Cologne - The Bundesliga is heading for one of its tightest finishes at the bottom of the table in 2014/15, with almost half of the league still looking over their shoulders going into Matchday 23.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - 1. FSV Mainz 05
bundesliga.com takes a closer look at Saturday's action, when a host of clubs will be looking for points in order to breathe a bit more easily...
The Hoffenheim attacking merry-go-round is set to turn again this weekend as their coach Markus Gisdol plans further rotation in his attack for the visit of Mainz 05.
Gisdol has such a wealth of options up front that he rarely fields the same two strikers from one game to the next. , , and have been sharing the appearances - and goals - between them this season, and that suits Gisdol down to the ground.
"We've got strikers in similar form and that's why we can divide the minutes about between them," he said. "The important thing is that we create chances: who scores the goals makes no difference."
Mainz coach Martin Schmidt will also be hoping for some attacking verve from his side at the WIRSOL Rhein-Neckar-Arena, although he is happy to give his forwards free rein to show him what they are capable of. "I don't want to give my forwards too much to think about," he said. "Thinking restricts you. Players like and Jairo need to be creative and to be allowed to show that." It worked a week ago in a 3-1 win over Frankfurt and the same again would be to Schmidt's liking, at a ground where Mainz came from 2-0 down to win 4-3 last season.
Hertha Berlin - FC Augsburg
Hertha Berlin have more than just the usual attacking threat to take care of when they host FC Augsburg this Saturday, after the Bavarians showed last weekend that every member of their team can score goals - literally.
Goalkeeper Marwin Hitz made history with his injury-time leveller against Bayer 04 Leverkusen and while he will be focusing on preventing Berlin from scoring this weekend, thoughts of popping up at the other end for a late corner may creep back into his mind. "It was a sensational feeling when the ball hit the back of the net," he recalled. "Everything happened so quickly; I had no time to consider it."
Augsburg's point kept them on course for a place in Europe next term, continuing a campaign with which few would have reckoned at the start of the season. "I don't think anybody had us down for this before the season started," added Hitz. "That's why we're so happy with things right now." They have every right to be happy too, with only two points separating them from third-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach, who are not in action until Sunday.
Less satisfying, at least to followers of the Old Lady, is Hertha's position in the table. "I'm not going to cry, though," said their coach Pal Dardai, whose last game as a professional player came against Augsburg. "The lads have trained well and that's why I'm optimistic," continued the Hungarian, who is sweating over the fitness of key trio Julian Schieber, Roy Beerens and Nico Schulz.
Hannover 96 - VfB Stuttgart
Both Hannover and Stuttgart might pause to reflect on better times in recent years as they prepare to meet at the HDI Arena.
Hannover may be four points clear of the relegation zone going into the encounter, but that is still just a little too close to comfort for Tayfun Korkut's men, who are yet to win a game in 2015. It will come as some comfort, therefore, that forward Didier Ya Konan is back in the frame this weekend after injury. "He's trained with the team and has made a good impression," said Korkut.
Experience to the fore
Korkut was similarly satisfied by the application shown by the rest of his squad, particularly injury-plagued midfielder Leon Andreasen. "Leon desperately wants to help us out," said Korkut. "I've got a good feeling going into this game. All of the players have shown me what they want to do and that makes me positive."
His VfB counterpart Huub Stevens may struggle to find as many positives with his side stuck to the bottom of the table and likely to be without injured defender Timo Baumgartl. Yet the Dutchman has been around long enough that he is under no illusions about what needs to be done to extricate Stuttgart from their present predicament. "This is not my first game in the Bundesliga," said the 61-year-old. "I know what we need to deliver."