A potentially pivotal weekend of Bundesliga action awaits with the top of the table clash between Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich dominating attention. There are however other intriguing matchups as Dortmund look to get back to winning ways and RB Leipzig look to build on last weekend’s much-needed win. Elsewhere, Bremen are after a fourth successive win, while the bottom two are just desperate for anything they can get right now. Here’s what matchday 21 has in store this coming weekend……
Borussia Dortmund v Freiburg
The Schwarzgelben are in Friday night action for the second successive week and are looking for an improvement on their disappointing display last week at Heidenheim. Having won three on the bounce, BVB were insipid at the Voith Arena under the floodlights and were held to a goalless draw. The critics were quickly on their case with coach Edin Terzic even taking the unusual step of criticising his players in public.
Dortmund will be encouraged by the fact that the last two Bundesliga meetings with the Breisgauer at the Signal Iduna Park have both ended in 5-1 victories and have won fourteen of the last fifteen home games with just one draw.
Christian Streich’s side travel north on the back of two consecutive 3-1 losses (Werder Bremen and VfB Stuttgart) so need to tighten things up if they are not to make it three reverses on the trot and drop further behind in the battle for the European places. They will be without midfielder Merlin Röhl following his red card in the Badenderby last weekend.
Union Berlin v VfL Wolfsburg
The Eisernen’s poor away form continued as they drew 1-1 with Mainz in their postponed game on Wednesday after they had lost at the weekend on their trip to Leipzig. Coach Nenad Bjelica will be back in the technical area after his three-match suspension and he will be looking to use home advantage to beat Wolfsburg and climb away from the bottom.
Despite the insistence from sporting director Marcel Schäfer that his job is safe, the pressure continues for Wolfsburg coach Niko Kovac after die Wölfe failed to win for the fifth successive match following their 2-2 draw with Hoffenheim last weekend. They needed two goals from substitute Lovro Majaer to avoid defeat at the Volkswagen Arena and new striker Kevin Behren’s (ex-Union) goal drought continued on his debut for the club. A win is long overdue, but a trip across to face Union is not the easiest of tasks.
Eintracht Frankfurt v VfL Bochum
The Adler were given a wake-up call last weekend after making a positive start to the New Year. Having moved into the top six, Dino Toppmöller’s side went down to a 2-0 defeat at Köln last Sunday made worse by the red cards accrued by Niels Nkounkou and Tuta in the second half.
They are back at home this weekend as they entertain Bochum at the Deutsche Bank Park. The home fans will be hoping to see a first start for new striker Hugo Ekitike after his arrival from Paris St Germain and his brief appearance last week at the Rhein Energie Stadion.
Bochum continue to pick up the points to keep them just above the bottom three, but know things remain tight for them. They will be hugely disappointed to have dropped two valuable points last week at home to Augsburg when a 92nd minute penalty robbed them of victory. They are unbeaten against Frankfurt in their last three meetings with two draws and a win.
Borussia Mönchengladbach v Darmstadt
Having held Bayer Leverkusen goalless, Gladbach were unable to withstand Bayern Munich last week despite a valiant effort. The Foals now go from facing the top two in the league to hosting the bottom team and only three points will be acceptable. Gerardo Seoane’s side are still in the bottom half of the table and despite some promising signs, it is points that make the difference and they will expect to take all three on Saturday.
Darmstadt ended 2023 on the bottom of the pile and with just one point from a possible twelve so far in 2024, things are looking bleak for the Lilien. Their three defeats this year have all seen them go goalless and the only bright spot was the 2-2 draw achieved against Eintracht Frankfurt. They are favourites to be relegated and desperately need a spark to get their fightback up and running.
Werder Bremen v Heidenheim
Werder’s 125th birthday celebrations last Sunday were made all the more joyous after they notched up a third consecutive win last Saturday away at Mainz. The Grün-Weißen’s purple patch of form to start 2024 has seen the climb from 13th in the table up to 9th and within touching distance of the European places.
This weekend’s match back at the Weser Stadion sees them host a Heidenheim side that have now gone seven games without defeat, although the last four games have all ended in draws. They gave Dortmund a real game last weekend and will no doubt provide a stern test for Bremen and the Hanseaten seek a fourth win on the trot.
Augsburg v RB Leipzig
FC Augsburg rescued a late point last week away at Bochum to move 11 points clear of the bottom two and give themselves some breathing room. They do have four defeats in the last seven matches, but they have had a tough run of fixtures including games against Dortmund, Stuttgart, Leverkusen and Bayern. They face another clash against a top five club when they host Leipzig on Saturday.
The Roten Bullen eased the pressure somewhat with their 2-0 win over Union last weekend after suffering three consecutive losses in their previous games to start the year. Marco Rose’s side cannot afford any let up though if they are to keep tabs on the top four.
Bayer Leverkusen v Bayern Munich
This fixture has long been earmarked as a potentially vital fixture in the overall title race as Bayer Leverkusen look to maintain their unbeaten streak this season and more importantly top spot in the Bundesliga.
The Werkself have led the way all season, but with the gap to Bayern just two points, they have the Rekordmeister breathing heavily down their necks and know that a defeat would hand the initiative to the reigning champions. Leverkusen survived a scare in their Pokal quarter-final on Tuesday needing a late winner from Jonathan Tah to overcome an impressive Stuttgart side, and they will be glad to have avoided 30 minutes of extra-time.
Bayern are still in the midst of an injury crisis and last week saw Alphonso Davies added to an already lengthy list of absentees. Kim-Min Jae has now returned from Asian Cup duty, but Manuel Neuer is now the latest doubt with a knee injury.
The Bavarians however are past masters at fighting off title aspirants and keeping their nerve when the crunch games come. They beat Dortmund in the Klassiker last year on the title run in when BVB were in the middle of a great run of form. As the saying goes- form is temporary, class is permanent, and Thomas Tuchel’s depleted side will want to send out a message this weekend that they are still the top dogs in the Bundesliga.
VfB Stuttgart v Mainz
The Swabians contributed hugely to a fantastic midweek Pokal quarter-final with Bayer Leverkusen and once again came very close to being the first side to defeat the Werkself. They however fell short and now need to turn their attention quickly back to the Bundesliga.
Last week’s win in the Badenderby against Freiburg followed on from their big win over Leipzig and with struggling the Mainz the visitors to the MHP Arena on Sunday Sebastian Hoeneß will be targeting another three points to consolidate his side’s top four position.
The Nullfünfer remain in the bottom two after losing at home to Werder last weekend and then only drawing 1-1 with Union in midweek on a very soggy Mewa Arena pitch. They face a huge task to take anything away from an in-form Stuttgart when they travel to Swabia this weekend.
Hoffenheim v Köln
After starting the year with back-to-back defeats to Bayern Munich and Freiburg and conceding three goals on both occasions, Hoffenheim have drawn their last two against Heidenheim and Wolfsburg. Pellegrino Matarazzo’s have won just once in their last eleven league games with the last three points coming back on matchday 14 versus Bochum.
Their great start to the season when they won five from the first seven now seems a distant memory so a victory against Köln on Sunday would be most welcome. The Billy Goats got their first win under new trainer Timo Schultz last weekend when beating Frankfurt and they’ll want to build on that as they look to drag themselves clear of the bottom three.