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Bundesliga Weekend Preview: Round 28

Friday (all times local)

20:30 Bochum – Eintracht Frankfurt

Saturday

15:30 Bayern Munich – Stuttgart
15:30 Hannover – Koeln
15:30 Werder Bremen – Nuernberg
15:30 Mainz – Wolfsburg
15:30 Hertha Berlin – Borussia Dortmund
18:30 Bayer Leverkusen – Schalke

Sunday

15:30 Hoffenheim – Freiburg
17:30 Borussia M’gladbach – Hamburg


Bochum – Eintracht Frankfurt

Always known for being able to take a good fight to tough opposition, Bochum have been off form as of late, conceding 11 goals in three consecutive defeats to Wolfsburg, Dortmund, and Bremen. Last week’s loss to Werder was especially bitter, because the former “unrelegateables” were twice ahead before Torsten Frings’ deflected effort sailed past Philipp Heerwagen and into the net. Ahead of Friday’s match, Heiko Herrlich has ruled out Mimoun Azaouagh, and suspended midfielder Milos Maric.

There was a time this season when Frankfurt were raising questions of a possible finish in the top five, but even after last weekend’s surprise victory over Bayern, the window of opportunity is rapidly closing. Currently in eighth place, Michael Skibbe’s side still have a good chance of finishing ahead of such formidable sides as Wolfsburg, Stuttgart, and Hoffenheim, and might even catch Hamburg. Skibbe will be unable to call upon Christoph Spycher, Ioannis Amantidis, Zlatan Bajramovic, and Aleksandar Vasoski.

Bayern Munich – Stuttgart

It took extra time, but Arjen Robben struck in the 112th minute on Wednesday to hand Bayern a 1-0 victory over Schalke and earn a spot in the DFB Pokal final. It was a physically and emotionally draining match, but the result was a huge boost for the side that faces a long stretch of tough fixtures. As his team prepares for the Stuttgart match, coach Louis van Gaal has ruled out Mario Gomez and Martin Demichelis.

Now without Champions League duties weighing them down, Stuttgart are able to focus completely on the league, and a possible repeat of their recent successes with making late charges up the table. Following a 2-0 win over Hannover in round 27, the Swabians are seven points out of fifth place, but a late move up the standings can never be ruled out. Personnel for Saturday’s match, however, can: Christian Gross will be without Stefano Celozzi, Sven Ulreich, Arthur Boka, and Alessandro Riedle.

Hannover – Koeln

It’s been a tragic season for Hannover, but the Saxony side has battled against all odds and just might be able to avoid the drop. Koeln will be a difficult side to beat, but Mirko Slomka’s side will be fighting for their lives as they try to overtake Nuernberg in the standings. The former Schalke coach continues to have a long list of injured players, including Arouna Kone, Elson, Constant Djakpa, Altin Lala, Vinicius, Salvatore Zizzo, Mikael Forssell, Jacek Krzynowek, and Jan Rosenthal.

Due to their rather impressive defense, Koeln are unlikely to be relegated this year, but will need a few more points in order to ensure survival. A win over Hannover would go a long way towards providing such insurance, and is entirely attainable. Zvonimir Soldo’s side will be without suspended defender Pedro Geromel, as well as injured contingent Christopher Schorch and Adil Chihi.

Werder Bremen – Nuernberg

Reigning DFB Pokal holders Werder Bremen advanced to the German cup’s final with a 2-0 win over Augsburg on Tuesday, and having advanced to fifth place in the league, are in fine form. Do to accumulation of minutes, Marko Marin may start on the bench, but Naldo (suspended), Peter Niemeyer, Christian Vander and Sandro Wagner (all injured) are sure to miss out.

A month ago, Nuernberg looked likely candidates for relegation, but since then, the Bavarians have gone undefeated in five matches, drawing with Bayern and becoming the first team in the league to beat Leverkusen. Currently in 15th place, Dieter Hecking’s side will look to move further clear of the danger zone, but will have to do without injured duo Breno and Christian Eigler.

Mainz – Wolfsburg

Mainz look to preserve their remarkable home form against a wounded Wolfsburg this weekend. Only Leverkusen and Bayern—not even Schalke—have lost fewer home matches than the promoted side, who will be missing Aristide Bance (suspended), Zsolt Loew, Tim Hoogland, Felix Borja, Dimo Wache, Marco Rose, Jan Kirchhoff, and Filip Trojan.

The scoreline in last week’s match read 5-1, but in a bizarre turn of events, it was Hertha, not Wolfsburg, who were victorious. The reigning Bundesliga champions were fatigued heading into that match following 120 minutes of play against Rubin Kazan, but in the end, 5-1 was far too steep a deficit to accept. Lorenz Guenther-Koestner’s side will try to rebound against Mainz, and will have a full-strength squad at his disposal.

Hertha Berlin – Borussia Dortmund

Before last weekend, Hertha’s chances of surviving relegation had diminished to almost none. Yet, following a 5-1 dismantling of Wolfsburg in round 27, Friedhelm Funkel’s men have a new swagger about them. The outlook remains bleak, however: Hertha are seven points from safety, and key midfielder Florian Kringe has been ruled out of this weekend’s match.

In-form Dortmund have won three consecutive matches—most recently a 3-0 trouncing of Leverkusen—and, just five points off third place, have to be considered contenders for a return to Champions League football. As they prepare for this weekend’s tricky fixture against hit-or-miss Hertha, Dortmund are missing Nelson Valdez, Damien Le Tallec, Mats Hummels, Tinga, and Mario Goetze.

Bayer Leverkusen – Schalke

Last week’s 3-0 loss to Dortmund was a bitter defeat for Jupp Heynckes’ Leverkusen, who dominated that match in the first half before falling victims to a ruthlessly efficient, high-intensity Dortmund side. In the first match of a very difficult stint of fixtures, a Stefan Kiessling-less Leverkusen have the chance to surpass Schalke, and possibly even catch Bayern Munich. In addition to Kiessling, Heynckes will be unable to call upon Arturo Vidal (suspended), Stefan Kiessling, and Simon Rolfes.

Wednesday’s DFB Pokal loss was a terribly difficult pill for Schalke to swallow, and it left the Gelsenkirchen side with just one piece of silverware to fight for: the Bundesliga title. In a series of matches that will likely decide their season’s success, Felix Magath’s side face third-place Leverkusen this week before hosting league leaders Bayern seven days later. Magath has ruled out Jermaine Jones, Christian Pander, Levan Kenia, and Vasilios Pliatsikas.

Hoffenheim – Freiburg

Currently in mid-table, Hoffenheim have little motivation ahead of this week’s encounter, and should face stiff opposition against relegation battlers Freiburg. Having come on as a substitute last week, Andreas Beck is in contention for the village side, but Isaac Vorsah, Matthias Jaissle, Demba Ba, and Kevin Conrad will all be forced to watch from the stands.

In contrast with their opponents, Freiburg have everything to play for this weekend, and for the remainder of the season. As they look to earn a spot in the Bundesliga for the  second consecutive year, the side from Germany’s southwestern corner need to take their chances. Coach Robin Dutt has ruled out Du Ri Cha, Hamed Namouchi, and Manuel Salz.

Borussia M’gladbach – Hamburg

In their second year in the German top flight, Borussia Moenchengladbach have all but secured their position in the 2010-11 Bundesliga. Currently in 11th place, Michael Frontzeck’s men have little to play for, but will look to finish in a position higher than 15th, where they sat at the end of the previous campaign. Michael Bradley is out with suspension, and Dorda remains sidelined with injury.

In last week’s gritty, hard-fought match against Schalke, Hamburg were able to claim a well-earned point, but that was not enough to put the northern German side back into the top five. Bruno Labbadia’s side will need to hit top form in the coming weeks if they are to qualify for next year’s Europa League. Eljero Elia remains injured, and will join Dennis Aogo, Romeo Castelen, and Tolgay Arslan in the stands.

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