European nights, domestic cup action and the domestic league, clubs surely do have their hands full at the moment. After an exciting midweek of DFB Pokal quarter-final games, German clubs return to league action this weekend for another action packed three days of Bundesliga. TheHardTackle previews matchday 24 of the most exciting league in Europe.
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach
The European battle gets more and more intense with every round of football, last week’s results being testament to this. Not too long ago, Frankfurt seemed a step ahead of the chasing pack, looking set to comfortably keep fourth spot to themselves. But three winless weeks now sees them just three points ahead of fifth placed Freiburg and only seven clear of tenth place, their opponents this week.
Gladbach are in a similar state and can’t afford to boast of their recent form. Lucien Favre’s side may have picked up a hard-fought point against defending champions Borussia Dortmund last week but there seems to be a lack of energy in the side. With their European campaign having come to an end, Favre might now be able to concentrate solely on the league and steer Die Fohlen back on track. To add to the club’s troubles, the entire Mike Hanke saga will be a bit of a morale downer to the Gladbach camp.
Injuries aren’t currently haunting either of the two sides and suspensions have been served just in time to take part in this hugely important fixture. Gladbach were without their two most influential attackers last week, Juan Arango and Patrick Herrmann. The Venezuelan star only returned to fitness on Wednesday and a start might still be out of the question. Herrmann on the other hand has finished his suspension and that useful rest might help greatly in favor of Gladbach. Amin Younes’ commendable performance against Dortmund last week will be a massive boost for Favre’s uninspiring attack and the 19-year-old might receive yet another start this Friday.
Frankfurt’s only injury worry is Srdjan Lakic, the winter acquisition from Wolfsburg. Although not a guaranteed absence, Armin Veh might prefer to keep Lakic out for this one. This could mean that Olivier Occean will get the nod as the lone striker with Inui, Aigner and Meier forming the attacking trio in midfield.
Both sides should use a 4-2-3-1 and on paper, Frankfurt’s attacking unit seems a step or two ahead of Gladbach’s. Defensively both sides aren’t the most sound and this is where the pivotal midfield duos of both sides will come into play. Once again, Frankfurt seem to have the better unit on paper and it seems highly probable that the hosts will take the three points.
Borussia Dortmund vs. Hannover 96
BVB take on one of the most entertaining sides in the league this matchday, but Hannover’s travels have hardly ever bore them any fruit so far this season. Dortmund’s lackluster performance against Gladbach will be a wake-up call and a home fixture against Hannover is just what they need. The only worry for Dortmund is that they will have to do without Mats Hummels, who is out with the flu. Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Blaczszykowski will be welcomed back into the side.
Hannover’s ever growing injury list reached new heights last week and did so in bizarre fashion. After converting a penalty, Szabolcs Huszti went down writhing in pain. A pulled muscle rules out the sensational Hungarian for a tie he might have relished. Mirko Slomka will place his faith on the attacking figures of Didier Ya Konan and Mame Biram Diouf in Hannover are to get anything out of this game.
Goals will be scored but surely more by Dortmund. The absence of Hummels might hurt Dortmund a teeny bit but this should be three fairly comfortable points for the defending champions.
FC Nuremberg vs. SC Freiburg
Der Club have had a slow, drab season with very little life so far. Other than Hiroshi Kiyotake and Timm Klose, the club hasn’t shined at all. Currently on a four match unbeaten run, they will hope to keep it going against an in-form Freiburg side. New signing Mu Kanazaki is yet to hit the ground running and this could be that special week for the Japanese starlet. Timo Gebhart is still doubtful after having injured his groin. They will also be without Timothy Chandler who is suspended for this game.
Expectation defying Freiburg continued to surprise one and all with a sensational comeback in their 2-3 quarter-final win over Mainz in the DFB Pokal and morale will be very high going into this relatively simple fixture. Unlike their opponents, Freiburg are blessed with a fully fit squad. Matthias Ginter’s return to fitness will be a massive boost in their bid for European football and he could get his fourth consecutive start this weekend.
The lack of clinical finishers in both sides might be a worrying factor for neutrals tuning into this game, but this has the making of a good tactical battle. Christian Streich being the master tactician that he is should see his side win by a narrow yet comfortable margin.
Hamburger SV vs. Greuther Fürth
A 1-4 win over Dortmund, 1-0 triumph over Gladbach and most recently a 5-1 loss to Hannover. Is it possible to predict what one can expect from Thorsten Fink’s Europa League hopefuls. Michael Mancienne and Ivo Ilicevic are out injured for the hosts but this shouldn’t trouble them a great deal. Given the form and ability of their opponents, HSV should have a fairly simple night.
Fürth have been abysmal all season and this is unlikely to change on Saturday. Injuries to Edgar Prib and Zoltan Stieber lessen their chances of hitting the back of the net to zero and unless they are lucky enough to face a sluggish Hamburg side, there is no hope of earning any points whatsoever.
Werder Bremen vs. FC Augsburg
26 goals conceded in their last 8 games, Bremen have been a mere shadow of the side that almost beat Dortmund on the opening day of the season. Sokratis’ lay off due to illness over the past couple of weeks was hugely detrimental to Thomas Schaaf’s side and his return will bring a certain level of solidarity to this defense. Aaron Hunt and Kevin de Bruyne continue to be their prized assets and a good showing from them could mean three points.
Augsburg have been gradually climbing towards safety over the last few weeks but need a miracle similar to last season if they wish to spend another year in Germany’s top flight. The South Korean attacking unit of Koo Ja-Cheol and Dong-Won Ji has been a revelation for Fuggerstädter of late. A good showing from them and another upset is surely on the cards.
VfL Wolfsburg vs. FC Schalke 04
Both these sides have had disastrous seasons up until now, Wolfsburg originally touted as Europa League hopefuls and Schalke as title contenders. Things have panned out very differently with Wolfsburg living dangerously above the relegation zone and Schalke at the bottom of the top half of the table.
Wolfburg have only Vaclav Pilar on the injury list while Alexander Madlung is suspended for his red card from last week. Schalke on the other hand will have to do without Uchida, Moritz, Afellay, Unnerstall and Fuchs.
This will be a tight affair with very few goals in it. Michel Bastos will hold the key to Schalke’s success with Diego being his equivalent for Wolfsburg. A 1-1 draw would be a safe bet on this game.
Bayer Leverkusen vs. VfB Stuttgart
Leverkusen’s season seems to be falling apart at the moment with the league race all but over and their exit from the Europa League. With just one win in their last five games, Lewandowski and Hyypia will have to sit down, rethink their approach and probably tinker around a little bit. Injuries and suspensions aren’t currently bothering Leverkusen, making their lives just that bit easier.
Stuttgart have no first team injury woes themselves but their lack of squad depth has proven to be a problem this season. With Labbadia cut for choice, expect the usual from the Swabians at the BayArena.
After that embarrassing 0-0 draw against Fürth, Leverkusen will be keen to set things straight against a struggling Stuttgart. 2-0 to the hosts.
1899 Hoffenheim vs. Bayern Munich
Is there any point previewing this game? Hoffenheim can’t get three points to save their lives, while Bayern look like the best team on the planet. Goals will flow like the Nile on Sunday and suspensions to Andreas Beck and Eugen Polanski won’t help Hoffenheim one bit. A repeat of last year’s 7-0 is surely on the cards. God save Hoffenheim.
Fortuna Düsseldorf vs. Mainz 05
Nine points clear of the drop zone and looking fairly solid at the back, Düsseldorf have steadied their ship after a rocky October. They will be without winger Stefan Reisinger, who himself isn’t first choice on the right flank. The sensational transformation of Leon Balogun continues and a good performance against the likes of Ivanschitz and Müller will do him a world of good.
After a disheartening Pokal loss to Freiburg, Mainz will be looking to win or at least draw against Fortuna. Thomas Tuchel has no first-team injuries to worry about at the moment either.
Expect few goals but some hard-hitting football, 1-2 to the traveling side.