Bayern Munich will most likely clinch the Bundesliga title this weekend when they travel to Frankfurt. Meanwhile with 7 points separating 4th place from 11th, the battle for Europe is getting all the more exciting with just 7 weeks to go. All this and more in THT’s Bundesliga preview.
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Bayern Munich
A comfortable win on Tuesday night for the Bavarians means they can now concentrate on wrapping up the coveted Bundesliga title that has eluded them for the past two seasons. A win will secure them their 23rd German championship and will make the first team to win the title with 6 games left to be played and with a possible record points tally too. Having eliminated Dortmund from the DFB Pokal and with one foot in the Champions League semifinals, Bayern will be travelling to Franfurt as they look to seal their title this weekend.
The hosts have endured a rough patch in recent weeks and got back to winning ways only last week beating the miserable Greuther Furth 3-2 in a thrilling contest. Tied on points with Schalke for the priceless fourth place, Frankfurt need to string together a few results from now till the end of the season if they are to compete for the Champions League places. Kevin Trapp remains on the sidelines for Eintracht as Armin Veh has an otherwise full strength squad to pick from.
For league leaders Bayern, Toni Kroos will be missing as he injured himself against Juventus and could be out for the season. Kroos’ loss will not be felt as much in the league as Bayern have almost secured their title but he will be sorely missed in Europe. With a 10 match winning streak, a tiring game on Tuesday and a safety cushion of 20 points, manager Jupp Heynckes would look to ring in the changes for their trip to Frankfurt. The strength in depth at the club is awe-inspiring and will give the Bavarians confidence as they look to focus on the cup competitions hereafter.
Frankfurt manager Veh is a smart tactician but his team have fallen off the radar after their electric start to life in the Bundesliga. 5 points in the last 5 games have put them in a tricky situation, and with other teams ready to battle it out for the European spots, Frankfurt are in real danger of losing out. Facing an under-strength Bayern team at home could change their fortunes if they manage to win or even get a point. Though with the kind of season Bayern are having, it would be foolhardy to bet against them in this one.
Borussia Dortmund vs. FC Augsburg
Dortmund’s struggles in the league have been a direct result of their European expeditions and this week might just be one such case of balancing the books in two different competitions. Luckily for the defending champions it’s only Augsburg they face, a side battling relegation but that could be the tricky part. Augsburg showed late resurgence last season to survive in the top flight and have showed a similar fighting spirit this time winning 3 of their past 5 games. Their away form hasn’t been the most impressive either and with Dortmund being frustrated in Spain on Wednesday, Augsburg could be at the receiving end of the defending champions’ wrath.
Augsburg lie 5 points from safety and would hardly be expecting much when they travel to the Signal Iduna Park. The absence of Simon Jentszch and Manninger along with Philp means the visiting side are further handicapped. Dortmund continue to be without German international Mats Hummels who expects to be fit in time for the visit of Malaga. Polish international Jakub Blaszczykowski missed the game at Malaga with a strained abductor and remains a doubt for Saturday as well. Apart from that most of the first choice eleven would be fit for selection but Klopp would make changes to his side in order to keep his players fresh for a crucial 2nd leg.
Dortmund have bigger fish to catch and that brings this tie slightly in the balance as Augsburg would look to take advantage of Dortmund’s European hangover. A draw could be a possible outcome, and should setup the relegation battle nicely going into the last 6 weeks.
Hamburger SV vs. Freiburg
9th faces 7th in a game that should be the potential blockbuster this weekend. Hamburg and Freiburg are separated by a single point and both have European ambitions with 7 weeks remaining. Both teams have just 1 win in their last 5 and will go for the win, and that is what would make this a spectacle for the neutral. The last week has been difficult for Hamburg who got beat 9-2 at the hands of Bayern, and Thorsten Fink has made it clear that he wouldn’t tolerate mediocrity of that sort anymore. Freiburg on the other hand beat fellow European challengers Galdbach 2-0 after back to back 5 goal defeats at the hands of Dortmund and Wolfsburg.
Both defences have come under the gun in recent weeks and that should set this game up beautifully. End to end action with a lot of goal mouth action can be expected if both teams continue to perform like they have. Very difficult to choose a winner in this one, but after their 9-2 win and with a point to prove playing in front of their home fans, Hamburg should nick a win in this closely contested game.
FC Nuremberg vs. Mainz 05
Nuremburg host Mainz in a game that has high stakes for both sides. With 7 points separating 4th placed Schalke from 11th placed Nuremburg the race for the European places is hotter than ever. Nuremburg could beat Mainz and put themselves right in the mix with 38 points, but a defeat could put them on the outskirts of the European race and will put Mainz in the box seat.
Unbeaten in their last 5 Nuremburg will be without Gebhart and Hlousek for the weekend clash. Mainz on the other hand, also unbeaten in 5, will be without Riise and Klasnic. Both sides come into this weekend on the back of draws against Wolfsburg and Bremen and will be hoping to get back to winning ways this weekend.
A tight contest is expected and a draw seems to be the most likely outcome.
Hannover 96 vs. Vfb Stuttgart
Hannover boast the 3rd best home record in the German top flight but as their 10th place in the Bundesliga suggests, they have been dreadful away from home. In fact they are bottom of the table on away form alone. Thus it must be a delight for the 96’ers as they face Stuttgart at home. Stuttgart on their part have been woeful defensively, letting in 46 goals and have the 3rd worst defensive record. Both teams lie in the bottom half of the table but a win could put them in the midst of the fight for the European places.
Hannover are more than comfortable playing at home and should be favourites to get the win after their recent success against Augsburg at Augsburg. Stuttgart lost their match last weekend at the hands of Dortmund in a closely contested match. Stuttgart will be without Cacau, Torun and Harnik who is suspended for this clash after collecting 5 yellow cards. Hannover will have regular absentees Stindl, Huszti and Andreasen. No doubting a home win though.
Werder Bremen vs. Schalke 04
14th place meets 4th place in a clash that has completely different significance for both sides. Bremen have had a forgettable season thus far, conceding goals at will and have the joint worst defensive record in the Bundesliga. Schalke on the other hand are the form team, collecting 12 points of the last 15 available and have turned a corner ever since the appointment of new manager Jens Keller.
Keller however will be without the services of Papadopoulos and long term absentees Jones, Afellay and Huntelaar. Schalke would hope to maintain the pressure on 3rd placed Leverkusen with a win at Bremen and also get some breathing space for the fourth spot as Frankfurt face Bayern elsewhere. A defeat for Bremen could make them extremely susceptible to a relegation tug-of-war, one they wouldn’t fancy after the sort of season they have had. A score draw could be a surprise result in this game.
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Wolfsburg
Bayer Leverkusen seemed to be running out of gas till they met Fortuna Düsseldorf last week, which got them right back to winning ways, and they are now in a strong position to finish 3rd. The home side welcome the eldest team in the Bundesliga in Wolfsburg whose indifferent season continues. Defeat at the hands of Schalke was followed by a thumping win over Freiburg which was then followed by draws against Düsseldorf and Nuremburg. If anything the Wolves have been the most unpredictable team in the top division.
Pilar and Perisic will be missing for the away side while the home side without Bellarabi and Toprak. A win for Leverkusen could help them put pressure on Dortmund for the 2nd place as Dortmund indulge themselves in European affairs. The 4-1 thrashing dished out to Düsseldorf should give them enough confidence to beat the Wolves and edge closer to sealing their automatic Champions League qualification spot.
Gladbach vs. Greuther Fürth
Not even two miracles would be enough to keep Fürth in the Bundesliga as they prepare for life in the 2nd division. With the poorest attack in the top flight Fürth have felt out of place for quite some time now. Gladbach have been the draw kings this season, finishing with 1 point on 11 occasions till now, a league record high.
Gladbach playing at home are an unpredictable side but they need to be really bad to not take 3 points from this one. Martin Stranzl is the only notable absentee for Gladbach as he completes his yellow card suspension. Stieber and Schmidtgal will be missing for the visiting team who produced a fantastic contest last weekend as they lost narrowly to Frankfurt. Gladbach themselves are coming into this weekend on the back of a loss, at the hands of Freiburg, and will be hoping to get all 3 points this time round to get back into the top 6.
Hoffenheim vs Fortuna Düsseldorf
The 28th set of fixtures kickoff with Dusseldorf’s visit to Hoffenheim in a clash that sees two sides rolling in the deep face off. Dusseldorf are sitting at the uncomfortable 15th position on the league table while Hoffernheim are as good as relegated with 20 points in 27 games. This game would give a proper measurement regarding how much of a fight Hoffenheim can put up, and whether they have it in them to pull off a late season escape. The defence has been all over the place for the home side and that has led to their undoing.
Rudy and Vukcevic will not be available for the home side while Düsseldorf will be without Bodzek, Voronin and Omae. Both teams have had similar runs of form lately and were beaten convincingly last weekend. This game could come down to who wants the 3 points more, and Düsseldorf have shown more hunger all season than the woeful Hoffenheim side. A win for the away side will push them closer to safety and might just inch them above Bremen.