With Bayern and Leverkusen confirming their places in the DFB Pokal final in midweek, attention switches back the Bundesliga this weekend with another round of matches taking us swiftly towards end of the season. Bayern look to have the Meisterschaft sewn up, but there are still plenty of talking points ahead of matchday 31.
What is Bayern’s Plan B?
Bayern face Mönchengladbach this weekend without the Bundesliga’s top goalscorer and the league’s top assist provider. Both Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller picked up a fifth yellow card last week meaning they are unavailable to Hansi Flick on Saturday.
So, what are the options for the Bayern trainer? What will be his Plan B?
Its not as if the Bayern squad is thin on the ground or lacking quality so its not exactly a crisis situation, but with Lewandowski having scored a third of all their goals this season and Müller having provided 20 assists, they will be missed.
Joshua Zirkzee could be an option up front having been given a few limited run-outs earlier in the season. The youngster would welcome the chance to add to his three Bundesliga goals this season and show that he is more than capable of deputising for the Pole. A back injury kept Serge Gnabry out of the DFB Pokal semi-final win over Frankfurt, but he could be an option to play in the advanced attacking role.
As for Thomas Müller, it seems likely that Thiago is set to fill in after easing himself back from injury with short appearances against both Frankfurt and Leverkusen. It remains to be seen whether Plan B can keep the Bavarians on course to score 100 league goals this season.
Will Julian Nagelsmann come back to haunt Hoffenheim?
The return of Julian Nagelsmann to TSG Hoffenheim comes at a very strange time for the Sinsheim club having surprisingly parted company with trainer Alfred Schreuder this week. The man hired to replace Nagelsmann was sacked over a difference of opinion regarding the club’s future direction.
That direction was always on a progressive trajectory under Nagelsmann, but with his RB Leipzig side battling for a top four spot, he could return to the Rhine-Neckar Arena and stick the knife in further and damage his former club’s Europa League aspirations.
“The Hoffenheim game is extremely important for us, and we really want to take all three points” Nagelsmann said at his press conference this week. “So, we need to be mentally and physically fit. In order to allow this to be shown on the pitch, we did a reduced training regime this week. I’m pretty optimistic and think that we can avoid another draw if we put away our chances.”
Is Paderborn v Werder win or bust?
The two bottom sides face each other at the Benteler Arena knowing that a defeat would be a massive blow to their feint hopes of avoiding the drop. Anything less than a win for Paderborn would mean a definite bottom three finish for them this season. Werder could in theory move level on points with 16th place Fortuna Düsseldorf with a win if the Rhinelanders also lose to Dortmund.
“We have to win” Werder’s US striker Josh Sargent said this week. “We know how much is riding on this game. No one at this club wants to go down. This club has such a long history, and no one wants to see the team or the city down. We’ll fight until the end to ensure that that doesn’t happen.”
Have Schalke reached rock bottom yet?
Each week it seems that it can’t get any worse for Schalke, and then it does. Last weekend’s draw with Union Berlin arrested a run of four consecutive defeats but was the twelfth game without a win for the Königsblauen.
Freefall is an understatement for the side that finished level on points with Borussia Dortmund in the Hinrunde. They host Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday with the Werkself needing the points to secure Champions League football.
The likelihood of an upturn in fortunes looks grim for David Wagner’s side.
Did 7th place just get interesting?
With both Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich progressing to the final of the DFB Pokal this week, an ‘extra’ Europa League berth has opened up for the team finishing in 7th place. This will make the final four games of the season particularly interesting for Wolfsburg, Hoffenheim, Freiburg and Hertha Berlin. Even Schalke still have an outside chance of making it!
Die Wölfe look favourites for 6th place, but visitors Freiburg will be hoping that they can give coach Christian Streich a birthday/ anniversary present with a win this weekend. Streich turned 55 on Thursday and will take charge of his 250th match in charge of the Breisgauer on Saturday.
Hoffenheim, who currently occupy 7th host RB Leipzig on Friday days after firing their coach Alfred Schreuder, while 9th placed Hertha Berlin entertain Eintracht Frankfurt.