With end of season approaching, the German Bundesliga abandons its traditional format of spreading its games over 3 days and switches to all games being played on Saturday. Schalke will look to clinch the last UCL spot while Frankfurt and Freiburg will want to hold on to their Europa league ones. Hoffenheim, Augsburg, Dusseldorf and Bremen are all neck deep in the fight for survival and as the end approaches, it still remains unclear as to who will fall through the dreaded trap door. This and more in TheHardTackle’s preview of the Bundesliga.
Schalke 04 vs VfB Stuttgart
Bruno Labbadia’s Stuttgart don’t seem to be too concerned with the Bundesliga lately after confirming their place in Europe for next season via making it to the finals of the DFB Pokal. Losses to already relegated Greuther Fürth and relegation threatened Augsburg on matchday 31 and 32 have seen them slip down to 12th considering they looked on course to cementing a place in the top half 4 weeks back.
Their fans will be concerned of the lackluster form their team has shown in recent weeks and they will be hoping Die Schwaben find some form before the season ends and most importantly before their cup final game against Bayern Munich. Injuries and suspensions haven’t helped Labbadia either. Last week he was without the services of Ibisevic and Niedermeier through suspension and this time around full back Gōtoku Sakai is set to miss out for the same reason while Tamás Hajnal and Serdar Tasci remain major doubts through injury.
The return of their striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has certainly rejuvenated The Royal Blues and impressive back to back victories over Hamburg and Gladbach have put them in pole position to clinch the last Champions League position. Huntelaar scored a brilliant hat trick against Hamburg and was an inspirational figure in Schalke’s win over Gladbach last week. The win sees them sitting 3 points ahead of Frankfurt with a healthy goal difference.
Last week’s goal scorer Julian Draxler will miss out week 33 due to suspension but head coach Jens Keller and the home crowd will be pleased that the youngster put pen to paper extending his contract at the Ruhr club until 2018. No fresh injuries worry the hosts and inspirational winger Farfan is expected to make a return in place of Draxler. Vedad Ibisevic inspired the visitors to an impressive win over Schalke back in December, but going by their current form, it will be difficult not predicting a Royal Blue’s win.
FC Bayern München vs FC Augsburg
Visiting Augsburg have had a topsy-turvy last couple of weeks against the two Baden-Württemberg clubs. Having beaten Stuttgart on matchday 31 by 3 goals to nil, Augsburg failed to convert their chances against Freiburg last week and a 2-0 loss still sees them lodged in 16th place, level on points with Dusseldorf and 3 behind Bremen. They face a daunting trip to fellow Bavarians and table toppers Bayern Munich on Saturday.
Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes celebrated his 68th Birthday yesterday and he’ll be hoping his side notch up all three points again as a birthday present. Die Roten travelled without Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Robben and Ribery to Dortmund last week (all nursing niggling injuries) but the quartet could find a place in the starting eleven on Saturday. Right back Rafinha and center back Boateng are suspended for the game with Dante and Lahm expected to make returns in their place. Young Emre Can also stands a good chance to make it to the starting line-up either at right back (if Lahm is still injured) or in the middle of the park alongside Martinez or Gustavo.
Markus Weinzierl will have to do without key defender Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker through suspension while Sebastian Langkamp and Ja-Cheol Koo are still out injured. Dong-Won Ji and Sascha Mölders have been in good form lately and Weinzierl will hope they put on their scoring boots for the game. Bayern have lost only once in the league this season and have showed off their depth in squad by mauling teams with even their fringe players. The Champions League final is to be played 2 weeks from now and Jupp Heynckes will be keen to keep his best 11 match fit.
The only hope Augsburg have is of the fellow strugglers Hoffenheim, Dusseldorf and Bremen losing their respective games so as to still be in contention for survival. Bayern to win this game by 2-0.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim vs Hamburger SV
The village side gave themselves a big boost in their survival bid by playing out an important draw against Werder Bremen on matchday 32. The point gained was even sweeter as Augsburg and Dusseldorf failed to win their respective games meaning Hoffenheim are now 2 points behind the duo with 2 games to go. They host a Hamburg side who seem to have fallen out of the race for Europe after the hammering they received in the hands of Schalke on matchday 31 and the disappointing draw they were held to last week by Wolfsburg.
Hamburg are at a respectable 7th but find themselves 3 points behind Freiburg who don’t look like dropping easy points this season.
Fink will travel with no new major injury concerns though starters Dennis Aogo, Marcell Jansen and Tolgay Arslan are still on the treatment tables. The hosts will miss Jannik Vestergaard and Eugen Polanski through suspension.
In a must win game for the hosts, Markus Gisdol will want his men in blue to display the same resolve and character that has fetched them 8 points from their last 6 games. Of course he’ll also hope results elsewhere favour his side. The game to end as a draw.
Werder Bremen vs Eintracht Frankfurt
An intriguing battle between two teams that have interests at opposite ends of the table is on the cards when Werder Bremen play host to Armin Veh’s Eagles. Bremen have been on free fall since February and now find themselves just 3 points ahead of the drop zone. Last week’s draw against Hoffenheim has certainly not helped Thomas Schaaf’s case and win on Saturday will ensure Bremen another season of Bundesliga football.
Frankfurt on the other hand have the little business of holding on to their Europa League spot and maybe even upset Schalke by going for the last Champions league position. Both teams aren’t affected by any recent injuries and suspensions and should field a full squad for the game.
Frankfurt to win this one to pile more misery on Bremen and make Schalke nervous.
F. Düsseldorf vs Nürnberg
Fortuna are another side who have plunged themselves into the relegation battle after a good start to the campaign. They are currently 15th in the table and level on points with Augsburg and have secured a mere 1 point from their last 6 games. From not conceding in their first five games of the season, they have gone on to concede 52 goals and 2013 hasn’t been kind to them.
The visitors on the other hand are on a free fall themselves and like Stuttgart seem to have consigned themselves to mid-table. 4 losses in 4 games isn’t a pretty reading.
The game couldn’t have come at a better time for Fortuna, who’ll know getting 3 points is a must. Dusseldorf to take this game by 1-0.
Greuther Fürth vs SC Freiburg
Relegation was confirmed for the side from Bavaria on the 26th of April courtesy of a 3-2 defeat against Hannover. But Fürth in recent past have shown a lot more resolve ,even though this hasn’t been reflected in the ‘ wins ‘ column. But it did show up last week against Stuttgart with Fürth pulling off a surprise but impressive win over Stuttgart.
Freiburg will feel hard down by recent inconsistencies that has seen them drop out of the Champions league places . they do still hold on to a Europa league spot and will want to win here to out some breathing distance between themselves and chasing Hamburg.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen play host to Hannover 96 in a game that will not bear significance to their league standings. Leverkusen confirmed their place in next season’s Champions League with a resounding 2-0 win over Nurnberg that will ensure they hold on to 3rd spot. Hannover on the other hand have ruled themselves out of running for the Europa league and will have to content themselves to mid-table.
VfL Wolfsburg’s late surge in form has seen them comfortably distance themselves from the drop zone and under new coach Dieter Hecking have been performing well. With safety secure they will be keen to wrap up this campaign and plan for the next one. Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund are their visitors this week and the Ruhr Club will be keen to avoid any more injuries to their players.
Both Mainz and Borussia Mönchengladbach are out of the running for Europe and they face off to earn the boasting rights for next season.
Games to watch out for
- Werder Bremen vs Eintracht Frankfurt
- Schalke 04 vs VfB Stuttgart