Cologne - Borussia Mönchengladbach, VfL Wolfsburg and FC Augsburg all have their sights set on improving their below-par away form on Saturday afternoon, although all three face hosts undefeated in front of their own fans this term.
Hannover 96 - Borussia Mönchengladbach
bundesliga.com whips around the grounds to preview the action...
Something has to give when Gladbach arrive at the HDI Arena, when the as yet unbeaten Foals face a Hannover side that have won all three of their home games so far this season, conceding just once in the process. Adding extra spice to the occasion is the fact that this fixture guarantees goals: 49 have been scored in the last 12 Bundesliga encounters alone - giving an average of over four per game.
Victory would allow Hannover to pull level on points with their high-flying visitors, something which coach Tayfun Korkut believes his players “should view as an incentive”. The 96ers will be without injured duo Leon Andreasen and Lars Stindl, while Edgar Prib and Miiko Albornoz are doubtful. However, Korkut will be pleased that Christian Schulz is available: the centre-back has won seven and drawn one of the eight games he has played against Gladbach at home.
Visiting coach Lucien Favre has a couple of injury concerns too, with midfielder (illness) and injured defender Filip Daems already ruled out. Nevertheless, the Swiss tactician is eyeing victory: “We want to continue to pick up points and to do so we’ll need to play very well […] We know it’s not easy to win there and they have a lot of talent, especially up front: Leonardo Bittencourt, and are very dangerous.”
Away from home Gladbach have not been quite as irrepressible as they’ve been at Borussia-Park, with one win and two draws the fruit of their labours so far. While they have let in just the one goal in those encounters, of more pressing concern to Favre will be that his side have only scored twice - with both goals coming away to Paderborn on Matchday 6.
SC Freiburg - VfL Wolfsburg
SC Freiburg are hoping to finally pick up their first win of the season after stumbling into 2014/15 with , although Christian Streich’s men are still unbeaten at home. The 49-year-old coach is aiming to keep it that way too, and has been boosted by the return of all the injured members of his squad during the international break.
“Over the last two weeks we’ve worked very intensively with players who were here,” said Streich. “We can’t be afraid to get stuck in against Wolfsburg - we didn’t do that against Bremen and Leverkusen, although it was difficult given all of the injuries we had. We need to try and clear our heads, take the initiative and put in the legwork.”
All hands on deck
The Black Forest outfit will have their work cut out for them as Wolfsburg have won their last two matches, against Bremen and Augsburg, to move up to seventh in the standings. “We can take a big step forwards in Freiburg and cement our place among the top teams,” said head coach Dieter Hecking at his pre-match press conference.
The Wolves’ international players all returned to the club unscathed following their exploits across the globe, meaning Hecking virtually has a full squad available to him, with Christian Träsch the only definite absentee. Wolfsburg may have earned just one point from their three away games so far this term, but they can take heart from the fact they have beaten Freiburg on their last two trips to the Schwarzwald-Stadion.
1. FSV Mainz 05 - FC Augsburg
Statistically speaking, the omens favour Mainz going into this encounter: coach Kasper Hjulmand’s side are just one of four unbeaten teams in the Bundesliga - a feat the club have only ever achieved once previously (in 2010/11) at this stage of the season - and are the only side yet to concede a goal on home turf this season.
However, five of their seven matches have ended in draws thus far, meaning Augsburg are just two points further down the league table. With that in mind, Hjulmand, who will be unable to call on the injured , is anticipating a nervy afternoon at the Coface Arena: “Everyone’s expecting us to win easily but that won’t be the case. It’ll be difficult because Augsburg are a very strong unit [...] every team they’ve played have had a tough time of things.”
Hjulmand’s Augsburg counterpart Markus Weinzierl is hoping to keep it that way: “If we stay organised at the back and improve our finishing then we can pick up points in Mainz.” However, that task has been made all the harder by the absence of regular frontman , who is struggling with a ligament injury.
Further hampering their cause is the fact that Augsburg have only scored once on their travels this season, although that did result in a 1-0 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt on Matchday 3. Weinzierl would more than likely have no complaints if his side were to come away with another slender victory.