The Bundesliga sides return to league football action this weekend. We should see some very exciting and crucial match-ups in the west of Germany as four neighbours take on each other. At the other end, Germany’s leading side in the Europa league play a crucial home fixture while the league’s new boys go head to head. This and more in matchday 15 of the German Bundesliga.

Fouls take on the Royal Blues

Image courtesy

Image courtesy

With the league only 14 games old, it is generally hard to predict the major players for the Champions League spots. But matchday 15 definitely tries to come out with one such prediction as an impressive Borussia Mönchengladbach take on the Royal Blues of Schalke in a match-up that could prove important to both sides in their aspirations to take part in Europe’s premium tournament. Favre’s Gladbach have been one of the most impressive sides this season and are the only side aside from Bayern Munich to win all their home games. With no European distractions and having been knocked out of the DFB Pokal, Gladbach have all their attention on getting a top four finish after a disappointing 2012-2013.

Currently placed 4th with 28 points from 14 games, Gladbach have been on a roll, winning their last 5 games that has included 8 goals in 3 home games. Though one might argue that most of their recent success has come against teams that are struggling at the other end of the table, it has been the style and manner in which Favre’s men have been earning their 3 points that has caught the imagination of the nation. Summer buys Max Kruse and Raffael have been excellent upfront and have been the sides’ major goal threats while wide men Herrmann and Arango have complemented the duo upfront quite well. Last season’s big money buy Granit Xhaka has started to show why his side invested so much in him and alongside Håvard Nordtveit and loanee Christoph Kramer, has formed a good midfield.

Visiting Schalke have come good in recent games after their difficult start. The star man without doubt has been their late summer buy Kevin Prince Boateng. The ex-Milan man, though not too technically gifted, has certainly revitalized the side with his energy and leadership on the pitch. He certainly will have to maintain that zeal come Saturday when his side take the short trip southwest to take on a side who sit 4 points above them in the table and seemed to have made their home a fortress.

The visitors will be without long term absentees Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Marco Hoger and Kyriakos Papadopoulos while Dennis Aogo and young Leon Goretzka will also sit out due to injuries. Key midfielder Håvard Nordtveit looks doubtful for the home side while Filip Daems is expected to make a return to the starting 11.

Gladbach have very much looked like the side of 2011-2012 this season and Favre will want to carry on the recent purple patch his side have hit. Considering Schalke’s inconsistency, Gladbach to win the game and increase that gap between them and the rest.

Possible Line-ups

Borussia Mönchengladbach : (4-2-3-1) : Ter Stegen – Jantschke, Stranzl, Brouwers, Wendt – Kramer, Xhaka – Herrmann, Arango – Raffael, Kruse

Schalke 04 : (4-2-3-1): Fährmann (GK); Uchida, Matip, Höwedes, Fuchs; Jones, Neustädter; Draxler, Meyer, Boateng; Szalai


Borussia Mönchengladbach 2 -1 Schalke 04

Second place up for grabs

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Son will have a big role to play in Sam’s absence

3 awful games sandwiching the international friendlies two weeks back seemed to have pushed back Borussia Dortmund’s aspirations for a successful season while injuries to the entire backline and key players didn’t help. Despite all their issues, Klopp’s Dortmund have turned things around with wins over Napoli, Mainz and 1. FC Saarbrücken in what has been a difficult month for them with more crucial matches still to come. They face yet another challenge when they host 2nd placed and neighbouring side Bayer Leverkusen in a late Saturday kick off at the Signal-Iduna-Park.

3 points separate the two neighbours and Dortmund will know that a win here will help them keep sight of table toppers Bayern Munich who are threatening to run away with the title for the second consecutive season. With injures to Subotic and Hummels, summer buy Sokratis Papastathopoulos has certainly assumed the status of senior statesman, putting in excellent displays at the back while forming good understandings with Sven Bender and Manuel Friedrich in a short period. With Bender nursing a broken nose as well, Klopp experimented with Oliver Kirch and Jonas Hofmann in midfield giving him some excellent results. Bender is expected to make a return, but it will be interesting to see if Klopp uses him alongside Sokratis at the back against a quick Leverkusen front three.

Right back Łukasz Piszczek has got couple of run-ins as a substitute in recent games and he should be ready at his usual position with Eric Drum taking the opposite side. Influential Marco Reus took a knock last weekend which kept him out of the Pokal tie but he is expected to be back as well, meaning the versatile Kevin Großkreutz could find himself on the bench for the first time this season.

Visiting Leverkusen are still without top scorer Sidney Sam but the new found form of Heung-Min Son and the excellent form of midfielder Jens Hegeler should give Sami Hyypiä the required attacking threat and creativity. Leverkusen have failed to win at Dortmund in their last 3 visits with their last win over their neighbours coming in January of 2011 at the BayArena.

Possible Line-ups

Borussia Dortmund (4-2-3-1): Weidenfeller; Piszczek, Sokratis, Bender, Drum; Kirch, Sahin; Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Reus; Lewandowski

Bayer Leverkusen (4-3-3) : Leno ; Spahić, Toprak, Wollscheid, Donati ; Can , Bender, Hegeler ; Castro, Kießling, Son


Borussia Dortmund 1 : 1 Bayer Leverkusen

Bayern visit Bremen as Wolfsburg look for slip-ups

Bayern Munich were hit with yet another injury during their Pokal clash against Augsburg as Robben, after opening the scoring, limped off the pitch. The news from the treatment tables suggest that the Dutch winger will be missing from action for 5-6 weeks. The good news is that Franck Ribery is expected back in action and that would ease some of Guardiola’s concerns. The Bayern boss will be keen for his side to take all 3 points and then sit back to watch the clash at the Ruhr valley knowing a win for Dortmund over Leverkusen will give his side a comfortable 7 point cushion over both the sides. Skipper Lahm still remains a doubt meaning Rafinha continues at right back with the trio of Kroos, Thiago and Martinez handling affairs in the middle.

6th placed Wolfsburg came back from behind with 2 second half salvos to take the tie against Ingolstadt 04 and Dieter Hecking will want his side to take all 3 points against hosts Freiburg. A win for Die Wölfe and a loss for Schalke will see Hecking’s side move to 5th, a position Wolfsburg haven’t been in since their title winning season. Wolfsburg’s away form hasn’t been the best, losing 4 of their 7 games but with Freiburg in woeful form they should feel fairly confident.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga

Nürnberg and Mainz 05 were involved in a tame draw last evening while VfB Stuttgart take on Hannover 96 in a key midtable clash. Hamburger SV will look to climb up the table with a win over FC Augsburg while Hoffenheim will want to carry their midweek form over to Eintracht Frankfurt. Promoted sides Hertha Berlin and Eintracht Braunschweig face each other in this weekend’s last match.