Munich - Eintracht Frankurt and FC Schalke 04 go shoulder to shoulder for a place in Europe in what promises to be an attack-minded encounter.
Elsewhere, Bayer 04 Leverkusen will be looking to pull further away from that duo by leaving Hoffenheim in ever greater relegation danger, while Fortuna Düsseldorf are determined to avoid a similar fate away to Hamburger SV. bundesliga.com rounds up the Saturday afternoon fixtures...
Tranquillo Barnetta, Jermaine Jones and Roman Neustädter are all back for Schalke 04’s trip to Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, a game which could go some way in defining the two sides’ European ambitions.
With just six points in their last nine games, Frankfurt have slipped out of the race for a place in the UEFA Champions League, although they are still in the running for a UEFA Europa League berth.
The Royal Blues, on the other hand, have climbed up to fourth with 17 points over the same period, and another win at the Commerzbank Arena would strengthen their claim to another year in Europe’s elite club competition after reaching the last 16 this season.
Nevertheless, Schalke are not taking the task lightly, although Neustädter believes they have the strength and resolve to hold off their challengers for a top-four finish. “On paper, we have some tough challenges, but I think we’ve seen in the games against Dortmund or even in Leverkusen that we can get points in such games and come back when needed,” the midfielder said.
Rafael van der Vaart will not have such fond memories of Fortuna Düsseldorf as he prepares to lead Hamburger SV out against the Bundesliga strugglers at the Imtech Arena.
In the reverse fixture between these two sides, the Dutchman picked up an injury after 31 minutes and missed the following four games. He has since returned and was last week named the north German club's new captain for the 2-1 win at 1. FSV Mainz 05. In view of that result, changes are unlikely as Hamburg bid to seek revenge for a 2-0 defeat in the North-Rhine Westphalian capital.
“I’m tending towards giving the same eleven who shone against Mainz the chance,” said coach Thorsten Fink. That includes two-goal hotshot Heung Min Son, although top-scorer Artjoms Rudnevs, who was rested in Mainz, “could slip back in,” according to Fink. “It’s a tough decision, especially when you’ve won your last game.”
Fortuna have to go back over two months to remember what that feels like. Since a 1-0 win over Greuther Fürth, they have picked up just three points in their last seven games and find themselves on the brink of the bottom three. “We knew it was going to be a tough season, but we are right in the running,” said coach Norbert Meier.
While Leverkusen striker Stefan Kießling was absent from training on Thursday, there is no reason to start ringing the alarm bells according to coach Sami Hyppiä.
The Germany striker, scorer of 19 and creator of seven of the side's 53 goals this season, was “just tired” and should be fit to face 1899 Hoffenheim. After letting a two-goal lead slip away to Schalke last week, the hosts will be champing at the bit to make amends this time.
Since Markus Gisdol has been calling the shots in Sinsheim, the strugglers have awoken from their slumber and are now fighting back to extend their five-year permanence in the Bundesliga. “Since they changed their coach, they’ve been playing differently,” said Hyppiä. “Some people may think it will be easy for us, but that’s certainly not the case.”
According to Hoffenheim defender Andreas Beck, Gisdol has struck a chord with the team. “The way we’ve been playing recently suits us,” he said. “It makes us play with more freedom and the pressure has reduced.” Pressure is nevertheless there as Hoffenheim chase aim to close the six point gap on 15th place.