The battle for UEFA Europa League qualification takes centre-stage with Wolfsburg hosting Augsburg. Elsewhere, Stuttgart and Hamburg are gearing up for another relegation six-pointer, while Schalke are hoping to get the better of an Eintracht Braunschweig side propping up the rest of the league. bundesliga.com previews the action...
VfL Wolfsburg - FC Augsburg
Sixth-placed Wolfsburg are looking to put an end to a run of poor form, having only managed to collect one point from a possible nine in recent weeks. The Wolves celebrated a 2-1 victory against in Augsburg on Matchday 9 and are keen to complete the league double on Saturday with head coach Dieter Hecking stressing the importance of picking up results in the final stretch.
"We are in a great position to finish in the European spots," said Hecking. "The most crucial phase of the season starts now. Everyone knows that they will have to give it their all and be at their best. Only then will we be successful on Saturday." However, the 49-year-old knows that this weekend's visitors will be a tough nut to crack. "Augsburg have shown us that even the 'small' clubs are capable of success over an extended period of time, due to a great coach and outstanding team performances."
Run of form
The Bavarians have been saving their best form for on the road of late, remaining unbeaten (four wins, three draws) away from home since suffering a 3-0 defeat in Munich back in November, most recently collecting three wins on the trot.
As a result, head coach Markus Weinzierl, still without captain Paul Verhaegh, wants his side "to extend our streak on foreign soil". Augsburg are hoping that and , who have scored 17 goals between can make the difference against the Wolves. "They present a big challenge," admitted Weinzierl. "But after losing to Schalke, we're desperate to celebrate a positive result."
VfB Stuttgart - Hamburger SV
Matchday 9's encounter saw these two sides share the spoils in a six-goal thriller back in October, but since then both clubs have changed their personnel and tactics. VfB coach Huub Stevens, who saved Hamburger SV from relegation in 2007, opted against rocking the boat, refusing to ring in the changes to VfB's line-up on Matchday 25, but is yet to decide on who will feature this weekend.
"We need to find a way to counter the opponents' strengths which will be different against Hamburg compared to last week in Bremen," said Stevens, who will have star striker back at his disposal following a five-match ban. "If he's given a chance to perform, I have no doubt he'll produce an excellent performance to make up for his mistake."
'Create a fortress'
Hamburg sit just two points above Stuttgart at present and are intent on, at the very least, maintaining that gap in what promises to be an intense relegation head-to-head. Since the arrival of coach Mirko Slomka, the Red Shorts have turned their fortunes around, picking up seven points his first just four games. More importantly perhaps, is that HSV have only conceded three goals compared to the 13 times in the four games prior to his appointment.
"The last few results have given us confidence, but we need to stay focused and can't let ourselves become complacent," said Slomka. "We need to be more consistent away from home, our goal is to create a fortress at the back and create promising chances up front." The 46-year-old expects to face a "team that will put up a fight, but we'll try to restrict them and maintain our current momentum".
FC Schalke 04 - Eintracht Braunschweig
Third placed Schalke host bottom-of-the-table Braunschweig in a match they will be looking to win so as to remain hot on the heels of second-placed Borussia Dortmund ahead of the mid-week Revierderby. S04 moved into the automatic UEFA Champions League qualification spots for the first time under Jens Keller following their 2-1 over Augsburg, but know the hard work is far from over.
"The upcoming tasks are of the utmost importance, it's vital for us that we're successful," said the Royal Blues' coach. "But nothing will be decided until the final Matchday." The 43-year-old went on to say that "we are playing at home, so we need to keep the game in our own hands using the individual quality of the team."
'Will be much harder'
Eintracht Braunschweig aren't about wave the white flag before kick-off though, as they currently in the midst of a battle for Bundesliga survival. Despite sitting at the foot of the standings, Braunschweig are just five points adrift of safety. An upset against Schalke, against whom they lost 3-2 earlier this season, would stretch their unbeaten streak to four games, whilst providing a much-needed confidence boost.
"Schalke is our Bernabeu and we are looking forward to the game," said Lieberknecht. "The game will be much harder than earlier on in the season with and giving them much more individual quality". However, Braunschweig are still confident that they can make an impact, with their head coach claiming "we want to take a scalp".