Hot on the heels of matchday 27 in the Bundesliga we have an ‘Englische Woche’ of midweek fixtures. Der Klassiker will be top of the bill, but elsewhere there are several interesting matchups. Here we preview the upcoming action taking a closer look at some of the key issues.
Who will triumph in ‘der Klassiker’?
A global audience will tune in on Tuesday for the Bundesliga clash between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich in what is a key fixture in the race for the title. Favourites for the title, Bayern travel to the Signal Iduna Park with a four-point advantage over the Schwarzgelben. Of course, it will be a strange occasion with one of Europe’s biggest matches played behind closed doors, but the players will be fully aware of what is at stake.
There are fascinating matchups all over the pitch, but none more so than Erling Haaland vs Robert Lewandowski and Jadon Sancho vs Thomas Müller.
Norwegian young gun Haaland is on a scoring streak of ten goals in ten Bundesliga matches, while the Bayern striker leads the scoring charts with an incredible 27 goals in 25 games. Sancho and Müller are the league’s leading providers of assists with 17 apiece already this season.
Both sides have won their opening two games since the restart (BVB scoring six goals, Bayern seven), but this is the one they both need to take three points from. Bayern to put one hand firmly on the Meisterschale, Dortmund to send out a real statement that they intend to wrest the title from the Bavarians’ grip.
Is the ‘Great Escape’ on for Werder Bremen?
When Nils Petersen’s last-minute equaliser for Freiburg was ruled out by VAR on Saturday, there would have been Werder fans everywhere picking themselves off the floor. From the despair of having thought victory had been snatched away, came the joy of a desperately needed first three points since matchday 18 against Fortuna Düsseldorf.
The Grün-Weißen are still in the basement, but there is now a glimmer of hope. They are three points adrift of Fortuna in 16th (the relegation play-off berth) with Mainz three points further ahead of them (Werder do have a game in hand). Werder face a tough game on Tuesday against Borussia Mönchengladbach, who themselves are in battle for a top four finish having lost on Saturday at home to Leverkusen.
Was the weekend win over Freiburg the start of a recovery? Or was it just a stubborn hurrah from a dying patient?
Can Hertha overcome Leipzig in the ‘Battle of the East’?
A fascinating encounter awaits at the Red Bull Arena this week as RB Leipzig host a Hertha Berlin side revitalised by new trainer Bruno Labbadia. The Alte Dame have won both their matches since the restart, scoring seven goals, and conceding none. Hoffenheim and Union Berlin have been put to the sword, but Leipzig will provide a wholly different challenge for the capital club.
Being held by Freiburg on matchday 26 was a blow to their title ambitions, but Julian Nagelsmann’s side roared back this weekend with a comprehensive 5-0 win away at Mainz. If die Roten Bullen find their groove against Hertha, then Labbadia might find his bubble burst.
Are Schalke in freefall?
Sunday’s 3-0 home defeat to Augsburg extended their winless run to nine Bundesliga matches and heaps more pressure on trainer David Wagner to turn things around. The side that finished the Hinrunde level on points with Borussia Dortmund and just three behind Bayern look clueless at the moment and a pale shade of the pre-Winterpause Schalke.
The Königsblauen look fragile mentally and have no real goal threat and on Sunday Augsburg had a rather comfortable afternoon at the Veltins Arena. If the fans had been allowed in, the players would have been left in no doubt about the fury the fans are currently feeling.
This week a tough trip to Düsseldorf is on the cards. Will that winless streak extend to ten games?
Can Wolfsburg defend 6th place?
With a real title battle going on at the top and the race for four Champions League places being fought over by five sides, the battle for the Europa League berths is also looking to be an intriguing one.
Wolfsburg currently occupy 6th place on 39 points, but there are a few sides manoeuvring into place behind them, ready to take advantage of any slip. Freiburg are 7th on 37 points and look a threat, although Schalke in 8th look to be heading down the table, not up.
Could Köln or Hertha Berlin be ready to push for a European place? Are Hoffenheim out of the race? There will be some strange results in the final weeks of the season and the occupant of 6th place may change hands more than once.
Die Wölfe will have to overcome an in-form Bayer Leverkusen in midweek if they are to defend their current position.