BUNDESLIGA WEEKEND PREVIEW: Leipzig desperate to get Timo Werner back to scoring form as they try and keep pace with leaders Bayern Munich as Dortmund head to Gladbach and there’s six-pointers at the bottom
- RB Leipzig have the chance to move back level with Bayern Munich on Saturday
- They head to Wolfsburg 24 hours before current leaders Bayern host Augsburg
- Third plays fourth as Borussia Dortmund head to Borussia Monchengladbach
- There’s a six-pointer at the bottom as Mainz play host to Fortuna Dusseldorf
Another important weekend lies in store in the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich desperate to extend their lead over the jostling chasing pack at the summit as a tense relegation battle plays out at the bottom.
Bayern could see their three-point advantage evaporate on Saturday afternoon if RB Leipzig win at Wolfsburg but have the opportunity to respond at home to Augsburg on Sunday.
Meanwhile, third meets fourth as Borussia Dortmund travel to Borussia Monchengladbach and there’s a vital six-pointer at the bottom as Mainz play Fortuna Dusseldorf.
Sportsmail looks forward to all the German top-flight action in our weekly preview.
Bayern Munich are on course for another Bundesliga title – but can anyone catch them?
Paderborn vs Cologne
7pm UK time, Live on BT Sport 2
It’s looking increasingly desperate for rock-bottom Paderborn, who urgently need to get some points on the board to extend their Bundesliga stay into a second season.
They’ve lost their last three matches, against Hertha Berlin, Bayern Munich and Mainz, and are now a daunting nine points adrift of the safety line.
You sense their next two matches will decide their destiny once and for all – this Friday’s home meeting with Cologne and then next week’s visit to Fortuna Dusseldorf, who currently occupy the relegation play-off spot.
But to compound matters for Steffen Baumgart, Paderborn will be without their top-scorer Streli Mamba because of a knee injury, placing more of the burden on the in-form Dennis Srbeny.
Paderborn’s Kai Proger cuts a dejected figure as the bottom side are beaten by Bayern Munich
How the bottom six in the Bundesliga looks ahead of another crucial weekend of matches
Cologne though have proved it is possible to clamber out of relegation danger and are on a terrific run of seven wins from their last nine league games that they’ll be fancied to extend.
Only Bayern and Borussia Dortmund have got the better of them in that time and much of their resurgence is down to leading scorer Jhon Cordoba.
Unfortunately, Colombian hotshot Cordoba, who has scored six times in those nine matches, is suspended after picking up a fifth yellow card in last weekend’s emphatic 3-0 win over Schalke.
Despite this, Cologne’ focus is on skipping further up the table, rather than being sucked back into the mire.
Cologne’s leading striker Jhon Cordoba, celebrating against Hertha Berlin, is out suspended
Bayer Leverkusen vs Eintracht Frankfurt
It’s been a satisfactory week for both of these teams as they advanced to the semi-finals of the German Cup and now they’ll both hope to keep the feel-good factor going.
Leverkusen can probably be counted out of the title race but certainly have aspirations of qualifying for the Champions League, while Frankfurt will be keen to boost their seven-point cushion to the drop zone.
The hosts are in sparkling form since the turn of the year, picking up a 16-point haul that is bettered only by Bayern and Dortmund, and losing just the one game.
Moussa Diaby celebrates scoring for Bayer Leverkusen in their cup victory over Union Berlin
Lars Bender is likely to miss out with a thigh injury but manager Peter Bosz should play midweek cup scorer Karim Bellarabi, who has 10 goals in his last 10 meetings with Frankfurt.
Frankfurt saw their Bundesliga match at Werder Bremen last weekend postponed and their fresher legs perhaps told in Wednesday’s 2-0 Pokal win over Werder Bremen.
One thing is for sure – this game should guarantee goals because none of the teams’ 69 previous Bundesliga games have finished goalless.
Schalke vs Hoffenheim
Having been battered 5-0 by Leipzig and 3-0 by Cologne in their last two league outings, Schalke at least salvaged some pride in a battling midweek cup performance against Bayern, even if they ultimately lost 1-0.
But David Wagner will be seriously alarmed by what’s become of his team in what is now a six-match winless run that has seen a potential challenge for the Champions League places fade away.
Instead now they find themselves sixth but looking over their shoulder in their efforts to secure at least some European football next season.
They remain strong at the VELTINS-Arena, losing just two home league games this season, and some key players such as Amine Harit will be fresh after sitting out the cup game.
Wales international Rabbi Matondo, 19, did well against Bayern and should be pushing for a start against Hoffenheim having been in and out of Wagner’s starting XI all season.
Welshman Rabbi Matondo is pushing for a start on Saturday as Schalke take on Hoffenheim
All the headlines about Hoffenheim at the moment concern their owner Dietmar Hopp, who has been the subject of various unsavory supporter banners and protests.
This has again opened the debate on German football’s 50+1 ownership rule and other clubs have stood in solidarity with Hopp even against their own fans.
The farcical end to their match against Bayern last weekend, in which the two sets of players essentially kicked the ball amongst themselves for the closing minutes, masked a completely spineless display in a 6-0 loss.
That urgently needs to be addressed because Hoffenheim have taken just four points from the last 15 on offer and yet could potentially leapfrog Schalke into sixth place with a win.
Their top scorer Andrej Kramaric has been struggling with his fitness but should return here and he has a very good track record against Schalke.
It remains to be seen if Schalke fans join their Bayern, Dortmund, Gladbach, Frankfurt and Union Berlin counterparts in the Hopp protests.
Eintracht Frankfurt fans join the protests against Hoffenheim’s disliked owner Dietmar Hopp
Hertha Berlin vs Werder Bremen
The past few weeks have been a real mess for Hertha Berlin with the resignation of manager Jurgen Klinsmann after just 10 weeks in the job and some damaging results.
Therefore, Saturday’s home game with relegation candidates Werder Bremen takes on plenty of significance even if Hertha do still have a six-point cushion to the drop zone.
That’s the kind of margin that can quickly disappear but there were signs of spirit last weekend as they came from three goals down to draw 3-3 with fellow strugglers Fortuna Dusseldorf.
Hertha Berlin coach Alexander Nouri will hope for another three points in their survival bid
It was a boost for interim manager Alexander Nouri, who has been left to mop up the mess, but they have still won just once in their last six in all competitions.
Bremen know all about Nouri – he was the man who saved them from a relegation dogfight and into European contention back in the 2016-17 season.
They could do with a similar rescue mission right about now, sitting second bottom, only a point better off than Paderborn and eight from safety.
They also have the lowest goals tally in the Bundesliga, the most goals conceded and the worst goal difference, so we’ll soon be into miracle territory as they face second division football for the first time since 1980-81.
Werder Bremen fans set off fireworks during their midweek Cup defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt
Freiburg vs Union Berlin
It seems some time now since Christian Streich’s Freiburg were threatening to gatecrash the top four but despite their fall to mid-table, the Black Forest club are still enjoying their second-best Bundesliga season.
They’ve won just two of their last 10 Bundesliga matches, with main striker and Germany international Luca Waldschmidt scoring only five goals in an injury-interrupted campaign and top scorer Nils Petersen goalless in six.
But, as they prepare to face the team immediately below them in Union Berlin, the good news is that much of their strength this season has come from playing at their Schwarzwald-Stadion ‘fortress’.
Freiburg’s Jonathan Schmid challenges Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho last weekend
Just like Freiburg, Union Berlin have defied all expectations this season and it’s fair to say nobody expected the promoted side to be sitting 10th – nine points above relegation danger – in early March.
Union have 30 points on the board and will feel another couple of wins will get them over the line with just 10 matches of the season left.
Indeed, their points return at this stage is the best recorded by a newly-promoted side since the exploits of SSV Ulm in 1989-90 but they’re not as strong on the road as at home.
Sebastian Andersson scores Union Berlin’s opening goal against Wolfsburg last Sunday
Wolfsburg vs RB Leipzig
With Bayern hitting their stride after a bumpy season, it’s imperative that Leipzig don’t slip up during the home stretch if they want to realise their Bundesliga title dreams.
Playing 24 hours before Bayern this weekend, Leipzig have a golden opportunity to draw level on 52 points and pile on the pressure.
They could only draw at home to Leverkusen last weekend after falling behind to Leon Bailey’s goal and Bayern’s thrashing of Hoffenheim widened the gap at the top.
Julian Nagelsmann’s side have only lost once in 15 Bundesliga outings but they have been drawing too many since the winter break.
Timo Werner’s goals have dried up since the turn of the year as RB Leipzig keep pace at the top
Leipzig can’t really afford a slip-up at Wolfsburg as they try and prevent Bayern getting away
That dip in form can partly be explained by Timo Werner going through what can be described as a blip by his sky-high standards.
He has only netted three Bundesliga goals since the resumption, as opposed to 18 before Christmas, and everyone at Leipzig knows only too well he needs to find a second wind.
In that regard, this visit to seventh-place Wolfsburg is well-timed given Werner has five goals in eight meetings with them.
Wolfsburg had to twice come from behind to draw at Union Berlin last time out but they’re unbeaten now in five and their key striker Wout Weghorst is in decent form with four in three league games.
If Leipzig drop points again and Bayern win on Sunday, it becomes increasingly hard to see the reigning champions letting their crown slip from here.
Wout Weghorst heads home for Wolfsburg in their come-from-behind draw at Union Berlin
Borussia Monchengladbach vs Borussia Dortmund
5.30pm, Live on BT Sport 2 and BT Sport Ultimate
The choice match of the Bundesliga weekend takes the primetime slot on Saturday night as third-placed Borussia Dortmund head to fourth-place Monchengladbach.
At just four and six points adrift of Bayern respectively, neither team can be counted out of the title race and so it’s vital neither drop points at the BORUSSIA-PARK.
Some wrote off Dortmund’s title chances when they lost that seven-goal thriller at Leverkusen early last month, but consecutive wins over Frankfurt, Werder Bremen and Freiburg, as well as Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, have kept the flame burning.
Erling Haaland has been dominating the headlines with nine league goals in seven Bundesliga outings so far and the Norwegian is expected to return to Lucien Favre’s starting line-up after illness benched him last week.
Erling Haaland will return to Dortmund’s starting XI hoping to add to his nine Bundesliga goals
Jadon Sancho, meanwhile, has either scored or assisted a goal in each of his last seven league matches as he continues to go from strength to strength in a superb season.
But Gladbach is somewhere they could very easily come unstuck. The Foals are unbeaten in five league games as they attempt to consolidate a top four place at the very least.
Weirdly, none of those five have featured a clean sheet, a surprise for a team whose strength has been their excellent defensive record this season.
This fixture is very much an old boys’ reunion – Jonas Hofmann, Matthias Ginter, Mahmoud Dahoud, Thorgan Hazard and Nico Schulz all come up against their former employer.
There would be another one in Marco Reus but he’s out injured, while Haaland worked under Gladbach coach Marco Rose during his time at Red Bull Salzburg.
Borussia Monchengladbach celebrate one of their goals away to Augsburg last weekend
Bayern Munich vs Augsburg
2.30pm, Live on BT Sport 3
After a turbulent season by their standards, Bayern are back exactly where they want to be.
They’ve dropped points just once since early December, propelling them into a three-point advantage at the top as they chase that eighth consecutive Bundesliga title.
There have also been some rather ominous drubbing in recent weeks – just ask Hertha Berlin, Schalke, Cologne, Chelsea and Hoffenheim, who’ve all felt the sharp end of Bayern’s attack since Christmas.
Philippe Coutinho celebrates scoring during Bayern Munich’s six-goal rout of Hoffenheim
Robert Lewandowski now has 25 goals for the league season, pulling clear of Werner in the Golden Boot race, while even Philippe Coutinho netted twice at Hoffenheim last week.
It’s all clicking for the Bavarians and they’ll again be expected to run up a cricket score against ailing Augsburg.
Their neighbours to the north-west are just six points above the relegation play-off spot, part of a cluster of teams attempting to get away from danger.
It’s been a grim 2020 but them so far, with just the one win in seven games, that coming against struggling Bremen, and five losses.
Mind you, Augsburg did manage to hold Bayern 2-2 on their own patch back in October thanks to goals scored in the first and last minutes.
Augsburg’s Eduard Lowen reacts during their recent loss to Bayer Leverkusen
Mainz vs Fortuna Dusseldorf
5pm, Live on BT Sport 3
This is what you call a relegation six-pointer to round off the weekend with Mainz and Fortuna Dusseldorf sitting either side of the safety line.
Mainz start the weekend with a four-point advantage over Dusseldorf and it remains to be seen whether they end it seven ahead and heading for salvation or deep in the mire.
The hosts boosted their survival chances last weekend with a 2-0 win over Paderborn, just their second success since the winter break.
Dusseldorf, meanwhile, chucked away a three-goal lead to draw with Hertha Berlin last Friday and then suffered the humiliation of being dumped out of the Cup by fourth-tier Saarbrucken in midweek.
That loss in a dramatic penalty shoot-out, after they believed they’d rescued themselves with a last-minute leveller, came as a bitter blow to their confidence.
And with Bayern, Dortmund and Leipzig all to play during the run-in, Fortuna simply cannot afford to lose this one.
Utter misery for Dusseldorf as they are dumped out of the cup by fourth-tier Saarbrucken
Source: Read Full Article