Hamburg against Bremen, the most-played fixture in the Bundesliga, saw the home side emerge victorious on both occasions in 2012/13
Hamburg against Bremen, the most-played fixture in the Bundesliga, saw the home side emerge victorious on both occasions in 2012/13

Northern derby tops Saturday's bill

Munich - A change in coach aside, this Saturday's first northern derby of the season between Hamburger SV and SV Werder Bremen (kick-off 15:30 CEST) promises to pack quite a punch. Meanwhile, Hannover 96 host in-form FC Augsburg and free-scoring 1899 Hoffenheim head into Wolfsburg's lair.

Hamburger SV - SV Werder Bremen rounds up Saturday's action in the Bundesliga.

For the 99th time, north German rivals Hamburger SV and SV Werder Bremen lock horns this Saturday with plenty at stake, albeit not in the same sense as 2009. Four years ago, a marathon of derbies determined honours as these two teams challenged in the Bundesliga and Europe. Now, there is a cold front spreading over the north and points are needed for more than just pride.

Football fever

“The team and the whole city are looking forward to the derby, and so am I,” said Hamburg’s caretaker-coach Rodolfo Cardoso, who replaced Thorsten Fink earlier in the week. For his Bremen counterpart, it will be his first taste of a derby which dates back 86 years. “Football fever boils within me, and derby fever will soon join it,” he quipped.

And on a weekend when the Oktoberfest beer festival starts at the other end of the country, the alcoholic beverage has become a theme of discussion in the north too. Hamburg captain Rafael van der Vaart has placed a bet with Bremen midfielder Clemens Fritz: the loser will donate 500 litres of free beer to the opposition fans for their Christmas party. “If we beat Werder, then everybody is happy,” he said. Everybody, that is, apart from the fans on the Weser.

Hannover 96 - FC Augsburg

FC Augsburg set a new club record last weekend by winning a third straight Bundesliga fixture, and they travel to face Hannover 96 looking to make it four on Saturday. The Bavarians’ record-breaking march has taken them up to sixth in the table, although a club from humble beginnings is not going to lose their sense of identity when things are going right, just as they refused admit defeat when things weren't looking so rosy in their previous two top-flight campaigns.

Hannover’s home strength

“Nobody is getting carried away,” said coach Markus Weinzierl. “We’ve got nine out of the 40 points we’re aiming for, nothing more than that.” Indeed, his side travel to Hanover in the same role they have been used to since gaining promotion to Germany’s top flight two years ago. “We’re the outsiders – we’re always the outsiders,” added Weinzierl. “But we want to cause a surprise.”

Victory for Augsburg at the HDI Arena really would be a surprise, considering the Reds’ home strength. Mirko Slomka’s men have picked up a maximum nine points from their three games on home soil this season, while they were beaten only three times in front of their own fans last season. However, they will be without star striker Mame Diouf on Saturday as he is not yet ready to return from injury. “He’s currently a bit fearful so we’re going to be cautious,” said Slomka.

VfL Wolfsburg - 1899 Hoffenheim

VfL Wolfsburg host free-scoring 1899 Hoffenheim this weekend hoping to get back to winning ways following their defeat to Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Matchday 5. The Wolves have won both their home matches so far this season, but Hoffenheim will be in confident mood after their victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach last weekend. Furthermore, Markus Gisdol’s side have scored 14 goals so far this season - a Bundesliga best for the Sinsheim side.

Few changes

Apart from the suspended Luiz Gustavo and the injured Bas Dost, Wolves' boss Dieter Hecking has a full squad to choose from for the encounter. “I am considering starting with the same side that began against Leverkusen - with the exception of Gustavo - in order to give the players a chance to do things better,” said the head coach, who knows his players will have to be at their best to overcome the team from Sinsheim.

Despite scoring at least twice in every match this season, Hoffenheim have leaked a total of 13 at the other end. “Our task in the coming weeks is to find the right balance between defence and attack,” said Gisdol. Sejad Salihovic serves the final game of his three-game suspension on Saturday and Roberto Firmino remains doubtful following the ankle injury that kept him out of the victory against Gladbach. However, Sebastian Rudy and Anthony Modeste should be fit after picking up knocks against the Foals.