The Bundesliga enters a crucial stage of the campaign with clubs looking to climb the table as high as they can or battling for their lives to stave off relegation. The battle for European qualification intensifies with clubs realizing a small slip up could leave them with nothing.
Schalke 04 vs Borussia Dortmund
May the 3rd 1925 was the first time the Royal Blues of Schalke locked horns with a team that was just 50 miles from them. Schalke were the dominant force in German football back then and had a healthy edge over Dortmund early on, winning 16 of their 17 meetings with BVB registering their first win over their most hated rivals only in 1943, 18 years after their first meeting.
Things are quite different now, with Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund winning the Bundesliga in the last two years and having made a name for themselves this season in the Champions League. Coming in on the back of a thumping victory over Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League, BVB will be brimming with confidence when they visit Gelsenkirchen on Saturday. Mats Hummels has been missing out for the last few games but could make it to the starting eleven. Robert Lewandowski who has been in the news lately with rumours of his possible move to the Premier League or rivals Bayern should lead the attack in the company of Marco Reus, Mario Götze and Jakub Blaczszykowski.
The hosts on the other hand will have one eye on their crucial champions league clash against visiting Galatasaray. The midweek game could be a distraction for the men in blue and a few key men could be rested. American midfielder Jermaine Jones will miss out due to suspension and their long term injury list remains the same. Julian Draxler has been in top form ever since assuming his new role as the central playmaker and he should be flanked by Farfan and Bastos.
Rewinding back to last October, Schalke shocked the defending champions by beating them 2-1 courtesy of goals from Afellay and Höger. Jens Keller will be hoping for a similar performance from his men not just to keep their recent new found morale going but also to ensure Schalke don’t miss out on a European spot for next season.
Expect an action packed game with Dortmund just edging out Schalke.
Mainz vs Bayer Leverkusen
Leverkusen haven’t had the best of starts to 2013 and losses and dropped points over the last few weeks have seen them slide down to 3rd in the table. They still hold a 7 point lead over 4th placed Frankfurt and will be looking to increase or hold on to that gap when they travel to Mainz on Saturday. Lewandowski and Hyypiä will have to do without key defender Philipp Wollscheid who is set to miss the game on account of a suspension. What will worry the managerial duo though will be the loss of that telepathic understanding between Stefan Kießling, Gonzalo Castro and Andre Schürrle that was key to Leverkusen’s climb up the table pre- winter break.
Mainz have been a hard nut to crack at home for most teams this season, having lost just thrice at the Coface Arena. They sit 8th in the table just 4 points behind 4th placed Frankfurt. They come into this game on the back of a disappointing draw against Dusseldorf last weekend that saw them drop down to their current spot. The hosts will have to deal with injuries to key defenders in Jan Kirchhoff and Junior Diaz while Radoslav Zabavnik will sit out due to suspension.
A win for Mainz can take them up the table considering fellow mid-table dwellers all have tough assignments this week. Expect the visitors to clinch this one with a scoreline of 2-0 in this crucial clash for both teams.
Hannover 96 vs Eintracht Frankfurt
Sunday’s first game sees an enthralling battle between two attack-minded teams who are neck deep in the battle for European spots. The Eagles have been one of the surprise packages this season and have consistently featured in the top half of the table. But recent form will not be of any comfort to Armin Veh with the Eagles winning just once in 5 games. This slip has seen the chasing pack catch up on that 4th Champions League which a few weeks back , Frankfurt were comfortably holding onto. Sebastian Rode is the only player expected to miss out on this crucial clash.
Hannover will be keen to bounce back from their disappointing Europa League exit at the hands of Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala. Hannover were riding high at the beginning of the season but inconsistency possibly due to European distractions has seen them drop out of the Europa league spots. They will be keen to claw their way back into these spots and a win here will definitely help them do so. The hosts will miss the services of midfielder Szabolcs Huszti and Lars Stindl while forward Mame Biram Diouf who is on the path to full fitness is also expected to miss out.
With just 4 points separating the two, this contest can decide the course of the future of both clubs. Frankfurt will hate to lose out on the last Champions league spot to either Schalke or Frieburg while Hannover will want to reclaim their lost European place. Expect a hard battle at the AWD-Arena with the visitors coming triumphant.
Another mid-table skirmish sees Borussia Mönchengladbach take on a rather inconsistent Werder Bremen. Gladbach have no major injury concerns and should take this game comfortably.
Table toppers Bayern Munich have been unstoppable this season but a sketchy showing against struggling Hoffenheim last weekend should give Dusseldorf some hope. With their crucial clash against Arsenal coming up midweek, Bayern could rest some of their key players for this game. They of course have the luxury to do so sitting 17 points ahead of their nearest rivals Borussia Dortmund. Bayern to win this by 2-0.
A North vs. South clash will be show cased as Hamburg visit Stuttgart late on Sunday as both teams look to consolidate their disappointing positions. Stuttgart’s biggest concern will be their abysmal home form having won just 3 games this season. Michael Mancienne is still missing for Hamburg while Tim Hoogland and Georg Niedermeier should miss out for the hosts.