bundesliga.com previews the best of the action.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen - Hannover 96
Leverkusen can establish a six-point cushion over their fourth-placed visitors on Saturday and will be eager to build on the momentum gained from victories against 1. FSV Mainz and DFB Cup opponents DSC Arminia Bielefeld in the last week. Despite their clogged fixture list, the side comes into the game remarkably rested, as coach Sami Hyypiä’s rotation policy starts to pay dividends “It’s important to rotate when we’re playing so many games,” said the Finn, “I want all the players to be as fresh as possible.”
Having made a goalscoring starting debut for the Werkselfagainst Mainz last week, Robbie Kruse will be keener than most to consolidate his good form. Indeed, the Australian international will be licking his lips at the thought of running at a defence which conceded four in Munich in midweek and against a side that have struggled on the road and are yet to pick up a single point on their travels this term.
Hertha Berlin - 1. FSV Mainz 05
After starting the season on a wave of euphoria that brought seven points from their opening three games, promoted side Hertha have suffered a comedown in recent weeks. The midweek DFB Cup loss to Bundesliga 2 outfit 1. FC Kaiserslautern was downheartening, particularly following on from a poor performance in a draw with SC Freiburg, and the loss of their outstanding home record to VfB Stuttgart. Hertha will have to rebuild without young American centre-half John Anthony Brooks, who is still suffering from an elbow complaint, and key attacking midfielder Alexander Baumjohann, who has torn knee ligaments.
If Hertha coach Jos Luhukay could have hand-picked a team against whom to start rebuilding again, it would likely have been Mainz. The Karnevalklub were also shocked by a Bundesliga 2 side in the DFB Cup in midweek, suffering a . Furthermore, Thomas Tuchel's men suffered a demoralising home defeat to Leverkusen last weekend, prompting the coach to call upon his side to “take a few steps back and start afresh” ahead of Saturday’s game.
1899 Hoffenheim - FC Schalke 04
Hoffenheim tactician Markus Gisdol, who was a Schalke fan as a boy and used to be assistant coach at the Royal Blues, has assured fans that “any sympathies will be lying low on Saturday”. The 44-year-old's side are unbeaten at home this season, and after an uninspiring performance against VfL Wolfsburg on Matchday 6, Gisdol wants “everyone to be able to see who we are and what we have in mind to beat Schalke.”
The visitors are expected to welcome back Kevin-Prince Boateng and Julian Draxler after the duo missed Schalke’s 3-1 cup win against SV Darmstadt 98 on Wednesday night due to minor knocks. Both midfielders played in last week’s 4-0 home defeat by FC Bayern München, a result which knocked the wind out of Schalke’s sails. Prior to the loss, Schalke had won three on the trot and showed signs of recovery after a slow start to the season. Coach Jens Keller was impressed by his side’s “aggressiveness” against Darmstadt, and will expect more of the same in an attempt to rise from their current lowly 14th place.