bundesliga.com previews this weekend's action...
Eintracht Braunschweig - VfL Wolfsburg
Fifth-placed Wolfsburg won't be taking anything for granted when they travel to Bundesliga strugglers and Lower Saxony neighbours Braunschweig. The Wolves suffered a 2-0 home defeat to Torsten Lieberknecht's Lions on Matchday 8, and after watching his team concede in their last two league matches, Dieter Hecking has demanded a response from his players.
"We haven't got over losing [to Braunschweig] in the Hinrunde," admitted Hecking, who has no new injury concerns ahead of the game. "We're desperate to make up for that result. It's a derby and the atmosphere should make it a terrific game. It doesn't matter how well our opponents are doing - our aim is to win football matches. That's what it's all about."
'Best behind Bayern'
Braunschweig coach Lieberknecht meanwhile, who saw his side snatch a late draw at fellow strugglers VfB Stuttgart on Matchday 24, believes his team are capable of completing the double over Wolfsburg, but he does not feel their northern rivals' previous two defeats will have any bearing on the game at the Eintracht-Stadion.
"We'll be facing a team that, if you ignore the last two weeks, are probably the best team in Germany behind FC Bayern," said the 40-year-old, who also praised his club's fans ahead of this weekend's clash. "The atmosphere here is different to any other stadium. That's a major challenge for every opponent - it's completely different to any other Bundesliga stadium."
1899 Hoffenheim - 1. FSV Mainz 05
Top-flight entertainers Hoffenheim will be hoping to bounce back from last weekend's 4-0 defeat to FC Schalke 04 when they host in-form 1. FSV Mainz 05 at the Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena. The Sinsheim club have scored and conceded 52 goals in the league this season, but with just 29 points on the board, coach Markus Gisdol knows his team aren't completely safe from relegation.
"If you finish on 29 points, you go down," said the 44-year-old, who is without the suspended Sven Schipplock for Saturday's encounter. "If I get the impression that one of our players has taken his foot off the pedal, I'll have to step in. We have to keep going." Hoffenheim have won each of their last three matches at home and Gisdol wants his side to keep that run going against seventh-placed Mainz. "We want to unsettle them and play in such a way that leaves them unable to find a response."
Mainz's away record has been just as impressive as Hoffenheim's home form of late. Thomas Tuchel's side have lost just one of their last seven matches on the road - a 3-0 defeat to VfL Wolfsburg on Matchday 20 - and coach Tuchel feels recent results stand them in good stead for Saturday's clash.
"The way we played at Schalke and Leverkusen gives us confidence," said the former Stuttgart youth coach. "There were many good performances in those two victories that I would very much like to see again [at Hoffenheim]. Aside from long-term absentees Julian Baumgartlinger, Dani Schahin and Heinz Müller, Tuchel has a full squad to choose from for the match.
Hertha Berlin - Hannover 96
Hertha will need to improve on their home record if their are to beat Hannover 96 at the Olympiastadion. The capital club have won just one of their previous seven matches on home soil, but their task on Saturday will be made all the more difficult by the absence of several first-team regulars. Fabian Lustenberger and Änis Ben-Hatira have both returned to light training following long-term injuries, but aren't ready for a return to action just yet.
Marcel Ndjeng misses out with a calf injury, while Alexander Baumjohann and Tolga Cigerci both remain long-term absentees. "We're struggling to find replacements for the players who are currently on the treatment table," admitted Hertha coach Jos Luhukay. "It's up to other players to step up to the plate. We not only want to dominate our home games, we want to take our chances and get the right result."
Diouf misses out
Hannover, who ended a run of three straight league defeats against Bayer 04 Leverkusen last time out, were on top for long spells against Sami Hyypiä's side, but failed to get the result their performance deserved. "I'm annoyed about that result," admitted coach Tayfun Korkut. "We played so well in the second half, but we still had to settle for a point."
Winger Leonardo Bittencourt is expecting a tough test in the capital. "Tactically, they're a very strong team. It's no coincidence they're doing well in the league. It's not going to be easy for us." Korkut's team travel to Berlin without top scorer Mame Diouf, who was ruled out for the rest of the season after dislocating his shoulder against Leverkusen.