Borussia Dortmund visit Eintracht Braunschweig in search of three points after a disappointing 2-2 draw against Augsburg last weekend, while their rivals Schalke 04 take on Wolfsburg in a battle for European qualification. This and more in THT’s Bundesliga Matchday 19 preview.
Dortmund boosted by Hummels return for Eintracht Braunschweig clash
After a Hinrunde riddled with injury woes, Borussia Dortmund will be cheered to have defender Mats Hummels back for this Friday’s visit to Eintracht Braunschweig. Dortmund are now 17 points behind runaway leaders Bayern Munich. Jürgen Klopp’s side have endured a frustrating run of matches, taking only two points from their last four matches, the most recent of which was a 2-2 draw against Augsburg. It was November when Dortmund last registered a win, and against bottom-of-the-table Braunschweig, Klopp will be expecting his team to get things back on track.
The odds are with them, as Eintracht Braunschweig have shown impressive resolve but garnered poor results so far this season. The Lions of Lower Saxony have picked up only 12 points, with a goal tally barely in the double digits at 10. By contrast, Dortmund have outscored every Bundesliga side apart from Bayern this season.
They will need that goalscoring record on their side this weekend, as Dortmund will be traveling to Braunschweig without Blaszczykowski, Gundogan, and Subotic. Finding the perfect understudies for the two missing midfield stalwarts will be a continuing struggle for Klopp, but with the versatile Kevin Grosskreutz needed at right back, the speedy Aubameyang looks like one of Dortmund’s best bets yet.
Torsten Lieberknecht is under no illusions as to the size of the task facing his team this weekend. A “plan B” Dortmund is still a difficult team to beat for any Bundesliga team, and for the underdogs of the league, it will be a Herculean challenge. But Braunschweig have done nothing if not surprise. Two of their three wins this season have come at the expense of Leverkusen and Wolfsburg, and just last week they held Werder Bremen at the Weserstadion to a 0-0 draw.
Dortmund are prepared to fight for their long-awaited win, but Braunschweig have a knack for conjuring miracles and cannot be discounted. Either way, it will be a marquee Friday match-up that Bundesliga fans won’t want to miss.
Eintracht Braunschweig: Davari – Kessel, Bicakcic, Dogan, Reichel – Theuerkauf – Elabdellaoui, Pfitzner, Nielsen, Boland – Ademi
Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller – Grosskreutz, Sokratis, Hummels, Schmelzer – Bender, Sahin – Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Reus – Lewandowski
Borussia Dortmund 2-0 Eintracht Braunschweig
Schalke square off against Wolfsburg in battle for Europe
A fierce clash is on the cards as Wolfsburg visit Schalke at the Veltins on Saturday. Both teams have done their share of time in the bottom half of the table this season. But of late Wolfsburg’s volatile record has settled into a more determined drive toward the upper echelons, while Schalke’s Hinrunde hullabaloo is fading into selective memory as the Royal Blues fought their way back into European contention, and are now just two points off rivals Borussia Dortmund and a Champions League spot.
Jens Keller’s side will be boosted by the return of Benedikt Höwedes, who has been sidelined since December due to a thigh injury. The Schalke captain participated in full training midweek and will feature against Wolfsburg on Saturday. Höwedes will be hoping to follow up on the sensational comeback of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who returned last week from a five-month lay-off to propel Schalke to a 3-0 victory over HSV. With both their captain and magic striker back in the mix, Schalke are eyeing Champions League qualification with renewed optimism.
Their opponents will be no less ambitious. Wolfsburg suffered a loss to Hannover last week, but the fight has far from gone out of them. New signing Kevin De Bruyne was a major coup for the 2007 Bundesliga Champions, and it is a move that makes Wolfsburg’s intentions crystal clear. With just three points separating third place from sixth at the moment, the hunt for Champions League qualification is on.
When these two sides met in the fall, Wolfsburg romped to a 4-0 victory at home. The Wolves have scored in every single match since week 8 this season, while Schalke’s defensive record leaves something to be desired. But much has changed since that encounter, and Schalke will not be quite the easy pickings Wolfsburg found them to be in September. It may be a close shave, but with the support of the Veltins at their backs, Schalke should have the edge in this match.
Schalke 04: Fährmann – Uchida, Matip, Santana, Kolasinac – K. Boateng, Neustädter – Farfan, Meyer, Fuchs – Huntelaar
VfL Wolfsburg: Benaglio – Perisic, Naldo, Knoche, Rodriguez – Medojevic, Gustavo – De Bruyne, Arnold, Diego – Olic
Schalke 3-2 Wolfsburg
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga…
Hoffenheim entertain Hamburg on Saturday as both sides chase those elusive three points. Hannover welcome fellow home-turf stalwarts Borussia Mönchengladbach, as Augsburg take on Werder Bremen, and Mainz play Freiburg. Meanwhile a weary Stuttgart continue their quest against the top of the table with a trip north this week to Bayer Leverkusen.
Sunday sees the over-achieving Hertha Berlin host cellar-dwellers FC Nuremberg; the survival specialists have their work cut out for them this week, as they have yet to win away from home. And in the evening, pack-leaders Bayern Munich close out the weekend’s action with a match against Eintracht Frankfurt.