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Bundesliga Weekend Preview: Round 31

Friday (all times local)

20:30 Koeln – Bochum


15:30 Hamburg – Mainz
15:30 Freiburg – Nuernberg
15:30 Schalke – Borussia M’gladbach
15:30 Stuttgart – Bayer Leverkusen
15:30 Wolfsburg – Werder Bremen
18:30 Bayern Munich – Hannover


15:30 Borussia Dortmund – Hoffenheim
17:30 Eintracht Frankfurt – Hertha Berlin

Koeln – Bochum

Koeln pulled level on points with Hoffenheim following a 2-0 win over their Sinsheim rivals in round 30. The Westphalian side are in no danger of being relegated, and this weekend marks a good opportunity for youth players to earn first-team experience. With Maniche and Youssef Mohamad suspended, and Kevin Pezzoni, Pierre Wome, Christopher Schorch and Adil Chihi injured, coach Zvonimir Soldo will have plenty of room to experiment with his line-up.

Relegation battlers Bochum were two minutes from taking a deserved point last week before Hamburg striker Ruud van Nistelrooy sunk their hopes with a late winner. The 'unrelegatables' are just a single point clear of the drop and may need a win this Friday in order to survive. Due to various injuries, Christoph Dabrowski, Mimoun Azaouagh and Diego Klimowicz will be unable to feature against Koeln.

Hamburg – Mainz

It took a full 90 minutes for Hamburg to overcome Bochum last Sunday, but the northern side managed to do so and keep pace with Stuttgart and Werder. The European hopefuls currently occupy sixth place in the league table, and are among the six teams battling for a Europa League berth. Ahead of this weekend’s crucial match, coach Bruno Labbadia will have to do without Mladen Petric, Jose Paolo Guerrero, Marcell Jansen, Eljero Elia and Romeo Castelen.

Mainz have been the best of the three promoted sides this year, but with the season winding down, have found themselves in mid-table. As he prepares for this weekend’s match, coach Thomas Tuchel is set to be without suspended midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz, as well as injured contingent Zsolt Loew, Dimo Wache, Marco Rose and Jan Kirchoff.

Freiburg – Nuernberg

The second half of the season has been a miserable spell for Freiburg, who slipped into 17th place following last weekend’s 4-0 defeat to Werder. The club from Germany’s south-westernmost corner will need to do much better against their promoted rivals if they are to survive the drop. Injured quartet Tommy Bechmann, Du Ri Cha, Hamed Namouchi and Manuel Salz have been ruled out of this weekend’s clash.

Fellow promotees Nuernberg are in a better position than their opponents, but are still walking a narrow line as the try to avoid relegation. Just a single point ahead of the drop, the Bavarians will need at least a point if they are to ensure another week’s safety. Dieter Hecking has almost a full squad at his disposal, with only long-term absentee Breno unavailable for selection.

Schalke – Borussia Moenchengladbach

Following a 4-2 loss to relegation-fighting Hannover, Schalke coach Felix Magath called his side “too soft” to win the title. Several squad players have vowed to fight to the bitter end, however, and will be keen to put their recent run of disappointing results behind them as they host mid-table Gladbach. Only long-term casualties Jermaine Jones, Levan Kenia and Vasilios Pliatsikas have been ruled out of contention, leaving Magath with a strong squad to choose from.

After earning a 2-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in round 30, Prussian outfit Borussia Moenchengladbach may not have resigned themselves to the mediocrity of mid-table life after all. Having picked up a muscular injury, Rob Friend will be unavailable, and will join long-time injury victim Christian Dorda in the stands.

Stuttgart – Bayer Leverkusen

In perhaps the most highly anticipated match of this round, seventh-placed Stuttgart face third-placed Leverkusen. For the hosts, a Europa League spot is on the line, but there remain six teams in contention, making every match a must-win situation. While Christian Gross’ first-choice starting XI is available, the substitutes bench will be stretched somewhat for Saturday’s match: Sebastian Rudy, Sven Ulreich, Arthur Boka and Alessandro Riedle will be unavailable.

On the heels of a three-game losing streak, winter champions Leverkusen halted their points skid last week with a 1-1 draw against current league leaders Bayern Munich. Jupp Heynckes’ side remain two points clear of Dortmund, and are desperate to hang onto their Champions League position. Daniel Schwaab (suspended) and Renato Augusto and Simon Rolfes (both injured) have been ruled out of contention ahead of this Saturday’s showdown.

Wolfsburg – Werder Bremen

Defending Bundesliga champions Wolfsburg rebounded well after crashing out of the Europa League; their 2-0 win over Nuernberg propelled Lorenz-Guenther Koestner’s side into a position where a return to European competition just may be possible. Koestner should have a full squad available to play in a pivotal match that could see the Wolves advance to within two points of their rivals.

Due to an impressive run of late, Werder Bremen are now eyeing not just the DFB Pokal, but also a return to Champions League play. Last year’s UEFA Cup finalists are just three points behind Leverkusen, and could surpass the Westphalian side with a win this weekend. Thomas Schaaf will have to do without injured contingent Sebastian Mielitz, Peter Niemeyer, Christian Vander and Sandro Wagner, but will have his first-choice starting XI available for selecton.

Bayern Munich – Hannover

In their last big test of the domestic campaign, a fatigued Bayern drew 1-1 with Leverkusen, but their performance was enough to extend the Bavarians’ lead at the top of the table. Coach Louis van Gaal has called for complete focus ahead of their match with a Hannover side that has recently proven to be quite dangerous indeed. Van Gaal’s side, who have been blessed with good fitness of late, will be at full strength.

A draw against Hamburg and a win over Schalke have brought a previously helpless Hannover into a position close to the safety of 15th place. Just one point behind Nuernberg and Bochum, the struggling and injury-plagued outfit could climb to safety with just a point this weekend. As usual, Hannover’s list of injuries runs deep: Leon Andreasen, Elson, Altin Lala, Vinicius, Jan Rosenthal, Mikael Forssell, Jacek Krzynowek and Arouna Kone have all been ruled out of Saturday’s match.

Borussia Dortmund – Hoffenheim

Ruhr outfit Dortmund’s hopes of a return to the Champions League were dealt a hammer blow last week following a disappointing loss to Mainz. The 1997 European Champions will now look to rebound against a talented but underwhelming Hoffenheim side. Marcel Schmelzer (suspended), as well as Sebastian Kehl, Tinga and Mario Goetze (all injured), will be unavailable for selection.

With four matches to go, Hoffenheim’s sophomore slump has yet to be lifted. The team that for some time were favoured to win last year’s title currently sit in 12th place, and have very little to play for. With Timo Hildebrand, Per Nilsson, Demba Ba, Isaac Vorsah, Matthias Jaissle and Kevin Conrad all injured, coach Ralf Rangnick may opt to use some of his rising talents this weekend.

Eintracht Frankfurt – Hertha Berlin

European hopefuls Frankfurt succumbed to a 2-0 loss last week, but still have a slight chance of qualifying for the Europa League. Accordingly, Michael Skibbe will be keen to have his side do all they can against a Hertha side that will be fighting for survival. Skibbe has ruled out Selim Teber, Christoph Spycher, Sebastian Jung, Aleksandar Vasoski, Zlatan Bajramovic and Ionannis Amantidis.

Despite resurgent form in recent weeks, Hertha remain at the very bottom of the table, and the drop seems almost inevitable. The capital side will have to win all four of their upcoming matches to stand a chance of surviving, starting with Sunday’s match against Frankfurt. Only Florian Kringe and Roman Hubnik will be unavailable for selection, leaving coach Friedhelm Funkel with a near-full squad to choose from.

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