“Injury” is the Bundesliga buzzword of the week, as heavyweights Bayern Munich host bottom-of-the-table Eintracht Braunschweig, while Borussia Dortmund visit Klopp’s former club Mainz 05.
Bayern Munich face fearless Eintracht Braunschweig
It’s David-and-Goliath with a fresh twist, as Eintracht Braunschweig face the unenviable task of playing Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. Winning against FCB is fast becoming something of a Bundesliga myth. Pep Guardiola’s side have yet to lose this season, and a formidable defensive record (7 goals conceded in 13 matches) suggests that this trend will continue.
All signs point to a difficult afternoon for visiting Eintracht Braunschweig. The Lions have yet to break double digits in the goalscoring department this season and, after 13 matchdays, remain bottom of the league table. The good news for Braunschweig is that they are not too far behind their fellow strugglers; the bad news is that Nuremberg, Frankfurt, and Freiburg are not playing Bayern this week.
But a battle between first versus last can be a curious game of psychology, as both sides are well aware. Torsten Lieberknecht is realistic about the tall task facing his team, but remains adamant that “[his] players are … not about to start waving the white flag before the match even kicks off.”
“I can’t expect superhuman feats from my team,” Lieberknecht said. “What I can demand of them is that they perform at the highest possible level.”
Braunschweig have suffered several narrow losses this season, including a 2-1 against Dortmund and 2-3 against Schalke. The Lions have shown some of their best fighting spirit against the big names in the league. In fact, their only two wins so far have come (surprisingly) against Wolfsburg and Leverkusen.
Guardiola himself acknowledges this: “Against the big teams [Eintracht Braunschweig] make life very difficult.”
Though they have several records within reach this weekend, Bayern cannot take anything for granted. Especially as they will have to face Braunschweig without Philipp Lahm, who suffered a leg injury during a tough Champions League win over CSKA Moscow mid-week. He joins Schweinsteiger, Ribery, and Shaqiri, Pizarro, and Badstuber on the sidelines. Mario Mandzukic, who has been out with a calf injury, may be fit to return for Saturday.
It’s been 30 years since these two sides last squared off in the top-flight. And in 18 trips to Bavaria, Braunschweig have never recorded a win. When it comes to Bundesliga football, one can never say whether history will prove determinate or to-be-determined.
Bayern Munich: Neuer – Rafinha, Van Buyten, Dante, Alaba – Martinez – Götze, Thiago, Kroos, Robben – Mandzukic
Eintracht Braunschweig: Davari – Elabdellaoui, Bicakcic, Dogan, Perthel – Kratz, Vrancic, Theuerkauf – Bellarabi, Boland – Kumbela
Bayern 2-1 Braunschweig
Injury-laden Borussia Dortmund visit Mainz 05
Two back-to-back defeats in the Bundesliga has seen Dortmund fall from vying with Bayern, to chasing Leverkusen for second place. But a 3-1 win over Napoli in the Champions League midweek has bolstered morale, and now Dortmund are seeking a return to winning ways with this trip to Mainz.
But injury woes will keep Dortmund from getting too relaxed. With BVB’s entire first-choice backline out of commission, Mainz’s resurgent attacking form poses a serious threat. Since a 4-1 loss to Bayern in week 9, Thomas Tuchel’s side climbed seven places in the table in the last five matchdays. Shinji Okazaki is in fine form with a new personal record of two braces in the last four games, which has no doubt played a part in restoring Mainz’s confidence.
With all this in mind, Jürgen Klopp is approaching the visit to his old club with pragmatic caution. “We will look carefully to know who can cope with the burden [of playing twice in five days],” said BVB’s coach. “We will deal with the issue of rotation and look for who is fit.”
While Dortmund will be worrying about players in the red, Mainz will have to be wary of players seeing yellow. In their last four games, Mainz have picked up 11 yellow cards. The team’s zealous energy is spilling over into fouls, and Tuchel is rightfully concerned about that.
“We don’t know exactly how we’ll eradicate it,” the Mainz coach admitted. “We train very actively in tackling so it’s a fine line.”
Mainz will be boosted by Pospech’s return to fitness, and Christian Wetklo has also served out his suspension and should replace Karius in goal. For Dortmund, newcomer Manuel Friedrich looks likely to play in central defense, dropping Kehl to the bench, and Sven Bender, who suffered a broken nose against Napoli, should be fit to start in midfield.
Between their recent momentum and home support, Mainz may have the overall advantage coming into this. Nevertheless, though Dortmund may not have the best defensive outlook at the moment, an attacking line that includes the likes of Reus and Lewandowski can be counted on to make this a competitive encounter.
Mainz 05: Wetklo – Pospech, Bell, Noveski, Park – Geis, Soto – Müller, Zimling, Polter – Okazaki
Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller – Großkreutz, Sokratis, Friedrich, Durm – Bender, Sahin – Blaszczykowski, Mkhitaryan, Reus – Lewandowski
Mainz 2-2 Dortmund
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga…
Second-placed Bayer Leverkusen take on second-to-last FC Nuremberg with a view toward staying within touching distance of Bayern. In sixth place, Schalke will be hoping to put some ghosts to rest against VfB Stuttgart. In the last six meetings between these two sides, Schalke have come out on top only once.
In the race to escape the bottom half of the table, Hannover take on Eintracht Frankfurt, while Werder Bremen square off with Hoffenheim. Just above them, FC Augsburg visit Hertha Berlin in search of only their second away win.
And on Sunday evening, Borussia Mönchengladbach look to put a dent in Freiburg’s defensive record. The Black Forest side have kept a clean sheet in their last three away games, but Gladbach are six for six at home this season and are currently the Bundesliga’s most in-form side.