The group stages of the two biggest continental cup competitions have come to an end and it’s time to return to domestic action in Germany. The sides of the Bundesliga had a great end to the European campaign but the sweat and grime of all their travels is taking its toll. Bayern will be looking to set things straight against Hamburg after they came within inches of losing top spot in their Champions League group. Borussia Mönchengladbach will be optimistic against Mainz, especially since the prize could mean overtaking Borussia Dortmund in the league.
Another One Sided Nord-Süd-Derby?
Bayern Munich’s season lacked any major blemishes up until their final Champions League group stage game. The league leaders suffered their first loss since the Super Cup defeat against Borussia Dortmund and came close to surrendering first place in their group. The Bavarians will be keen on bouncing back from this loss against Manchester City, and their opponents this week should be just perfect for that.
Hamburg have struggled to maintain even an inkling of consistency this season, failing to manage even a single instance of back-to-back league wins. Bert van Marwijk hasn’t managed to deal with their defensive worries as they continue to leak goals at will. To add to their woes they will be without goalkeeper Rene Adler, Maximilian Beister, Ivo Ilicevic and Dennis Diekemeier. The silver lining for Hamburg is the return of the talismanic Rafael van der Vaart.
Bayern’s injury worries might equal those of Hamburg’s numerically, but the effect is minute in comparison to that which Hamburg feel. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Arjen Robben will be absent for this game due to injuries while Jerome Boateng has to serve a suspension, but the names available at Pep Guardiola’s disposal make these absences inconsequential.
9-2, 5-0, 6-0 – The last three trips to Munich have proven to be most embarrassing for Hamburg. Guardiola’s Bayern seems to be a touch more dominant than the Bayern sides of yesteryear, possibly even Heynckes’ side from last season. Best attacking side this season versus the team with the third worst defensive record – If Hamburg are to come out of this with anything whatsoever it will be nothing short of a miracle.
Guardiola, on the other hand, will be trying to test out the likes of Thiago and Xherdan Shaqiri, who’ve been missing with injury for a while. The lack of a potential threat from Hamburg should give Guardiola a lot of freedom to fiddle around and may well allow them the chance to better their 7-0 victory from last weekend.
Hamburg (4-4-1-1): Drobny – Rincon, Tah, Djourou, Jansen – Zoua, Badlej, Arslan, Calhanoglu – van der Vaart – Lasogga
Bayern Munich (4-1-4-1): Neuer – Lahm, van Buyten, Dante, Alaba – Martinez – Müller, Kroos, Thiago, Ribery – Götze
Bayern Munich 6-0 Hamburg
Gladbach Hope To Keep Pace With Dortmund
Borussia Mönchengladbach travel to Mainz knowing that a win accompanied by a slip up from Dortmund would mean that they move above the Black and Yellows in the standings, a feat that many would have thought impossible. But Mainz will be far from easy opposition for Gladbach, especially since they’ve managed to regain their footing after a sloppy September.
“Thomas Tuchel’s teams are always very well organised and understand how to vary their formation during a game,” said Lucien Favre. “It will be correspondingly difficult to continue our current run of six wins in succession. We have to keep the concentration levels high and continue our mentality of fighting for every point. The recent wins have all been very tight, after all. They could all have ended differently.”
The Foals are on a six game winning streak, a feat last achieved more than sixteen years ago when Jupp Heynckes was at the helm. But Mainz will be out to ensure that this run comes to an end when they host the Foals on Saturday. Unfortunately for Mainz, they haven’t had too much luck in this fixture in the past couple of seasons, failing to pick up a single point in the last four meetings between the two sides.
Tuchel will have to make do without Heinz Müller in goal and Julian Baumgartlinger in midfield but the worries surrounding the fitness of Nicolai Müller and Stefan Bell have been wiped away. Favre has no such concerns with Alvaro Dominguez also back from injury. The key to Mainz’s success will be formulating a plan to shut down Gladbach’s “Fab Four” and executing it perfectly. This will be a difficult night for the hosts but they do have what it takes to send Gladbach back home with empty hands.
Mainz (4-2-3-1): Karuis – Pospech, Bell, Noveski, Diaz – Geis, Soto – Polter, Zimling, Müller – Okazaki
Borussia Mönchengladbach (4-4-2): ter Stegen – Korb, Jantschke, Stranzl, Wendt – Kramer, Xhaka, Herrmann, Arango – Raffael, Kruse
Mainz 1-1 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga
Augsburg face cellar dwellers Eintracht Braunschweig, Hoffenheim host Borussia Dortmund and Nuremberg travel to the indomitable AWD Arena to play Hannover on Saturday. Wolfsburg look to stay a step ahead of the other remaining hopefuls when they face Stuttgart in Saturday’s late kick off.
Schalke play hosts to Freiburg in Sunday’s early game, while Bayer Leverkusen play Eintracht Frankfurt in their bid to keep pace with Bayern Munich at the top of the table in the late game on Sunday.