We are already into February and it’s time to look ahead to another exciting weekend of Bundesliga action as matchday 20 is upon us. Bayern Munich closed the gap on leaders Leverkusen to two points last weekend and will have the Rheinlanders in their view. Dortmund are looking to maintain their 100% record, while the teams in the basement will be desperately fighting for points. Here’s what the weekend has in store……
Heidenheim v Borussia Dortmund (Friday)
The weekend action gets underway on Friday evening with Heidenheim hosting Dortmund at the Voith Arena. The 2.Bundesliga champions have established themselves very well in the top flight and currently sit tenth in the table. They have started the New Year with three consecutive 1-1 draws against Köln, Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim, so what are the odds of another draw against Dortmund?
The Schwarzgelben have started the Rückrunde with three wins on the bounce and will be looking to maintain their perfect start in order to rekindle hope that they can once again stage a title tilt in the second half of the season just like last year. They were held to a 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture at the Signal Iduna Park on matchday 3 giving up a two-goal in the second half, so Edin Terzic’s side will be fully aware of the fighting qualities of Heidenheim.
Bayern Munich v Borussia Mönchengladbach
Despite the divergent paths taken over the years, the clash between Bayern and Gladbach still possesses a special appeal due to the fierce rivalry established in the 1970’s when they were the two heavyweights of German football. The Foals remain a sort of bogey team for the Rekordmeister with four wins and two draws from their last ten league encounters.
Gerardo Seoane’s side however are struggling for consistency this season and are in the bottom half of the table. They showed great defensive spirit to hold Bayer Leverkusen to a goalless draw at the Bay Arena last weekend- the task now is to have another say in the title race by getting a result at the Allianz Arena.
Leverkusen’s dropped points meant that Bayern closed the gap to just two points with their hard-fought win at Augsburg. Thomas Tuchel’s injury crisis took a turn for the worse with the loss of Kingsley Coman, but the signing of right back Sacha Boey will at least give him some room for manoeuvre.
Freiburg v VfB Stuttgart
The Baden-Württemberg derby sees VfB Stuttgart make the 200 km trip south to face Freiburg at the Europa Park as they look to cement their place in the top four. After losing their two opening fixtures at the start of the New Year, the Swabians roared back last weekend with a 5-2 home win over RB Leipzig in which Deniz Undav bagged himself a hat trick. Having beaten the Breisgauer 5-0 on matchday 3 earlier in the season, Sebastian Hoeneß’ side will be looking to do the double over their Baden rivals.
Three wins on the trot in December was Freiburg’s best run of the season so far, but since the January restart they have found consistency hard to come by with one win, one draw and a defeat so far. They were out of sorts in their 3-1 loss at Werder Bremen last weekend in a match Christian Streich admitted they were second best in. They will need to raise their game on Saturday if they are to have any hope of stopping a Stuttgart side who look to have rediscovered their form after a shaky start.
Mainz v Werder Bremen
The Nullfünfer’s loss at Frankfurt last Friday saw them drop down a place into the bottom two and they are desperate for a result to inject some life into a dismal season. They actually played okay at the Deutsche Bank Park, but once again had no cutting edge in attack and succumbed to a 1-0 defeat when they probably deserved something from the game.
The change from Bo Svensson to Jan Siewert hasn’t really had the desired effect and they are going to have to start getting back to the days when the Mewa Arena was a big advantage for them and start picking up important wins on home soil.
The visitors this weekend are in-form Werder Bremen, who have notched up seven points from nine and who have secured successive wins over Bayern Munich and Freiburg. The Hanseaten have players like Justin Njinmah and Marco Friedl hitting a rich vein of form and Marvin Ducksch continues to mature as a top Bundesliga striker. The Grün-Weißen are confident and will fancy their chances of another three points against Mainz on Saturday.
VfL Bochum v Augsburg
Bochum and Augsburg meet at the Vonovia Ruhrstadion looking to put some distance between themselves and the bottom of the table. Visitors Augsburg are 13th on 21 points with Bochum one place and one point behind them.
Both sides played well in their last game but ended up empty handed despite their efforts. Bochum gave it a real go at the Signal Iduna Park only to ultimately go down to a 3-1 defeat to Borussia Dortmund, while Augsburg made Bayern sweat in their 3-2 loss at home in the clash of the Bavarian neighbours. Three points this weekend would be most welcome for both Thomas Letsch and Jess Thorup in terms of their long-term survival.
Darmstadt v Bayer Leverkusen
Having seen Borussia Mönchengladbach hold Leverkusen to a goalless draw last weekend, it is Darmstadt who have the unenviable task of facing a Werkself side intent on getting back to winning ways. The Bundesliga’s bottom side have the worst defensive record in the league conceding an average of 2.47 goals per game and they face the league’s second most potent attack (2.63 scored per game).
The Werkself may be able to welcome back Edmond Tapsoba and Amine Adli, but have a big dilemma to face over Granit Xhaka. The Swiss midfielder is one booking away from suspension and Xabi Alonso needs to consider whether it is worth risking the key man ahead of their clash with Bayern on matchday 21.
Köln v Eintracht Frankfurt
The late game on Saturday sees strugglers Köln hosting Eintracht Frankfurt as they look for their first win under new coach Timo Schultz. The hoped-for bounce back effect since the parting with Steffen Baumgart has yet to materialise with the Billy Goats losing to both Dortmund and Bochum before getting a point last week away at Wolfsburg. Scoring goals remains an issue with just one in the past three matches.
Frankfurt have taken seven points from a possible nine since the January restart and it was only Christoph Klarer’s 95th minute equaliser for Darmstadt which prevented them joining Dortmund with a perfect 100% record. They struggled a little last Friday at home to Mainz, but came through thanks to Mario Götze’s goal. The return of Ellyes Skhiri, Omar Marmoush and Fares Chaibi from the African Cup of Nations will be a big boost to coach Dino Toppmöller.
VfL Wolfsburg v Hoffenheim (Sunday)
Starting the year with three consecutive 1-1 draws (Frankfurt, Heidenheim and Köln) has once again seen the pressure mounting on Wolfsburg coach Niko Kovac. He is no stranger to speculation over his position and with the Wölfe dropping into the bottom half of the table, only three points against Hoffenheim this Sunday will appease the critics.
The Sinsheimer are also in quite a need of three points having started the year with defeats to Bayern and Freiburg, while getting just a point last weekend against Heidenheim. Pellegrino Matarazzo’s side haven’t won since matchday 14 and have only won once in their last ten Bundesliga matches.
RB Leipzig v Union Berlin (Sunday)
The final match of the weekend sees a battle in the East as RB Leipzig entertain Union Berlin at the Red Bull Arena looking to stop the rot after starting the year with three successive defeats. They have dropped out of the top four after going down to Eintracht Frankfurt (1-0), Bayer Leverkusen (3-2) and VfB Stuttgart (5-2). They won the reverse fixture 3-0 earlier in the season, but will have to get themselves out of their rut if they are to see a repeat performance.
Die Eisernen grabbed a morale-boosting win last week at home to Darmstadt to put a little room between themselves and the bottom three. Assistant coach Marie-Louise Eta will once again deputise for the suspended Nenad Bjelica and getting another positive result in the clash with rivals Leipzig will be another feather in her cap.