Munich - Europa League participants Borussia Mönchengladbach and VfB Stuttgart go head to head at the Borussia Park Stadion this Saturday, with fellow European challengers Hannover 96 hosting SC Freiburg. Elsewhere, Mainz travel to Hamburg and Eintracht Frankfurt face Augsburg in an inaugural meeting (all kick-offs 15:30 CET).
Matchday 12 pits together two sides who were on contrasting ends of remarkable comebacks last week. The hosts are understandably confident after overcoming a two-goal deficit to beat Greuther Fürth 4-2, while Stuttgart lost by the same scoreline having led 2-0 at home to Hannover. Nevertheless, Gladbach coach Lucien Favre is not expecting the guests' defence to be quite so generous this time: "It's extremely difficult to find spaces against them. We need to fight hard for every point."
The Swiss tactician will once again be deprived of captain Filip Daems due to adductor muscle complaints, while striker Luuk de Jong remains sidelined with knee trouble. In the absence of the Dutch forward, winger Patrick Herrmann is set to fill the gap again as the Foals look to extend their unbeaten run to four.
Having arrested their poor early season form, Stuttgart have suffered another mini-slump and have taken just one point from their last two outings. Goalkeeper Sven Ulreich likened last week's shock defeat to "being in a bad film" but insists he and his team-mates will not repeat their mistakes. "We didn't defend aggressively enough and weren't compact enough at the back. But we'll be well prepared and I'm optimistic we can get a result."
The Swabians must make do without injured the Daniel Didavi and veteran forward Cacau, although given the present strike rate of Vedad Ibisevic - with six league goals to date - the attacking duo's absence has been well compensated for.
Hannover will be confident of building on last week's result and victory would extend their current winning streak to three games on the bounce. The omens are promising too as, statistically, Mirko Slomka's side enjoy playing Freiburg more than any other current top-flight side, with four wins and four draws from the most recent eight encounters.
Nevertheless, at his pre-match press conference, coach Mirko Slomka warned his troops against complacency and was full of praise for the visitors, describing them as a "very strong and well-organised" side. The 45-year-old is able to call on Sergio da Silva Pinto, Steven Cherundolo and Artur Sobiech after the trio recovered from knocks.
Freiburg will be more determined than ever to break their Hannover hoodoo, especially with a tough run of games ahead against European participants Stuttgart and Bayern Munich. One factor in the Black Forest club's favour is their excellent defensive record on the road. The five goals conceded away from home so far represent the third best quota in the league.
Coach Christian Streich, whose squad is only missing defenders Immanuel Höhn and Matthias Ginter, is expecting a tough game, but insists his side have the wherewithal to cope: "We're not going there to sit back and defend, but will try to play our own game."
Hamburg boss Thorsten Fink has a selection headache ahead of Mainz's visit. After Paul Scharner was sent off on his debut in Freiburg last week, the coach must decide whether to reinstate the well-again Michael Mancienne alongside Heiko Westermann, or stick with Scharner's impressive replacement Jeffrey Bruma.
The visitors are currently three points better off, yet that does not come as a surprise to Fink, who has typically studied his adversary carefully. "They're a difficult opponent and are in great form right now. What sets them apart is that they play their own game and have great balance in the side. We need to be careful, but we're at home and are definitely capable of winning."
Four victories from their last six games speak volumes for Mainz's present run, which has rocketed them from hovering above the relegation zone to the verge of a European place in a matter of weeks. While Thomas Tuchel's men may not be the greatest away side, with just five points gleaned from their travels this term, they do boast the league's joint-top scorer in Adam Szalai, with eight goals thus far.
The Hungarian's purple patch has softened the blow of losing fellow forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to injury, although the absence of creative midfielder Julian Baumgartlinger through suspension will be difficult to compensate for.
Eintracht Frankfurt and Augsburg have never met in a competitive match, but Eagles’ coach Armin Veh nonetheless knows plenty about the visitors. Veh was born and raised in Augsburg, playing several seasons for the club in the lower leagues before starting his coaching career there in 1990.
Now in the big time, Veh's Frankfurt side have been remarkably impressive this term and currently sit third in the table - their lowest placing so far this season. And after a couargeously attacking display against FC Bayern Munich last week, Bayern president Uli Hoeneß believes there is plenty more still to come. “Eintracht are going to continue to set the Bundesliga alight. They are always going to be capable of winning away. In the end, they are going to be able to create surprises that not even they would believe possible.”
Victory over Augsburg at the Commerzbank Arena would not be such a surprise, though. The guests have yet to win on their travels until now, picking up just two points in five games away from home. They have also lost their first choice goalkeeper Simon Jentzsch to a finger injury which rules him out until the new year. “Mo is our number one until Christmas,” announced coach Markus Weinzierl, promoting Moroccan talent Mohammed Amsif for the second time this season.
Yet curiously, the personnel change could also bring about a change of fortunes. Augsburg have picked up all six of their points so far with Amsif between the sticks, while they have lost each time Jentzsch has played. Understandably, the 23-year-old stand-in is champing at the bit to prove his worth once more: "I want to carry on where I left off."