Hamburger SV and Borussia Mönchengladbach's clash contains two talismanic figures for their sides, Rafael van der Vaart (l.) and Max Kruse (r.)
Hamburger SV and Borussia Mönchengladbach's clash contains two talismanic figures for their sides, Rafael van der Vaart (l.) and Max Kruse (r.)

Key points to be won at the top and bottom

Munich - As is custom in the Bundesliga, Saturday afternoon promises high-octane drama and excitement. Borussia Mönchengladbach travel to Hamburger SV, Bayer 04 Leverkusen look to keep pace at the top against Eintracht Braunschweig, and two clubs yet to win this season battle it out when 1. FC Nürnberg host SC Freiburg (kick-offs 15.30 CET).

Hamburger SV - Borussia Mönchengladbach previews the best of the top-flight action around Germany on Saturday afternoon.

Hamburger SV were languishing down in 16th place when Bert van Marwijk arrived after Matchday 6. His impact has been instantaneous, with HSV unbeaten in their last four games, scoring 15 goals in the process. Despite his good start, van Marwijk is certainly not resting on his laurels, though. “I’m still not relaxed about where we are in the table,” explained the Dutchman, whose team sit in 12th. “And Gladbach are one of the best teams in the Bundesliga.”

A 3-0 win over SC Freiburg on Matchday 10 wasn’t without its cost. Experienced centre-half Johan Djourou went off injured, and van Marwijk will have to continue with the young pairing of Lasse Sobiech and Jonathan Tah. “Obviously mistakes can happen, but they’ll only help the players develop,” believes the 61-year-old.

Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde

Similarly, Gladbach have defensive problems with which to contend. Alvaro Dominguez, Roel Brouwers and Filip Daems are all out, but the return of Martin Stranzl from suspension eases some of the worry. Coach Lucien Favre took a philosophical view of the situation in his press conference. “That’s football. We need to have faith in the players who can play," said the Swiss tactician.

Those who played last week did a fine job in the 4-1 success over Eintracht Frankfurt at Borussia Park, as Max Kruse again shone. Yet in spite of winning every home game this season, the Foals have picked up a solitary point on their travels, and Favre expects it to be tough against a “good, well-organised Hamburg side”.

Eintracht Braunschweig - Bayer 04 Leverkusen

Bayer 04 Leverkusen travel to Eintracht Braunschweig in search of their ninth win of the season, and boosted by the positivity surrounding Lars Bender. The 24-year-old not only returned from injury but also signed a new contract with the Werkself ahead of the Braunschweig fixture. He could replace Matchday 10's last-gasp hero Emre Can in midfield, but there are doubts surrounding senior striker Stefan Kießling.

The 29-year-old's lack of fitness means coach Sami Hyypiä doesn’t yet "know precisely what we’ll do” to counter Braunschweig’s wounded pride of Lions. “I’m expecting a tough game,” said the Finn. “If we’re to win, we’ll need to bring both passion and intensity onto the field.”

'Aiming to keep a clean sheet'

Braunschweig coach Torsten Lieberknecht is well aware of the third-placed opposition’s abilities. “They’re an incredibly good team,” said the 40-year-old, whose side lie bottom of the Bundesliga and haven’t won at home all season. “They make very few mistakes and are particularly strong on the break.”

Leverkusen loanee and key attacking component for the Lions Karim Bellarabi is a doubt after a pulled muscle, and summer signing Jan Hochscheidt remains unavailable. However, Lieberknecht will be plotting to prevent Leverkusen keeping pace with FC Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund at the top of the pile: “We’re aiming to keep them out for as long as possible. If we don’t concede, who knows what could happen."

1. FC Nürnberg - SC Freiburg

The Bundesliga’s two remaining clubs without a win, 1. FC Nürnberg and SC Freiburg, face off in the Grundig Stadium looking to compound each other’s misery. “A win is essential,” said new Nürnberg coach Gertjan Verbeek in his pre-match press conference, and not just to begin climbing the table but also for the Dutchman to kick-start his tenure at Der Club after presiding over a 1-1 draw at VfB Stuttgart in his first game in charge´.

“We’ve got to take the lead and not just hope for three points,” added Verbeek. The 51-year-old has “all players fit,” and will line up with his Japanese duo of Hiroshi Kiyotake and Makoto Hasebe in midfield, but is wary of Freiburg and their inspirational coach Christian Streich. “They could easily have won last week [against Hamburg].”

'Trained well'

Freiburg actually lost their last game 3-0 at home to the Red Shorts, where goalkeeper Oliver Baumann committed three errors, all of which led to goals. Streich refused to point the finger of blame at his goalkeeper, however, instead clarifying that “we didn’t play confidently enough anyway”.

He is expecting a different story against their Franconian hosts on Saturday. “We’ll be going into the game trying to play with confidence. We’ve trained well this week, and what happened to Oliver last week won’t happen often.” The 48-year-old, who has no fresh injury worries, has one expectation beyond a victory: “that every player selected plays to the best of his ability.”

Daniel Thacker

Since Halloween made its ghoulish appearance this week, rounded up the spookiest goals to hit the back of Bundesliga nets, check them out here on the official Bundesliga YouTube channel: