Friday (all times local)
20:30 Freiburg – Stuttgart
15:30 Hertha Berlin – Borussia M’gladbach
15:30 Mainz – Hannover
15:30 Nuernberg – Eintracht Frankfurt
15:30 Bochum – Schalke
15:30 Werder Bremen – Bayern Munich
18:30 Borussia Dortmund – Hamburg
15:30 Wolfsburg – Koeln
17:30 Hoffenheim – Bayer Leverkusen
Freiburg – Stuttgart
Once in the safety of mid-table, newly-promoted Freiburg are now in freefall, and hover just a point above the relegation zone. After being outclassed by Hamburg, Robin Dutt’s men will look to rebound in their derby with resurgent Stuttgart.
After spending most of the fall in the relegation zone, new coach Christian Gross has pulled Stuttgart clear into 12th place. Now undefeated in their last six matches in all competitions, Stuttgart appear to have righted their sails. Sebastian Rudy (knee) and Matthieu Delpierre (toe) returned to training on Tuesday, but will be unavailable for some time. Sven Ulreich (concussion) has also been ruled out, following a collision with Wolfsburg striker Grafite.
Hertha Berlin – Borussia M’gladbach
After taking nearly a month to mull over their Tasmania Berlin-type fall campaign, the team deep in relegation stunned Hannover with a 3-0 away victory. Still a full nine points from safety, Hertha enter this weekend with a chance of pulling closer to potential relegation rivals M’gladbach.
Despite dominating their last run-out with Bochum, M’gladbach fell victim to clinical efficiency in round 18. Roberto Colautti, Oliver Neuville, Thorben Marx, and Dante have resumed training and should be available for selection. Karim Matmour, Rob Friend, Paul Stalteri, Gal Alberman, Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker, and Christian Dorda have, on the other hand, been ruled out with various injuries.
Mainz – Hannover
After being played off the pitch against Leverkusen, Mainz will look to rebound with a more convincing display against Hannover. New signing Jan Simak, who transferred from Stuttgart earlier in the week, should be available to play.
Last weekend’s 3-0 defeat to Hertha Berlin was the last straw for the Hannover management, who immediately sacked coach Andreas Bergmann. Mirko Slomka has been named the team’s new coach, and the ex-Schalke manager will look to set his team on a better course.
Nuernberg – Eintracht Frankfurt
Nuernberg will be disappointed not to have taken at least a point from their recent match with Schalke. Despite being arguably the more impressive side throughout, the Bavarian club fell victim to their opponents’ lethal efficiency. Sporting a number of new, talented faces, Nuernberg look to battle back from the depths of the relegation fight.
In an ironic twist of fate, the club whose manager recently claimed was lacking in ambition stormed into seventh place following an impressive win over Werder Bremen. Now just a point adrift of the river club, Frankfurt just might end round 19 in nosebleed altitude. Ricardo Clark, who recently signed from MLS side Houston Dynamo, is in Germany and may be available to feature this weekend.
Bochum – Schalke
After doing just barely enough to edge Nuernberg in round 18, Schalke will be keen to make a more convincing statement against Bochum. In what is sure to be a physical match, the visitors will be without versatile defender Heiko Westermann, who underwent knee surgery on Tuesday.
Widely considered one of the Bundesliga’s toughest teams, Bochum showed true class in last week’s 2-1 victory over Borussia M’gladbach. Saturday’s encounter will undoubtedly be a tough one, but the perennial scrappers will be keen to upset their illustrious visitors.
Werder Bremen – Bayern Munich
Following three consecutive defeats in league play, Werder are 10 points behind Leverkusen. For the team of once title-hopefuls, the prospect of even qualifying for a Champions League position is looking to be in doubt. Having shaken off a minor knee sprain, striker Claudio Pizarro should be available to feature in Saturday’s do-or-die encounter with Bayern.
In round 18, an impressive Bayern cruised to a comfortable 2-0 win over Hoffenheim. Having lost 5-2 to Werder in September 2008, the Bavarians will be keen to finally take their revenge following a string of draws with their northern rivals. Mercurial winger Franck Ribery is set to make his return to action, but will likely begin the match on the bench.
Borussia Dortmund – Hamburg
Undefeated in 11 matches, Dortmund have soared into fifth place in the league, and now boast a comfortable five-point advantage over Werder Bremen. After taking a last-gasp win over Koeln in round 18, Dortmund face a tough test against Hamburg. The Ruhr club will be without Roman Weidenfeller, Sebastian Kehl, Markus Feulner, Tamas Hajnal, and Mohamed Zidan in Saturday’s match.
A somewhat depleted Hamburg squad made simple work of Freiburg in their most recent match. Looking ahead to this weekend, Dortmund will be a more difficult task, but Bruno Labbadia will have a stronger squad to choose from. While Eljero Elia remains doubtful, Jonathan Pitroipa and Jerome Boateng are sure to return. Ze Roberto, still struggling for fitness, will surely be unavailable.
Wolfsburg – Koeln
The 2010 calendar year kicked off with yet another setback for Wolfsburg. The reigning champions slumped to a 3-1 loss in Stuttgart, and never reached top form until late in the game, and now sit in ninth place. Karim Ziani (international duty) remains unavailable for selection, and Josue (foot) and Diego Benaglio (bursitis) are questionable.
After roaring back to equalize in an impressive second half against Dortmund, Koeln were disappointed to lose at the death. Another difficult task awaits as they head to Wolfsburg, but a resurgence in attacking form, which has included five goals in two matches, will boost the Westphalian side’s spirits.
Hoffenheim – Bayer Leverkusen
Following a demoralizing 2-0 loss to Bayern Munich, Hoffenheim will be boosted by the return of influential Brazilian midfielders Luis Gustavo and Carlos Eduardo. Isaac Vorsah and Chinedu Obasi remain unavailable due to international duties with Ghana and Nigeria, respectively.
In perhaps the most convincing display of matchday 18, Leverkusen roared out of the gate to beat Mainz 4-2. In that match, both Simon Rolfes and Renato Augusto made substitute appearances following long-term injuries, and both were impressive. Having yet to reach full fitness, the recovering midfielders will likely be given substitute berths once again. Hans Sarpei (international duty) and Lars Bender (injury) remain unavailable for selection.
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