Bundesliga is back after the international friendlies. Just 7 points separate 5th place and 15th place in the table as the race for Europe hots up in Germany.
Bayern Munich vs Schalke 04
Going by the stature of both clubs, Bayern-Schalke should promise to be a blockbuster game, but a slight peek at the recent form of both sides and the mist clears. Bayern are on an 11 match unbeaten streak in the league, while Schalke have won just the 1 game (that too a nervy 5-4 win over Hannover) in their last 9 outings.
Separated by 5 league positions and 22 points, this is a game of huge magnitude for both sides. Bundesliga leaders Bayern would like to stretch their 3 match winning streak and with the resumption of the Champions League in the coming weeks, the table toppers would like to have a safety cushion at the top. German international Bastian Schweinsteiger will be out for the weekend game but is expected to return to training early next week. Apart from that, Badstuber continues to remain on the sidelines for the Bavarians. Meanwhile Schalke’s absentee list doesn’t seem to get any shorter with Christian Fuchs adding to Papadopoulos, Afellay and Moritz, thanks to a yellow card suspension. To add to that Dutch striker Klaas jan Huntelaar needs to undergo an eye surgery and will also be missing.
The form book suggests this should be a one-sided affair and with the truckload of first team players missing for the Gelsenkirchen club, we don’t disagree.
Borussia Dortmund vs Hamurger SV
The defending champions have enjoyed a good run of form in recent weeks, winning all their matches since the holiday break and conceding just 2 goals in the process. This is the exact sort of form Dortmund took into the reverse fixture back in September and got beat 3-2 at the hands of a van der Vaart inspired Hamburg side.The defeat derailed BVB’s league form and they still find themselves 12 points short of Bayern Munich in the race for the Bundesliga title.
Dortmund participated in one of the games of the season last Sunday as they beat then 2nd placed Bayer Leverkusen 3-2 in a thrilling contest that saw Dortmund overtake Leverkusen for second place. Heading into this game, Klopp faces a massive headache as a number of first teamers continue to suffer from niggling injuries. Kevin Grosskreutz and Schmelzer will be missing due to illness and injury respectively. Marco Reus, Mario Gotze and Roman Weidenfeller haven’t trained all week and are major doubts for the weekend. Even Piszczek has a slight niggle and could be unavailable.
Hamburg coach Thorsten Fink is hopeful of repeating their performance of gameweek 4 and insists Hamburger will play freely against the champions. Their defeat at the hands of Frankfurt continues their indifferent form in recent weeks, winning, losing and drawing almost alternately. Badelj who is suspended after collecting 5 yellows will be massively missed.
A win for the home side is expected to be the norm but a depleted Dortmund side might just fall short of their sky high standards if Hamburg play well. A narrow win for the defending Bundesliga champions then.
Borussia Monchengladbach vs Bayer Leverkusen
7th placed Gladbach host 3rd placed Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday evening in a match that will speak volumes about both sides’ ambitions for the rest of the season. Both sides lost last weekend after staging a mini-comeback of sorts. The Rhineland rivals are desperate for a win and this game would seem to be an apt opportunity for both sides to get back to winning ways.
Gladbach haven’t looked particularly convincing since the turn of the year and lost their first game since mid-November as they went down 2-1 to Nuremberg. Patrick Hermann’s form is very encouraging for the home side but Favre would be hoping others step up to the plate as well. Nordtveit and Jantschke will both be missing for Gladbach who have get their act together if they are to finish in the European spots.
Leverkusen were unlucky to lose out to Dortmund after putting up a fantastic performance in the second half. The confidence might have taken a hit but there is no lack of belief. 1 point from the last 2 games sees Leverkusen lose slip down to 3rd and the fact that defeat here coupled with a positive result for Frankfurt might see them slip further below must have taken note of. Toprak is suspended for this must win game for both sides.
The setup for the game is brilliant and if there is anything the neutral would want to see, it would be a high scoring draw.
Frankfurt vs Nuremberg
The Eintracht Frankfurt dream run continues to go on and on. Already occupying a champions league spot, Frankfurt are buoyant and would be looking to climb the table further with a win against Nuremberg who have had a dismal away record this season. The 14th place side beat Gladbach last weekend and would be hoping to use that as a launchpad to get in the top half of the table.
Having taken the Bundesliga by storm and scoring 38 times this season, Frankfurt’s attack has looked potent to hunt down any defence, though their defence can’t boast of any such credentials which is why their clean sheet at the weekend would be encouraging. The home side don’t have any injury concerns to worry about and Armin Veh will have a fully fit squad to pick his players from. European ambitions are evident and with 6 points separating them from 5th placed Mainz, the only direction Frankfurt would be looking to, is forward and upward. Leverkusen face a difficult trip to Gladbach and a victory for Eintracht will see them capitalize fully on any slip ups.
Nuremberg are without Gebhart and Antonio for this one, and will be hoping to contain the home side and hit them on the counter. How much that helps, remains to be seen. A routine home win is on the cards here.
Stuttgart vs Werder Bremen
Stuttgart’s downward spiral doesn’t seem to end as they have now lost 4 in a row. As a result of their dismal form their league position deteriorated from 6th to 12th and a defeat here could see them staring down the barrel. Injuries to Cacau and Bah has hurt the home side severely but playing at home against one of the poorest away sides in Bremen, Stuttgart should be able to end their losing run.
Bremen won their first game of the year against Hannover at the weekend ending a dismal run of form. They occupy 11th place in the table, just 1 place better than their hosts. Wolf joins the doubtful list along with the permanent absentees Bargfrede and Stevanovic. The victory over Hannover should instill belief and the fact that they play the team with the worst run of form should be seen as an opportunity to jump in the top half of the table.
A close and tight game to call, but it’s high time Stuttgart add to their points tally and move upwards in the Bundesliga table. An uneventful draw.
Greuther Furth vs Wolfsburg
Greuther Furth won only their second game of the season at the weekend, in a surprise 2-1 win over Schalke. Despite the result they continue to remain rooted at the bottom and host 15th placed Wolfsburg. Wolfsburg sit uncomfortably close to the relegation zone, but they do have a 7 point buffer over 16th placed Hoffenheim. Greuther Furth are virtually as good as relegated and have 14 matches to save their season. The win over Schalke could see them play with more confidence and who knows a win here followed by a couple of positive results and they are within sniffing distance of safety. Ideally this should end as a draw, and will come down to which team wants it more. Furth to win 2 Bundesliga matches in a row? Yes please.
Hannover vs Hoffenheim
Hannover have been awful in recent weeks after such a bright start to the campaign. They find themselves in 10th place and face one of the relegation strugglers at home. A sure shot 3 points then? Far from it. Hannover would again be without the services of Felipe, Andreasen, Schulz and Stindl. To add to the list Pocognoli’s red card means he is suspended too. Hoffenheim on their part will have Rudy, Vukcevic and Salihovic on the sidelines. A home win should be the obvious bet, but at this stage of the season and on recent form, a draw could be a possibility.
Augsburg vs Mainz
Mainz visit Augsburg who are slowly yet steadily developing into a side that frustrates opponents. Unbeaten in their last 4, the home side are slowly building a strong platform to launch their challenge for safety. Mainz were beaten convincingly by Bayern at home and shouldn’t be expecting an easy game by any means when they travel to Augsburg., who have been resilient on home turf. A draw seems the most likely result.
Freiburg v Dusseldorf
Fortuna just won’t go away. After successive defeats at the hands of Augsburg and Gladbach seemed to have turned the corner for them, they came up with a thumping win over Stuttgart. The home side lost to Hoffenheim at the weekend and playing at home, should be strong enough for the promoted club. A narrow home win would be apt.