The biggest derby in Germany is finally here! Schalke host Borussia Dortmund on Saturday afternoon in probably the most anticipated game in the Ruhr region. In less intense action, Bayern Munich look to continue their good form when they face Köln, while VfL Wolfsburg and Werder Bremen face off in a bid to further themselves from the drop zone.
Dortmund look to regain momentum in Gelsenkirchen
Dortmund have struggled for form this season, thanks in part to their endless injury list. But recent performances against relatively weak sides have brought out a number of frailties, especially their attacking inefficiency. Adrian Ramos and Ciro Immobile are still finding their feet in Jürgen Klopp’s demanding system, causing serious worries in the attacking department.
Their rivals, Schalke, have also had a difficult start to the season but recent results seem to indicate that the Royal Blues are on the rise. Goals seem to be coming from a number of players at the moment and despite having only one regular center back, Jens Keller’s side managed a clean sheet against Werder Bremen in mid week.
Dortmund will still have to make do without most of their creative players, which leaves Shinji Kagawa as Klopp’s only orchestrator. The likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ciro Immobile should start but their output has been far from satisfactory this season. Lackluster finishing and wasteful passing in the final third will be unacceptable in this massive clash.
Schalke too have been ravaged by injury but their recent outings have shown a lot of promise. The back line will consist of at least one make shift center back but the return of Atsuto Uchida will be a big bonus. In attack, Keller will have to do without the suspended Julian Draxler but their recent positive results have shown that there are enough outlets for goals.
Both sides will look to shut down each other’s creative units in midfield. Given the absence of the likes of Marco Reus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Draxler, there will be a genuine lack of creativity and it may go down to the more physical midfield winning at the end of the ninety minutes. With an English week just having gone by, fatigue will be beginning to creep into both camps, and fitness will be tested at the Veltins Arena.
These two rivals have been extremely porous at the back, both of them having conceded nine goals each in the first five Bundesliga games. With injuries aplenty in both camps, no great defensive improvement is on the cards but Mats Hummels’ return to fitness will come as a huge boost to Klopp. Whether the World Cup winner will start remains an uncertainty but given the importance of this fixture, he may well be thrown straight into the firing line on Saturday.
There may not be a whole lot of exciting fast paced football that one associates with these two sides but there is bound to be a whole lot of intensity. Tempers will flare in what is always an intense affair and the result may well turn on a heated moment. Brace yourselves for ninety minutes of unadulterated entertainment.
Schalke 04 (4-2-3-1): Fährmann; Uchida, Ayhan, Neustädter, Fuchs; Höger, Boateng; Sam, Meyer, Choupo-Moting; Huntelaar
Borussia Dortmund (4-2-3-1): Weidenfeller; Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer; Bender, Ginter; Aubameyang, Kagawa, Großkreutz; Immobile
Schalke 04 2-1 Borussia Dortmund
Die Wolfe look to feed on a shaky Bremen side
Before the start of the season, VfL Wolfsburg’s summer transfer activities sent a wave across the Bundesliga: The Wolves were up for a real fight at the top. Talk of Champions League football, pressurizing the likes of Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen for second and all of that, was all over social media.
But things haven’t panned out as Wolfsburg would have liked. Draws against Eintracht Frankfurt and Hoffenheim, and a painful loss in Berlin in midweek, have left them languishing in 12th place. With just one win in five games thus far, which turned out to be a phenomenal 4-1 result against high flying Leverkusen, Wolfsburg have struggled to perform consistently over ninety minutes.
Their opponents this week, Werder Bremen, have also struggled for form this season. Despite a great result against Leverkusen a few weeks back, two other draws followed by two losses in the last two games haven’t helped their cause. Robin Dutt’s side has leaked goals thus far, already having conceded 13, the worst record in the Bundesliga.
Maximilian Arnold and Christian Träsch remain doubtful for this fixture, while Patrick Ochs continues his time on the sideline due to a cruciate ligament problem. For Bremen, Eljero Elia looks unlikely to be available for selection.
The two sides in green are uncomfortably close to the bottom of the table and will go into this fixture knowing that three points are a must. Wolfsburg were expected to be keeping pace with the big guns at the top of the table and any further slip-ups could prove disastrous for Dieter Hecking. Bremen were always touted to flirt with relegation but given their ability to score freely this season, their aspirations will have grown.
This is a must win fixture for both sides if they are to get their seasons off and running. On paper, Wolfsburg look the more dangerous side but the Bundesliga is a crazy place. Anything can happen in this mouth watering clash between two sides struggling to keep things tight at the back.
VfL Wolfsburg (4-2-3-1): Benaglio; Jung, Naldo, Knoche, Rodriguez; Gustavo, Malanda; Vierinha, Hunt, de Bryune; Olic
Werder Bremen (4-4-2): Wolf; Fritz, Prödl, Lukimya, Garcia; Bartels, Galvez, Junuzovic, di Santo; Hajrovic, Selke
VfL Wolfsburg 3-1 Werder Bremen
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga
Mainz and Hoffenheim kick start the weekend action on Friday evening in what should be a close encounter between two sides currently occupying European positions. While the Revierderby will steal most of the limelight on Saturday, Bayern Munich’s trip to stingy Köln could make for good watching too. SC Freiburg host Leverkusen in what will be a tough game for the hosts. SC Paderborn finally tasted defeat at the Allianz Arena and will be looking to return to winning ways when they face a resurgent Borussia Mönchengladbach. Rounding up Saturday’s fixtures is the battle between third placed Hannover 96 and VfB Stuttgart, who are currently in seventeenth.
Sunday’s afternoon kick off sees FC Augsburg host capital side Hertha Berlin, with both sides hoping to move closer to mid table safety. The final game of matchday 6 will be played between struggling Hamburger SV and Eintracht Frankfurt.