After some midweek international action the Bundesliga is back with some cracking fixtures, including the Fränkisch-Bairisches Derby. Also, this matchday will mark the first Werder Bremen game after the departure of sporting director Klaus Allofs to Wolfsburg. TheHardTackle previews all the Bundesliga action from matchday 12.

Eintracht Frankfurt v FC Augsburg

Eintracht Frankfurt have been in stupendous form this season and sit in third place, but last week’s humbling at the hands of Bayern Munich will have taken its toll on them. Armin Veh had stated that a victory against the Bavarian giants was never going to be a realistic target and he seemed more than right on that.

Augsburg’s struggle just keeps continuing with the loss to Borussia Dortmund last week being their third consecutive defeat. The return of Ja-Cheol Koo didn’t help Augsburg a great deal last week, and it was the impressive Knowledge Musona’s off-the-bench cameo that got Augsburg their consolatory goal. Markus Weinzierl will have to pull something out of the bag if his side are to get anything out of this game.

To add to Augsburg’s woes, they will be without Simon Jentzsch due to a finger injury. Long term injuries to Paul Verhaegh and Giovanni Sio rules them out of this tie as well. Veh will have to do without only two of his player, Martin Amedick and Carlos Zambrano.

Hamburger SV v Mainz 05

Hamburg have been a changed side ever since the return of Rafael van der Vaart, but their last two performances have been small blemishes. The loss to Bayern Munich was expected, but some might argue that they didn’t bring their football boots that night. Last week’s goalless draw against Freiburg will have dampened their morale a bit and they will be looking to get back on track with a win over high-flying Mainz.

What Thomas Tuchel has done with Mainz this season has been most awe inspiring. Five wins from eleven games and an encouraging draw against Bayer Leverkusen has left Die Karnevalsverein in seventh spot, behind Hannover only on goal difference. Like Hamburg’s Son Heung-Min, Mainz have found a prolific goalscorer in Adam Szalai. The Hungarian international has almost single handedly won games for Mainz and is currently the joint highest goalscorer in the Bundesliga.

Marco Caligiuri and Niko Bungert are both going to be out for this game due to injuries. For Hamburg, Ivo Ilicevic, Slobodan Rajkovic and Petr Jiráček are out with injury. Paul Scharner will also be unavailable on Saturday after having picked up two yellow cards in last week’s game against Freiburg.

FC Nuremberg v Bayern Munich


Another stroll in the park for Mr. Franck?

The biggest derby in Bavaria is here, the Fränkisch-Bairisches Derby. Historically a mismatch and the same this time around, Bayern seem miles ahead of their neighbors. Bayern are unbeaten in their last nine meetings with Nuremberg, their last loss coming in 2007. Almost unstoppable since their Leverkusen shock, Bayern’s attack force will want to satiate their ever growing hunger for goals against a shaky Nuremberg side.

Dieter Hecking’s men have been terribly unpredictable this season. Currently sitting just one spot above the relegation zone, Nuremberg have been far too reliant on midfielder Hiroshi Kioytake. With Kiyotake unable to carry the weight of the club’s attack on his shoulders, Nuremberg have struggled to score this season. With just nine goals in eleven games, Nuremberg must be going into this game with almost no hopes of any points.

Jérôme Boateng tore a muscle early in the game against Frankfurt and will have to sit this one out. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos have been left out of the national team due to injury, but should be fit for Saturday. On a bright note, Nuremberg have no first team injuries to deal with. With a clean bill of health Nuremberg should hope to shut shop against the more famous Bavarian side and propel themselves away from the relegation zone.

Hannover 96 v SC Freiburg

Since that shocking 2-3 loss to Borussia Mönchengladbach, Hannover have seen a change in fortunes. The loss to Gladbach marked a four game winless streak, which ended a couple of weeks ago when they beat Augsburg. Goal scoring has come very freely to Mirko Slomka’s men; they are currently the second highest team in terms of goals scored. On the downside, their defending has been very shoddy at times; the Gladbach, Stuttgart and Frankfurt games have been perfect examples of this.

Freiburg’s away form has been pretty poor this season and travelling to the fortress-like AWD Arena is going to be a daunting task. Unlike Hannover, Freiburg haven’t been very proficient at hitting the back of the net this season. With just fourteen goals in the immensely attack minded Bundesliga, Freiburg’s defending is what has helped them maintain a mid table position.

Freiburg have never done well against Hannover in the past. Just one win out of ten meetings isn’t the most encouraging statistic for Christian Streich, but the wily manager will have a trick or two up his sleeve to keep Hannover busy.

Borussia Dortmund v Greuther Fürth

Dortmund are yet to win two back-to-back games this season, and this game is going to be their best chance to do so. Having struggled domestically, consecutive games against lowly Augsburg and Fürth should be a blessing for the Ruhr giants. The one problem that will be on coach, Jürgen Klopp’s mind is fatigue beginning to set into the side. Having fielded a full strength side against Augsburg and a good number of players playing in the international friendlies in midweek, Klopp will have his hands full in selecting the right eleven for this game.

What has gone right for Greuther Fürth this season? Last week’s performance against Gladbach summarizes their season extremely well – potential with no finesse. After having gone two goals up, the Cloverleaves through it all away with two red cards. A victory against Dortmund seems impossible, so Mike Büskens’ best hope is to park the bus and salvage a hard fought draw.

Sebastian Kehl misses out yet again with a joint injury and is partnered by Marcel Schmelzer this week. The German left back is set to miss the Fürth game, leaving Klopp with a few worries over the left back position. If Klopp thought his hands were full, Büskens’ predicament should bring a smile to his face. To add to the injuries of Ohandza, Petsos, Fall, Ndoye and Tyrala, Milorad Pekovic and Thomas Kleine are suspended thanks to their rash challenges against Gladbach. Expect a lot of one-way traffic at the Signal Iduna Park.

Borussia Mönchengladbach v VfB Stuttgart


Some more excitement would be greatly appreciated!

This is a battle between two European hopefuls who have struggled to hit top gear. Both sides languish outside the European qualification spots and will know that this game could go a long way in deciding their fate.

Gladbach’s defense has been woeful this season, conceding 21 goals in just 11 games. Filip Deams’ injury only adds to the club’s defensive troubles this season, leaving Lucien Favre to place his hopes on Oscar Wendt. Patrick Herrmann finally seems to be living up to the name he created towards the end of last season and with Juan Arango aiding him, Gladbach’s attack is more than competent. Luuk de Jong and Tony Jantschke may also miss this game, hurting both the attacking and defending departments.

Bruno Labbadia will be furious after his side’s baffling second half performance against Hannover last week and will have to be extremely wary of a Gladbach side who love to overturn leads and provide entertainment. Stuttgart’s first team is free from injuries now that Artur Boka has returned, but they might miss the physical presence of Cacau in attack.

Prepare yourselves for one of the most exciting games of the week. Both sides will be desperate to get a win and go into their Europa League games with great confidence. A goal-fest is a guarantee.

Bayer Leverkusen v Schalke 04

This is going to be yet another mouth watering fixture between two sides who should be looking at a Champions League spot next season.

Leverkusen were soaring sky high after their consecutive victories over Bayern Munich and Fortuna Düsseldorf a few weeks ago. All this joy was then shattered when Die Werkself were hammered by Wolfsburg last week in a masterclass from Diego. A lot like Dortmund, they have been unable to maintain any semblance of consistency this season. On the bright side, they can field a full strength squad this weekend without the worries of keeping any players fit for their Europa League game now that they have qualified.

Probably the only realistic title contenders along with Bayern, Schalke have been very solid all season long. Other than their recent debacle in Hoffneheim, the Royal Blues have been very steady and dealt with most of the lower sides in a very efficient manner. With a good defensive record and their attacking midfield quartet in blistering form, Schalke will believe that they have the upper hand in this massively important fixture.

Leverkusen’s hopes will diminish greatly with Bernd Leno’s injury. Also, they will be without long-term absentees Karim Bellarabi, Daniel Schwaab and Micha Kadlec. Schalke’s injury list is also an uncomfortably long one with Marco Höger, Atsuto Uchida and Christoph Metzelder out on the sidelines. Both sides will have loved to have had all their players ready, but this is surely going to be a cracker of match with both teams ready to give it their all.

Werder Bremen v Fortuna Düsseldorf

The thirteen year long relationship between Klaus Allofs and Werder Bremen finally came to an end on Wednesday, when Allofs decided to take over as the sporting director of Wolfsburg. Although this may not affect Bremen in the game on Sunday, the feeling of not having Allofs at the Weserstadion might make some feel a little uneasy.

Bremen go into this game on the back of a narrow and highly undeserving 1-2 loss to Schalke last weekend. Aaron Hunt has been in scintillating form this season, leading from the front with six goals this season. Like almost every other team in the league, Bremen haven’t been able to get consistent results, leaving them in ninth position at the moment. Good performances have almost always been followed by the most awful ones for Thomas Schaaf’s side. Will the dawn of a new era mark a change in this trend?

The only side in the Bundesliga that has failed to pick up a single win in their last five games, Düsseldorf have been terrible of late. Having started the league with an impeccable defensive record, Düsseldorf have let it all go to the dogs ever since their 2-2 draw against Schalke. That game included, Norbert Meier’s side has conceded sixteen goals in just six games. This rapid turn of form has left them in 14th spot, just outside the playoff position on goal difference.

Clemens Fritz’s return will have to be postponed a little longer, since he hasn’t recovered from his injury yet. With Philipp Bargfrede also having been out for a while, Bremen’s current starting eleven seems fixed and untroubled for this game. Düsseldorf’s injury problems match their form at the moment. With key striker Dani Schahin out, they seem completely toothless in attack. They will also have to make do without Stelios Malezas and Bruno Soares.

1899 Hoffenheim v VfL Wolfsburg

Allofs’ arrival at Wolfsburg will mark the dawn of a new era at the Volkswagen Arena. Although Lorenz-Günther Köstner is in charge for now, Allofs will surely be looking to bring in a more experienced manager to take the reins at the club.

Markus Babbel’s career might not be at risk for now, but Hoffenheim’s form hasn’t been commendable by any stretch of imagination. Last week’s shoddy 1-1 draw against a struggling Fortuna Düsseldorf will not have boosted morale at Hoffenheim and the club will look to draw inspiration from the surprise win over Schalke a fortnight ago.

Post Magath, Wolfsburg seem to be doing a lot better with their attacking department fairing very well. Diego and Bas Dost seem to have found their feet at the club; last week’s game being proof of this. With consistency greatly lacking, it will be very interesting to see if Kostner’s side can manage a second win on the trot against Hoffneheim.

To add to Hoffenheim’s long list of unavailable players is Marvin Compper who was sent off for getting two red cards against Düsseldorf a week ago. Unlike their opponents, Wolfsburg have only two names on the injury list, both of whom have been out and will be so for a long while. This isn’t going to be a game of fireworks, but one that will affect the relegation zone for sure.