At the end of matchday 19, defending champions Bayern Munich enjoyed an unprecedented 13 point lead at the top of the table. Going by their current form and the fact that they are yet to lose this season, this could very well be the lead that wins them the ‘Salad bowl’. For the neutrals, the inconsistent form of the chasing pack will be quite disappointing. Dropped points by the chasing pack has given the midtable sides aspirations of obtaining tickets to Europe. At the other end, Bundesliga’s oldest resident, Hamburg find themselves in the relegation zone while fellow strugglers having been putting up a better showing. TheHardTackle takes a look at the key games on matchday 20 of the German Bundesliga.
Dortmund look for momentum
Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp would have had a strong urge to invite a voodoo priest to oversee Dortmund’s play for the rest of the season as talisman defender Mats Hummels fell victim to yet another injury. Hummels picked up an injury on his right foot in Dortmund’s friendly tie against Dusseldorf on Tuesday that will definitely rule him out for couple of weeks. The German international had only just returned to first team action on matchday 19 after a long injury lay-off that had kept him out for close to 2 months. With Hummels ruled out, Klopp will once again have to field a make-shift defense with either Bender, Freidrich or Sarr partnering Sokratis. The Dortmund gaffer has had to endure a rather difficult season with long term injuries hitting his side since the very beginning. Defenders Subotic and Schmelzer were ruled out for the season back in October-November while İlkay Gündoğan is yet to return. Winger Jakub Blaszczykowski ruled himself out of the season as well last weekend with a torn cruciate ligament. With a depleted squad, Miloš Jojić, Dortmund’s winter signing might see some action on Saturday.
Dortmund travel north to Bremen knowing a win is a must for them in order to keep themselves in contention for a runner’s-up spot in the league. Their form of late has certainly not suggested of a side that is gunning for Champions League football next season. They have picked up 7 points in their last 5 games which has included unconvincing wins over Braunschweig and Kaiserslautern and draws against the likes of Augsburg and Hoffenheim. Back to back wins will definitely give them the confidence to enter a difficult phase in the football season that will also see them play in the Champions League and the DFB Pokal.
Bremen on the other hand have lost all their 5 previous meetings with Klopp’s men, the heaviest coming in last season’s hosting of the men in Yellow and Black. Dortmund won that game 5-0 with goals coming from five different scorers. After a brisk start, Bremen have found themselves slipping down the table and fears of relegation will start to set in if they don’t get a move on fast. Sitting 12th with 20 points from 19 games, Bremen are only 4 points better than 17th placed Hamburg. Robin Dutt will have to do without services of key midfield men in Aaron Hunt and Mehmet Ekici while Frtiz is still to recover from his knock.
Borussia Dortmund (4-2-3-1): Weidenfeller—Piszczek, Sokratis, Friedrich, Durm—Bender, Sahin—Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Reus—Lewandowski
Werder Bremen (4-2-3-1) : Raphael Wolf – Gebre Selassie, Prödl, Lukimya, Caldirola – Makiadi , Bargfrede – Elia, Kroos, Junuzović – Petersen
Werder Bremen 1-2 Borussia Dortmund
The Bavarian derby and mid-table battle
Nürnberg host the Bavarian derby as they entertain table toppers Bayern Munich at the Grundig-Stadion. After no wins in the 1st half of the season, Nürnberg have bounced back with 2 wins in the second half of the campaign. After a convincing 0-0 draw against Schalke before the end of the 1st period of the campaign, Nürnberg have registered 4-0 and 3-1 wins against Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin respectively.Their recent form has seen them climb from relegation candidates to 15th position and a victory on matchday 20 will see them go as high up as 12th. The only ‘but’ factor comes in the face of Bayern Muinch.
Pep Gaurdiola’s side haven’t lost a single game in the Bundesliga this season, and barring a dramatic collapse, are set to retain the title. In spite of injuries to probably the best central midfield pairing of last season, Schweinsteiger and Martinez, Pep’s Bayern Munich lead the table by 13 points after matchday 19. The last time the two sides met at Nürnberg, the hosts held onto a 1-1 draw. Considering their current form this could well be a possibility.
Wolfsburg host Maniz 05 in a crucial matchup that would affect how the mid-table of the Bundesliga would shape up for the rest of the season. With the acquisition of Kevin De Bruyne , Wolfsburg were expected to be strong contenders for a Champions League spot. But with every new system, there is a transition phase and Wolfsburg don’t seem to be gelling completely yet. They have started the New Year with couple of defeats and will want to bounce back with a win over Mainz to retain their aspirations of a Champions league position.
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga
In the early kickoff on Friday, Bayer Leverkusen sneaked past Borussia Mönchengladbach by a 1-0 margin.
Freiburg, buoyant after their 3-2 win over Leverkusen, will be quite keen to extend their winning run over Hoffenheim. Frankfurt played an under-strength side against Bayern last weekend in order to play a full strength side against Braunschweig. Eintracht Braunschweig, on the other hand, have in recent weeks shown their resolve in staying in the Bundesliga, but results are yet to go their way.
The oldest residents of the Bundesliga, Hamburg who find themselves placed 17th host Hertha Berlin, a side that have surprised many with their current position of 8th. With the return of Huntelaar, Schalke seemed to have made up lost ground of the first half of the season with consecutive wins. With faltering Dortmund and Leverkusen, the Royal Blues have a chance of climbing up the table against a Hannover side that have blown hot and cold over the course of the season. 13th placed Stuttgart host an impressive Augsburg side on Sunday. Augsburg have hardly looked the relegation candidate tag they have worn over the previous two seasons, putting on some resolute showings on the pitch.