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Bundesliga Weekend Preview: Round 24

Friday (all times local)

20:30 Schalke – Borussia Dortmund

Saturday

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

Sunday

15:30 Hannover – Wolfsburg
17:30 Bayern Munich – Hamburg


Schalke – Borussia Dortmund

Gelsenkirchen outfit Schalke appeared to be well on their way to a typical gritty win in Wolfsburg last weekend, but were undone by a late Grafite brace. Now four points behind Bayern and Leverkusen, the title-hopefuls will have to win this week’s tough contest with Dortmund. The hosts will have to do without Jermaine Jones, Christian Pander, Levan Kenia and Vasilios Pliatsikas, all of whom miss out due to various injuries.

Dortmund enter this spring’s Ruhr derby with plenty of momentum following a 4-1 win over Hannover in round 23. During that match, Lucas Barrios needlessly picked up a fifth yellow card of the campaign, and accordingly will be suspended for Friday’s match. The Argentine striker will join injured contingent Tinga, Dimitar Rangelow and Markus Feulner in the stands.

Borussia M’gladbach – Freiburg

Mid-table side M’gladbach earned a 2-2 draw with Hoffenheim last weekend, remaining level on points with the Sinsheim club and a single point ahead of last year’s champions, Wolfsburg. As they prepare to host Freiburg, the Westphalian club are set to be without Thorben Marx, Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker, and Dorda.

Promoted side Freiburg slipped ever closer to the relegation zone following last week’s 3-0 loss to bottom-of-the-table Hertha Berlin. Winless since November, Robin Dutt’s side will need to take their chances against M’gladbach and take three points. The good news for Dutt is that his team is rather fit; only defender Heiko Butscher and  reserve goalkeeper Manuel Salz are unavailable.

Hertha Berlin – Hoffenheim

Despite being resurgent domestically, Hertha Berlin suffered a humiliating 4-0 loss to Benfica in midweek, and crashed out of the Europa League. The capitol club will try to put the past behind them and continue their climb out of the relegation zone this weekend, and will have a full squad available.

Though very convincing at times, Hoffenheim have been very inconsistent this year, and are all but out of contention for a Europa League spot. Such a young and enthusiastic side has a chance at making a late run, but a win over Hertha is absolutely a must. Coach Ralf Rangnick will have to do without Luis Gustavo (suspended), and the injured Andreas Beck, Chinedu Obasi, Matthias Jaissle, and Kevin Conrad.

Mainz – Werder Bremen

Promoted side Mainz suffered a rare home draw against Bochum last week, and will look to bounce back against in-form Werder Bremen. If they are to take three point, Mainz will have to do without a long list of injured personnel, including Tim Hoogland, Zsolt Loew, Chadlj Amri, Dimo Wache, Marco Rose, Jan Kirchoff, and Jared Jeffrey.

On Thursday, an impressive Bremen side reversed a 1-0 Europa League loss by beating FC Twente 4-1 at home, ensuring their advancement to the round of 16. Thomas Schaaf is expected to welcome back Aaron Hunt, but will be without Torsten Frings (suspension), as well as injured duo Sebastian Boenisch and Sandro Wagner.

Stuttgart – Eintracht Frankfurt

If their midweek form is any indicator of their quality, Stuttgart are poised to go on a serious domestic run. Their first-half dominance of Barcelona was thoroughly impressive, and the Swabians were unlucky to only earn a 1-1 draw. Only Arthur Boka, Martin Lanig, and Alessandro Riedle will be unavailable for Christian Gross to select.

Much to the surprise of all the critics, Frankfurt continue to sit in the nosebleed section of the table, occupying seventh place. With efficient offensive play and a surprisingly resilient back line, the perennial “average” German club is now level on points with illustrious attacking side Werder Bremen. Coach Michael Skibbe will have to make do without Selim Teber (suspended), and the injured Ioannis Amantidis, Aleksandar Vasoski, and Zlatan Bajramovic.

Bochum – Nuernberg

Perennial battlers Bochum have been in excellent form as of late, and are undefeated in six matches. Their unbeaten streak includes draws against the likes of Leverkusen and Schalke, but against Nuernberg, Heiko Herrlich’s side will seek three points. With a full squad on hand, such a result appears to be quite attainable.

To the surprise of most of Germany, Nuernberg were able to earn a draw in last week’s Bavarian derby, thus ending Bayern Munich’s 13-match winning streak. Hard-tackling Bochum may in fact be a tougher challenge than their previous opponents, but with only Marcel Risse sidelined, Nuernberg are fit and ready to play.

Bayer Leverkusen – Koeln

Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen had a tough challenge against Werder Bremen last week, but were deeply disappointed to have conceded a late equalizer and not break further clear from Bayern Munich. Jupp Heynckes will welcome back Sami Hyypia for this weekend’s match, but will have to do without injured trio Patrick Helmes, Lukas Sinkiewicz, and Simon Rolfes.

Koeln enter the Rhine derby a very different team from the one that was so defensively strong but offensively inept in the first half of the season. Following a good run in January, Zvonimir Soldo’s side have struggled as of late, most recently losing 5-1 to Stuttgart. Koeln will look to turn around their fortunes this weekend, but will be without Adil Chihi and Fabrice Ehret.

Hannover – Wolfsburg

Having lost eight consecutive matches, Hannover are rapidly becoming the new Hertha Berlin, and look ready to drop to the 2. Bundesliga. As usual, the struggling side will be without a laundry list of key players, including Mikael Forssell, Didier Ya Konan, Jacek Krzynowek, Vinicius, Steve Cherundolo, Salvatore Zizzo, Jan Rosenthal, and Leon Andreasen.

Having dropped out of the race for a Europa League spot, Wolfsburg are now more focused on European glory than domestic success. Still, following a 4-1 triumph over illarreal on Thursday, the defending Bundesliga champions are sure to put on a good showing against struggling Hannover. Only Diego Benaglio (knee) is expected to miss out.

Bayern Munich – Hamburg

Bayern Munich’s 13-match winning streak was finally broken last weekend, but following a well-deserved break, the Bavarian title-hopefuls will look to begin another run. Franck Ribery is expected to return to the starting lineup, and Daniel van Buyten may feature, depending on the results of a late fitness test.

Hamburg were 4-1 winners over Dutch leaders PSV Eindhoven on Thursday, and will look to carry their momentum into this weekend’s match. Bruno Labbadia should welcome back Marcell Jansen and Ruud van Nistelrooij in his squad, but Tolgay Arslan, Bastian Reinhardt, Jose Paolo Guerrero, Romeo Castelen and Colin Benjamin will miss out.