The Bundesliga is back for another big weekend in the context of the league. So I am going to give you a preview of the major games at the top and bottom of the table, as well as players to keep an eye on.
RB Leipzig vs Borussia Monchengladbach
The ‘Topspiel’ this weekend will have a big impact on both teams’ seasons depending on the result. Last weekend, RB Leipzig closed the gap on Bayern Munich to two points after a resounding 3-0 win over Hertha Berlin and this weekend they come up against a struggling Gladbach team who have had a poor past few weeks after beating Bayern and Borussia Dortmund.
Leipzig will be the fresher of the two after no mid-week action, but they are still without Konrad Laimer and January signing Dominik Szobozlai who are out injured. Which could give them the upper hand in this game as they are coming up against a weakened Gladbach team who are coming off a 2-0 loss to Manchester City in the Champions League. Gladbach are without Stefan Lainer who picked up an injury in the game against City. While Ramy Bensebaini, Christoph Kramer and Jonas Hofmann are all doubtful after also picking up knocks in midweek.
This is an area to look out for as Marco Rose has received some backlash in recent weeks for his rotation. This is the beginning of a tough period for Gladbach, as they have played Man City, and are playing Leipzig this weekend. Then in midweek they play Dortmund in the DFB Pokal quarter-finals in what is really their only chance at any silverware this season, then Bayer Leverkusen next weekend. After that they have a week off before playing Augsburg and then City again. So it will be interesting to see how Rose sets up the team with all these season defining games in the space of three weeks.
This would give Leipzig hope going into this game especially as they will likely be playing catch-up on Bayern Munich who play against FC Koln earlier on in the day. A Leipzig win and Bayern loss will see them leapfrog into first, but with Bayern likely to win, Leipzig will maintain a two point gap behind Bayern. For Gladbach, this is a big game in the context of their season as after a poor run of results they are languishing in eighth so a win here could help them restart their season as they try and reach the Champions League before Rose departs.
Player to look out for: Hannes Wolf
Wolf will be coming up against his parent club once again. In the previous game between the two teams Wolf scored the winner in a tense 1-0 win at home for Gladbach. With the likelihood of rotation, Wolf will at least make a cameo in this game. He will also be looking to make amends after a poor shot in the dying minutes of the Man City was easily saved by Ederson. If that had gone in the narrative of the game would have changed.
Bayern Munich vs FC Koln:
Bayern will be looking to reassert themselves as the dominate team in Germany this weekend after a strong 4-1 win over Lazio in mid-week. Manager Hansi Flick will want a reaction after last weekends poor defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt.
Bayern have received a big boost as Thomas Muller is back in training after his time out with COVID, so he could possibly make a cameo in the game. But this will sadly mean less game time for Jamal Musiala who was one of the stand out players in midweek against Lazio and entered the headlines again when he chose to play for Germany over England. Which in hindsight is probably the right choice as it will allow him to have more game time.
The only big long term absentee for Bayern is Corentin Tolisso who will be out for up to six months with thigh injury.
Borussia Dortmund vs Arminia Bielefeld:
Dortmund will be looking to push back into the top four and will use their victory in the Revierderby to kickstart that push. In Arminia, they are up against a team who are just outside the sitting in the relegation play off position and have been at risk of dropping into the bottom two since Mainz picked up their form. But they are a team who can cause Dortmund some issues, as seen in their 3-3 draw with Bayern Munich last week. So Dortmund should be careful not to get too complacent, as Arminia will be up for the game as they know that it is big for their season.
The notable absentee for Dortmund is Manuel Akanji. He is out with a muscle tear, this has seen Emre Can slot into centre-back, but Dortmund’s defence still seems to lack stability and there are areas that can be easily exploited by Arminia, such as Dortmund lack of ability to defend set pieces.
Dortmund have also given backup goalkeeper Marvin Hitz a two year extension on his contract, which will expire in 2023. This is interesting as he is clearly seen as the long term back-up option at Dortmund, so he will either be the back up for Roman Burki, or possibly a new goalkeeper as that has been a big problem area for Dortmund in recent years. You could argue that Dortmund are only a quality goalkeeper away from being able to be serious challengers to Bayern.
FSV Mainz 05 vs Augsburg
A big game at the bottom of the Bundesliga this weekend as Mainz will look to continue their great escape from the relegation zone. 17th placed Mainz are up against 13th placed Augsburg and with the form Mainz have been in you would make them favourites for this game. A win for Mainz could see them actually move into 15th.
I would back Mainz to be safe from relegation at the end of the season. As the signings of Dominic Kohr and Danny Da Costa from Eintracht Frankfurt has helped to sure up their defence, and despite missing Jean Mateta they have looked an even stronger outfit as players have begun to step up.
The one problem area is the fact that Mainz’s top scorers are Kevin Stoger who mainly comes off the bench, and Moussa Niakhate a defender who are both on three goals each. If they want to be even more sure of the chance of survival then their strikers should step up and provide the fire power needed to help propel them, as it will get to a point that a team will find them out.