Bayern and Leverkusen battle it out for a chance to top the table, while current leaders Dortmund attempt to maintain their lead on a visit to Borussia Park.
Bayern and Leverkusen set for blockbuster
Jupp Heynckes’ Bayern Munich could have had an undefeated season in 2012/13, but for one astounding result on Matchday 9 when Leverkusen snatched a 2-1 victory at the Allianz Arena. Fast forward one year: the gentleman on the touchline is now Pep Guardiola, Bayern have not lost a Bundesliga match in 33 outings, and an emphatic 3-1 result over Manchester City in the Champions League has everyone wondering if it’s possible that Bayern could be even better now than they were last season.
Leverkusen, meanwhile, have not been too shabby themselves. Die Werkself are currently third in the Bundesliga table, just a point behind Bayern and Dortmund, and the BayArena has not seen a home defeat since March 16 when — you guessed it — Bayern last visited. On Saturday, the defending champions return to the Rhineland in what shapes up to be the biggest match of 2013/14 so far.
Sami Hyypiä is well aware of the challenge facing his side, but remains stout-heartedly optimistic. “Being the best team doesn’t always equate to a win in football; the stronger team on the day will win,” said the Leverkusen coach. “I’m not the sort of person who goes into a game thinking we can’t win.”
As far as confidence goes, however, the visitors can do one better. “[Leverkusen are] a team that wants to play football,” said Toni Kroos, “but there are several teams like that until they come up against Bayern.”
Kroos is hoping to maintain the same level that Bayern displayed at the Etihad against City. No doubt, both teams would like to replicate their midweek results: Leverkusen registered an encouraging 2-1 win over Real Sociedad, in which Hyypiä’s tactical acumen and the team’s discipline overcame Sociedad’s possession-based game.
Whether Leverkusen can take down Bayern the same way remains to be seen, but whatever the final result, these are some 90+ minutes that you don’t want to miss.
Bayer Leverkusen: Leno – Donati, Wollscheid, Toprak, Can – Bender, Reinartz, Rolfes – Sam, Kiessling, Hegeler
Bayern Munich: Neuer – Rafinha, Boateng, Dante, Alaba – Lahm – Robben, Schweinsteiger, Kroos, Ribery – Mandzukic
Leverkusen 1-2 Bayern
Dortmund prepare to break in Foals
Gladbach prepare for an all-Borussia affair as Dortmund come knocking this Saturday. Both teams come into this fixture on the back of some positive momentum: Gladbach, after an inaugural away point last week at Augsburg, while Dortmund dispatched Olympique Marseille 3-0 in the Champions League. But whereas BVB had the full-throated support of Signal Iduna Park behind them midweek, the weekend sees them take the field at the intimidating Borussia Park.
Gladbach are undefeated at home this season, and in 7 matchdays have outscored every team apart from Dortmund. 10 of those 17 goals have involved the Foals’ quality quartet of Juan Arango, Max Kruse, Raffael, and Patrick Herrmann. Nevertheless, Lucien Favre is well-aware of Dortmund’s quality and remains wary ahead of Saturday’s clash.
“There’s probably no other team who transition and counter as well as BVB,” said Favre. “Although you know it’s coming, it makes it difficult to defend against.”
Since losing Reus, Neustädter and Dante, Gladbach have struggled to reproduce the scintillating form that captured so many hearts in 2011/12. But the Foals remain a threat, and have lately produced some high-quality football to remind everyone that there’s more than one team representing the good name of “Borussia”.
Against BVB, midfielder Granit Xhaka returns from suspension, though Filip Daems remains sidelined. Dortmund on the other hand will have to make do without Gündogan, Piszczek, and Schmelzer. Nevertheless, Dortmund will have to remain the favorites in this encounter, and they have some extra incentive: their closest competitors Bayern and Leverkusen square off also on Saturday, and points dropped by either (or both) teams will see Dortmund stretch their lead at the top, if they can get the win at Borussia Park.
Borussia Mönchengladbach: Ter Stegen – Jantschke, Stranzl, Dominguez, Wendt – Nordtveit, Xhaka – Herrmann, Arango – Raffael, Kruse
Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller – Grosskreutz, Sokratis, Hummels, Durm – Bender, Sahin – Blaszczykowski, Mkhitaryan, Reus – Lewandowski
Gladbach 2-3 Dortmund
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga…
Saturday afternoon sees Schalke take on survival-specialists Augsburg, as both teams chase those elusive three points to distance themselves from the red zone. Wolfsburg and Eintracht Braunschweig play an inaugural derby as the two Lower Saxony sides meet for the first time in the Bundesliga. Elsewhere, Mainz host Hoffenheim, and Werder Bremen pay a visit to Stuttgart.
Two storied clubs meet on Sunday in Nuremberg, as Der Club welcome Hamburger SV. And a clash between Freiburg and Eintracht Frankfurt rounds out the weekend’s action.