Coming up on this week's show...
Things should be a little, and potentially even a lot clearer after the next round of Bundesliga action. Bayern can put their successful title defence beyond mathematical doubt, should they win and Wolfsburg fail to match them. The Wolves are away to equally in-form Mönchengladbach and we'll be taking a closer look at that one, with a relegation piece updating you on events at the bottom of the table as well. The programme opens with a Dortmund double-feature, on their future coach and their current top scorer. With a look back at Bruno Labbadia's in-at-the-deep-end return to Hamburg and a profile of one of the newest members of the World Cup winners' ranks, it all adds up to a many-hued Bundesliga Preview Show this week.
The king has not quite abdicated yet, but the next in line has already been unveiled: Thomas Tuchel will succeed Jürgen Klopp as Borussia Dortmund head coach this summer. A tough act to follow, but Tuchel has done it before, following Klopp – albeit a year after the fact in that instance – into the hot seat at 1. FSV Mainz 05 in 2009. So what awaits the highly-rated 41-year-old tactician in Dortmund, on his return to the Bundesliga fold after a year-long sabbatical? In which particular areas might he seek to implement changes? And how did die Schwarz-Gelben fare in their first outing since Klopp made his imminent departure known?
The answer to the latter question above is that they fared just fine, in the end, against struggling SC Paderborn, sealing victory with three unanswered goals after the break. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the second of them to move up to 13 for the season. The fine form of the lightning-fast Gabon international has been one of the few bright points in a largely forgettable season for Dortmund and he is their current top scorer with something to spare. We shoot the breeze with Aubameyang on subjects as diverse as Dortmund's current situation, his pal Marco Reus and German cuisine.
The 102nd Bundesliga meeting of Werder Bremen and Hamburger SV was played out to an unusual backdrop. The hosts, while still not mathematically safe from the drop, are looking rather more in the other direction these days, at a possible UEFA Europa League spot. Hamburg's status as the Bundesliga's only ever-present club meanwhile hangs by an increasingly fine thread with every passing defeat. Desperate times call for radical measures and the club installed Bruno Labbadia as head coach, with just half a dozen games to try and turn things around. Labbadia's second stint in the post, after 2009/10, started with an away game in the classic northern derby – but regional bragging rights were the last thing on the coach or players' minds when they stepped into the cauldron of the Weserstadion on Sunday.
One consolation for Hamburg over the coming weeks is that they are unlikely to be short of nail-biting company at the bottom end of the standings. Hertha Berlin and 1. FC Köln have pulled out some big results lately to ease clear of the most immediate danger – and they locked horns in the capital at the weekend. Below them, five clubs are still scrapping it out in increasingly nerve-wracking circumstances. SC Freiburg and Hannover 96 were a couple of points clear of SC Paderborn in the relegation play-off place heading into Matchday 29, with old-time heavyweights VfB Stuttgart and Hamburg occupying the bottom two rungs. It was to prove a weekend of thin pickings for all concerned.
Battle of the Systems
Matchday 30 saves the best until last, with second-place VfL Wolfsburg travelling to fourth-place Borussia Mönchengladbach in the Sunday closer. The Wolves' home draw against Schalke leaves the Foals now within seven points of them and if they could cut that deficit to four, with as many games to go, the battle for the two automatic Champions League berths still available would take on a rather different complexion. In addition to the vital points at stake, this also has the makings of one of the season's most intriguing tactical battles. We'll accordingly be taking a look at how Gladbach head coach Lucian Favre and his visiting counterpart Dieter Hecking might try to outfox each other, as well as casting an eye over some potential key players for either side.
Weeks of Truth
Push is coming to shove and FC Bayern München have a seminal few weeks coming up, starting with this one. First, there is a two-goal deficit to be clawed back against FC Porto on Tuesday if they are to make the last four of the UEFA Champions League. Then there is the prospect of a possible early Bundesliga title wrap on Matchday 30. However they fare, Bayern will have to continue getting by with a squad stretched exceedingly thin by injury. That said, the Munich club's unrivalled strength-in-depth came to the fore once again last time out, as Sebastian Rode made his own claim to a more regular starting slot with the match-winning brace at 1899 Hoffenheim.
This has been some season for Jonas Hector, and it isn't over yet. Promoted to the Bundesliga last season with 1. FC Köln, the 24-year-old full-back's early-season form was good enough to catch Joachim Löw's eye and he has since become a fully-fledged international for Germany. On the club front, the Billy Goats are looking good for another season in the top flight, not least thanks to Hector's stunning recent matchwinner against Hoffenheim. Next up, there's a home derby against local rivals Bayer Leverkusen but before getting to that, we went back to the roots with this likeable, fast-rising defensive star.