Bundesliga Weekend Preview: Round 9

Hamburg and Bayer Leverkusen meet in Autumn's penultimate match. Clark Whitney previews all the weekend action...
Saturday (all times local)

15:30 Eintracht Frankfurt - Hannover
15:30 Koeln - Mainz
15:30 Nuernberg - Hertha
15:30 Freiburg – Bayern Munich
15:30 Stuttgart - Schalke
15:30 Bremen - Hoffenheim
18:30 Hamburg – Bayer Leverkusen


15:30 Wolfsburg – Borussia M’gladbach
17:30 Borussia Dortmund – Bochum

Eintracht Frankfurt – Hannover

After going undefeated for the season’s first six matches, Frankfurt have lost two on the bounce. Facing an improved Hannover defence will make it tricky for die Adler to take three points, especially given the unavailability of Selim Teber who is suspended for accumulated yellow cards.

Injury-plagued Hannover have put in a lion’s effort, despite having lost first-team strikers Mikael Forssell and Schlaudraff due to long-term injuries. Jiri Stajner and Didier Ya Konan have performed very well as deputies, as exemplified by their team’s seven goals in their last two matches. The two will need to be in good form again on Saturday if Hannover are to win a second consecutive match.

Koeln – Mainz

Koeln are winless at home and have only drawn once, a tell-tale sign that relegation is looming. Saturday’s match against high-flying Mainz will be a tough match, but poses a great opportunity for Koeln to climb out of the bottom three. Strikers Milivoje Novakovic and Lukas Podolski scored a goal apiece in the midweek internationals and will look to extend their form this weekend.

The Bundesliga’s most successful debutantes earned a gritty victory over Hoffenheim in their last outing and will be hoping to build on their success on Saturday. Currently in sixth place, a win could propel Mainz into a position among the league’s elite

Nuernberg - Hertha

Back in the Bundesliga after a brief hiatus, it appears that Nuernberg are likely candidates for the drop once more. Their previous outing against Bayer Leverkusen was a 4-0 rout that left the Bavarian side in 17th place. Saturday’s match will be against the only team that has been less successful thus far, and is a must-win situation.

In their last league outing, Hamburg didn’t have to do anything to beat Hertha. A needless own goal and two terrible goalkeeping errors allowed Hamburg to come back from a goal down to win 3-1. Bundesliga relegation battles are usually exciting, but one can never tell with Hertha. We can only hope for the Old Lady to save her comedy act for another day.

Freiburg – Bayern Munich

Up to this point in the season, Freiburg’s performance has easily been the league’s most volatile. Big wins (4-0 in Berlin, 3-0 vs M’gladbach) have been offset by demoralising losses (5-2 to Hannover, 5-0 to Leverkusen). Teams tend to play their best against Bayern, and the Freiburg faithful are hoping their team will not buck the trend on Saturday.

Bayern got a big boost this Thursday when it was revealed that Arjen Robben has made a quick recovery from surgery and may be available for this Saturday’s match in Freiburg. Additionally, Mark van Bommel, Luca Toni, and Martin Demichelis are set to return. Frank Ribery and Ivica Olic remain injured, and it has yet to be determined whether Louis van Gaal will stick with his 4-3-3 formation or revert to 4-4-2. The team that was red hot just a few weeks ago has lost a lot of momentum recently and will look to start fresh this weekend.

Stuttgart – Schalke

Stuttgart’s miserable form has been a recurring theme of this year’s campaign. Over the international break, Markus Babbel had plenty of time to consider methods of bringing his team back to the form it found in the spring and on Saturday we’ll see just what it is he has proposed as a solution. Sami Khedira, Matthieu Delpierre and Roberto Hilbert, all of whom were previously rated doubtful for the forthcoming match, reported for training on Thursday and should be available this weekend.

Felix Magath has done it again, or so it seems. The master tactician that led Wolfsburg to the 2009 Bundesliga title has taken an extraordinarily defensive-minded squad and turned it into a title-contending team. Next stop: Stuttgart, for a run-in with last year’s third-place finishers. Magath won’t have much to worry about defensively, so maybe we’ll see a little more aggression from his team in the attacking third.

Bremen Hoffenheim

Famous for Thomas Schaaf’s attack-minded philosophy, Bremen have turned heads by not only scoring goals, but defending well too. Indeed, Werder have kept four consecutive clean sheets and are now fourth in the league. With Mesut Oezil now fit once more and Aaron Hunt and Claudio Pizarro in excellent form, Werder may be the league’s hottest team going into the weekend.,

Just as soon as his team’s attack began to hit top form, Ralf Rangnick’s defence reverted to its leaky, inconsistent ways. In their last three matches, Hoffe have scored ten and conceded five, but two of these matches were against relegation battlers. Great discipline at both ends will be necessary if Hoffe are to take anything in Bremen.

Hamburg – Bayer Leverkusen

The match of the Autumn campaign. Hamburg may have home advantage, but taking three points will be especially difficult for the squad whose two main strikers, Jose Paolo Guerrero and Mladen Petric, are benched with long-term injuries. This match offers a great chance for Swedish starlet Marcus Berg to make a name for himself and give his team some hope for the time leading up to the winter break.

From a fitness standpoint, Leverkusen have a big advantage. While Michal Kadlec is definitely out, the rest of the team reported fit after the midweek internationals. There is a slight question mark over the preparedness of Renato Augusto, who may be replaced by Toni Kroos in the starting XI. Saturday’s match is a great opportunity for Leverkusen, who could go clear on top the table for the first time this year.

Wolfsburg – Borussia M’gladbach

Only a few months ago, Wolfsburg were rated among the top ten teams in Europe. Since then, the 2009 Bundesliga champions have been inconsistent, and have fallen from grace. Still as great an attacking threat, the Wolves’ main weakness has been in defence. Having conceded more goals than two of the relegation-zone teams, Armin Veh’s side will look to keep a clean sheet on Sunday.

Despite starting off the season well, Borussia M’gladbach have been wasteful, losing 1-0 to Nuernberg and Dortmund in matches die Fohlen probably should have won. Wolfsburg will be intense opposition, but if they can take their chances, M’gladbach just might take something from this weekend’s encounter.

Borussia Dortmund – Bochum

Juergen Klopp’s side had sky-high hopes entering this season but, it appears, they will have to wait another year for a glorious campaign. The young , talented team has plenty of potential, but lacks the steady, reliable calmness that Sami Hyypia and Joe Simunic have brought to Leverkusen and Hoffenheim, respectively. That, and the fact that the team just can’t score. Bochum are always a scrappy side, but Dortmund have enough class to win, if they can finally show it.

A 1-1 draw with Wolfsburg was the result of Bochum’s most recent Bundesliga match and exemplified the team’s gritty nature. Currently 14th, Bochum will be happy to take a point or more to ward off a possible drop.

Clark Whitney, Goal.com