Bundesliga Weekend Preview: Round 29

Schalke host Bayern again this week, and Bremen head over to Dortmund for a pivotal match in the race to finish in the top five.
Saturday (all times local)

15:30 Eintracht Frankfurt – Bayer Leverkusen
15:30 Freiburg – Bochum
15:30 Borussia Dortmund – Werder Bremen
15:30 Schalke – Bayern Munich
15:30 Nuernberg – Mainz
15:30 Stuttgart – Borussia M’gladbach
18:30 Koeln – Hertha Berlin


15:30 Wolfsburg – Hoffenheim
17:30 Hamburg – Hannover

Eintracht Frankfurt – Bayer Leverkusen

Enigmatically successful Frankfurt are back in business following a rough patch of games. Michael Skibbe’s side have taken late winners from recent matches with Bayern Munich and Bochum, and will look to maintain their form against one of the Bundesliga’s best technical clubs. Skibbe has ruled out Ioannis Amantidis, Zlatan Bajramovic and Aleksandar Vasoski.

It’s all but official: the “Neverkusen” curse lives on for the winter champions, who have slipped to five points behind Schalke. Their most recent match with the league leaders left plenty to be desired from Jupp Heynckes’ men, who appear to lack to guile to hoist the Bundesliga trophy. Nonetheless, there is still a Champions League position to fight for. The 2002 finalists are four points clear of Dortmund, but will need to swiftly improve if they are to hold on to their position. Striker Stefan Kiessling is set to make his return, but Renato Augusto and Simon Rolfes will miss out with injury..

Freiburg – Bochum

Relegation-battling Freiburg did well to go ahead of Hoffenheim in round 28, but were eventually overcome by their visitors, who leveled the score late. The promoted side were forced to settle for a point, and remain just one more point away from the safety of 15th place. With tough matches against Bremen, Wolfsburg and Dortmund looming on the horizon, this weekend’s match is a must-win for Freiburg, who will be without the services of suspended midfielder Cedric Makiadi, as well as injured trio Du Ri Cha, Hamed Namouchi and Manuel Salz.

Known as the “unrelegatables” for most of their existence, Bochum may have to win Saturday’s match to retain their nickname. While they are three points clear of the drop, Bochum will also have to look forward to tough matches against Bayern, Stuttgart and Hamburg. Coach Heiko Herrlich will be without Mimoun Azaouagh (injured) and Milos Maric.

Borussia Dortmund – Werder Bremen

Ruhr side Dortmund were paid a favor by local rivals Schalke last week, but the 1997 Champions League winners were unable to take full advantage of their opportunity to close the gap with Leverkusen. Dortmund slumped to a scoreless draw against relegation fighters Hertha Berlin, who were unlucky to have a goal wrongfully disallowed. As he looks to formulate a winning plan against an impressive Bremen side, master tactician Juergen Klopp will have to make do without Damien Le Tallec and Mario Goetze.

Riding the fine form of winger Marko Marin, Bremen are undefeated in ten matches, and have won nine of their last 14 in all competitions. Thomas Schaaf’s attractive attacking side have moved back into position to play in the Europa League, and are now just five points behind third-placed Leverkusen. Three points are almost a necessity for Bremen to have a shot at finishing in the top three, but if recent results are an indicator, Schaaf’s men are up to the task. Torsten Frings is set to serve the first of a three-match suspension, and will be joined by injured duo Peter Niemeyer and Sandro Wagner.

Schalke – Bayern Munich

Schalke bounced back from a midweek defeat with a comprehensive 2-0 victory over Leverkusen in round 28, propelling the royal blues into first place. As they prepare for Saturday’s showdown, the Gelsenkirchen side will look to exact revenge on a Bayern side that recently knocked them out of the DFB Pokal. Coach Felix Magath will be without Jeromaine Jones, Christian Pander, Levan Kenia and Vasilios Pliatsikas.

Having taken flack all year for their inconsistent performances in Europe, Bayern reaffirmed their quality by taking a 2-1 victory over Manchester United on Tuesday. Fatigued, but full of confidence, the Bavarians will look to reassume first place in the Bundesliga this weekend. Arjen Robben is set to return, but looks likely to have his minutes limited. Louis van Gaal is set to have nearly a full squad to choose from, with underused fullback Christian Lell the only man unavailable with injury.

Nuernberg – Mainz

Promoted side Nuernberg have climbed from the depths of 17th place in recent weeks, and almost pushed further away from the relegation zone with a stunning comeback against Werder Bremen. In the end, a late breakaway goal confirmed the Bavarian side’s 4-2 loss, but it was an impressive performance nonetheless. On-loan central defender Breno remains injured, but is the only man unavailable to feature in Nuernberg’s matchday squad.

Of all the Bundesliga newcomers, Mainz have been the best thus far, but are currently lacking motivation. Well clear of the relegation battle but with no chance of winning a European berth, Thomas Tuchel’s side have lost to Freiburg and Wolfsburg in successive matches. As they prepare to face Nuernberg, Mainz are set to miss Aristide Bance (suspended), as well as injured contingent Zsolt Loew, Tim Hoogland, Jan Kirchhoff, Dimo Wache and Marco Rose.

Stuttgart – Borussia M’gladbach

In round 28, Stuttgart showed fantastic character, reversing a one-goal deficit against Bayern Munich, and eventually winning 2-1. Seven points behind Bremen, Christian Gross’ men will look towards fifth place for the rest of the season. It will be a tough task, but Stuttgart have been known for their ability to make late moves up the table. Their first test is M’gladbach, a match that Cacau (suspended), Sami Khedira, Sebastian Rudy, Sven Ulreich, Arthur Boka and Alessandro Riedle are set to miss.

Despite having little pressure from above or below in the table, Borussia Moenchengladbach played very well in a 1-0 defeat of Hamburg in round 28. Michael Frontzeck’s side appears to be motivated, even without having very much to play for. Stuttgart present another tough challenge, one for which the Ruhr side will be missing Dorda, but will otherwise be at full strength.

Koeln – Hertha Berlin

On-loan winger Zoran Tosic was in superb form in last week’s 4-1 defeat of Hannover, a match that all but secured Koeln’s position in the 2010-11 Bundesliga campaign. A win this weekend would put the survival question firmly out of the picture, and Zvonimir Soldo will be keen to keep his team focused until the race is mathematically decided. Soldo will have to do without Kevin Pezzoni, Taner Yalcin, Christopher Schorch and Adil Chihi.

A resurgent Hertha Berlin was woefully unlucky to be denied a legitimate goal in last week’s scoreless draw with Dortmund, and accordingly, could only advance to within four points of Hannover. Still deep in the relegation battle, Friedhelm Funkel’s side has a mile to climb in order to avoid the drop. Funkel has ruled out Florian Kringe and Roman Hubnik.

Wolfsburg – Hoffenheim

Despite being the better side in midfield and creating more chances than their hosts, Wolfsburg slumped to a 2-1 defeat to Fulham in Thursday’s Europa League semi-final. The defending Bundesliga champions are well off a European berth, and will have one eye on the second leg, but will look to do well against Hoffenheim. Assuming no injuries are reported after Thursday’s match, Lorenz-Guenther Koestner should have a full squad available.

Like many other mid-table clubs, Hoffenheim have little to play for at the moment, and seem content with mediocrity. Considering the prestige of facing the defending Bundesliga champions, it may be a good time for Ralf Rangnick to send out some of his youth players: the village club have many talented youngsters who are eager to make an impression. All things considered, Rangnick may not have a choice: Josip Simunic is suspended, and Demba Ba, Isaac Vorsah, Matthias Jaissle and Kevin Conrad are all injured.

Hamburg – Hannover

Despite having won just one of their last six Bundesliga fixtures, Hamburg maintained their fine European form with a 2-1 comeback win over Standard Liege on Thursday. The injury-hit side will need to improve domestically if they are to qualify for next year’s Europa League, but should have enough to overcome Hannover. Bruno Labbadia will have to do without Eljero Elia, Marcell Jansen, Colin Benjamin, Romeo Castelen and Tolgay Arslan.

Following last week’s 4-1 battering at the hands of Koeln, Hannover have slipped to 17th place, having had an absolutely abysmal second half of the season. The Saxony-based club have a tough match this weekend, but their opponents will only become tougher: Hannover have matches against Schalke, Bayern Munich, and Bayer Leverkusen on the horizon. Ruled out of contention are Hanno Balitsch, Constant Djakpa, Jacek Krzynowek, Salvatore Zizzo, Mikael Forssell, Vinicius, Elson, Jan Rosenthal, Altin Lala and Arouna Kone.