Bundesliga Weekend Preview: Round 22

With 12 games to go this season, the Bundesliga title is still very much up for grabs with just four points separating the top five. Goal.com previews all the weekend action.
Friday March 6 (all times local)

20:30  Schalke 04 – 1.FC Koeln

Saturday March 7 

15:30  1899 Hoffenheim – Werder Bremen 
15:30  Borussia Moenchengladbach – Hamburger SV 
15:30  Bayern Munich – Hannover 96
15:30  Energie Cottbus – Hertha Berlin
15:30  VfL Wolfsburg – Karlsruher SC
15:30  VfB Stuttgart – Borussia Dortmund

Sunday March 8 

17:00  Arminia Bielefeld – Eintracht Frankfurt
17:00  Bayer Leverkusen – VfL Bochum       

Schalke 04 – 1.FC Koeln  

Schalke’s season took another body blow in midweek when they were eliminated from the DFB Pokal by second division Mainz. A win last weekend against Frankfurt had given them something to smile about, but the Cup exit has wiped that smile away.  

The Koenigsblauen are down in 8th place and are five points adrift of the European places. Fred Rutten will still be without the services of Christian Pander and Benedikt Hoewedes, so will probably send out the same XI that lost to Mainz.   

Koeln were unable to build upon their previous impressive win over Bayern Munich last week, and were held to a draw against Bielefeld.  However, the ‘Billy-Goats’ are firmly placed in mid-table and are edging ever closer to the 40-point target trainer Christophe Daum has set them for safety this season. They currently have 29 points.  

Youssef Mohamad looks set to return after a knee problem meaning Kevin McKenna drops to the bench. Midfielder Petit though is a doubt with a thigh problem.   

Prediction: Schalke 2-1 Koeln    

1899 Hoffenheim – Werder Bremen  

One of the most intriguing games going into the weekend takes place at the Rhein-Neckar Stadion where TSG 1899 Hoffenheim host Werder Bremen. If you had said before the season that this match would pit 3rd place against 11th place, few would have believed that it would have been Hoffenheim, who were higher in the table.  

Ralf Rangnick’s side have slipped a little of late and were held goalless last weekend at Dortmund. They will want to gain revenge over Werder, who were one of the few teams to beat them in the Rueckrunde ( 5-4 at the Weser Stadion).  

Hoffenheim though have a number of key absentees this weekend.  Sejad Salihovic is out with a knee injury while Timo Hildebrand is also a doubt. Ralf Rangnick also has Selim Teber, Tobias Weis, and Luiz Gustavo suspended.  

Werder are having a bit of resurgence of late, but still sit far too low down in the table for their liking. The Green and Whites knocked Milan out of the UEFA Cup, before holding their own with only ten men against Bayern Munich last weekend. They looked to be back to their best on Wednesday as they trounced Wolfsburg 5-2 in the DFB Pokal quarter-final.  

Tim Wiese looks set to return in goal, which is good news for Thomas Schaaf as stand-in Christian Vander is now injured. Clemens Fritz limped off against Wolfsburg in midweek and his inclusion is in doubt.  Naldo is out suspended after his red card last week against Bayern. 

Prediction: Hoffenheim 1-1 Werder          

Borussia Moenchengladbach – Hamburger SV  

Time is running out for Moenchengladbach as they plot the great escape from relegation. Hans Meyer’s team notched up a long-awaited win against Hannover two weeks ago, but couldn’t make it two on the trot as they went down to a loss to Hertha Berlin last week.   

The Fohlen trainer will be telling his side that there are still 36 points to play for, and they will need to make the most of their home games.  Defensive midfielder Thomas Galasek is fit again so Patrick Paauwe will stand down.   

Hamburg missed the chance to keep their lead at the top of the table when they went down to their first home defeat of the season last Sunday against Wolfsburg. Martin Jol’s side therefore saw Hertha Berlin leapfrog them into pole position.  They will see this game as a great opportunity of bagging three points coming as it does against the league’s bottom side.  

The Rothosen will have boosted by their DFB Pokal win in midweek and will want to build on that this weekend. Colin Benjamin and Jerome Boateng are available following suspension, but Paulo Guerrero sits this one out for the same reason. Defender Michael Gravgaard is out after a finger operation, while Alex Silva and Guy Demel are also injured.  

Prediction: Gladbach 0-1 Hamburg    

Bayern Munich – Hannover 96  

Three points this Saturday are an absolute must for Bayern Munich after their poor start to 2009. Manager Uli Hoeness has complained recently of unfair press criticism, but their league form thus far this year has left them open to it.   

A 0-0 draw against ten-man Werder Bremen last week and a Cup exit in midweek at Leverkusen has increased the pressure on trainer Juergen Klinsmann. Philipp Lahm and Luca Toni, who have missed the last two games, hope to return, but Mark van Bommel however is suspended.  

Hannover will want to build on their impressive win last weekend against Bayer Leverkusen, but that won’t be easy as Dieter Hecking’s side have the worst away record in the league with just one point from 10 games this season.   

Following the 1-0 win over Leverkusen, trainer Hecking will have little reason to change his line-up for the Bayern clash.    

Prediction: Bayern 3-1 Hannover    

Energie Cottbus – Hertha Berlin  

Table toppers Hertha Berlin make the short journey South on Saturday to take on East German neighbours Energie Cottbus at the Stadion der Freundschaft. A 2-1 win over bottom side Moenchengladbach last weekend saw the Old Lady return to the top of the table and trainer Lucien Favre will want to see his side notch up three more against the Lausitzer.   

Marko Pantelic is fit again following injury, but may have to settle for a place on the bench. The Hertha trainer has options in defence with Marc Stein a possible returnee and Leandro Cufre an alternative at full-back.    

Cottbus need the points for a wholly differing reason sitting as they do in 16th place. Bojan Prasnikar saw his side lose last week to Bochum after their previous victory over Werder Bremen.  Timo Rost is a doubt with a slight injury, so Jan Rajnoch is on stand-by.    

Prediction: Cottbus 1-1 Hertha    

VfL Wolfsburg – Karlsruher SC  

Wolfsburg climbed up to fourth place in the Bundesliga following their 3-1 win away at Hamburg last time out. Felix Magath’s side are the in form team in the league at the moment having won their last four games and a home game against a struggling Karlsruhe will give them an excellent chance of continuing that run.   

After the disappointment of the Cup exit to Werder Bremen on Wednesday, Magath will be demanding a reaction from his side. With no new injuries or suspensions to worry about, the VfL trainer will probably send out an unchanged line-up.   

Karlsruhe are just one point above bottom club Moenchengladbach and have lost their last two games. Their impressive win over Hamburg a few weeks back now seems a distant memory. A return to that form is needed this weekend against Wolfsburg.   

Stefano Celozzi is an alternative at full-back to Andreas Goerlitz, while Tim Sebastian and Godfried Audobe are both in contention after recovering from injury.   

Prediction: Wolfsburg 3-1 Karlsruhe    

VfB Stuttgart – Borussia Dortmund  

Stuttgart are unbeaten in the league in 2009 with three wins and two draws in their five matches so far. That impressive start to the year has seen Markus Babbel’s side climb to seventh in the table and they find themselves just five points behind a Champions League berth.   

Three points at home to Dortmund this weekend will mean that VfB must be a serious consideration for European football next season.  Trainer Babbel may opt to keep Georg Niedermeier, Timo Gebhart and Elson in the starting XI, while Thomas Hitzlsperger should return after being rested against Karlsruhe last week.  

Borussia Dortmund held Hoffenheim goalless last weekend which was their fourth stalemate in their five games in 2009 making them the draw specialists in the Bundesliga. Trainer Juergen Klopp, while happy to remain unbeaten, will want to see his side start winning- starting with Stuttgart this Saturday.    

Sebastian Kehl is suspended so Tinga is the first-choice to replace him.  Nuri Sahin, who has been impressive of late, is pushing for a place in the starting XI.   

Prediction: Stuttgart 1-0 Dortmund    

Arminia Bielefeld – Eintracht Frankfurt    

It is 15th versus 13th on Sunday as Arminia Bielefeld host Eintracht Frankfurt at the Schuco-Arena. Both sides are in need of the points to prevent them being sucked down into the drop zone and both sides will be confident of doing so this weekend.   

Bielefeld did well last Friday to claim a point against Koeln which was their second draw in a row. Against Frankfurt they will be at full strength with Rudiger Kauf returning from suspension and Michael Lamey available once again.   

Frankfurt are a little up and down at the moment, but it was a down last weekend as they lost to Schalke at home. This Sunday may see a return for Greek striker Nikos Liberopoulos.   

Prediction: Bielefeld 0-0 Frankfurt    

Bayer Leverkusen – VfL Bochum  

Bayer Leverkusen find themselves out of the top five following three defeats in four games after the Bundesliga restart.  However, their midweek Cup win over Bayern Munich will have given them a huge boost and they will expect to notch up three points against Bochum on Sunday.  

Bruno Labbadia has Gonzalo Castro and Henrique available following suspension, but centre-back Manuel Friedrich is out injured.  Lukas Sinkiewicz will fill in.   

Bochum have had three home wins in their last five games, which has seen them climb clear of the relegation zone and Marcel Koller’s side find themselves in 14th, although they are by no means safe.   

Bochum welcome back Diego Klimowicz following his ban so he will replace Hashemian in attack.   

Prediction: Leverkusen 2-0 Bochum  

Mathew Burt, Goal.com