Munich - There are a trio of captivating clashes from the upper echelons of the Bundesliga table on Matchday 12. Bayer 04 Leverkusen welcome Hamburger SV, FC Schalke 04 host SV Werder Bremen and Hertha Berlin make the long journey to play 1899 Hoffenheim (kick-offs 15:30 CET).
Bayer 04 Leverkusen - Hamburger SV
bundesliga.com previews all the exciting action...
An uncharacteristically below-par week for Leverkusen with a Matchday 11 loss to Eintracht Braunschweig followed by a draw in Donetsk has forced Sami Hyypiä to reappraise his side which has only dropped two points at home all season. "We need a little bit more composure and conviction on the field, but we've definitely got enough confidence to beat Hamburg."
Last week's loss in Braunschweig was marred by Lars Bender’s first-ever Bundesliga red card, and his suspension means Emre Can, hero of the last home game against FC Augsburg, will feature in Stefan Reinartz's absence. Stefan Kießling, who was involved in all four of Leverkusen’s goals against Hamburg last season, should resume up front.
'A difficult game'
Hamburg coach Bert van Marwijk suffered the first loss of his tenure against Borussia Mönchengladbach last weekend, and isn’t expecting things to be any easier in the BayArena. He travels south without striker Artjoms Rudnevs, "he and Johan Djourou are out, otherwise everyone else is fit".
After the Gladbach loss van Marwijk is expecting another tough test for his young team. "The table says everything about Leverkusen’s strength, it’ll be a difficult game." He had kind words for 22-year-old defender Lasse Sobiech, whose mistakes led to Gladbach’s two goals. "I’ve spoken to Lasse privately, he’ll play on Saturday."
FC Schalke 04 - SV Werder Bremen
After a midweek defeat to Chelsea FC in the UEFA Champions League, FC Schalke 04 return to Bundesliga action where three points are vital in order to keep pace near the top of the table. Coach Jens Keller highlighted the necessity of success, "we want to improve on last week's victory over Hertha Berlin by winning well against Bremen".
Attacking midfielders Kevin-Prince Boateng and Julian Draxler were taken off in the Chelsea game with knocks, and although expected to be fit, there remain minor worries. Bremen coach Robin Dutt described them as "two key players," and were they to be ruled out, would join the experienced trio of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Jefferson Farfan and Marco Höger on the sidelines.
'Do away with short-termism'
After picking up a crucial derby win when hosting Hannover 96 last weekend, Bremen have been boosted by the imminent return of summer signing Franco di Santo up front. "We’ll have a look in training," said Dutt, but the Argentinian should at the very least feature from the bench. Although Nils Petersen is still out, Bremen have had an untroubled week of preparations.
According to Dutt, they’ll need it. "Schalke belong to the top four teams in the Bundesliga," said the coach. "In order to compete, we need to do away with our culture of short-termism." Dutt has made a good start to his Bremen managerial career, but his side were handed a 3-0 hammering by VfL Wolfsburg on their most recent away trip.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - Hertha Berlin
Hoffenheim will hope their second home game in a row is a little easier than the last. After a battling loss to FC Bayern München however, coach Markus Gisdol is taking nothing for granted, particularly against their capital-city opponents. "We’re not ‘due’ a win just because it’s at home. You don’t win any Bundesliga game easily and Hertha are a good team who play attractive, attacking football."
Gisdol’s men will remain with former Hertha man Sejad Salihovic at left-back in the absence of US international Fabian Johnson. "I see no need for change," said the coach. Otherwise, the formidable attacking trio of Anthony Modeste, Kevin Volland and Roberto Firmino are all fit and firing having scored 18 goals between them this season.
Defensive improvements required
Hertha can breathe a sigh of relief ahead of the long journey to Sinsheim as free-kick specialist Ronny is available after a knee complaint. Young American centre-half John-Anthony Brooks should also return to the starting eleven after his recent elbow troubles, while formidable attacking duo Adrian Ramos and Anis Ben-Hatira will be eagerly anticipating facing the leakiest defence in the Bundesliga.
Coach Jos Luhukay, however, has defensive problems of his own with which to contend. His side lost 2-0 at home to Schalke on Matchday 11, and after the game he bemoaned an error from Thomas Kraft. "He came out to get the ball, and he didn’t get it. They scored. That’s a mistake." Captain Fabian Lustenberger, who could move into midfield with the return of Brooks, has promised to "defend aggressively" against Hoffenheim, but despite that, there are goals guaranteed in this one.