Coming up on this week's show..
It has been quite a while since Borussia Mönchengladbach went into a game against their namesakes from Dortmund such clear-cut favourites, but they fully justified the tag in their Matchday 28 meeting. Lucien Favre's Foals ran out 3-1 winners to stay ahead of Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the race for the third automatic UEFA Champions League group stage berth and they pulled off the victory with the very brand of ultra-clinical counter-attacking football that has served Dortmund so well in recent years. In a great all-round team display, homegrown attacking talent Patrick Herrmann was once again very much to the fore.
FC Bayern München maintained their ten-point cushion at the top with a 3-0 home victory over Eintracht Frankfurt, keeping things ticking over nicely as the all-deciding action starts to unfold at home and abroad. Worryingly for coach Pep Guardiola ahead of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final ￼first leg trip to FC Porto, an expanding injury list left him with just three outfield substitutes on the bench at the weekend. On the upside, Thiago Alcantara made his first starting appearance in more than a year following a knee injury – and Robert Lewandowski is hitting top form at just the right time. The Polish sharpshooter bagged a brace against Frankfurt to take his season tally up to 16, moving him ever closer to the summit of the individual scoring chart.
One of the few positives to emerge for FC Schalke 04 from their goalless home draw with SC Freiburg was the 76th-minute introduction of Julian Draxler, for his first taste of Bundesliga action since injuring a hamstring against FC Augsburg at the end of October. The Royal Blues have sorely missed their World Cup-winning number 10's pace and vision and Saturday's result further diminished their fast-receding hopes of earning a fresh crack at the Champions League next season. Jefferson Farfan, who made his first start of the campaign against Freiburg after stints off the bench in the two previous games, is another long-sidelined frontline speedster available once again to the Royal Blues in their against-the-odds bid for a top-four finish.
Hamburger SV against Werder Bremen is a genuine Bundesliga classic, a meeting of northern Germany's two greatest traditional clubs. On Sunday, they go head-to-head for the 102nd time in the league, with all thoughts of regional bragging rights coming a very distant second, for cellar dwellers Hamburg, to a desperate need for three points in the battle to retain their unique ever-present top-flight status. Ahead of this pivotal encounter, HSV legend Uwe Seeler reflects on some great derbies past, as well as the current plight of the hometown club to which he remained true for the entirety of his world-class career.
Hamburg are not the only big-name club in acute danger of dropping out of the Bundesliga this season. VfB Stuttgart levered themselves off bottom spot at the Red Shorts' expense courtesy of a last-gasp home victory over Bremen in a five-goal thriller on Sunday, moving to within three points of Hannover 96 and SC Freiburg in the first non-relegation places. This kind of nerve-shredding dogfight is fast becoming familiar territory for Baden- Württemberg's biggest club, with head coach Huub Stevens called in on a specific salvage job for the second season running. He pulled it off last time out, with the experienced likes of Christian Gentner and Martin Harnik proving their mettle when push came to shove. They were both in the spotlight again when Bremen came calling, albeit for contrasting reasons.
FC Augsburg are Stuttgart's next opponents, and they have been enjoying an altogether more productive campaign than their more renowned fellow Swabians. is the man pulling the strings for Markus Weinzierl's side as they maintain their pursuit of a maiden appearance on the European stage. The number 10 has started every game this season and he enjoyed a deserved spot of downtime at the club's third Casino Night, trying his hand at the roulette table – all for a worthy cause, of course.
The Bundesliga has been the world's best-supported league for years and the trend shows little sign of abating, with stadiums the length and breadth of the country filled to over 90 percent capacity on a regular basis. First and foremost, of course, the fans turn out to get behind their team but they often establish an almost visceral bond with the ground itself, as well. We asked around, in a bid to uncover the particular attractions of Germany's football temples.