bundesliga.com rounds up the action in Germany's top flight on Saturday afternoon.
1. FSV Mainz 05 - Borussia Mönchengladbach
Thomas Tuchel’s 1. FSV Mainz 05 welcome a Borussia Mönchengladbach side, in their best form for 16 years, to the Coface Arena with designs on putting an abrupt halt to their eight-match winning run. “I’ve got lots of respect for every side put in front of us,” said Tuchel. “But Gladbach will be particularly tough as they’re one of the best passing sides in the Bundesliga.”
“Currently we’re in a very good position going into the winter break,” Tuchel commented. That position could be improved against Gladbach with a near full-strength squad available. Elkin Soto is set to return from suspension, while super-sub Maxim Choupo-Moting's performance in Matchday 15’s 1-1 draw with 1. FC Nürnberg could propel him into contention for a starting spot.
Kruse and Raffael on track
Foals’ coach Lucien Favre, despite Gladbach sitting joint top of the Bundesliga form table, is wary of Mainz. “We’ve been watching them,” said the Swiss tactician. “They’re a very dangerous side with lots of good players.” In an attempt to keep his players’ feet firmly on the ground, he described the previous eight wins as “very close games which could have gone either way”.
Although he claims “not to be interested” in the record, his side’s efforts to build upon last week’s 2-1 defeat of of FC Schalke 04 are benefitted by the fact that “everyone is 100 per cent fit”. Striker Max Kruse, who already has eight goals has overcome a knock picked up in training and will resume his partnership up top with Raffael - who also has eight goals.
Hannover 96 - 1. FC Nürnberg
Hannover 96’s home form will be tested when winless 1. FC Nürnberg come calling in an attempt to avoid worsening an already-dismal record. The 96ers, however, are hardly in the best nick themselves, and before their last home win on Matchday 14, had gone eight games without picking up three points. “It’s a must-win against Nürnberg for us,” said 96ers coach Mirko Slomka.
“I expect us to be very high-pressing and confident on Saturday,” he added. “Nürnberg have actually put in some impressive away performances, but we’re totally prepared.” After his muscle strain, the experienced Lars Stindl could come back into the midfield reckoning, but Christian Schulz and Didier Ya Konan remain sidelined with long-term complaints.
More than a must
Being on the longest winless run from the start of a season in Bundesliga history, and despite nine draws in 15 matches, Nürnberg coach Gertjan Verbeek knows what a win would mean - particularly as he is now without one in the seven games since his appointment. “We’re going to do better than the 1-1 draw with Mainz on Matchday 15,” the Dutchman promised. “We’re hoping for a win.”
Daniel Ginczek’s recent injury worries haven’t helped Der Club’s hunt for three points in recent weeks, and although fit enough to be on the bench, it would be a surprise should the burly striker start. Hanno Baltisch is similarly touch and go to feature against his former club, but for whoever pulls on the red jersey, three points are becoming more than a must.
FC Augsburg - Eintracht Braunschweig
FC Augsburg know how Saturday’s bottom-of-the-league visitors Eintracht Braunschweig are feeling. “We know their situation exactly as we were in it last year,” said coach Markus Weinzierl. “They’ll be giving everything to pick up three points.” Everything, however, mightn’t be enough against Weinzierl’s men who have, for the first time in their history, kept three clean sheets on the trot.
“We know that we can beat anyone when we give 100 per cent,” added Weinzierl. “Our aim is to win the last home game of the calendar year and improve our league position.” Indeed, things are going so well for die Fuggerstädter at the moment, that Weinzierl has a choice of three in-form strikers. The return of Sascha Mölders means he will be competing alongside Raul Bobadilla, who scored the winner against Hamburger SV last week, and Halil Altintop for a starting berth.
Braunschweig coach, Torsten Lieberknecht, whose cheery start-of-the-season manner has waned away with each squandered point is psyching his players up for a tough test of their survival credentials. “Everyone in the league speaks of how tough a game it is against Augsburg,” highlighted the 40-year-old whose side haven’t picked up a point since Matchday 12. “They play with real desire and spirit.”
The question marks surrounding the first-choice central-defensive duo of Ermin Bicakcic (broken nose) and Deniz Dogan (bruised hip) refuse to go away, and Braunschweig “will wait until the last minute for a green light”. Before their second trip to Bavaria in as many weeks, Lieberknecht has bigger concerns, “I don’t really like flying, so I’m hoping for no turbulence en route south”. His side, meanwhile, will be hoping for no further disruptions on the pitch.