Munich - Saturday's mid-afternoon fixtures promise goals and drama in equal measure with the 100th Northern derby between SV Werder Bremen and Hamburger SV, a match which could have wide-spread implications in the relegation battle, providing the headline act.
Werder Bremen - Hamburger SV
Elsewhere, Eintracht Braunschweig hope to capitalise on Borussia Mönchengladbach's poor form, while FC Augsburg are keen to maintain their momentum against Hannover 96. bundesliga.com previews the 14:30 GMT/15:30 CET kick-offs...
Bremen host Hamburg in what will be the 100th Bundesliga meeting between these two sides. Bremen have not yet succeeded in bagging three points since the start of the second half of the season, but boast a slight historical edge in the Northern derby, having won 35, drawn 33 and lost 31 of the 99 meetings so far.
Coach Robin Dutt is aware that Saturday's match could get a bit heated, but is hoping his side can overcome that in an encounter that could prove pivotal in the Grün-Weißen retaining their status in Germany's top flight. “We need to play with controlled aggression,” said the 49-year-old, whose side are just three points off the drop zone at present and in need of rediscovering their goalscoring form having found the net just three times since the turn of the year.
'Something to defend'
Despite conceding more goals than any other Bundesliga side this season, Hamburg could still move above Bremen on Saturday due to their superior goal difference. The Red Shorts are fresh off a 3-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund, a terrific win that saw newly-appointed Mirko Slomka, who lost his last nine away fixtures as Hannover head coach, turn around their seven-game losing streak.
“If we win we'll finally be in a situation where we'll have something to defend,” explained Slomka, who will once again call upon the services of top goalscorer Pierre-Michel Lasogga. "Both teams will give it everything," explained the newly-nominated German international. "It will be a very tight game." Elsewhere, Dinos' midfielder Raphael van der Vaart has returned to team training after injuring his ankle, but doubts still remain as to whether the Dutchman is fit enough to feature.
Eintracht Braunschweig - Borussia Mönchengladbach
After penning a new deal at the club, Braunschweig head coach Torsten Lieberknecht turns his attentions to more pressing matters as he looks to engineer the Lions' ascent of the Bundesliga ladder. The Lower Saxony outfit have amassed just 15 points from 22 matches so far this season and shipped 41 goals in the process, with last weekend's 2-1 defeat at rejuvenated 1. FC Nürnberg leaving Lieberknecht's charges with five points to make up on 15th-placed VfB Stuttgart going into this weekend's round of fixtures.
"After the game in Nürnberg, we have to show our quality," explained the Braunschweig strategist. "Of course we've analysed the mistakes that led to the goals because we don't want to repeat them. Gladbach are a really good team, justifiably chasing European football. We've got great respect for them and will give everything to reach their position. It's another big task and we need the support of our fans to enjoy success together.
'We're in with a chance'
What Lieberknecht failed to mention, however, is that visitors Gladbach's European ambitions are fading at a rate of knots. The sixth-placed Foals have failed to win a single one of their last seven Bundesliga outings - their longest barren spell under current head coach Lucien Favre - and could find themselves down in ninth come Saturday evening, depending on results elsewhere.
"The situation isn't easy for us," admitted goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. "We've got to be positive and look forward and just concentrate on winning the next game. That will be difficult enough but we're in with a chance and we'll give 100 per cent to get a result in Braunschweig."
FC Augsburg - Hannover 96
Augsburg didn't need an extra boost ahead of this weekend, but after hearing that midfielder Andre Hahn had been called up to the German national team for the first time, die Fuggerstädter will be hoping to put the cherry on top with victory over Hannover. Going into Matchday 23, the hosts have already amassed more points this season (34) than they did in the entirety of the previous campaign (33) and will be confident of extending their impressive run of form on Saturday.
Augsburg have collected ten points from a possible 15 since the winter break and head coach Markus Weizierl knows his side have what it takes to add to that tally. “We want to at the very least get something tangible from the match,” said the 39-year-old, whose men have several fixtures against teams in the top half of the table between now and Matchday 34. “This season has been so wonderful that we don’t want to set our goals too high.”
Too close to relegation
Hannover, meanwhile, are in dire need of picking up a win and, with just five points separating them and 16th-placed Hamburg, they are still very much in the danger zone. Coach Tayfun Korkut stated that the Reds are determined “not to let the five-point gap between us and the relegation zone get any smaller, but, if possible, to increase the distance”. However, that is easier said than done for the 96ers, who have suffered three straight losses without finding the net, most recently suffering a 4-0 defeat to FC Bayern München.
Good news for the club from Lower Saxony, though, is that they have never lost a competitive match against Augsburg (three wins, four draws). Korkut insisted they dare not rely on such statistics, however, saying, “It's easier for the players to perform better if they are calm and do not feel under too much pressure."