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Bundesliga Weekend Preview: Round 26

Friday (all times local)

20:30 Schalke – Stuttgart

Saturday

15:30 Borussia M’gladbach – Wolfsburg
15:30 Hannover – Eintracht Frankfurt
15:30 Hertha Berlin – Nuernberg
15:30 Mainz – Koeln
15:30 Bochum – Borussia Dortmund
18:30 Bayern Munich – Freiburg

Sunday

15:30 Hoffenheim – Werder Bremen
17:30 Bayer Leverkusen – Hamburg


Schalke – Stuttgart

Despite coach Felix Magath’s protests, Schalke are now in the spotlight as serious title contenders following a 4-1 away win over Eintracht Frankfurt. Now just two points behind league leaders Bayern Munich, the Gelsenkirchen side will look to at least keep pace with their Bavarian rivals. Magath will have to do without Jermaine Jones, Christian Pander, Levan Kenia and Vasilios Pliatsikas.

In a warm-up match for their midweek visit to Barcelona, Stuttgart visit high-flying Schalke. The resurgent Swabian side have shot up the table to seventh place, but will have their work cut out this Friday. Coach Christian Gross will be unable to call upon suspended defender Matthieu Delpierre, as well as Sven Ulreich, Arthur Boka, Martin Lanig, and Alessandro Riedle.

Borussia M’gladbach – Wolfsburg

Sometimes brilliant, sometimes poor, Moenchengladbach have been anything but consistent this year. The Prussian side most recently were handed a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Dortmund, and will be keen to reverse their fortunes this Saturday. Coach Michael Frontzeck will have to do without Thorben Marx and Dorda.

Undefeated in six matches in all competitions, Wolfsburg have shown significant improvement over the last two months. In recent days, the defending Bundesliga champions have earned 4-1 wins over Villarreal and Bochum, and were also able to manage 1-1 draw away to Rubin Kazan in the Europa League. As they prepare to visit Moenchengladbach, Lorenz-Guenther Koestner’s side will be missing Karim Ziani, Andrea Barzagli, Diego Benaglio, and Rever.

Hannover – Eintracht Frankfurt

Hannover snapped a nine-game losing streak following their 2-1 win in Freiburg last week. While the Saxons remain in the relegation zone, they are just one point from the safety of 15th place. As usual, Mirko Slomka will be without a long list of injured players, which this week includes Mikael Forssell, Vinicius, Salvatore Zizzo, Hanno Balitsch, Jacek Krzynowek, Jan Rosenthal, and Valdet Rama.

After reaching the heights of seventh place, the surprisingly successful Frankfurt have lost twice consecutively, with a 4-1 home loss to Schalke their most recent result. Michael Skibbe will be keen to turn around his team’s fortunes against struggling Hannover, but the Frankfurt coach will be without Nikos Liberopoulos, Zlatan Bajramovic, Ioannis Amantidis, and Aleksandar Vasoski.

Hertha Berlin – Nuernberg

While Hertha Berlin have vastly improved since the winter break, the “Old Lady” of German football remains five points deep in the relegation zone and will need to win this weekend’s “six-pointer” if they are to survive the drop. Coach Freidhelm Funkel has ruled out injured duo Patrick Ebert and Rasmus Bengtsson, and will also have to do without suspended midfielder Fabian Lustenberger.

After recently earning a draw with Bayern and being the first team to beat Leverkusen all season, Nuernberg have deservedly climbed out of the relegation zone. Having taken points against two of the Bundesliga’s elite teams, the Bavarian side will now have to perform against a team fighting for survival. As they prepare for their relegation clash, Nurnberg are without injured contingent Christian Eigler, Isaac Boakye, and Breno.

Mainz – Koeln

After earning a rare away victory against Hoffenheim, Mainz will look to build on their form as they host Koeln. The promoted club has impressed thus far and, while a European berth is unlikely, will strive to finish the season in as high a table position as possible. Tim Hoogland, Dimo Wache, Marco Rose, Felix Borja, Jared Jeffrey, Jan Kirchhoff, and Zsolt Loew will be unable to participate in Saturday’s match due to injuries.

It took 1425 minutes, but Lukas Podolski finally scored his second goal of the season as Koeln managed a 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich in round 25. Having earned draws with the Bavarians as well as Leverkusen in their last two matches, the Westphalian side will look to take three points for the first time since January. As they prepare to face Mainz, Koeln will have to do without suspended midfielder Petit, as well as injured duo Christopher Schorch and Adil Chihi.

Bochum – Borussia Dortmund

Usually sure picks to put up a strong fight against tough opposition, Bochum were anything but the type as they fell apart in last weekend’s 4-1 loss to Wolfsburg. The scrappy side once deemed “the unrelegatables” enter Saturday’s clash with no injuries, but both Marvin Mavraj and Roman Prokoph will be unavailable due to suspensions.

Still in fifth place following a 3-0 win over Moenchengladbach, Dortmund appear likely to make their return to European football following a seven-year hiatus. As they prepare to take the pitch in Bochum, the 1997 Champions League winners will have to do without Mats Hummels, Sven Bender, Tinga, Markus Feulner, and Mario Goetze.

Bayern Munich – Freiburg

A month ago, Bayern looked like world-beaters, but following consecutive draws in domestic play and a loss to Fiorentina in the Champions League, Louis van Gaal’s side look to be flirting with disaster. The Bundesliga leaders will have to do without suspended midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, as well as injured duo Mario Gomez and Martin Demichelis.

Following last week’s 2-1 loss to Hannover, promoted side Freiburg slipped back to 17th place, and are in prime position to drop back to the 2. Bundesliga. While they face Bayern at a good time in the season, to take points on the road will be quite a difficult ask and will require utmost concentration from Robin Dutt’s men. Ahead of this Saturday’s match, Dutt has ruled out Pavel Krmas, Oliver Barth, Hamed Namouchi, and Manuel Salz.

Hoffenheim – Werder Bremen

Hoffenheim’s descent to mediocrity was confirmed following last week’s 1-0 home loss to Mainz. The billionaire-backed club currently sits in the wrong half of the table and, having all but ensured a third consecutive season in Germany’s first division, has little to play for. With Chinedu Obasi, Andreas Beck, Isaac Vorsah, Matthias Jaissle, Kevin Conrad and Franco Zuculini ruled out of this Sunday’s match, we may see Ralf Rangnick start some of his promising youngsters.

Usually a smooth, out-and-out attacking side, Bremen had to show their gritty, less attractive side in Thursday’s Europa League clash with Valencia. The match ended in a 1-1 draw for the German visitors, who benefited from a first half penalty and spent long spells defending despite having a one-man advantage for much of the second half. As they prepare to make a late run for a Europa League spot, Thomas Schaaf’s men will have to face Hoffenheim without Sebastian Boenisch and Sandro Wagner, both of whom have knee injuries.

Bayer Leverkusen – Hamburg

As the old phrase goes, all good things eventually must come to an end. Such was the case in round 25, when Bayer Leverkusen finally lost their first match, a 3-2 defeat against Nuernberg. Having slipped to third place, Jupp Heynckes’ side must improve, lest they lose hold of a Champions League spot. With Toni Kroos and Stefan Reinartz suspended, and Simon Rolfes still injured, Heynckes’ midfield is stretched dangerously thin ahead of this Sunday’s pivotal match.

A solitary Marcell Jansen goal was enough for Hamburg to take three points against Hertha Berlin last week, bringing the northerners to within seven points of third-place Leverkusen. Bruno Labbadia could bring his side even closer to a Champions League spot this weekend, but will have to do without suspended midfielder Tomas Rincon, as well as injured contingent Tolgay Arslan, Bastian Reinhardt, Jose Paolo Guerrero, Romeo Castelen, and Colin Benjamin.

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