1.BL: Match Previews – Week 22

10 Feb

Saturday 12th February (15.30, UK time 14.30)

FC Bayern München – 1899 Hoffenheim

Bayern look to consolidate the best home record in the Bundesliga as they take on Hoffenheim at the Allianz. With Robben and Ribery likely to start together for the first time this season, Louis van Gaal’s team desperately need to bounce back from their second half collapse in Cologne.

Hoffenheim  were lucky to hang on at home to ‘Lautern last week and will want to tighten up at the back, else ‘Robbery’ could steal (ha, I should work for the Mirror) the three points themselves.

FC Schalke 04 – SC Freiburg

Schalke will be looking to right the wrongs of their last two home games where they slid to consecutive 1-0 defeats against Hamburg and Hoffenheim. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored in midweek for the Netherlands and will be looking to spark a side who have only scored once since the winter break. Schalke desperately need to hit form before thir trip to Valencia on Tuesday.

Freiburg’s big problem of late is that they have drawn 4 of their last 5 games. They might fancy their chances at the Veltins Arena, having won their last away game at Stuttgart and picked up creditable points at the BayArena and the Millerntor recently.

VfB Stuttgart – 1. FC Nürnberg

Stuttgart’s thrilling, perhaps lucky, vital win at ‘Gladbach last Saturday evening sparked wild celebrations on the touchline and the south-east corner of  Borussia Park. It gave them their first away win of the season, but home has definitely been where the ‘heart’ is this season for VfB. They need to make it back-to-back wins but Saturday will provide a tough test against a Nurnberg side who have moved into the top half on the back of two straight wins themselves.

VfL Wolfsburg – Hamburger SV

Wolfsburg’s first game since the sacking of Steve McClaren and the promoting of Pierre Littbarski sees Hamburg visit the Volkswagen Arena. VfL will be without Diego, who has been internally banned for disobeying team orders when he took (and missed) a penalty in last week’s 1-0 defeat to Hannover.

Armin Veh’s Hamburg, who had last week’s game against St. Pauli postponed, will be itching to get back to action but could have one eye on the rearranged derby scheduled for Wednesday.

Eintracht Frankfurt – Bayer 04 Leverkusen

Eintracht have still not scored this side of 2011 and have really faltered since a late 2010 run saw them into 7th place at Christmas.  They now lie in a comfortable 11th but need Gekas and co to start locating the net again before they get dragged into a relegation battle.

Last week, Rudi Völler acknowledged that Bayer Leverkusen had missed their chance (again!) to gain ground on BVB at the top with defeat at Nurnberg.  This week they travel to Frankfurt with doubts over Arturo Vidal (ankle) and without the influential Tranquillo Barnetta knowing any more slip-ups will kill their lingering title hopes and put them in serious danger of relinquishing their Champions League spot.

FC St. Pauli – Borussia M’gladbach

‘Gladbach will need to respond quickly after their devastating loss at home to Stuttgart last week, as they face another relegation battle at rested St. Pauli. One bright point for the Foals is that all four league victories this season have come away from Borussia Park. They can also draw heart from the fact that only themselves have a worse home record than Pauli.

Saturday 12th February (18.30, UK time 17.30)

1. FC Kaiserslautern – Borussia Dortmund

Kaiserslautern will consider themselves unlucky to have lost a thriller at Hoffenheim last time out but will surely have to improve the form that has seen them drop from 6 points clear of the relegation play-off place at Christmas to level on points with it now, if they are to get anything from BVB who have still only dropped 3 points away from home all season.

Dortmund will have been happy to see three of their players brought on for Germany on Wednesday evening but Marcel Schmelzer and Sven Bender will be chomping at the bit having been overlooked by Jogi Loew. Surely they can’t be as profligate in front of goal as they were in the derby last Friday?

Sunday 13th February (15.30, UK time 14.30)

1. FC Köln – 1. FSV Mainz 05

Fans in Cologne could not have believed their eyes when Milivoje Novakovic scored the second of his brace to complete the comeback against Bayern last Saturday. This time the Billy Goats (I know, I know) face Mainz who continue to make a mockery of pre-season predictions and still occupy a Champions League place.

Mainz suffered almost the opposite emotion to Koln last week when they conceded a last minute equaliser to Werder Bremen’s Claudio Pizarro.

Sunday 13th February (17.30, UK time 16.30)

SV Werder Bremen – Hannover 96

The Bundesliga weekend is wrapped up in Bremen, who host (reasonably) nearby Hannover. Werder will be looking to finally turn a corner in a season full of false dawns. Pizarro claimed last week’s last-gasp point-saver was in fact the turning point, but they will face a stern test in Hannover 96 – another surprise package of this season. Didier Ya Konan will be looking to add to his impressive 14 scorer points (10 goals + 4 assists). His importance to H96 can not be underestimated – they are yet to win in games he has missed this season.

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