Having only just recovered from the drama at the top of the table last week, Bundesliga matchday 29 is upon us and it promises to deliver another weekend of exciting, nail-biting football at both ends of the table. Hertha have a new coach, while Bayern have to quickly get over their Champions League exit and focus on defending their Meisterschale.
Augsburg v VfB Stuttgart
Friday night’s match-up to get us underway sees FC Augsburg hosting VfB Stuttgart at the WWK Arena. The Fuggerstädter are winless in their last five matches and are in danger of being dragged into the relegation dogfight if they don’t turn things around soon.
They do however enjoy playing on a Friday night having already beaten Hoffenheim, Bayer Leverkusen and Werder Bremen on their three previous Friday outings this season.
Stuttgart’s decision to sack Bruno Labbadia and bring in Sebastian Hoeneß has borne instant results with three unbeaten matches. The stunning fightback to hold Borussia Dortmund to a 3-3 draw last weekend shows that the fight is there to make a fist of survival and they will be looking to take advantage of an under-par Augsburg side this Friday.
Mainz v Bayern Munich
Mainz welcome back former trainer Thomas Tuchel on Saturday looking to heap further woe on the Bavarians and dent their title defence. The Nullfünfer are the form team in the Bundesliga right now going nine matches unbeaten. Five wins and four draws has seen Bo Svensson’s side rise up to eighth and they are withing touching distance of the European places. They beat Bayern in the corresponding fixture last season and will see the current time as the ideal time to face the Rekordmeister.
Bayern’s dropped points last week at home to Hoffenheim combined with their exit from the Champions League means that the Bavarian camp is not a happy one at the moment and they are not enjoying their usual stroll to the Bundesliga title. It seems like things can’t get worse right now, but Mainz will have a game plan and Bayern will have to put Wednesday’s disappointment behind them and refocus on the trip to Mainz.
Hoffenheim v Köln
Hoffenheim’s resurgence under Pellegrino Matarazzo continued last week when they emerged from the Allianz Arena with a well-deserved point following their clash with Bayern Munich. Striker Andrej Kramaric scored his fourth in as many games as the Sinsheimer are slowly extricating themselves from the relegation zone, although they know they’re just one bad result away from being dragged back in.
Key midfielder Denis Geiger signed a new contract this week, which is another plus and Hoffenheim will be looking to end a very good week with another three points at home to Köln.
The Billy Goats were held 1-1 at home by Mainz last week after beating Augsburg the previous week to end their own poor run of form. A lack of goals had infected Steffen Baumgart’s side, but they will have their eyes on a top half finish this season. The last game on matchday 12 ended in a 1-1 draw but both side would obviously prefer all three points this time around.
VfL Bochum v VfL Wolfsburg
The hard-earned point gained away at Union Berlin last Sunday keeps Bochum out of the bottom three, but things remain tight at the foot of the table and the teams down there know that they’re potentially just one loss from trouble.
Thomas Letsch’s side need to use the strength of playing at home to help them, but in Wolfsburg they face the third best away side in the entire Bundesliga. Die Wölfe have picked up 21 points on their travels this season (six wins) and will not be daunted by the trip to the Ruhr. They do however only have one win in their last six games and are slipping out of contention for a European place. Three points this weekend could get them back on track.
Hertha Berlin v Werder Bremen
The return of Pal Dardai to the Hertha trainer bench will be the main story as Werder Bremen are the visitors to the Olympiastadion. Dardai was hired for the third time on Sunday after the club parted company with Sandro Schwarz following last Friday’s thrashing at Schalke.
Hertha are rock bottom of the table and this is a must-win for die Alte Dame as they face a trip to the Allianz Arena next week and they cannot afford to let the teams above them open up a bigger gap.
Werder Bremen seem to be stuck in mid-table limbo at the moment with nothing left to play for- they’re safe from the drop, but not in contention for Europe. Last week’s home defeat to Freiburg was a case in point. There are however reports that the Grün-Weißen are going to be taking more than 20,000 fans to Berlin so the Olympiastadion will be rocking.
Borussia Dortmund v Eintracht Frankfurt
The Schwarzgelben need to show a reaction following the huge disappointment of last week’s dropped points at VfB Stuttgart. It was a massive mental blow to let slip a 3-2 lead in the final seconds and the task now is to make up for it with three points at home to Frankfurt.
Dortmund are going to have to rely on Bayern dropping more points themselves (which is not out of the question based on current form) so winning all their remaining games is going to be key. They won 2-1 at the Deutsche Bank Park on matchday 12 so know they have it in them, but will they have the mental strength to repeat it this weekend when the chips are down?
The Adler for their part are still outside of the European places so are battling for important points too. They only managed a point last week at home to Gladbach after losing the previous game with Leverkusen. An over-reliance on Randal Kolo Muani is affecting them, as are the constant rumours of players leaving at the end of the season. Which Frankfurt turn up will have a huge bearing on the outcome of the big match on Saturday at the Westfalenstadion, sorry, Signal Iduna Park.
Freiburg v Schalke
Freiburg’s push for a top four finish and Champions League football next season can get a huge boost on Sunday if they beat relegation threatened Schalke at the Europa Park. Last week’s win away at Bremen saw them remain in contention, but they cannot afford to let RB Leipzig and Union Berlin to extend their current lead over them.
On paper it is fifth against seventeenth, but Christian Streich knows full well that Schalke will be battling just as hard for the points to help build on last week’s morale-boosting win over Hertha.
Impressive as the five-goal thrashing was, the Könisgblauen have to keep up that sort of performance against ‘better’ teams and they know they have a tough run-in compared to some of their relegation rivals. A loss at Freiburg would simply wash away all the good feeling that was achieved last week.
Bayer Leverkusen v RB Leipzig
Last week’s goalless draw at Wolfsburg brought to an end Leverkusen’s run after five consecutive Bundesliga wins, but the Werkself are very much still in contention for a European spot this season. How much Xabi Alonso needs to rotate following the Thursday Europa League clash with Union St Gilloise remains to be seen, but a fully firing Leverkusen will provide a stiff challenge at the Bay Arena when Leipzig arrive in town on Sunday.
Marco Rose’s side have now won three matches in a row after suffering three successive defeats. Timo Werner got back on the scoring trail and there is the positive news of Christopher Nkunku’s return to fitness to boost die Roten Bullen.
Both sides could really do with the three points to boost their European ambitions and it promises to be a highly intriguing game in the Rhineland on Sunday.
Borussia Mönchengladbach v Union Berlin
The Foals were unlucky to be denied a win last week thanks to a late equaliser from Randal Kolo Muani. Four draws in their last six games means Daniel Farke’s side remain in the middle of the table, neither moving up or down. With just three home games remaining this season the many departing players will want to leave on a high, but Union Berlin on Sunday should pose real problems.
Die Eisernen are remarkably still in the top three and are looking to fend off the challenge from Freiburg and RB Leipzig for a Champions League berth. The prospect of the Köpenick side mixing it amongst Europe’s elite next season is a fairytale and despite a long, hard season, Urs Fischer has managed to maintain their run at the top. They will want to see that continue at the Borussia Park in the late game on Sunday.