Another action-packed week of Champions League and Europa League football came hot on the heels of matchday 24 in the Bundesliga, but this weekend sees a quick return to league action. The title race is still very much open with the chasing pack keen not to let Bayern pull away at the top. Down at the bottom the need for points is just as vital for the bottom five teams. There are plenty of talking points ahead of the weekend action. Here are just a few….
1. Is this the end of the road for Pellegrino Matarazzo at Hoffenheim?
The pressure is always going to ramp up with your side at the bottom of the table going into the final stretch of the season, and that is definitely the case for Pellegrino Matarazzo at Hoffenheim right now. Reports emerging from Germany this week indicate that this weekend’s clash with Hertha really is a must-win for TSG and their coach with his job on the line should another negative result ensue.
After five games without a single point the Sinsheim club have dropped to the foot of the table and the hoped-for improvement following the sacking of Andre Breitenreiter just hasn’t materialised and the club’s leadership might be ready to axe another coach before the season reaches a real crisis point.
If the reports are to be believed, owner Dietmar Hopp already has a few candidates lined-up to replace Matarazzo and there is also a question as to whether sporting director Alexander Rosen gets to continue in his role.
Hertha themselves are only two points ahead of Hoffenheim so they will be equally desperate for the three points at the Pre-Zero Arena on Saturday. Could Matarazzo really be about to be fired for the second time this season?
2. Was last week just a blip for Dortmund?
For the first time since the winter break Borussia Dortmund failed to win last week in the Revierderby against Schalke and for the first time they looked like the BVB of old where they gave up three points unnecessarily. The draw allowed Bayern to open up the slightest two-point lead in the race for the title so getting back to winning ways is vitally important if the Schwarzgelben are not to let the Bavarians inch further ahead.
The absences of Julian Brandt (injury) and Emre Can (suspension) will be difficult to compensate, so a return to form for Jude Bellingham would be most welcome as would goals from Sebastian Haller, who has only scored once in the league since his return. Köln have only taken one point from their last four Bundesliga matches so in theory should be there for the taking at the Signal Iduna Park (unless the old Dortmund return!).
3. Can Leipzig bounce back and keep up with the leaders?
Having their Champions League dreams cruelly demolished by Erling Haaland in Manchester in midweek would have hurt, but the Roten Bullen have little time to lick their wounds before they face Bochum this weekend.
If Marco Rose’s side are to maintain their title challenge they are realistically going to have to win all their matches and hope for Bayern and Dortmund to slip up. They will be expected to take all three points against a side fighting relegation, but Bochum have shown this season that despite their lowly position, they have plenty of fight in them and RB will have to be on top of their game at the Vonovia-Ruhrstadion on Saturday.
4. Will Xabi Alonso be able to derail Bayern?
This is a different Leverkusen side than the one that succumbed so hopelessly ay the Allianz Arena back on matchday 8 and it could be that former Bayern midfielder Xabi Alonso puts a spanner in the works as his former employees look to extend their two-point lead at the top of the table. The Spaniard won three Bundesliga titles during his time in Bavaria, but his focus now is with the Werkself and stopping Bayern winning a twelfth straight league crown.
Bayern opened up a slight gap last week with their comeback victory over Augsburg and will be looking to extend that this weekend. They find themselves in the Champions League last eight and in the driving seat for the Bundesliga title. With the likes of Sadio Mané and Nousaair Mazraoui returning from injury Julian Nagelsmann has a plethora of options available to him.
Leverkusen are on their own little run of form with four consecutive wins in the Bundesliga (Hertha and Werder) and the Europa League (Ferencvaros). Can Bayern’s former midfield favourite spoil the party?
5.Can Schalke’s mini revival continue?
The ‘Great Escape’ could yet still be on for Schalke as they look to continue their mini revival under Thomas Reis. The 2-2 draw in last week’s Revierderby will have given them a confidence boost and if results go their way the Königsblauen could actually find themselves out of the bottom three for the first time since matchday 8 this weekend!
“Our aims for the game are clear: We are travelling to Augsburg to get three points, because with a win we have the opportunity to climb further up the table” Reis explained ahead of the trip to the Fuggerstadt. It will be a big ask though with Enrico Maaßen’s side having won all four of their home games since the winter break.