With just eight games left this season the Bundesliga is providing excitement at both ends of the table the like of which we haven’t seen in a good while. Bayern’s win in the Klassiker saw them regain top spot last weekend, but then the Rekordmeister were knocked out of the DFB Pokal in midweek. The title race is very much still on.
The race for the European places is hotting up with the form teams coming up on the rails. At the other end of the table, there are potentially crucial points on offer this weekend for those battling to avoid the drop.
Borussia Dortmund v Union Berlin
Edin Terzic would have wanted to see a reaction from his players following the loss to Bayern last weekend, but instead saw his side dumped out of the DFB Pokal by an inspired RB Leipzig side. Things won’t get any easier for the BVB coach this weekend when his team host Union Berlin at the Signal Iduna Park.
The loss to Leipzig could have been higher than the 2-0 that it was and the performance levels will have to be raised significantly if they are to keep the title race going until the end of the season. The Schwarzgelben were beaten 2-0 by Union on matchday 10 so know what is in store this weekend.
Die Eisernen themselves were knocked out of the DFB Pokal in midweek with Frankfurt’s Randal Kolo Muani their undoing, but Urs Fischer’s side still have a highly realistic chance of a top four finish this season and the prospect of Champions League football next season. Taking points from Dortmund this weekend would take them a step closer to that dream.
Bayer Leverkusen v Eintracht Frankfurt
The Werkself followed up their impressive win over Bayern before the Winterpause with a 3-0 win last weekend away at Schalke and are just outside the top six. When Xabi Alonso took over from Gerardo Seoane earlier in the season, a tilt at the European places seemed miles off, but such has been the positive turnaround under the new coach that such a prospect now looks very much on the cards.
They face a direct rival for a top six finish when Eintracht Frankfurt arrive at the Bay Arena on Saturday and the clash promises to be a fascinating affair. The Adler were given a boost in midweek when they beat Union Berlin to reach the semi-finals of the DFB Pokal. A disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Bochum last week saw the pessimism at the club growing with an increasing number of players being tipped to leave the club in the summer.
A late upturn in form is just what Oliver Glasner’s side need, but in Leverkusen they face a form side on the up. The glass is half full in Leverkusen, but half empty in Frankfurt.
Freiburg v Bayern Munich
Just three days after sensationally knocking Bayern Munich out of the DFB Pokal at the Allianz Area, Freiburg once again have to face the Bavarians. Could lightning really strike twice? The approach of Christian Streich’s side on Tuesday was exemplary and although somewhat fortunate with the late penalty, few neutrals would deny the Breisgauer their moment of glory.
That moment however will be short-lived as three important Bundesliga points are on offer at the Europa Park this weekend. Freiburg currently hold fourth spot but face a challenge from RB Leipzig and Frankfurt. A top four finish would be an absolute dream for the Black Forest club, but they may have to take points off Bayern this weekend in order to defend their position.
Bayern now have ‘only’ the Bundesliga and Champions League to play for with the prospect of the treble now gone. Julian Nagelsmann was sacked partially because of the fear of missing out on the treble. Now Thomas Tuchel has to re-energize his players after the elation of the Klassiker turned to despair in the Pokal.
Jamal Musiala will certainly be one player desperate to make amends for the Cup elimination, while Borussia Dortmund fans will have everything crossed that Freiburg can once again prove to be the thorn in Bayern’s side.
Mainz v Werder Bremen
Mainz achieved the 40-point mark last weekend in some style with sporting director Martin Schmidt thankful in an understated way that survival had been achieved. The Nullfünfer however on current form are more involved in the push for Europe than they are the relegation fight.
It could well be that seventh place in the Bundesliga this season will secure a place in next season’s Conference League so Mainz have all to play for in the remaining games and if they continue playing like they did against Leipzig, then European night will be something Bo Svensson has to get his head around next season.
Werder’s loss last weekend to Hoffenheim, while annoying, won’t impact too harshly on their final league position. Coach Ole Werner will be very grateful that his side collected so many points in the Hinrunde and are safe from a relegation fight. The Grün-Weißen will however want to finish as high as possible to add the prize money to their budget for next season.
Augsburg v Köln
Augsburg and visitors Köln will both consider themselves above the relegation fight, but be fully aware that until the points are in the bag, nothing can 100% be taken for granted. The Fuggerstädter let a 2-0 lead slip away last weekend away at VfL Wolfsburg allowing a late, late equaliser to deny them a possible vital three points. Enrico Maaßen will see the arrival of Köln as the chance to put right the wrongs of last weekend.
The Geißböcke invested a lot of emotion and will into the derby with Borussia Mönchengladbach last Sunday, but even though they huffed and they puffed, they just couldn’t blow the Gladbach house down. The fact they have only managed one goal in their last six games will be a huge cause for concern for coach Steffen Baumgart and the potential transfer ban next season won’t give him the opportunity to strengthen this area.
Hertha Berlin v RB Leipzig
The Battle in the East takes on added importance this weekend with both clubs desperate for the points for very different reasons. Hertha still find themselves in the bottom three and at this stage of the season, draws don’t really cut it with the other teams in the relegation fight picking up wins (Hoffenheim and Bochum). The point picked up at Freiburg last weekend was a case in point- a good result, but not overly helpful in their quest to extricate themselves from the drop zone.
Leipzig were awful at home to Mainz last weekend and deservedly lost. The improvement against Dortmund in the midweek Pokal match sent out a real statement that they are still a force to be reckoned with, which Marco Rose will demand is repeated again at the Olympiastadion against Hertha.
RB still need the points in order to break back into the top four and secure Champions League football next season. Anything less would be seen as a failure this season.
Borussia Mönchengladbach v VfL Wolfsburg
With the Rhinederby last weekend proving a bit of a damp squib, Borussia Mönchengladbach will be looking for a boost at home when they host Wolfsburg. Mid-table anonymity is not where the Foals want to be and their squad is much better than their league position.
Wolfsburg on the other hand are in with a realistic chance of claiming a European spot next season with Niko Kovac having turned around their abysmal start to the season. They find themselves seven points ahead of Gladbach in 10th and are only two points behind Eintracht Frankfurt in 6th place.
VfL Bochum v VfB Stuttgart
Two relegation threatened sides meet here with Bochum looking to put some more distance between themselves are the drop zone against the current last placed team. Thomas Letsch saw his side battle to a point last Friday at Frankfurt but know that at this stage of the season even the bottom side are capable of causing an upset.
Stuttgart pulled the plug on Bruno Labbadia following last weekend’s loss at Union Berlin with the only question being who would take over. Sebastian Hoeneß is the man chosen to try and sav the Swabians and his first real test comes with Sunday’s visit to the Ruhr.
The midweek Pokal win will be a confidence boost, but the team have to quickly re-focus on the Bundesliga and winning a long-awaited three points. The Swabians last win came back on matchday 21 when they beat Köln at home.
Hoffenheim v Schalke
From reportedly being just 90 minutes away from losing his job, Pellegrino Matarazzo has overseen two successive wins now (Hertha Berlin and Werder Bremen) and a third on Sunday against relegation rivals Schalke would go a long way to easing the concern levels in Sinsheim.
The concern levels in Gelsenkirchen remain precariously high and last weekend’s loss at home to Bayer Leverkusen put the challenge facing Schalke in clear focus. They are destined for an instant return to the 2.Bundesliga unless they can summon up some top performances soon. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just needs to happen.