It’s another Bundesliga Matchday with plenty to fight for as a number of battles will take place across Germany this weekend.
The Friday night game sees Werder Bremen travel to the Bundesliga’s in form team Eintracht Frankfurt. Both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund host lower opposition on Saturday afternoon, facing off against 1. FC Kӧln and Arminia Bielefeld respectively. The Topspiel this week sees 2nd place RB Leipzig host Borussia Mӧnchengladbach, who are desperately trying to regain their form from earlier in the campaign.
RB Leipzig to keep up the pressure on Bayern
Last week came the sudden realisation that the Bundesliga has a genuine title race on its hands as Leipzig capitalised on Bayern’s slip-up against Frankfurt to move within just two points of the Rekordmeister. If Julian Nagelsmann’s side are serious about this title race, then they cannot afford any mistakes, and they will need to prove that they can handle the pressure. They have struggled against better opposition in the league so far, getting just one draw out of their three fixtures versus teams in the top four.
They come into this match high on confidence, however, with four league wins in a row while only conceding one goal in that period. The solid defence has been the bedrock of Leipzig’s success this season, with Dayot Upamecano in particular showing his colours as a potential world-class central defender for years to come.
Their opponents in Gladbach have been experiencing very inconsistent form of late, and they appear to have been somewhat dislodged by the news of the departure of head coach Marco Rose to Borussia Dortmund in the summer. They also are coming off the back of a shock defeat at home to Mainz 05 as well as a midweek trip to Budapest against Manchester City which ended in defeat and will have done little to boost morale amongst Die Fohlen.
Leipzig will know full well that title contenders Bayern face a fairly straightforward match against Kӧln. As a result, Die Roten Bullen know three points is imperative if they want the chase to continue. With Gladbach struggling for form at the moment, expect RB Leipzig to keep up the pressure with a win on Saturday night.
Mainz 05 to finally lift themselves out of the relegation spots?
Mainz have been in the bottom three since Matchday 9, and they haven’t been able to spring themselves out of it so far. However, recording two wins and a draw in their last three matches, that could finally change this weekend as they face an FC Augsburg side who have failed to inspire for much of this season.
Die Nullfünfer have turned their campaign around since the arrival of current boss Bo Svenson as well as Eintracht Frankfurt loaness Danny da Costa and Dominik Kohr. They also look a lot more defensively solid, with players such as Jeremiah St. Juste and Moussa Niakhate providing structure to allow their more creative teammates to flourish further up the pitch.
Having flirted with relegation for much of their time in the Bundesliga since arriving in 2009, Mainz have become experts in fighting the drop, often against the odds. Eight points adrift of safety at one point this season, it seems like this could be the week they finally lift themselves out of the relegation spots.
Bayer Leverkusen to get their season back on track
It could well be seen as an indictment on the Bundesliga that despite only winning one of their last five matches, Bayer Leverkusen are still relatively comfortable in fifth place. However, even though they were second in the league before the winter break, even topping the table for large periods of the first half of the season, their form has declined dramatically since.
Their free-flowing, attacking brand of football has been stuttering as of late, and key players like Leon Bailey have been misfiring. They will feel their season merits a higher finish than where they are now.
Last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Augsburg, which was only rectified by a last-minute equaliser from Edmond Tapsoba, should serve as a wake up call that they need improve quickly if they are to continue with their Champions League hopes.
They come up against an SC Freiburg team who are also struggling for form themselves and have put in two poor performances against Bremen and Union Berlin in the last fortnight.
Leverkusen midfielder Kerem Demirbay said this week that his team has "no desire to play in the Europa League next year" - a clear gauntlet laid down to demonstrate their intent for the rest of this season. It remains to be seen how this desire will translate onto the pitch, but with new arrival Demarai Gray showing glimpses of promise and plenty of talent still available for Leverkusen, they need to use this game to get their season back on track.