Munich - VfL Wolfsburg will be looking to maintain their push for a European place when they host Hannover 96 on Saturday. Meanwhile, 1899 Hoffenheim travel to winless 1. FC Nürnberg, while VfB Stuttgart face 1. FSV Mainz 05 at the Mercedes-Benz Arena (kick-off: 15:30 CET).
VfL Wolfsburg - Hannover 96
bundesliga.com rounds up Saturday's action from Germany's top flight...
is set to make his Wolves debut when Dieter Hecking's team welcome struggling Hannover 96 to the Volkswagen Arena this weekend. Coach Hecking confirmed on Friday that De Bruyne, who joined the club from Chelsea FC last week, will be included in the Wolves starting line-up against the Lower Saxony rivals.
"In the few days since his arrival, we've already been able to see the qualities he brings to our squad. I have no doubts whatsoever about playing him against Hannover," said Hecking, who wants his team to prove their European credentials by starting the 2013/14 Rückrunde with a win. "We have to prove that the quality everyone is talking about is really there."
Baptism of fire
New Hannover 96 coach Tayfun Korkut could hardly have wished for a more difficult start to his Bundesliga coaching career than a trip to the in-form Wolves, but the former Turkey international feels his team is more than capable of causing an upset, despite losing so far this season.
"VfL are favourites to win this game, but we will look to create chances and make the most of them," said the 39-year-old. "Ahead of such a tough start, there should be a few butterflies and that's likely to be the case with me. The most important thing is the team's performance. It’s not a problem if I'm a little nervous and my team is calm on the pitch."
1. FC Nürnberg - 1899 Hoffenheim
Struggling 1. FC Nürnberg host twelfth-placed 1899 Hoffenheim looking to stop their record-breaking winless run since the start of the season. The Bavarian outfit haven't played as poorly as their league position suggests, however: With eleven draws from their opening 17 matches, Gertjan Verbeek's team are by no means a pushover.
"We took a lot of positives from our friendlies during the winter break," said striker . "We tasted what it was like to win a game again and we finally want to break the curse in the Bundesliga. The Swiss striker will be hoping to add to his current tally of six league goals against Hoffenheim this weekend.
The Sinsheim outfit are looking forward to returning to Bundesliga action, according to coach Markus Gisdol. Hoffenheim have only won four games this season and are just four points clear of the relegation play-off place, but a win at the Grundig Stadion would help consolidate their position in mid-table of the division.
Both Jens Grahl and Koen Casteels produced good performances in goal during Hoffenheim's mid-season friendlies and Gisdol says he appreciates being in such a "comfortable position", with two keepers vying for a first-team spot. However, the 44-year-old has yet to decide which of the two stoppers will start the match on Saturday.
Stuttgart - 1. FSV Mainz 05
VfB Stuttgart, unbeaten at home in the league this season, take on a Mainz side five points ahead of the Swabians in ninth position. VfB lost 3-2 to Thomas Tuchel's team on the opening day of the season and are looking to set the record straight on Saturday. "It would be very important for our self-confidence to make a positive start to the year," said coach Thomas Schneider.
The club from Baden-Württemberg will be hoping that Vedad Ibisevic continues his run of good form. The Bosnia and Herzegovina striker, who found the net on eight occasions in the first half of the season, is set to be partnered in attack by Mohammed Abdellaoue, who "played consistently well during the winter preparations," according to Schneider. "He is lively, agile and dangerous in front of goal," added VfB's coach.
'We will have to run a lot'
Mainz finished the end of the Hinrunde strongly, with eleven points from their final six league matches of 2013. Tuchel is expecting a difficult test at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, however. "We will have to run a lot and are likely to be exhausted at the end of the game," he admitted.
Midfielder Nicolai Müller and Japanese striker Shinji Okazaki have been Mainz's stand-out performers so far this season. Both have scored eight goals so far in 2013/14, while on Matchday 17, Okazaki scored twice and assisted another goal in Mainz's 3-2 victory at Hamburger SV.