Matchday 20 is upon us and the title race is hotting up with Bayer Leverkusen’s lead cut to two points. Dortmund are coming upon the rails after a perfect start, while the teams at the bottom need the points for a wholly different reason. here we bring you five talking points ahead of what should prove to be another exciting weekend of Bundesliga action…
1- Can Borussia Dortmund maintain their perfect 100% Rückrunde start?
Wins over Darmstadt, Köln and Mainz so far this year has given BVB the full nine points and seen them leapfrog RB Leipzig into fourth place and move to within one point of third-place VfB Stuttgart. Memories of last season’s fantastic Rückrunde performance are being rekindled and the hope is that a repeat could be on the cards for Edin Terzic’s side.
They will however be fully aware that Heidenheim this weekend will provide a sterner test than their previous three matches and it is probably a little too soon to be getting carried away with talk of getting involved in the title race just yet.
Dortmund have however strengthened their ranks in the transfer window with the loan signings of both Jadon Sancho and Ian Maatsen. While Sancho has settled back into life at the club instantly, the start made by Maatsen has been even more impressive with the Chelsea fullback becoming an instant hit with his performances so far. It’s been a good start so far from BVB, could it become a very good one on Friday?
2- Will Gladbach have another say in the title race?
The Foals became the first team this season to keep Bayer Leverkusen scoreless last weekend as they secured a 0-0 draw at the Bay Arena. The dropped points, combined with Bayern Munich’s win away at Augsburg, saw the Werkself’s lead at the top of the table cut to just two points.
Mönchengladbach face one of the top two in the Bundesliga for the second time in a row on Saturday when they travel to the Allianz Arena to take on old foes Bayern. The duels between the giants of the 1970’s retain a certain quality and over the past few seasons, Borussia have become somewhat of a bogey team for the Rekordmeister. Gladbach have four wins and two draws from their last ten league encounters with Bayern- could they put a spanner in the works for a second consecutive weekend?
3- Who will emerge triumphant from the Baden derby?
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.
4- Can Frankfurt maintain their top six push?
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.
There are certainly plenty of reasons for optimism amongst the Frankfurt faithful and if they can just hit that old thing called ‘consistency’ on a more regular basis, then there is every reason to believe they can challenge the likes of VfB Stuttgart, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig for one of the tickets to the top four and Champions League football next season.
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.
5- Who will triumph in the Battle of the East?
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.