Goal.com looks forward to the much-anticipated Bavarian derby between Bayern Munich and Nuernberg at Allianz Arena on Sunday evening...
After last weekend's disappointing 3-3 draw away at Moenchengladbach, Bayern are certainly in need of a pick me up and their supporters will be hoping the return of key players Franck Ribery and Mark van Bommel will provide just that.
Ribery has been out since injuring his knee against Hoffenheim in September and Bayern have struggled without their brilliant French winger. Both players are expected to start the game from the bench but their availability will be a welcome boost for everyone involved at the club. Bastian Schweinsteiger in particular is delighted with the return of Ribery and van Bommel.
"Naturally, you have to be patient after such a long break,” the influential midfielder told Bayern's official website. “Having them back with us is great for the team."
Bayern coach Louis van Gaal also welcomes back centre-half Breno for the game versus Nuernberg and for the first time this season is handed the dilemma of having to leave players out, such has been the injury crisis at the Bundesliga champions this season.
"I have 19 fit players, I'm forced to choose again," the FCB coach told the club's website. "It's been the first week this season in which I’ve had the whole team at training – and it’s already November."
Die Roten will be hoping to secure their third straight home win in the Bundesliga and know that doing so could result in the team jumping up the table into a European qualification position. Plus with the likes of Arjen Robben, Miroslav Klose, Holger Badstuber and Diego Contento to return by January, the second half of the season may prove to be successful after all.
Nuernberg Hoping To Enter Into A Winter Wonderland
Few would have predicted before the season that der Club would be higher in the table than Bayern in mid-November but their have been shocks and surprises galore so far in the Bundesliga campaign.
Dieter Hecking's men currently sit sixth in the table, a stark contrast to the relegation battle that met them last season. Last week's 3-1 victory over Koeln was the club's third in a row so it is fair to say confidence is higher than ever.
It's been 18 years since der Altmeister have beaten Bayern in Munich but players and fans alike believe that Sunday could be the day that the club put an end to that run.
"We've got the wind in our sails at the moment, we can win in Munich," Nuernberg midfielder Jens Hegeler told the media.
Someone who will be looking forward to the game more than most is Mehmet Ekici, Nuernberg's excellent young winger who is on-loan from Bayern for the season. The 20-year-old seemed full of confidence when talking about the game.
"We are the Club and we'll be doing everything we can to get the win," Ekici told the Bundesliga's official website.
What is for sure is that Nuernberg's superb form and Bayern's inconsistency makes for one of the most intriguing Bavarian derbies in recent years, and one that the away side has a realistic chance of causing an upset.
A win for Nuernberg could see them potentially move upto a Champions League qualification spot. A defeat could see a host of clubs leapfrog them in the table including rivals Bayern. The stakes are certainly high which will hopefully make for an exciting encounter.
The Bundesliga champions are expected to name the same starting line-up that drew 3-3 at Moenchengladbach last weekend. The club welcome back Mark van Bommel, Franck Ribery and Breno who are likely to start the game from the bench. The German giants are still without several key players including Arjen Robben who resumed light training this week yet is unlikely to be fully-fit for another six weeks. Other injuries include Mirolslav Klose (hamstring), Holger Badstuber, Diego Contento (both groin) and Ivica Olic who has been ruled out for upto six months with a serious knee injury.
Possible Starting XI: Butt - Lahm, van Buyten, Demichelis, Pranjic - Tymoshchuk, Ottl - Altintop, Schweingsteiger, Kroos - Gomez
The away side are also likley to name an unchanged team from the one who beat Koeln 3-1 last week. Mehmet Ekici, the winger on-loan from Bayern has been suffering from a cold but is expected to recover in time for the crunch tie with his parent club. The only real injury concern for Dieter Hecking's men is long term absentee Albert Bunjaku (knee) who will be out for another four months.
Possible Starting XI: Schaefer - Judt, Nilsson, Wolf, Pinola - Hegeler, Simons - Ekici, Gundogan, Frantz - Schieber