Coming up this week on GOAL!...
Inside the Numbers
It may be looking increasingly like plain sailing for FC Bayern München at the top of the Bundesliga but while the battle for the remaining UEFA Champions League places hots up behind them, the relegation dogfight at the bottom promises to be an even more intense, not to mention large-scale affair. Going into Matchday 22, just ten points separate cellar-dwellers Eintracht Braunschweig from 1899 Hoffenheim, sitting seemingly comfortable in tenth place at the moment. None of the seven clubs in between those two are likely to be resting easy any time soon, traditional heavyweights such as Bremen, Stuttgart and Hamburg included. The battle to beat the drop always offers tension and thrills aplenty in Germany's top flight, but this year it promises to be one of the most memorable in many a year.
Eintracht Braunschweig threw themselves a considerable lifeline in the aforementioned context by dispatching fellow strugglers Hamburger SV 4-2 at the weekend. With his side a goal down at the break, coach Torsten Lieberknecht introduced Domi Kumbela for the second half. Braunschweig's top-scoring promotion hero last year had not been having an easy time of adjusting to life a division higher and had failed to even make the starting line-up since November. In his 45-minute shift against Hamburg, however, it all came good again in spectacular fashion for the 29-year-old striker as he hit the net three times to inspire Eintracht to a potentially season-defining victory – becoming only the seventh player in Bundesliga history to score a hattrick off the bench, and the first since Miroslav Klose for Bremen a decade ago. There's also an in-depth look at EIntracht Frankfurt defender Carlos Zambrano, who has goals with the Eagles, as well as the Peruvian national team, still to achieve.
Top Game I
It's fifth place against second when VfL Wolfsburg play host to Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Saturday and in the wake of their disparate Matchday 21 fortunes, the Wolves have the opportunity to narrow the gap on Sami Hyypiä's UEFA Champions League-chasing Werkself to just four points. While Bayer came off second-best at home to another direct rival in FC Schalke 04, Wolfsburg turned a 1-0 deficit into a victory for the fourth time this season, on this occasion at the expense of Hertha Berlin. That made it two wins in a row for Dieter Hecking's men, who had begun the year with an unpromising brace of defeats. With both sides thus having picked up six of the twelve available points so far in 2014, this promises to be a pivotal season encounter for both of these ambitious sides.
Top Game II
Having started so well under Tayfun Korkut, notching victories over Wolfsburg and Mönchengladbach, it has been back to 2013 for Hannover 96 as far as their away form is concerned, with consecutive 2-0 defeats at Schalke and Mainz. The good news for the 96ers, then, is that they are back on home turf this weekend, where they have won six of their ten encounters to date and lost just the one. The bad news is that the visitors are FC Bayern München, fresh from racking up a 13th straight victory in the Bundesliga – 4-0 over Freiburg in this instance – and virtually impervious to any noticeable drop-off in form when they take to the road. And with a fit-again Bastian Schweinsteiger getting a long-awaited taste of Bundesliga action off the bench last weekend, Pep Guardiola's cup of personnel options veritably floweth over as his charges prepare to chase down yet another three points towards their title defence.