Munich - Bayer 04 Leverkusen can clinch third this weekend while things start to hot up at the foot of the table.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen - SV Werder Bremen
VfL Wolfsburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach go Dutch, while Augsburg and Hoffenheim face tricky tests of their Bundesliga credentials against VfB Stuttgart and 1. FC Nuremberg repspectively. bundesliga.com summarises the state of affairs ahead of Saturday's action.
Leverkusen will be focusing on clinching third spot in the Bundesliga when they entertain Bremen this Saturday. A win for the Werkself may be enough to seal their place in next season's UEFA Champions League.
"We’ve only got to focus on ourselves and go into the game full of self-confidence," said joint coach Sami Hyypiä, who hopes to have back at his disposal after the Bayer top scorer sat out training on Wednesday.
Confidence is in rather short supply in Bremen, meanwhile, and they make the trip to Leverkusen without attacking duo and . The pair have been disciplined for being out in the early hours less than 48 hours before an important Bundesliga fixture.
"We cannot tolerate such unprofessional behaviour in preparation for the Leverkusen game," said coach Thomas Schaaf. "The players have been suspended until we can clear the situation up with them." Schaaf may also lose after he took two knocks on his thigh "in the very same place, which is why it hurts a lot," according to the Belgian.
VfL Wolfsburg - Borussia Mönchengladbach
Wolfsburg’s clash with Borussia Mönchengladbach could be decided by a Dutchman with the home team’s striker squaring off with his compatriot at the Volkswagen-Arena.
Two of the Eredivisie's best strikers last season are now entertaining Bundesliga crowds and, after a while adjusting to the frenetic pace of German football, both are now starting to show how they built such potent reputations over the border.
"No easy opponents"
Dost has scored eight goals this season while De Jong has upped his tally to six, and is gunning for his compatriot. "Bas is a great lad and I wish him every success," said De Jong on the official Borussia website. "I hope to be important to my team and to contribute to us reaching our goals."
Those goals included qualifying for the UEFA Europa League next season. “Everything’s still very tight between fourth and eighth and we’re up against strong opponents, although to be honest, there are no easy opponents in the Bundesliga. It’s going to be important that we play a good game."
FC Augsburg - VfB Stuttgart
FC Augsburg have four games to complete what appeared to be an impossible mission just four months ago and their coach Markus Weinzierl is demanding an eagle-eyed focus against VfB Stuttgart on Saturday.
With just nine points at the midway stage of the season, "practically everybody had written us off", according to Weinzierl, who is taking great pleasure in disproving them. "Our aim (in January) was to keep things exciting right to the end and give ourselves a chance, and now were right where we wanted to be."
Finish line in sight
Three goals from Ji Dong-Won and as many from compatriot Ja-Cheol Koo have helped inspire the Bavarians to a late-season surge and, although the latter is still out with a stomach muscle injury, the former will be leading their assault on three more points.
"Everybody knows what this game means," added Weinzierl. “We’ve four games to reach our aim of staying up." Stuttgart have already achieved one objective for the season by qualifying for the UEFA Europa League, which is why coach Bruno Labbadia gave his players two days off. “That was really good for us,” said top-scorer Vedad Ibisevic who, like his team mates, has fully recharged his batteries.
1899 Hoffenheim - 1. FC Nuremberg
Hoffenheim host Nuremberg aware that chances to avoid relegation are running out fast. A 5-0 defeat to Bayer 04 Leverkusen a week ago has left Markus Gisdol’s men six points adrift of safety with four games of the season to go.
"We mustn’t read too much into the Leverkusen result," said Gisdol. "I’ve at least got some good impressions from training. We’re going to throw everything into this game in order to survive." For Takashi Usami, tomorrow’s match may be his penultimate at the WIRSOL-Rhein-Neckar-Arena before returning to parent club Gamba Osaka in the summer.
For the visitors, the aim is to restore some pride after a painful derby defeat to Greuther Fürth a week ago. “We had the chance to turn a good season into a very good one, but we gave it away easily," said their coach Michael Wiesinger. "Still, we can make up for that in our remaining four games."
Nuremberg are not mathematically safe yet, but a point on Saturday should enable them to turn their thoughts to next season in the top flight.