Saturday’s Bundesliga Preview: Schalke Host Bayern Munich
Round fifteen of the Bundesliga kicked off in unspectacular fashion on Friday night with St. Pauli beating Kaiserslautern by one (own-goal) to nil. Hopefully Saturday’s games, though, should be full of action. Werder Bremen hosts Wolfsburg, and Bayern Munich travels to Schalke in two of the bigger games of the weekend. Let’s get to it.
Borussia Monchengladbach v Hannover 96
Relegation-bound Gladbach will be looking to head into the winter break on a positive note, and that means three points here against Hannover. Gladbach are three points away from safety, but they’ll need more than that to leapfrog Stuttgart and Koln who will not want to get too accustomed to being in the bottom three for very long. Frontzeck’s side are definitely up against it in terms of their survival chances for this season, but a win here might give them the boost they need. Hannover, on the other hand, are challenging for a European place after some stellar early-season form. Currently sitting in 4th place, Mirko Slomka’s side will be hoping to thump their opposition and continue to push for a place in Europe’s elite club competition: the Champions League. They’re just a single point behind third-placed Bayer Leverkusen, so if they win here they have every chance of breaking into that coveted top three spot this weekend.
Eintracht Frankfurt v Mainz
Frankfurt haven’t been their bullish best of late, and they’ve allowed themselves to slip all the way down to 9th in the Bundesliga table. Despite their position, they’re still only a few points behind the other Bundesliga sides vying for European qualification, so they’ll be looking to end the year on a positive note and there’s no better place to start than at home against Mainz. Tuchel’s side have been the surprise package of the season and they definitely won’t go down easy, but they’ve not been at their early-season best for a few weeks now and Frankfurt might just be able to take advantage of that. Still, Mainz are second in the league and they’ll want to stay there, so there’s no way they’ll head into Frankfurt with a losing mentality. It’s going to be a good game! Theofanis Gekas will definitely get his chances in front of goal for the home side, and Lewis Holtby will be looking to shine again for Mainz.
SC Freiburg v Hamburg SV
These two sides are tied on 21 points, so the loser here will be dealt a heavy blow in terms of their chances of qualification for European competition. Hamburg under Armin Veh have been nothing spectacular, but Ze Roberto has been near his creative best under the German tactician and Hamburg will look to the Brazilian veteran at every opportunity. Freiburg, meanwhile, can boast one of the Bundesliga’s top scorers this season in the form of Papiss Cisse. Unfortunately, the Senegalese striker has just come off the pace a little bit after scoring so many goals earlier in the season. Still, Hamburg’s defense hasn’t been very convincing, and if there’s anyone who can take advantage of that it’s him.
VfB Stuttgart v TSG Hoffenheim
It’ll be completely devastating if Hoffenheim were to lose this. Stuttgart have been, for me, the worst side in the Bundesliga this season and they’ve deserved their misfortunes so far. They’re second bottom and they look ripe for the taking here. They’re coming off a 4-2 loss they suffered in midweek against Young Boys in the Europa League, so they’ll be tired and rubbish. They’ve got a decent squad, but they’ve been unable to perform on the pitch with any consistency at all. They need a win, but it’s unlikely that they’ll get it against a Hoffenheim side who are full of pace and creativity up front. Dark days could be on the horizon for Stuttgart…
VfL Wolfsburg v Werder Bremen
This is going to be intense. Wolfsburg have been nothing to write home about under Steve McClaren but the English tactician is probably still getting to grips with the Bundesliga and there’s definitely going to be more to come from them. Werder Bremen, on the other hand, managed a very impressive 3-0 win over St. Pauli last weekend but they still look a shambles in defense. There’s going to be goals here. If Dzeko gets decent service, he’s going to torment that Werder Bremen back-line. This is a Wolfsburg win for me, but it could be a 4-3 or something. I’m sensing lots of goals. Hugo Almeida – who scored a hat-trick against St. Pauli – will miss out for Werder Bremen after receiving a straight red card last weekend.
Schalke 04 v Bayern Munich
Oh man. Felix Magath versus Louis van Gaal. This is going to be intense. Bayern Munich have a much stronger midfield, and I think that will, in the end, win them this game. Still though, you can only imagine what this fixture might throw up. Raul, Huntelaar, Farfan, Schweinsteiger, Gomez, Ribery… I could go on. This fixture is going to be a showcase of the Bundesliga’s most talented players. Even though neither side has hit the kind of consistent form they would have hoped for by this stage in the competition, it’ll still be a cracking game and one that no Bundesliga fan will want to miss. It’s a Bayern Munich win for me, but really, anything could happen here.