Another Bundesliga weekend lay ahead in the form of Matchday 22, and there's a number of fixtures that catch the eye.
The Friday night game kicks the weekend off as Arminia Bielefeld, fresh off the back of their breathtaking 3-3 draw with Bayern Munich, host high-flyers Wolfsburg. The most exciting game of Saturday afternoon sees Bayern try to stop the formidable force that is Eintracht Frankfurt. Then comes the Topspiel, which is the Revierderby as Borussia Dortmund travel the short distance to Gelsenkirchen to face Schalke 04.
Bayern to test whether Frankfurt are the real deal
Eintracht truly are the in form team in the Bundesliga at the moment, only losing once in their last 10 games, with eight of those being wins. Die Adler are enjoying their highest placing at this point in the season since 1989/90, so their opponents in Bayern certainly have a challenge on their hands if they’re to put a stop to Eintracht’s run.
Despite the news of Dayot Upamecano’s summer move to the Rekordmeister, Adi Hutter’s side will surely be looking to take advantage of Bayern’s greatest weakness: their high-line and leaky defence. The likes of Filip Kostic, Amin Younes, and Daichi Kamada will no doubt be looking to expose Bayern’s frailties down the flanks with the aim of feeding Andre Silva, who currently sits on 18 goals for the season - also a club record at this point in the campaign. There's also the news that two key starters for Munich, Thomas Müller and Benjamin Pavard, will miss the game due to positive COVID-19 tests, whilst Hütter has the luxury of almost a full squad to choose from.
The only negative for Frankfurt will be that their battles with Bayern are often blowouts instead of being competitive matches, with the Bavarians scoring 23 in the last six meetings between the two sides. This Eintracht side is different to any side which has faced Bayern in a long time, though, and they go into the match knowing a result against the record champions will prove that they are the real deal.
Revierderby to be a chance for both teams to get their season back on track
Both Schalke and Dortmund have been experiencing performances well below what they would have expected this season. For Schalke, failing to win here would almost certainly condemn them to the 2. Bundesliga. It's a similar story for Dortmund, as the hope of Champions League qualification is fading away with every Matchday as they continue to underwhelm despite showing what they are capable of with a midweek win in Europe over Sevilla.
Tuesday’s win for BVB somewhat summed them up: use their attacking talent like Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho and hope to outscore their opponents since they consistently concede avoidable goals at the back. Whilst that may not be an issue against Die Königblauen, who have only scored 15 goals all season and just one in their last five, Schalke’s January additions of Sead Kolasinac and Shkodran Mustafi should start to go some way to shoring up an otherwise lacklustre defence.
Dortmund have looked bereft of ideas when playing against teams in a lower block all season. As a result, expect Schalke to stay resolute in defence and try to frustrate their opponents to the best of their ability. This may not turn out to be a classic in the history of the Revierderby, but it’s certainly one with a lot on the line.
Lowly Mainz 05 to look to surprise Borussia Mönchengladbach
It may sound a little strange, but there’s a good chance Mainz 05 can cause an upset on Saturday afternoon as they travel to Borussia Mönchengladbach. Bo Svensson has quietly been building his side up from the rubble and has remarkably picked up more points (8) in the six games he’s been in charge than they had all season under the previous three managers (yes, three).
Eintracht Frankfurt loanees Danny da Costa and Dominik Kohr have helped a lot in the revitalisation of Mainz, especially given the January departure of Jean-Philppe Mateta. The club have a pedigree against the bigger sides this season, having beaten RB Leipzig and drawn with Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen (all of these results coming during Svensson’s tenure).
For Gladbach - who will be missing key players in Marcus Thuram and Denis Zakaria - it remains to be seen how they will be affected on the pitch by the news that head coach Marco Rose will be leaving at the end of the season for rivals Borussia Dortmund. Mainz will certainly be waiting to capitalise on any lack of concentration whenever they get the chance, which is exactly what they did in last week’s late comeback against Leverkusen. It’s set up to be closer game than it may appear on paper, so look out for a potential surprise in this contest.