Cologne - The action in this week's Englische Woche continues to come thick and fast, with high-flying trio Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Hannover 96 and Borussia Mönchengladbach all set to take to the field on Saturday afternoon (kick-offs 13.30 GMT / 15:30 CET).
SC Freiburg - Bayer 04 Leverkusen
bundesliga.com looks ahead to a trio of mouth-watering top-flight encounters on Matchday 6...
Freiburg have stumbled into the 2014/15 campaign, having racked up three draws and two defeats in their five games to date. Goalkeeper Roman Bürki could be forgiven for approaching this fixture rather nervously too, as only two teams have conceded more than Freiburg’s 11 goals this season, while visitors Leverkusen are the Bundesliga’s sharpest shooters after netting the same tally at the right end.
“We’re capable of competing - we’ve shown that in our fives games so far,” said Freiburg coach Christian Streich. “So we’re going to give everything we’ve got and not let the fact that we don’t have many points on the board keep us down.” The south-west club’s task has been made all the more difficult given that strikers Admir Mehmedi and Dani Schahin remain absent through injury.
Chance for Calhanoglu
The visitors, meanwhile, will be keen to exploit Hakan Calhanoglu’s prowess at set-pieces to take advantage of Freiburg’s defensive vulnerability: Saturday’s hosts have conceded three times from dead-ball situations already this season - more than any other Bundesliga side. Furthermore, Leverkusen have found the net in each of their last 16 top-flight matches, a feat no other team is able to match at present.
Victory would allow Leverkusen to stay in touching distance at the top and provide an extra boost to their confidence ahead of their vital Champions League encounter with Benfica on Wednesday. “We can’t judge Freiburg purely on their results so far,” said Werkself boss Roger Schmidt. “They have a very young, dynamic side. It’s going to be a difficult game for us.“
SC Paderborn - Borussia Mönchengladbach
Paderborn’s 15,000 capacity Benteler Arena will once again be sold out this weekend as Europa League participants Gladbach come to town. “On paper at least, this is the kind of opponent we’re not expected to take points off,” said coach Andre Breitenreiter, who also warned of the visitors’ “unbelievable quality in attack”.
Yet his newly-promoted outfit are unlikely to be overawed by the occasion, especially given their outstanding start to their maiden top-flight campaign that has left them just a point behind the Foals going into this match. Despite this fixture being SCP’s third in the space of eight days, Breitenreiter has no new injuries or suspensions to report, with Marvin Bakalorz, Mahir Saglik and Alban Meha the only absentees.
‘Every game is tight in the Bundesliga’
Gladbach’s squad is in even ruder health and Lucien Favre has all hands on deck for the trip north-east, where the Foals are aiming to maintain their unbeaten start in all competitions this season. “We haven’t lost for nine games but we want more,” said Favre, who announced that he is likely to rotate his line-up again, meaning Ibrahima Traore and Fabian Johnson could return to the starting XI.
In spite of the visitors being favourites to take the spoils, Favre was eager to preach against complacency, especially as his side have only recorded two goalless draws on their travels in the Bundesliga this year: “Paderborn beat Hannover 2-0 at home and won 3-0 in Hamburg. That says it all about the kind of quality they have. Every game is tight in the Bundesliga, regardless of whether you’re playing against the team at the top or at the bottom.”
VfB Stuttgart - Hannover 96
VfB Stuttgart needed a result in their last game against Borussia Dortmund and they got it, taking a precious point off Borussia Dortmund. It might even have been three had Armin Veh’s side not conceded a late equaliser to draw 2-2, but Stuttgart will nevertheless be confident of building on that performance with a positive result here.
“It frustrated me that we didn’t beat Dortmund, because we played well. Now we need three points and a win at home.” said Veh. VfB will be encouraged by their record against Hannover on their own turf, having won 15 of their last 18 games, and the coach is intent on extending that: “It’s important that we win our home games.”
‘Fought for every point’
Veh’s opposite number Tayfun Korkut stated that his season aim was for Hannover “to master a flexible way of playing” and achieve a higher level of consistency. It appears he is succeeding after leading his charges to third place, with top spot a possibility if results go their way. The 40-year-old was under no illusions as to the test that awaits his players at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, though.
“We’ve had a good start, but we’ve had to fight tooth and nail for every one of these points. Nobody’s gifted us anything, and VfB certainly won’t,” he said. Spanish striker Joselu, who scored the winner against 1. FC Köln on Matchday 5, will continue to lead the line, with Japan duo Hiroshi Kiyotake and Hiroki Sakai also set to retain their places.