The Bundesliga’s 19th installment sees Bayern travel to Stuttgart as Freiburg host second placed Leverkusen in what promises to be an exciting weekend of BuLi action.
VfB Stuttgart vs Bayern Munich
After dropping points against the two Borussias before the Christmas break, Bayern made a return from the holiday period with a regulation win over Fürth. The Bundesliga leaders travel to Stuttgart this weekend looking to further stretch their lead at the top of the table. The return to fitness of Dutchman Arjen Robben will be a huge boost for Bayern as they head into a congested list of fixtures. The early team news from Munich suggests no fresh injury concerns and Jupp Heynckes will get an almost fully fit squad to pick from with center back Holger Badstuber being the only exception after having been ruled out for the season with a crucial ligament injury.
The hosts VfB Stuttgart have seen a change in fortunes over the past two gameweeks, their 3 match winning run cut short by 2 consecutive losses at the hands of Mainz and Wolfsburg. Playing at home will give them more belief but the absence of suspended Sakai will be a crucial blow. Stuttgart have slid down the table and sit outside the European spots as of now. The middle of the table looks too tight to call but Stuttgart’s European dreams need to take shape sooner and a good performance against the league leaders won’t be a bad start. Cacau and Tunay remain on the sidelines for the home side.
The game appears to be a foregone conclusion on paper but a this is expected to be a much more closer affair. Bayern remain favourites but Stuttgart will put up a fight. A 2-1 scoreline in favour of the away side.
Borussia Dortmund vs Nuremberg
The defending champions trail Bayern Munich by a massive 12 points going into gameweek 19. With half the season left, BVB have found the task of balancing their focus on different competitions too challenging and their domestic challenge has obviously taken a hit as a result. A nightmarish December ended with a win over Hoffenheim.
Dortmund come into this game after a stellar performance against a hungover Bremen and hope to repeat a similar performance at home against the relegation battlers. Subotic continues to remain on the sidelines and Klopp should continue to start with Santana at the heart of defence. With most of his stars fresh after the winter break, Klopp would resist any unnecessary changes in personnel for the sake of rotation, but the entire Signal Iduna crowd would be looking forward to one name on the team sheet. Nuri Sahin’s return to Dortmund, albeit not permanently, will be a massive event.
Nuremberg are 15th in the table, sitting uncomfortably close to the relegation zone. Despite their position in the league, Nuremberg would look to put up a spirited fight. Marcos Antonio is out for the season, and apart from that Nuremberg have a full strength squad to face the champions.
Anything other than a massive win for the home side will look like a bad result, and 3 goal winning margin appears to be a good bet in this one.
Hannover 96 vs VfL Wolfsburg
After producing a wonderful spectacle and arguably the most entertaining game of the season Hannover brace themselves for the visit of the extremely unpredictable Wolfsburg side in a game that sees two midtable teams fight it out in what should be a brilliant footballing exhibition for the neutral.
Hannover would be glad to welcome back Christian Schulz from injury after conceding 5 last week. Arsenal loanee Johann Djourou had a forgetful start to life in Germany and would hope to improve his performance in front of the Hannover faithful in what will be a massive game for both sides. A win for the hosts could take them very close to the European slots. Long term absentees Lars Stindl and Leon Andreasen remain on the injury list for the home side while Sergio Pinto is suspended.
Wolfsburg haven’t really impressed on their travels and would be looking at this game as a wonderful opportunity to change the trend. Pilar and Helmes are sidelined for the visitors who won their last away game at the home of the champions Dortmund. Josue will serve a ban for his sending off and will miss this game. An open game is expeceted and Wolfsburg will definitely fancy their chances against the uncertain defence of the home side. Hannover look the favourites playing at home but expect Wolfsburg to score.
Freiburg vs Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Probably the game of the weekend, Leverkusen travelling to Freiburg has all ingredients of a tight yet wonderful game of football. Leverkusen find themselves 2nd in the table, 9 points off top spot. They have won two on the bounce beating Hamburg and Frankfurt in the process and would look to continue their good form when they travel to confident Freiburg and the impetus would be on the attacking threats of Stefan Kießling and Gonzalo Castro who have been terrific this season.
The home side are unbeaten in 4 games and will have sufficient reason to believe they can come up with 3 points in this one. Sitting pretty on 6th, Europe is a minimum for Streich’s men who have had a phenomenal campaign thus far. This has the making of a wonderful chess game and could be extremely close to call. A 1-1 draw should suffice.
Hamburger vs Werder Bremen
9th place Hamburg welcome 12th place Bremen in a clash that sees two teams with a very similar run of form face off. Both teams have taken just 1 point from their past couple of games. Hamburg play at home and would hope to exploit home advantage against a free falling Bremen side who started the season with so much promise. Hamburg have a complete squad to select their starting lineup from. A win could propel them into the Europa league spots. Last weekend’s draw at Nuremburg must have been disappointing but the home side will look to make amends on Saturday.
Bremen have thrown away their positive start to the season and have been poor for the best part of 2 months now. Getting beat at home by a margin of 5 goals can never be a positive, but playing away could be a boon for Bremen, as they avoid the nerves and tense atmosphere. The absence of Bargfrede and Stevanovik is expected as usual for the visitors and isn’t helping Bremen’s form one bit.
Hamburg to triumph in the Nordderby.
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs Fortuna Düsseldorf
Gladbach have been difficult to beat this season but have drawn way too many games for their liking. Drawing a blank at the weekend away to Hoffenheim will certainly be looked upon as 2 points dropped. This weekend the Borussian club play promoted side Dusseldorf and are odds on favvourites to win. Düsseldorf have had a topsy-turvy season and their defeat to Augsburg slightly changed the dynamics of the teams at the bottom of the table. Soares will not be available for the visiting side. A comfortable home win is expected.
Augsburg vs Schalke 04
A change in management at Schalke saw them return to winning ways in a 9 goal thriller after going winless in 5 games. Their attack looked sharp and Holtby was at the heart of all their good work, but defensively they still look unsure. This weekend sees the Ruhr club travel to Augsburg who have struggled to find any consistent run of form and stare down the barrel at this stage. 8 points off safety at this stage could be detrimental but a resurgence in the later half of the season is still on the cards. The only issue is that Augsburg lack any proper gamechangers who can stand up and make a difference, but last season’s heroics would give them belief. Schalke will again be weakened with the absence of Barnetta, Papadopoulos, Jones and Afellay while Augsburg will be without Sio and Ottl. An away win is the most expected result but Augsburg could spring a surprise in this one. Going for a draw anyone?
Greuther Fürth vs Mainz
Fürth returned from the holiday period facing Bayern Munich in a game that might have seemed like a formality with damage limitation as a primary motive, but the bottom club gave a good account of themselves. Mainz who occupy the last of the European places will be without influential Shawn Parker as they travel to Furth. Schmidtgal and Ndoye will be missing for the home team. Mainz drew a blank last weekend but they should be strong enough to pump in the goals in a comfortable victory.
Eintracht Frankfurt v Hoffenheim
4th placed Frankfurt continue to float in the Champions League spots despite indifferent form off late. Against Leverkusen they were convincingly beaten but they have a banker this weekend in Hoffenheim who have struggled away from home and will be missing Salihovic and Vukcevic. An easy home win will be no surprise.