With just 11 games left in the season, the ‘little’ business of deciding who gets tickets to Europe and who stays to fight it out next season hogs the limelight. Bayern Munich boast a unsurpassable 20 point lead at the top and Leverkusen’s recent bad form has allowed Klopp’s men in Yellow and Black to reclaim the runner’s spot. Wolfsburg recent run of success was stopped rather rudely by Hoffenheim last weekend while Schalke shipped out 11 goals in their last two outings. The Hard Tackle takes a peek into matchday 24 of the German Bundesliga.
Hamburger SV welcome the Eagles
Mirko Slomka made the perfect start to his Hamburg coaching career with a brilliant 3-0 win over Borussia Dortmund that gave the fans of The Dinosaur hopes of a miraculous rescue mission. Slomka and his men were however brought down to earth last weekend against fellow strugglers Werder Bremen in a game they should have won. The new gaffer now has the task of welcoming Eintracht Frankfurt on matchday 24 in an encounter that could prove a season turner for both the sides.
Frankfurt’s exit from the Europa League could well be a blessing in disguise for Armin Veh who can now concentrate on securing the future of the team in the Bundesliga for the next season. Placed 12th with 25 points from 23 games, Frankfurt sit 6 points above the relegation zone knowing a win at Hamburg will go a good way in securing their top flight status.
Key midfielder Sebastian Rode is out for the season while defender Stefano Celozzi will not play as well. Hamburg have bigger injury concerns than their visitors for the game. Talisman Rafael van der Vaart will not feature in Slomka’s starting eleven and Hamburg’s silver linings in striker Pierre Michel Lasogga (who earned his first senior national team call-up midweek) and winger Hakan Calhanoglu are expected to sit out as well. Furthermore defenders Marcel Jansen, Lasse Sobiech, Slobodan Rajkovic and young full back am remain major doubts for the tie. With a large portion of his side missing, new manager Slomka will have quite a task in hand to motivate his side to atleast earn a point at home.
Hamburger SV : Adler – Deikmeier, Djourou, Westermann, Tah – Rincon, Jiracek- Badelj, Kačar, Iličević – Zoua
Eintracht Frankfurt : Trapp – Russ, Zambrano, Oczipka, Jung – Madlung , Flum – Aigner, Meier, Barnetta – Rosenthal
Hamburger SV 1-3 Eintracht Frankfurt
Stuttgart and Bremen look for 3 points
It hasn’t been smooth sailing for yet another Bundesliga side that a few years back had won the league championship and were regularly appearing in the Champions League. Last season’s Pokal finalists have endured an awful season so far and only the poor forms of fellow strugglers Hamburg and rivals Freiburg has kept Die Schwaben just above the relegation zone. They face a crucial test against bottom side Eintracht Braunschweig who have shown plenty of character in their return to the Bundesliga but have failed to convert them into points.
Braunschweig’s any chance of survival will definitely depend on this particular game as Stuttgart have won only twice in 11 home games this season. The side from Baden-Württemberg have not won their last 6 games with their backline leaking 16 goals in the process. A win for the visiting Braunschweig will see them climb up the table and if Hamburg and Freiburg fail to win their respective games, all four bottom sides will be tied on 19 points from 24 games.
Rewinding ten years from now, Werder Bremen were enjoying life at the top of the table going neck and neck with Bayern Munich for the league championship. They currently sit 13th, with their form pretty much representing a sinusoidal wave. Their recent showings though have given the fans some relief. A crucial win over Hamburg came after decent draws against Frankfurt and Gladbach. Despite a gradual rise up the table, Bremen are still in danger of being drawn into the relegation fight and an away win for them against Nürnberg will definitely do them a world of good.
They however are against a side that have been tough to score against especially at home. The Bavarians had the dubious distinction of finishing the first half of the campaign with no wins to their name but have done well in setting that record straight in 2014. 4 wins since the winter break has given them that platform from which they can aspire to ensure their continuity in the Bundesliga. Bremen will be without Santiago Garcia while Der Clubwill have to do without midfielders Feulner, Hasebe, Gebhart, striker Ginczek and key defender Chandler who picked up injury against Bayern Munich.
Race for Europe and the rest
Bundesliga’s surprise package of this season, FC Augsburg will want to strengthen their hold on to midtable and possibly push for Europe when they visit Borussia Mönchengladbach. Gladbach having gone into the winter break placed 4th have seen a big dip in their form, falling behind the likes of Schalke and Wolfsburg. Disappointing draws against Braunschweig, Hoffenheim and Bremen coupled with defeats to Leverkusen and Hannover sees the Fouls move down to 7th, points behind Schalke who are placed 4th. Kramer, Xhaka and Wendt are on the treatment tables for the host while Paul Verhaegh is the only major causality for Augsburg. Andre Hahn got a call-up to the senior National side for the midweek friend lies and he will be quite keen to impress everyone watching.
Hertha and Mainz, Bundesliga’s midtable clubs eyeing the Europa league positions face off each other in Bundesliga’s last game of the matchday at the Coface Arena. 5th placed Wolfsburg eyeing the Champions League spots play the formidable Bayern Munich. Bayer Leverkusen’s recent dismal form has seen them slip to 3rd. They will want to stop this slid as they travel to Hannover. Hannover scored 6 against an impressive Wolfsburg on matchday 23 and will want to carry on that form to stack their own claim for Europe. The Royal Blues of Schalke face play against Hofenheim hoping to put behind them their recent drubbings Freiburg’s misery is expected to continue as they face off against a rejuvenated Dortmund