian Streich is to be commended for this achievement. Werder Bremen, however, have not lost to Freiburg in ten years. Thomas Schaaf’s men are winless in their last seven away matches, but will be looking to snap that particular streak with this week’s visit to Freiburg.
Streich will play his favored 4-4-2 formation, with Max Kruse just behind Karim Guede, and Cedric Makiadi and Julian Schuster holding down the defense. Werder Bremen will be without Assani Lukimya, who picked up a red card less than a minute after being subbed on last week versus Stuttgart. But the spotlight will be on Kevin de Bruyne, who has impressed so far for Bremen.
Recent matches between these two sides have produced an average of 4.8 goals per game. Streich’s men will need an inspired display of resistance to hold off Bremen, as a high-scoring fixture descends upon their defense.
Borussia Mönchengladbach v Hamburger SV
Wednesday will see Borussia Park play host to their visitors from Hamburg, as both teams look to build on good results from match day four. Having snapped Dortmund’s 31-match winning streak in a thrilling 3-2 victory at the Imtech, HSV’s fortunes seem finally on the rise. Rafael van der Vaart and Heung-Min Son have been a breath of inspiration. HSV were missing Petr Jiracek, and will miss him again for this fixture due to suspension, but 22-year-old Tolgay Arslan held his own, and the youngster will be expected to do the same against Gladbach.
Meanwhile, Gladbach held on to a 1-1 draw at Leverkusen thanks to some heroic goalkeeping from Marc-André ter Stegen. Though only a point, it was a point that showed how Lucien Favre’s new 4-2-3-1 formation might be finally starting to work. On the other hand, The Foals are also winless in their last four competitive matches, while Thorsten Fink has not lost his last nine matches against Gladbach in the Bundesliga.
Both sides have plenty of work to do, but overall Favre’s men look the better side at this point. Buoyed by the home atmosphere, Gladbach should come away with the win.
FC Augsburg v Bayer Leverkusen
Five match days in to the season, Augsburg have not found much to celebrate as they sit dead last in the table. Loanees Koo Ja-Cheol and Knowledge Musona are both still recovering from injury. With Simon Jentzsch still out, Mohamed Amsif will start in goal again; despite the team’s general failings, the 23-year-old keeper has done well in his own capacity. But one good goalkeeper is far from enough. Augsburg’s continued survival in the Bundesliga — and Markus Weinzierl’s continued survival as Augsburg coach – will hinge on their forwards finding some kind of form. So far, they have managed only one goal in four matches.
Their visitors Leverkusen are also coming off a disappointing season’s start. But to their credit, the young team have remained competitive, with Dani Carvajal especially impressing last week against Gladbach. Comparing the basic quality of the two sides, the odds are firmly in Die Werkself’s favor. Bar a minor Augsburg miracle, Leverkusen should pick up their second win of the season here.
VfB Stuttgart v 1899 Hoffenheim
If Frankfurt are the fairytale of the season, then Stuttgart are the horror story. It began with Vedad Ibisevic’s missed penalty in the home opener versus Wolfsburg, and most recently culminated with a sending off for Martin Harnik in the dying minutes of a 2-2 draw in Bremen. Stuttgart have grown reliant on the Harnik-Ibisevic duo for goalscoring chances, ever since the Bosnian’s transfer, and this latest suspension is a serious blow. For the second time in as many home games, Bruno Labbadia will be working without one half of his most prolific attacking duo.
Not that Markus Babbel has not had troubles of his own. But after two calamitous losses against Frankfurt and Freiburg, Hoffenheim regrouped last weekend to pick up their first win of the season against Hannover. And they have chosen the right moment for a comeback, as Stuttgart remain one of the more unconvincing sides of the Bundesliga. If Babbel can keep his men motivated, Hoffenheim could be looking forward to another three points.