Bayern may have won the title but a lot else remains at stake in the Bundesliga. From Schalke in fourth to Nuremberg in 11th, the European places could go almost any way possible. At the bottom of the table, Bremen and Düsseldorf have given Augsburg and possibly Hoffenheim hope for survival. So what’s in store for you on matchday 30 of the Bundesliga?
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Schalke 04
Prior to their previous meeting, Eintracht Frankfurt and Schalke were sitting in third and second respectively. Things have only gone downhill from there on for the two, but their current positions will be considered fairly good given the pre-season predictions. Eintracht have gone through their most sluggish period of late, earning just six points out of a possible 27. Schalke on the other hand have been a resurgent side following their mid-season debacle under Huub Stevens.
Both sides are far from guaranteed European football and this game will greatly affect their final positions. Eintracht’s push for Europe has been hindered by the absence of Kevin Trapp, and Armin Veh’s absentee list is only larger this week. Sebastian Jung is suspended after having picked up his fifth yellow against Gladbach, while Alex Meier is still doubtful after suffering an injury in the same game. With their main attacking outlet, Meier, missing, it seems that Eintracht will have to rely on the less consistent duo of Stefan Aigner and Takashi Inui if they are to get anything out of this game.
Schalke will have to make do without a number of their players, most of who have been missing for a fair while now. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is still not fit to feature in the side but the return of Roman Neustädter and Jermaine Jones has buoyed Schalke coach Jens Keller, who said, “We now have more alternatives, that’s good.”
A reinforced midfield coupled with the fine form of Julian Draxler should make Schalke favorites for this tie. Placing your money on them might not be the safest of bets but it seems the logical one. A narrow victory for the Royal Blues it is.
Werder Bremen vs. VfL Wolfsburg
Bremen’s season has gone downhill more rapidly than one could ever have imagined. From seventh place after matchday 13 to fourteenth after matchday 29, Bremen have gone from being European hopefuls to a side desperately hanging on to life in the Bundesliga. Thomas Schaaf’s side have had only two men to look to all season, Kevin de Bruyne and Aaron Hunt. With both players unable to maintain the form they displayed for most of the campaign, results have dried up and Bremen have failed to win since early February.
Their opponents this week, heavy spending Wolfsburg, have also failed to live up to expectations from pre-season, but they have seen their ship steadied under Dieter Hecking. Sitting just two points above Bremen but seven ahead of Augsburg, Wolfsburg are more or less assured of safety. Knowing that a victory against Bremen could even push them towards a mid-table finish will spur the Wolves on, and a relatively injury free squad will help.
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. FC Augsburg
Gladbach haven’t been half as good as last season, but as Lucien Favre recently pointed out, the side suffered far too many losses in the summer and over focusing on results is a bad thing. But in a game such as this, a result must come if the Foals are to have any hopes of another season in Europe. Just a point adrift of sixth, Gladbach seem favorites to take full advantage of Eintracht’s late slip-ups.
For this fixture Favre will have to do without Havard Nordtveit, who suffered a broken nose against Stuttgart, and Martin Stranzl, possibly out with flu. Raul Brouwers should keep his place in defense, while Tolga Cigerci should be replaced by youngster Amin Younes. Favre may return to a 4-2-3-1 formation after last week’s embarrassing defeat at the hands of Stuttgart.
Augsburg shocked the nation with their 2-0 victory over Eintracht last week. Looking to build on that result, Markus Weinzierl should leave his squad unchanged from their win. The only worrisome absentee will be Ragnar Klavan in the center of defense. The Estonian defender is out after having picked up a yellow in the previous game, which should mean Sebastian Langkamp will start. Dong-Won Ji will once again be Augsburg’s main man.
Hamburger SV vs. Fortuna Düsseldorf
Just like the previous game, this is one contested between two sides with contrasting aspirations. In their bid for a Europa League spot, Hamburg will have to host Fortuna Düsseldorf without Maximilian Beister who is suspended. This shouldn’t be a cause for worry as Thorsten Fink said, “I am tending towards picking the same team which showed presence and teamwork in Mainz.” With the squad from last week completely ready to play, Hamburg should come out all guns blazing.
Winless in seven games, Düsseldorf might be the prey that Augsburg feed on if they don’t buck up soon. Mathis Bolly is still out injured, but the rest of the regular starting eleven should be available to Norbert Meier. Düsseldorf will have to play out of their skin if they are hoping for any points, but their recent form speaks highly against this.
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hoffenheim
After having thrown away a two-goal lead against Schalke last weekend, Leverkusen’s third spot doesn’t seem all that secure anymore. This game against lowly Hoffenheim will come as a welcome fixture, especially so because their rivals are involved in much harder games. Injuries aren’t a worry for Leverkusen’s managerial duo, and suspended Ömer Toprak will be the only unavailable player.
Under the tutelage of Markus Gisdol, Hoffenheim have revived their hopes of another year of Bundesliga football. Their attack has thrived under Gisdol, the five goals scored in their last two games being testament to that. Hoffenheim will have to take the game to Leverkusen if they wish to leave with any points and under Gisdol this seems a possibility.
Hannover 96 vs. Bayern Munich
Hannover’s home form has been their only respite in what has been a long drawn and injury plagued season. Jörg Schmadtke’s decision to leave the club as sporting director will come as an additional blow to the club, but given the circumstances between him and coach Mirko Slomka, it seemed inevitable. The return of Lars Stindl was their only promising moment in the previous game, but he could be a useful boost for the battle against the Bavarians. Sebastien Pocognoli is doubtful after having muscle problems following the Freiburg game.
Bayern may have won the title but they surely haven’t stopped stepping on the gas. Still hitting goals like they’re chasing a five goal lead, Bayern look unstoppable at the moment. With the Barcelona game right around the corner, Jupp Heynckes will rest a few of his players against Hannover. Rafinha, Luis Gustavo and Xherdan Shaqiri should all get starts ahead of the more regular starters. Another list of records should be broken on Saturday.
Borussia Dortmund vs. Mainz 05
Much like Bayern, Dortmund’s domestic campaign is more or less done. With second place seemingly impossible to lose, Dortmund have shifted focus completely to the UEFA Champions League, the only possible silverware they could end the season with. Like last week Jürgen Klopp will rest some of his big names and give the likes of Julien Schieber, Moritz Leitner and Nuri Sahin a start.
Mainz, on the other hand, are still keenly contesting the battle for European football. Last week’s loss to fellow European hopefuls Hamburg was a massive blow and a victory against Dortmund is exactly what they need to set things back on track. With a full squad available to him, Thomas Tuchel should be relatively confident of earning at least a point at the intimidating Signal Iduna Park against a distracted Dortmund side.
VfB Stuttgart vs. SC Freiburg
For the second time in five days the world shall witness not El Clásico, not the der Klassiker, but the Baden-Württemberg derby. After dispatching Freiburg in the DFB-Pokal semi-final, Stuttgart have ensured a spot in next season’s Europa League despite their woeful league standing. With that having been achieved, this game seems somewhat inconsequential for the hosts but can that ever be said of a derby? The Swabians will want their engine roaring at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, but two derbies might just be a little too much for this incredibly thin squad.
Christian Streich will be disappointed with the Pokal loss, but European football is still a realistic dream. Just a point behind fourth placed Schalke, Freiburg could even fancy a spot in the Champions League this season. Their away form has been scintillating this season and could be the decisive factor in exacting revenge. Watch out for some more late-season Kruse fireworks as well.
1. FC Nuremberg vs. Greuther Fürth
With European football a possibility, albeit a small one, Nuremberg have something to fight for in the last five games. And a game against cellar dwellers Fürth couldn’t have come at a better time. Nuremberg will have to go into this game without their revelation, Timm Klose, after he suffered a concussion against Bayern Munich. Javier Pinola is also unavailable after having accumulated too many yellow cards over the season.
Fürth have nothing to play for other than to leave with their heads held high. Life in the Bundesliga has been too hot to handle for the Cloverleaves and relegation is now a guarantee. As much as one would like to see a Fürth win in Nuremberg, it seems far too improbable.