Bundesliga Weekend Preview: Round Four - Hamburg, Ruhr Derbies Take Centre Stage

While Mainz and Hoffenheim hope to maintain their outstanding form, the Hamburg and Ruhr derbies will be matches to watch this weekend.
Friday (all times local)
20:30 - Eintracht Frankfurt - Freiburg

15:30 - Stuttgart - Borussia Moenchengladbach
15:30 - Wolfsburg - Hannover
15:30 - Werder Bremen - Mainz
15:30 - Bayern Munich - Koeln
15:30 - Kaiserslautern - Hoffenheim

15:30 - St Pauli - Hamburg
17:30 - Bayer Leverkusen - Nuernberg
17:30 - Schalke - Borussia Dortmund

Eintracht Frankfurt - Freiburg

Frankfurt earned their first points of the season last week with an emphatic 4-0 victory away to Gladbach. The perennial mid-table side are back at home in 12th place as they take on a tough Freiburg side this weekend. In his preparations, coach Michael Skibbe will have to make do without Zlatan Bajramovic, Ioannis Amantidis, Aleksandar Vasoski and long-term casualty Sebastian Rode.

After collapsing late in their opener, Freiburg have won two matches on the bounce. Long considered candidates for the drop, the Baden-Wuerttemberg side will hope to pull further away from the relegation zone with a good result in Frankfurt. Pavel Krmas, Tommy Bechmann and Johannes Flum have been ruled out of Friday’s match.

Stuttgart - Borussia Moenchengladbach

Three games, three losses and a goal difference of -5, this is the worst start Stuttgart have ever had to a campaign. Christian Gross’ men will hope to pull themselves out of the drop zone against a notoriously volatile Gladbach side this Saturday. Gross has a number of selection headaches, but the only expected absentees are Philipp Degen and Johan Audel .

In their last away match, Gladbach pummelled Leverkusen by a 6-3 score. But then they lost 4-0 at home to Frankfurt. A team of tremendous potential, the Prussian side will hope to capture their best form against Stuttgart. While most of Michael Frontzeck’s starting line-up will be fit, the coach will have to do without Tony Jantschke, Jean-Sebastien Jaures, Bernhard Janeczek, Christian Dorda, Igor de Camargo and Karim Matmour.

Wolfsburg - Hannover

Like Stuttgart, Wolfsburg are also yet to earn a point this year. After losing to Dortmund last week, coach Steve McClaren is expected to switch from 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-1-2 system, and drop Simon Kjaer and Mario Mandzukic from his starting line-up. Karim Ziani and Arne Friedrich are unavailable for selection due to injuries.

Hannover may have barely avoided relegation in 2009-10, but the 96ers are just two points adrift of first place after three games. Having already beaten Schalke, Mirko Slomka’s men are fully worth their position in the table. Slomka has a few tough decisions to make over who to select, but will surely be without injured contingent Leon Andreasen, Altin Lala, Mario Eggimann and Carlitos, as well as suspended defender Emanuel Pogatetz.

Werder Bremen - Mainz

Bremen impressed in a scoreless draw against Bayern last weekend and made a brilliant comeback against Tottenham Hotspur in midweek, but will hope to get back to winning ways against Mainz. Thomas Schaaf is still without central defensive pairing Per Mertesacker and Naldo, as well as striker Claudio Pizarro.

A late comeback last week saw Mainz keep pace with Hoffenheim at the top of the Bundesliga table, much to the surprise of fans and commentators alike. The “oh-fives” will hope to extend their perfect streak in Bremen, and have a near fully fit squad. The only confirmed absentees are Heinz Mueller and Jan Simak.

Bayern Munich - Koeln

Bayern have struggled domestically in recent weeks, but put their woes behind them with an outstanding performance against Roma on Wednesday, which led to a 2-0 victory. Louis van Gaal’s side will hope to build momentum, but will have to do without Arjen Robben. Breno could make a brief return, and Miroslav Klose is tipped to start ahead of Ivica Olic in attack.

Koeln, who had a leaky defence before last week, earned their first three points (and kept their first clean sheet) against St Pauli in their most recent match. Having welcomed back defensive rock Pedro Geromel, Zvonimir Soldo’s side look much improved at the back. Kevin McKenna has been ruled out due to recent surgery, as have Adil Chihi, Christopher Schorch and Manasseh Ishiaku. Youssef Mohamad is also set to miss out on the action as he serves the final of a three-match suspension.

Kaiserslautern - Hoffenheim

Kaiserslautern’s impressive early campaign took a hit last week as Mainz scored two late goals to steal victory. The promoted side will hope to get back to winning ways as they face Hoffenheim, and will have a full squad available on Saturday.

Three matches, three wins: a perfect start it has been for Hoffenheim. Having beaten both Bremen and Schalke, the village club have become surprise title contenders early in the season, and have shown no signs of letting up. Coach Ralf Rangnick will still have to do without Matthias Jaissle and Chinedu Obasi, but is expected to use the same line-up that has afforded success thus far.

St Pauli - Hamburg

St Pauli suffered a setback last week with a narrow 1-0 defeat in Koeln in which they rarely looked like scoring despite a good second half spell. They will however need no motivation ahead of the first ever Hamburg derby to be held at their home ground - the Millerntor Stadion. Holger Stanislawski welcomes Gerald Asamoah into the squad meaning everyone is fully fit with the exception of goalkeeper Matthias Hain - Thomas Kessler continues to deputise.

Armin Veh's side are very much the favourites, not least as they have begun the season with two wins and a draw, though die Rothosen will rue the two points they dropped at home to Nuernberg last Saturday. Hamburg are without Romeo Castelen, Tunay Torun and Heung Min-Son though the Korean is back in training. Marcell Jansen and Jose Paolo Guerrero are expected to keep their places in the starting XI ahead of Dennis Aogo and Mladen Petric respectively.

Bayer Leverkusen - Nuernberg

Leverkusen battled back from a two goal deficit in Hannover last week, thanks to second half goals from strikers Eren Derdiyok and Patrick Helmes. As has been widely reported this week, Jupp Heynckes is without Michael Ballack, who faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a shin injury. Lars Bender will deputise in central midfield and he should be joined in the middle of the park by Tranquillo Barnetta. Simon Rolfes is still missing for Werkself though it is unclear if Renato Augusto will play as he was a surprise omission from Bayer's Europa League tie against Rosenborg.

Nuernberg have struggled at the start of the season with only two points from their opening three fixtures, however they will see their draw in Hamburg as a point gained. They will unfortunately have to do without Swiss striker Albert Bunjaku for the next six months after he underwent knee surgery. The only other absentee for Dieter Hecking is young forward Ruben Okotie.

Schalke - Borussia Dortmund

Arguably the biggest game in Europe this weekend sees fierce rivals Schalke and Dortmund lock horns in the season's first Revierderby at the Veltins Arena. The pressure is all on the shoulders of Felix Magath, whose side have lost three league games on the bounce, including a 2-0 defeat in Hoffenheim last week. Christoph Moritz will continue at right-back in Christoph Metzelder's absence despite his error against Lyon and Jefferson Farfan will also keep his place. Die Koenigsblauen are also without Atsuro Uchida, Tim Hoogland, Christian Pander and Levan Kenia.

Dortmund are on a roll and could emerge as the leading contenders for Bayern's crown. In their last two games they brushed aside Stuttgart and Wolfsburg. Schwarzgelb were particularly impressive in their defeat of Steve McClaren's Woelfe, with Shinji Kagawa's stock growing by the game. Juergen Klopp is definitely without injured quartet Sebastian Kehl, Tamas Hajnal, Dede and Mohamed Zidan and perhaps his away supporters too should they go through with their boycott.

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