After the long-awaited return of the Bundesliga last weekend, we have another round of matches under the strange, new, fan-free regulations. Here we preview the upcoming action taking a closer look at some of the key issues.
Who will triumph in the key Rheinderby?
Saturday’s clash at the Borussia Park between Borussia Mönchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen could prove pivotal when it comes to next season’s Champions League qualifiers.
The Foals 3-1 win away at Frankfurt last weekend saw them leapfrog RB Leipzig into third in the table, while Bayer Leverkusen maintained their challenge for a top four finish with a 4-1 win away at Werder Bremen. Both sides will have their eyes keenly focused on a top four finish and three points against their rivals on Saturday would go a long way to achieving that.
The reverse fixture on matchday 10 saw a 2-1 win for Gladbach at the BayArena, but as we know, the circumstances this time around are going to be much different, although last weekend showed that both sides can still perform well in an empty stadium.
“We can read the table. Leverkusen are only two points behind us, and we’re also aware that it’s a derby” Gladbach trainer Marco Rose said on Thursday. “We’ve done really well in derbies this season, so hopefully we can win them all.
“We have fond memories of the reverse fixture, but we’ll still need a strong performance against Leverkusen. We analysed their game aginst Bremen. They play with a similar intensity to us when they don’t have the ball. They are really strong with their Gegenpressing and do a lot of running. That does create spaces though. They like to dominate with the ball and they play at a high tempo, which we need to disrupt. We need to have the ball and the control ourselves. We need to stay compact and be strong at the back.”
How will the Berlin-derby play out?
It’s not just over in the Rhineland that two local rivals clash. In the capital Hertha host Union for only the second competitive derby between the two clubs. This wasn’t exactly the scenario either club would have imagined at the start of the season and instead of a rocking Olympiastadion, the match on Friday will play out in an eerie atmosphere.
There are however important point and local bragging rights up for grabs, Bruno Labbadia takes control of his first ‘home’ game and will look to build on last weekend’s impressive 3-0 win away at Hoffenheim.
“Of course, it’s not the derby we all wished for” Labbadia said this week. “What counts now is focussing on what we can influence and rise to the occasion. We did that well in Hoffenheim and we want to build on that.”
Union put up a good show against Bayern but were ultimately ground down by the champions on Sunday. They will however have trainer Urs Fischer back in control after he had to miss last week’s match for personal reasons.
“Picking up six points from the derby will help enormously with our plans to stay in the league” he said. “It’s about staying in the league, not being city champions. Both would be nice, but our priority is to move three points closer to the target.”
Can RB Leipzig maintain their title threat?
Last weekend was always going to be a ‘suck it and see’ kind of scenario for the Bundesliga teams after weeks and weeks of inaction. Unfortunately for die Roten Bullen they lost a little ground in the title race with their 1-1 home draw against Freiburg (Bayern, Dortmund and Mönchengladbach all won).
It could have been worse for the Sachsen side had Freiburg’s late winner not been ruled out by a VAR-assisted offside decision that came down to a question of millimetres.
Having finished as the Hinrunde as Herbstmeister with a four-point lead over Bayern, Julian Nagelsmann’s side now find themselves in fourth, seven points adrift of the reigning champions. They really cannot afford any more slip-ups.
They face a trip to Mainz this weekend but face a side who themselves are desperately in need of the points for a different reason. The Nullfünfer are 15th and still a little too close to the drop zone for comfort.
How much trouble are Werder Bremen really in?
Depending on who you ask, the answer varies from ‘a lot’ to ‘oh it’s pretty much as deep as it gets’ and ‘game-over’.
The 4-1 loss to Bayer Leverkusen on Monday produced a feeling of ‘same old, same, old’ for Werder fans and turned the spotlight starkly onto the fact that the Grün-Weißen are in a relegation dogfight.
Monday’s insipid home loss to Leverkusen is now in the past and focus turns swiftly to their trip to Freiburg this weekend. Florian Kohfeldt’s side still have to play both Bayern and Mönchengladbach in their run-in, so it is vital that they pick up points against the likes of the Breisgauer.
The Werder coffin has been made, the lid is ready to go on, are Freiburg going to be the ones to bang the first nail in?
Is the pressure starting to mount on Eintracht Frankfurt?
There have been plenty of videos doing the rounds on social media this week commemorating the two-year anniversary of the Adler’s DFB Pokal triumph over Bayern.
Oh what Adi Hütter would do for the likes of Sebastian Haller, Ante Rebic, and Luka Jovic right now as his Frankfurt side slip further down the table mixing with the likes of Mainz and Augsburg at the bottom, rather that Gladbach and Leverkusen at the top. Eintracht sit rather uncomfortably in 13th on 28 points with Mainz and Augsburg just a point behind them.
Last weekend’s home loss to Gladbach showed the Adler were off the pace, but having lost three out of four of their Bundesliga matches prior to the lockdown (as well as their 3-0 defeat to Basel in Europe), is there a more sinister slide happening at the Commerzbank Arena?
Ideally a win this weekend would put those suspicions to bed, but the trouble is Frankfurt are facing Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena and their record there is far from inspiring having lost 12 and drawn only one of their last 13 visits. Time to summon the spirit of the DFB Pokal 2018.
Speaking of the Pokal, two and a half weeks after this weekend’s clash, the Eagles travel to Munich once more for the semi-final of the Cup. “We need to be aware of the fact that we’ve got a lot of quality in the team and need to play in a more gutsy way,” goalkeeper Kevin Trapp said this week. “We’ve got a lot of very important games coming up, that’s what we need to focus and concentrate on.”