The Bundesliga’s finest will again be jostling for position this weekend, but as ever there is more bubbling away beneath the surface than meets the eye.
bundesliga.com outlines what to look out for ahead of this weekend’s headline fixtures.
Derby time in the Rhineland
In terms of its historical significance, few derbies in German football come close to matching the rivalry between Borussia Mönchengladbach and 1. FC Köln. The Billy Goats were the original Bundesliga champions in 1964, while Gladbach won the league five times in the 1970s, along with two UEFA Cups. Köln got the better of their fierce rivals back in September in a 1-0 win that signalled the end of Lucien Favre’s reign at Borussia, but Gladbach have stabilised considerably under the positive influence of new coach Andre Schubert. Peter Stöger’s Köln side are in good form of late but will find their recent record severely tested amid an electric atmosphere at the BORUSSIA-PARK.
Wolves on the up?
Despite qualifying for the knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions League by beating Manchester United FC in December, VfL Wolfsburg endured a torrid time of things on the domestic front over the winter, with Matchday 21’s 2-0 win over FC Ingolstadt 04 their first Bundesliga victory since late November. Nevertheless, the Wolves are still within five points of the UEFA Champions League spots, and they reaffirmed their appetite for competing on the biggest stage with an impressive 3-2 win at KAA Gent in the last 16 on Wednesday night. Julian Draxler scored twice in Belgium and once against Ingolstadt – can he score in three straight games for the first time in his career?
Europa League contenders battle it out
Borussia Dortmund and Bayer 04 Leverkusen can both feel confident of reaching the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League after impressive wins against FC Porto and Sporting Clube de Portugal respectively this week. On Sunday, however, domestic priorities will take centre stage, as Dortmund attempt to stay in touch with league leaders FC Bayern München and Leverkusen look to continue their push for a top-four finish. A hefty 13 points currently separate the two clubs and the visitors will have their work cut out in attempting to reduce the deficit with leading scorer Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez rated as doubtful. Meanwhile, BVB’s front three of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (20 league goals), Marco Reus (nine) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (eight) are firing on all cylinders.
Super six for Stuttgart?
Under new coach Jürgen Kramny, a young and energetic VfB Stuttgart side have won five league games in a row. In doing so, they have scored 16 goals and conceding just five en route to taking more points in 2016 than any other club. This weekend, VfB face what will likely be their toughest test since the turn of the year when they travel to Gelsenkirchen to meet FC Schalke 04. The Royal Blues posted a narrow 1-0 win in the return fixture back on Matchday 5 but come into the game on the back of a taxing trip to Ukraine to play FC Shakhtar Donetsk in the Europa League. Should they manage a sixth successive victory here, Stuttgart can legitimately begin thinking of a European finish, particularly with a home game against bottom club Hannover 96 to come on Matchday 23.
Liverpool draw can inspire Augsburg
In what had been described as “the biggest game in the club’s history”, FC Augsburg coach Markus Weinzierl will have been delighted to see his players hold Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool FC to a goalless draw in the Europa League on Thursday. Up next for Die Fuggerstädter is a trip to Hannover on Sunday night, and while the hosts will have the advantage of a full week’s training and preparation, Augsburg will be boosted by having gone toe to toe with a contender to win the Europa League. Hannover, for their part, have lost five on the spin since Thomas Schaaf took over as coach, so points are very much of the essence for both of these sides.