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Bundesliga Weekend Preview: Round 20

Friday (all times local)

20:30 Hamburg – Wolfsburg

Saturday

15:30 Bayern Munich – Mainz
15:30 Borussia M’gladbach – Werder Bremen
15:30 Eintracht Frankfurt – Koeln
15:30 Hannover – Nuernberg
15:30 Hertha Berlin – Bochum
18:30 Schalke – Hoffenheim

Sunday

15:30 Stuttgart – Borussia Dortmund
17:30 Bayer Leverkusen - Freiburg


Hamburg – Wolfsburg
Hamburg sunk into fifth place following last weekend’s 1-0 loss away to Dortmund, but things are looking up for Bruno Labbadia’s side. While Jose Paolo Guerrero remains injured, Eljero Elia is recovering fitness, Guy Demel is back in Germany, and new signing Ruud van Nistelrooij will be available for selection.

The league’s reigning champions will also have a new look about them this weekend. Following Armin Veh’s sacking, Lorenz-Guenther Koestner now steps in to take the reigns at Wolfsburg. Obafemi Martins and Karim Ziani remain unavailable due to their participation in the African Cup of Nations.

Bayern Munich – Mainz

Bayern will look to increase their winning streak as they host Mainz. The Bavarian giants have stormed up the table and now are second in the league. Franck Ribery, who had missed over 100 days with injury, has declared himself fit to start, although it is unlikely that he will feature as more than a second-half substitute.

Mainz visit Munich with their work cut out for them, but play with hopes of taking their second victory of the season over their high-flying opponents. The Bundesliga newcomers have been shaky since the restart, but a convincing performance in Munich would be a major catalyst for future success.

Borussia M’gladbach – Werder Bremen
Die Fohlen were somewhat fortunate to take a point in Berlin last week, and will need a reversal of form if they are to take points from Bremen. Karim Matmour remains unavailable due to international duty with Algeria.

Following consecutive losses to Schalke, Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Bayern, Werder have slipped to sixth place, and are a full six points behind Hamburg. Sebastian Boenisch, Philipp Bargfrede, Daniel Jensen, and Jurica Vranjes remain sidelined, but Claudio Pizarro and Aaron Hunt returned to training this week and should be available for selection.

Eintracht Frankfurt – Koeln
High-flying Frankfurt have defied the odds and now sit level on points with Werder Bremen. Coach Michael Skibbe, whose team beat Bremen in rounds 1 and 18, will look to improve on a disappointing performance that saw his club barely take a draw with Nuernberg. Halil Altintop, who transferred from Schalke on Thursday, should be available to feature as either starter or substitute.

Once attacking-deficient side Koeln have scored eight goals in their last three matches, en route to six much-needed six points. While strikers Milivoje Novakovic and Lukas Podolski have struggled for both form and fitness, Zvonimir Soldo’s side received a boost when it was announced that Zoran Tosic had signed on a loan deal. The Manchester United winger has failed to make an impression in England, but will look to put his best foot forward at Koeln.

Hannover – Nuernberg
Injury-plagued Hannover have struggled since the new year and will have it all to do against a resurgent Nuernberg. Leon Andreasen, Jan Durica, Didier Ya Konan, Jacek Krzynowek, Altin Lala, Mikael Forssell, Sal Zizzo, Vinicius (all injured), as well as Steve Cherundolo (suspended) will be unavailable.

Bavarian side Nuernberg remain a full five points deep in the relegation battle and, despite their occasionally good football, will need to be much more productive with the chances they create. Andreas Wolf (suspended) and Mike Frantz (rehab) will not be in the matchday squad.

Hertha Berlin – Bochum
After having one of the worst half-seasons in the history of the Bundesliga, Hertha have looked much better in recent weeks. After winning their first match of the new year, the capitol club was unlucky to only drawn in round 19 and will look for another good result against Bochum. Gojko Kacar, Pal Dardai, Maximilian Nicu, Kaka, Christopher Gaeng, and Cesar will be unavailable for selection.

In round 19, Bochum battled back from 2-0 down to earn a 2-2 draw with Schalke. Always a threat, even when against the ropes, the scrappy club now stands just three points clear of relegation and will look to improve with a good showing against Hertha. Antar Yahia (international duty) and Diego Klimowicz (injury) will be unavailable.

Schalke – Hoffenheim
After blowing a 2-0 lead against Bochum and slipping to third place, Felix Magath’s side will be keen to turn around their fortunes with a good performance against Hoffenheim. Magath will be unable to call upon Heiko Westermann, Peer Kluge, Vasilios Pliatsikas, Jermaine Jones, Christian Pander, Levan Kenia, Predrag Stevanovic, Albert Streit, and David Loheider (all injured or in rehab). Halil Altintop, who completed his transfer to Frankfurt on Thursday, will also be missing.

Following a disappointing 3-0 loss to Leverkusen, Hoffenheim are still looking for their first win of the new year. Isaac Vorsah and Chinedu Obasi remain unavailable due to international duty, and Maicosuel, Demba Ba, Matthias Jaissle, Tobias Weis, Kevin Conrad, and Josip Simunic will have to watch from the stands. Depending on Ralf Ragnick’s game-time decision, Prince Tagoe is ready to step in and make his first ever appearance for the village club.

Stuttgart – Borussia Dortmund

Coach Christian Gross will look to extend Stuttgart’s unbeaten streak against red-hot Dortmund. The Swabians have improved significantly in recent weeks, and will be boosted by the return of Arthur Boka. Yildiray Basturk, who is in the process of transferring to Blackburn, will be unavailable.

Fourth-placed Dortmund have been in blistering form as of late, but face a real test as they visit Stuttgart. Juergen Klopp will continue to be without Yasin Oztekin, Sebastian Kehl, Tinga, Markus Feulner, Dimitar Rangelov, and Roman Weidenfeller (all injured), as well as Mohamed Zidan (international duty).

Bayer Leverkusen – Freiburg
Leverkusen were dealt a hefty blow this week when it was revealed that Simon Rolfes’ right knee would again require surgery. The German international will be out for seven weeks. In addition to Rolfes, Hans Sarpei will also be unavailable due to his involvement in the African Cup of Nations, and Lars Bender will need some more time in training before he can make his return following a knee injury. Renato Augusto, on the other hand, may be available to play, although the Brazilian will have to fight with Toni Kroos and Tranquillo Barnetta for a starting role.

Bundesliga newcomers Freiburg have played five games without a win and their defense has looked very sloppy in recent weeks. New signing Papiss Cisse looks a likely candidate to start at forward; the Senegalese striker is sure to add firepower to a forward line that has struggled with finishing.