Matchday 12 in the Bundesliga features two historic clashes, as Hannover 96 and Eintracht Braunschweig rekindle the Lower Saxony derby after a 37-year wait, while Bayern Munich chase a 37-match unbeaten record against Augsburg.
Hannover 96 and Eintracht Braunschweig revisit
It was 1976 when the Lower Saxony derby last graced the Bundesliga. Since then, Hannover 96 have faced Eintracht Braunschweig in the third division (1-0 win) and in the DFB Pokal (a 2-0 loss in 2003). But this Friday, the two sides square off once more in the top flight of German football after a 37-year wait.
Hannover come into this match on the back of a five-match winless streak, most recently going down to Werder Bremen in a dramatic 3-2 at the Weserstadion. The Reds’ home form, however, has been as strong as ever; so far this season they have picked up 13 out of a possible 18 points on home turf. Meanwhile Eintracht Braunschweig will be buoyed by a 1-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen last week. After a prolonged run of bad form to kick off their Bundesliga return, the Lions have since kept two clean sheets in their last four matches and nearly tripled their goal tally. Now they are potentially one win away from leapfrogging Nuremberg and Freiburg to clear the relegation zone, and the incentive only heightens the tension and excitement ahead of this weekend’s derby.
“The players cannot wait for the derby,” said Hannover keeper and German international Ron-Robert Zieler. Rival captain Dennis Kruppke understands the feeling: “It means so much to Braunschweig and of course to our opponents, too,” said Kruppke. “We want to test our mettle against Hannover and are going there wanting to win.”
Both teams and sets of supporters will be hoping for fireworks on the pitch — but the bitter rivalry has already taken to the streets, as well. On Wednesday night, a pig was found wandering through the city sporting a green scarf and ’96’ drawn on its side. Hannover fans responded by planting blue and yellow crosses around Braunschweig.
“Rivalry is great, as long as it does not go over the top,” said Hannover coach Mirko Slomka. “We don’t want any trouble.” Nevertheless, given the emotional and historic quality of this clash, Slomka and this side — as well as their opponents — are committed to a no-holds-barred victory on derby day. Fasten your seat belts; it should be a cracker.
Hannover 96: Zieler – Sakai, Avevor, Schulz, Pocognoli – Hoffmann, Andreasen – Stindl, Prib, Huszti – Sobiech
Eintracht Braunschweig: Davari – Ellabdellaoui, Bicakcic, Dogan, Caligiuri – Kratz, Vrancic, Theuerkauf – Bellarabi, Boland – Kumbela
Prediction: Hannover 2-1 Braunschweig
Bayern out to beat record against Augsburg
Can anything stop Bayern Munich? It seems like we’ve been asking this question since early last season. Fast forward twelve months, and the Bayern juggernaut has powered its way to a treble and matched HSV’s record of 36 unbeaten matches in the Bundesliga. Now the only thing standing between them and yet another record-setting headline are FC Augsburg.
Augsburg travel to the Allianz Arena on the back of a 2-0 win over Mainz, which marked their first win over a higher-ranked team this season. Bayern, however, may be too tall an order for the Fuggerstädter. Markus Weinzierl will be without Reinhardt and Vlachodimos, who are sidelined with tendon problems, while Raul Bobadilla is still recovering from a knee injury.
Bayern meanwhile have taken care of things on the European stage, qualifying for the Champions League knock-out stages with a 1-0 over Viktoria Plzen, and the expectation is for them to turn the ferocity on full force in the domestic league. Pep Guardiola’s side have made life difficult for themselves a few times this season, notably against Hoffenheim last week. The record on the line was cited by some as one of the reasons, though split focus between Bundesliga and European competition may also have been a factor.
“You don’t start playing football in order to break records,” said Philipp Lahm, “but once the opportunity’s there, you’re obviously going to try and take it.”
Against Augsburg, the opportunity is there for the taking. Guardiola rested a few regulars in the midweek Champions League match, and with only an injury to Arjen Robben blighting the squad, a full-strength line-up seems to be on the cards for Saturday. It remains to be seen whether Guardiola again plays Thomas Müller as striker, or if he goes conservative with Mario Mandzukic. But however you slice it, Bayern have the distinct advantage and should be looking at another three points — and a new 37-match unbeaten streak.
Bayern Munich: Neuer – Alaba, Dante, Boateng, Lahm – Martinez, Schweinsteiger, Kroos – Ribery, Müller, Götze
FC Augsburg: Manninger – Ostrzolek, Hong, Callsen-Bracker, Verhaegh – Baier – Werner, Vogt, Altintop, Hahn – Mölders
Prediction: Bayern 2-0 Augsburg
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga…
Schalke host Werder Bremen in a meeting of two teams clawing their way back toward the top of the table. Saturday also sees a clash between two unlikely early-season European contenders: Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin. Meanwhile Dortmund and Leverkusen take on Wolfsburg and Hamburg, respectively, while fourth-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach face a struggling FC Nuremberg.
Sunday features Eintracht Frankfurt at Mainz, and a Baden-Württemberg derby closes off Matchday 12 when Freiburg host Stuttgart.