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Bundesliga Weekend Preview: Round 27

Friday (all times local)

20:30 Koeln – Borussia M’gladbach

Saturday


15:30 Freiburg – Mainz
15:30 Werder Bremen – Bochum
15:30 Stuttgart – Hannover
15:30 Nuernberg – Hoffenheim
15:30 Eintracht Frankfurt – Bayern Munich
18:30 Borusia Dortmund – Bayer Leverkusen

Sunday


15:30 Hamburg – Schalke
17:30 Wolfsburg – Hertha Berlin


Koeln – Borussia M’gladbach

After impressing in successive draws with Leverkusen and Bayern, Koeln were disappointed to lose 1-0 to Mainz in round 26. In their second consecutive season since promotion, the Westphalian side are just four points clear of the drop. Zvonimir Soldo will be without injured duo Adil Chihi, and Christopher Schorch.

Earlier this season, Borussia Monchengladbach were a very streaky side, either winning or losing several matches in succession. After a more chaotic stint, die Fohlen have been blown out in the last two matches, losing first to Dortmund by a 3-0 margin before falling 4-0 to Wolfsburg. Michael Frontzeck’s men will need to be better against Koeln. Dorda continues to be out with injury, but is the only definite exclusion, with the only question mark hanging over Thorben Marx.

Freiburg – Mainz

Utter disappointment was the only way to describe the sentiment in the Freiburg camp following last week’s 2-1 loss to Bayern. After taking a first half lead, the side from Germany’s southwestern corner were undone by a late brace from Arjen Robben, and now are now four points deep in the relegation battle. Missing from Robin Dutt’s squad this weekend will be suspended striker Mohamadou Idrissou, as well as injured contingent Du Ri Cha, Manuel Salz, Pavel Krmas, and Hamed Namouchi.

Fresh off consecutive 1-0 wins over Hoffenheim and Koeln, Mainz visit Freiburg as favourites on paper, but in reality have quite a task ahead of them. The promoted side has won just twice on the road, and enters Saturday’s match without a host of key players: Aristide Bance (suspended), and Tim Hoogland, Chadlj Amri, Zsolt Loew, Marco Rose, Jan Kirchhoff, Felix Borja, and Dimo Wache (all injured) will only be able to watch from the stands.

Werder Bremen – Bochum

It was a cruel, cruel result on Thursday when Bremen crashed out of the Europa League following a 4-4 draw with Valencia, who advanced on away goals. Bremen were dominant from the start, but gave up two early goals on the break and had an uphill battle for the rest of the match. They dominated possession and forced Cesar Sanchez to make no fewer than 21 saves, but could not quite manage a winner. Although no players were taken off with injury, the likes of Mesut Oezil and Marko Marin—both of whom ran their socks off—may be rested for the Bochum match, which comes less than 48 hours after their exhausting match against the Spaniards.

Consecutive 4-1 losses to Wolfsburg and Dortmund have left Bochum reeling a bit. The club once known as the “unrelegatables” now sits just four points clear of the drop, and could use a point or more against Bremen. Bochum always show up for the tough matches, but two players who will not be able to do so are Milos Maric (suspended) and Rene Renno, who has been ruled out following an allergic reaction.

Stuttgart – Hannover

It was a good run, but after reaching the Champions League round of 16 and earning a draw in the first leg, Stuttgart were ultimately outclassed by Barcelona in a 4-0 defeat at the Camp Nou. Christian Gross’ squad will look to put the past behind them as they host Hannover. Missing from the Swabian side will be Sven Ulreich, Arthur Boka, and Alessandro Riedle.

Resurgent Hannover were 2-1 winners over Eintracht Frankfurt in round 26, recording their second consecutive win following a nine-match losing streak. The team from Lower Saxony remain a point from the safety of 15th place, but may be able to catch Nuernberg if they earn even a single point from this weekend’s encounter. Coach Mirko Slomka will have to do without  Altin Lala, Mikael Forssell, Jan Rosenthal, Jacek Krzynowek, Salvatore Zizzo, and Vinicius.

Nuernberg – Hoffenheim

It took the full 90 minutes and then some for Nuernberg to edge Hertha Berlin in round 26, but Angelos Charisteas’ injury time winner was enough to lift the Bavarian side to their second consecutive victory. As they prepare to face Hoffenheim, Dieter Hecking’s squad will be without top scorer Albert Bunjaku, as well as Breno and Christian Eigler.

Following two consecutive losses and an overall disappointing season thus far, Ralf Rangnick is still trying to find the right formula for success. The Hoffenheim coach has switched his lineup, and tried a plethora of formations, but none has had the prolonged success of last season. With an injury-diminished squad, the former Stuttgart and Schalke coach will have fewer choices to make: Isaac Vorsah, Matthias Jaissle, Kevin Conrad and Franco Zuculini all miss out due to lack of fitness.

Eintracht Frankfurt – Bayern Munich

Once in the nosebleed region of seventh place, Frankfurt have lost three conecutive matches, and dropped to tenth place in the Bundesliga table. To beat Bayern Munich is always a difficult ask, but coach Michael Skibbe will be keen to have his players match his own personal ambitions, which he has previously deemed to be beyond the scope of Frankfurt. Skibbe will be unable to call upon suspended trio Patrick Ochs, Maik Franz and Selim Teber, as well as injured contingent Aleksandar Vasoski, Zlatan Bajramovic, Ioannis Amantidis, and Nikos Liberopoulos.

Once seemingly unbeatable, Bayern have faltered as of late. The Bavarians’ four-month unbeaten streak was ended with last week’s 3-2 loss to Fiorentina, and a few days later, only a heroic performance from Arjen Robben spared Bayern’s blushes against Freiburg. While Franck Ribery, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Diego Contento are set to return, Louis van Gaal has ruled out Mario Gomez and Martin Demichelis.

Borussia Dortmund – Bayer Leverkusen

Having risen to fourth place, Dortmund are on the verge of returning to European play for the first time since 2003. Currently eight points out of a Champions League spot, the Ruhr side could close the gap to five with a win over Leverkusen. Juergen Klopp’s side will have to manage without suspended midfielder Nuri Sahin, as well as injured contingent Nelson Valdez, Damien Le Tallec, Mats Hummels, Mario Goetze, and Tinga.

After winning just one of their previous five matches and slipping from first to third, Leverkusen bounced back with an emphatic 4-2 win over Hamburg last week. Coach Jupp Heynckes welcomes back Toni Kroos and Stefan Reinartz following their suspensions, and will have nearly a full squad to choose from: only Simon Rolfes remains sidelined due to injury.

Hamburg – Schalke

It wasn’t pretty, but Hamburg just barely edged past Anderlecht in the Europa League. It was a 4-3 defeat for HSV, who advanced 6-5 on aggregate. It was a hard-fought match, but Bruno Labbadia’s men will be pleased to have a Sunday match scheduled for this week. Marcell Jansen took a knock during the match but was not forced to go off, and may be able to feature. Tolgay Ali Arslan, Jose Paolo Guerrero, and Romeo Castelen, however, have been ruled out.

Last fall, the pundits never would have guessed that, after 26 rounds, Schalke would be the Bundesliga’s second-best team. And yet, with just eight rounds to go, no team has won more matches than the Gelsenkirchen side. As usual, Felix Magath is set to shuffle his lineup, which is as close to full fitness as it has been in weeks. Ruled out are Jermaine Jones, Christian Pander, Levan Kenia, and Vasilios Pliatsikas.

Wolfsburg – Hertha Berlin

It took all of 119 minutes for Christian Gentner to put Wolfsburg ahead for good in a 2-1 victory over Rubin Kazan on Thursday. The result put last year’s Bundesliga champions through to the quarterfinals of the Europa League, but was a grueling match for Lorenz-Guenther Koestner’s men. The Wolfsburg coach may opt to rest any of his starting eleven, but definite absentees include Rever and Andrea Barzagli.

A last-gasp winner for Nuernberg in round 26 was the last straw for Hertha Berlin fans, who stormed the pitch immediately following the final whistle. It was a very troubling moment for the capitol club, which is now nine points from safety, and is almost sure to fall to the second division. Hertha will be at nearly full strength: only Florian Kringe has been ruled out of Sunday’s match.

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