Pivotal points on offer as intense advent period approaches

Cologne - Matchday 13’s Saturday afternoon action sees a clash between two top-six hopefuls in FC Schalke 04 and 1. FSV Mainz 05 offset by both Hamburger SV and SV Werder Bremen going in search of pivotal points in their battle to climb clear of the drop zone.

FC Schalke 04 - 1. FSV Mainz 05

bundesliga.com takes a closer look at this Saturday's match-ups...

Bouncing back from a 5-0 humbling in Europe at the hands of Chelsea FC is the objective for FC Schalke 04 as they look to preserve their three-game winning streak on home soil under Roberto Di Matteo. “We’ve got to close the Chelsea chapter and focus on the upcoming challenges,” explained the Royal Blues boss. “It hurts, but we’ve got to keep working hard to achieve the levels of continuity we’re all striving for.”

The Knappen have as yet not won a fixture following a midweek European encounter this season and Di Matteo is keen to see that change at the Veltins Arena on Saturday. As a result the Italian head coach has admitted he may “alter personnel” and bring in “a few fresh players” for the visit of 1. FSV Mainz 05, though the inclusion of young centre-back Kaan Ayhan remains in doubt.

Mainz in a muddle

Meanwhile, Mainz currently find themselves in the midst of their longest run without a win this season after Matchday 12’s 2-2 draw against SC Freiburg made it four straight outings without collecting three points. As a result it’s not the ideal time for the Nullfünfers to face one of their bogey sides, against whom they’ve won just one of their last 12 meetings.

However, head coach Kasper Hjulmand remains optimistic of his side’s chances at turning their form around. “With the quality we possess it’s not outside the realms of possibility that we could pick up a positive result against Schalke,” explained the Dane. “If we play together, fight together and run, then our opportunities will present themselves. Our strength lies in the collective, but we’re of course aware of how strong an opponent Schalke are.”

FC Augsburg - Hamburger SV

Six wins and six defeats from the opening 12 games of the season, should be regarded as a huge success for FC Augsburg, as they currently occupy sixth place and with it a UEFA Europa League qualification spot. The Függerstädter are quietly going about their business in 2014/15 and, while last weekend’s 1-0 win over Stuttgart represented a rare victory on the road, they pose a different proposition on home soil.

Four consecutive wins and three consecutive clean sheets at the SGL Arena have once again confirmed Augsburg’s status as a tough nut to crack, with Estonian Footballer of the Year Ragnar Klavan claiming that they “want to get over the 20-point mark as quickly as possible”. Head coach Markus Weinzierl was of a similar opinion: “We want to maintain the cushion between ourselves and HSV and, preferably, extend it.”

Operative Ostrzolek

Hamburg on the other hand will be looking to build on their impressive Nordderby win over Bremen in the hope of closing that six-point gap. Though they don’t possess the best record against Augsburg (W1, D1, L4), the Bundesliga Dinos are showing signs of improvement, having already kept more clean sheets this season than they did in the whole of last and, despite a late scare in training, Jaroslav Drobny should be fit in time to feature.

There will also be a familiar face in HSV’s ranks with Matthias Ostrzolek returning to Augsburg for the first time since moving north in the summer and head coach Josef Zinnbauer has been making use of the left-back’s insider knowledge. “He’s given us some useful tips,” admitted the 44-year-old. “We’re going up against a strong opponent and will once again have to play well without the ball, but also improve when we’re in possession.”

SV Werder Bremen - SC Paderborn 07

After a brief upswing in form at the start of Viktor Skripnik’s reign as head coach, SV Werder Bremen have since been brought back down to earth, with 10 points from a possible 36 representing their worst start to a Bundesliga campaign in 16 years. The disappointing 2-0 loss to Hamburger SV in the Nordderby was only further compounded by news of Franco Di Santo being ruled out for the remainder of the Hinrunde.

The magnitude of the task at hand is not lost on Skripnik, who put pen to paper on a long-term deal with the club earlier this week and is keen for his side to buck up defensively. “Our opponents need to once again be afraid of getting into our penalty area,” said the 45-year-old. “I can promise that we’ll play with 100 per cent passion. We’re desperate for three points.”

Plucky Paderborn no pushovers

Easier said than done against an SC Paderborn 07 side, who refuse to be written off no matter what, as proven by their 2-2 draw against Borussia Dortmund in which they produced a two-goal turnaround to take a share of the spoils. While they have been the definition of average with four wins, four draws, four losses, 18 goals scored and 18 goals conceded, average still greatly exceeds expectations.

Thriving in the role of plucky underdogs, head coach Andre Breitenreiter was once again quick to shift the pressure off his troops. “We want to win the game, but Bremen have to take points off of us at home,” explained Breitenreiter during his pre-match mind games. “I’m expecting it to be an intense encounter in which the team who wants to win more will triumph.”