It has definitely been a week of joy and celebrations for fans of the Bundesliga as Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund registered impressive wins over their Spanish counterparts in Barcelona and Real Madrid. With the dream of an all-German final at Wembley very much alive, attention now turns to the domestic league where issues such as qualification for Europe and staying in the Bundesliga remain in balance. This and more in TheHardTackle’s preview of the Bundesliga’s match day 31.
Bayern Munich vs SC Freiburg
Couple of weeks back Freiburg had two paths to achieve and confirm European football for next season. They were in the semifinals of the DFB Pokal and were in an excellent position to take the 4th Champions League spot considering the inconsistent form of Schalke and Frankfurt. And then came a double headed Baden-Württemberg derby against Stuttgart. A 2-1 loss to their rivals in the cup was followed by another defeat by the same margin that has left Freiburg ruing what was a golden chance to put some distance between themselves and the chasing pack led by Schalke and Frankfurt in the league. Nevertheless with 4 games to go, Christian Streich’s men find themselves only a point behind 4th placed Schalke and will be hoping to set things right when they travel to the home of newly crowned champions Bayern Munich.
Bayern don’t seem to know when to slow down this season as they carry out their relentless march towards breaking domestic records. Last 4 games for the Bavarians read 4-0, 6-1, 6-1 and 4-0 with Nurnberg, Wolfsburg, Hannover and the mighty Barcelona being their victims. With the 2nd leg in Spain on their minds, the Bayern coach will be looking to rest most of his regular starters and give his bench players some time on the pitch. Rafinha, Contento, van Buyten and Boateng should make the line-up with Pizarro and Shaqiri too getting game time.
Frieburg on the other hand will be missing the services of Jan Rosenthal and Julian Schuster through injury and suspension but Streich will otherwise have a full squad to choose from. A win at Munich can see the visitors jump to 4th considering Schalke face a tricky test against Hamburg. He will of course realize that his side have to give it all against the rampant Bavarians who seem to win no matter what eleven they put on the pitch.
Hoffenheim vs Nürnberg
Markus Gisdol’s presence seemed to have brought in a new belief in the Hoffenheim camp and their 3-0 win over Frankfurt on matchday 29 gave them a real hope of survival. But the men in blue were brought down to earth last weekend against an efficient Leverkusen side who gave them a good hiding with 5 goals to nil. The hosts currently lie 17th with 24 points from 30 games and will be looking to win all their remaining games to ensure safety. More importantly they remain 3 points behind Augsburg and 5 behind Werder Bremen. A win against Nürnberg and defeats for Augsburg and Bremen can give them a real breather.
They come up against a Nürnberg side who have ensured another season of top flight football and only hold a very slim chance to challenge for a European spot. Michael Wiesinger will be missing key player Javier Pinola but otherwise has no major injury concern. The hosts on the other hand have struggled with injuries and will be without Michael Gregoritsch, Afriyie Acquah, Pelle Jensen and custodian Gomes.
Hoffenheim will have to give it their best and hope that fellow relegation battlers choke in their respective games. In a must win game for the hosts, expect a narrow victory for the men in blue.
FC Augsburg vs VfB Stuttgart
Augsburg can consider themselves lucky to still be 3 points adrift of safety after both Düsseldorf and Bremen lost games last week to keep the points gap the same at the bottom. Augsburg have been a lot better in 2013 after their terrible start to the campaign. Their victory over Frankfurt couple of weeks back was refreshing and they might consider themselves unlucky to lose out to Galdbach last week. The home side will definitely be gunning for a win here but will have to do so without defenders Ragnar Klavan and Sebastian Langkamp. Influential midfielder Koo Ja-Cheol is also unfit but could start on the bench.
Bruno Labbadia finally seems to be getting things right this season and back to back victory over rivals Freiburg will be pleasing. Stuttgart are of course in the finals of the DFB Pokal and have booked themselves a place in next season’s Europa League. Defender Serdar Tasci is out with an Achilles irritation but he remains the only new addition to the treatment table. The visitors do stand a chance for the Champions League next season considering they are only 7 points behind Schalke.
The visitors to take this one and pile more misery on Augsburg.
Schalke 04 vs Hamburger SV
The Royal Blues will be feeling the heat as they take on Hamburg in this week’s last game. The loss to Frankfurt on match day 30 has brought Frieburg and the former closer to their heels and further screw ups could cost them the season. Coach Jens Keller will be hoping for better finishing from his side on Sunday after they squandered chance after chance last week. The emergence of Julian Draxler as an attacking outlet has helped them in holding on to the last Champions League spot but there is no denying that they are struggling to find an able replacement for the injured Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Jefferson Farfan still remains a major doubt for the game meaning it will be the same trio of Bastos, Raffael and Draxler playing in the attacking roles. Finnish forward Teemu Pukki should start in place of the ineffective Ciprian Marica.
Thorsten Fink will bring in his men in red shorts hoping they are carrying along with them the happy memories of the reverse fixture at Hamburg. Back in November, an all-round performance by his side helped Hamburg win 3-1 over then 2nd placed Schalke and ever since that defeat, the Royal Blues have been on a downward spiral. Fink has to deal with no new major injury concerns and will be hoping Dutchman Rafael Van der Vaart is at his inspirational best once again for his side to take all three points and continue their march up the table. The visitors are currently 8th, 2 points behind their opponents.
Schalke have been wasteful in front of goal off late and this trend might be carried on against Hamburg. 2-1 to the visitors with the northerners leap frogging their hosts in the table.
Fortuna Düsseldorf vs Borussia Dortmund
Real Madrid conquerors, Borussia Dortmund pay a visit to struggling Fortuna Düsseldorf late on Saturday and it will be safe to bet with the 2nd leg fixture in their minds. Jürgen Klopp will be expected to rest his regular starters starting with 4 goal hero Robert Lewandowski. Julian Schieber, Nuri Sahin, Kevin Großkreutz and Leonardo Bittencourt should get a look in.
Fortuna meanwhile will be hoping that the trip to the Spanish capital will be distracting enough for them to salvage something out of this game. To make matters worse, the hosts might have to take the field without striker Robbie Kruse who is nursing an injury.Deep into the relegation battle, Düsseldorf are only 3 points away from safety and if recent form is any indication, should struggle against Dortmund.
Mainz vs Eintracht Frankfurt
Armin Veh will want to see his side carry on their form when they travel to face Mainz early on Sunday. Mainz seem to be slipping up at the wrong moment and find themselves 9th, 5 points behind 8th placed Hamburg. Considering both Schalke and Freiburg have difficult fixtures on their hands, Frankfurt will want to take all three points which can see them jump back to 4th in the table.
Frankfurt could still be without midfielders Alexander Meier and Pirmin Schwegler but if they can put in a similar display like last week, 3 points should be in their kitty.
Wolfsburg vs Borussia Mönchengladbach
An impressive win over Bremen last week ensured the hosts of another season in the Bundesliga. Ivica Olic has found his shooting boots in recent weeks and coach Dieter Hecking will be hoping he wears them for the visit of Gladbach. The visitors are again one of those teams that have a realistic chance of qualifying for the Champions League and sit 7th in the table, 2 points behind Schalke. Gladbach to take all 3 points .
Bayer Leverkusen vs Werder Bremen
Stefan Kießling and Andre Schürrle have been in excellent form off late and the duo combined well against Hoffenheim last week in a 5-0 mauling. With a tense battle for the 4th spot going on behind them, Leverkusen have over recent weeks strengthened their hold on to position number 3 and don’t look like getting dislodged from their perch.
Thomas Schaaf will have his work cut-out when he takes his side to visit the BayArena on Saturday knowing a loss will increase the worry lines on his forehead. Bremen are currently 14th in the table, 5 points above the drop zone. The home team to take this 2-0.
Greuther Fürth vs Hannover
While one Bavarian club has soared to the title, another one has all season done the job of propping up the rest of the table. Greuther Fürth’s Achilles heel has been their home form and they are yet to register a win in front of their own crowd this season. And guess what, they play at home this weekend!
Hannover have been at the receiving end of some thrashing lately with Bayern putting 6 past them last week and Freiburg 3 in the week before. Mirko Slomka will look at this tie to be the perfect game for his side to sort out things and get back into the race for Europe. Fürth to be the first side to get relegated from the Bundesliga this weekend.
Games to Watch-Out for
- Schalke vs Hamburg
- Mainz vs Eintracht Frankfurt
- Hoffenheim vs Nürnberg