Things are hotting up in the Bundesliga as we creep closer towards the customary winter break.
bundesliga.com highlights the five standout fixtures worth paying particular attention to on Matchday 14…
There is nothing like a Nordderby to warm the cockles on a cold winter afternoon. Saturday’s match-up between northern adversaries SV Werder Bremen and Hamburger SV is the 103rd of the Bundesliga era, but just because the two sides are no longer competing for silverware does not mean the rivalry has lost its edge. The Green-Whites were humbled in Wolfsburg on Matchday 13, while Lewis Holtby made the all the difference as HSV sprung a massive surprise against Borussia Dortmund.
Jostling for position at the top of the bill on Saturday afternoon is Hertha Berlin’s clash with league leaders FC Bayern München. There is no question the Old Lady are this season’s surprise package, after 13 matches, but taking on the defending champions on their own patch is no easy task. Pep Guardiola’s men have won all seven of their home games in the Bundesliga so far this term, scoring 28 and conceding just three.
Stuttgart's new leaf
Hop-skipping to Sunday, VfB Stuttgart begin life after Alexander Zorniger with a trip to second-in-the-table Dortmund. It is a real baptism of fire for interim coach Jürgen Kramny, who somehow has to find a way to lift spirits in the Stuttgart camp following last weekend’s demoralising 4-0 home defeat to FC Augsburg - not to mention keep the prolific Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang quiet. If he cannot manage to do that, Die Schwaben could find themselves bottom of the standings at the close of play.
All eyes will be on Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez when Bayer 04 Leverkusen host FC Schalke 04. The Mexico international has scored 12 goals in 16 outings in all competitions for Die Werkself, including his first Bundesliga brace in last Saturday’s 3-1 win away to Eintracht Frankfurt. Only goal difference separates the two aspiring top-four clubs, although Schalke’s recent form - one win in their last six - has led some to question their UEFA Champions League credentials.
Wolves on the prowl
With Schalke flattering to deceive, VfL Wolfsburg have taken full advantage. The Wolves extended their unbeaten home run in the Bundesliga to 29 matches on the back of a Max Kruse-inspired success over Bremen last time out, a result which took them to within five points of Dortmund. Their exceptional home form (W6, D1) stands in stark contrast to their efforts on the road (W1, D2, L3), however, so all is not yet lost for relegation-threatened Augsburg - even if they have only won once at the WWK Arena all season in the Bundesliga.