While Leipzig and Bayern aim to extend their lead atop the table on Matchday 13, the next five teams behind them are all contending for third place. Two of them, Köln and Hoffenheim, face each other this weekend. Borussia Dortmund, meanwhile, has to rebound from last week’s loss to Frankfurt by extending Gladbach’s misery one more week.
Matchday 13: Key Matches
Friday, 2:30 pm EST
For Bayern’s match against Mainz (on FS1 at 2:30 pm), see Phil’s preview. Bayern have to win this match to keep pace with Leipzig and ahead of the pack.
Saturday, 9:30 am EST
Dortmund vs Gladbach (FS1)
This game is a must-win for the boys in Yellow and Black. Their 1-2 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt last weekend pushed them far lower down the table than where they aspire to be. Instead of fighting for 1st or 2nd, they’re holding in 7th place, a point behind Hoffenheim. Dortmund have to take advantage of Gladbach’s poor offense to play boldly and win this game. If Dortmund can claim all three points, they will leap back into the championship race. Gladbach, meanwhile, are sandwiched between Augsburg and Wolfsburg in 13th place and have not won a match since beating Ingolstadt on Matchday 5. They are becoming increasingly desperate to halt their free fall.
Player to watch: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Auba has scored six of Dortmund’s last seven goals and provided an assist for the seventh. He leads the Bundesliga with 13 goals, yet Dortmund need him to deliver more than ever. Check out Fear The Wall’s preview here.
Wolfsburg vs Hertha
Hertha must face a relatively good Wolfsburg defense (15 goals conceded) without the services of either right-back Mitchell Weiser or striker Vedad Ibisevic. While Weiser is still suffering from a muscular injury that has sidelined him for two weeks, Ibisevic will be serving a suspension on account of his yellow-red ejection last week. The toothless Wolves have to seize this opportunity to take points if they have any hope of climbing out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves – 14th place with just 10 goals to their name (as many as Augsburg). For Hertha, a loss will almost certainly knock them out of third place. They would certainly settle for a draw.
Players to watch: Mario Gomez. Simply put, Gomez has to find the back of the net. He has three goals to his name this season, but far more is needed to help Wolfsburg out of its deepening crisis.
Bremen vs Ingolstadt
A 2:2 draw against Hamburg in last week’s amusing cellar-duel stalled Werder’s efforts to climb out of the relegation zone. They now have a second chance at redemption against the other worst team in the Bundesliga, Ingolstadt, who have all but imploded since the departure of coach Ralph Hasenhüttl to Leipzig. If Bremen can keep Ingolstadt’s impotent offense at bay - not so straightforward for their singularly bad back line - their relatively decent offense (15 goals so far) might help them escape the relegation zone for the first time this season.
Players to watch: Serge Gnabry. Gnabry scored again in last week’s draw against Hamburg, bringing his tally to 5. Bremen is pinning their hopes of survival on him.
Hoffenheim vs Köln
Tied at 22 points each, fifth-place Köln face sixth-place Hoffenheim at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena this weekend. The winner has a shot at fourth, maybe even third place, if Frankfurt or Hertha lose. While Köln has lost some momentum, coming off a scoreless draw against Augsburg, Hoffenheim has managed a draw in each of its last three games. While Hoffenheim’s offense has been only slightly more prolific than Köln’s (21 vs 18 goals), their defense has conceded nearly twice as often (14 vs 8 goals). Hoffenheim also will be without key midfielder Karem Demirbay, who was scratched last week with a thigh injury.
Player to watch: Anthony Modeste. Augsburg managed to keep Modeste at bay, but Hoffenheim will have to work hard to repeat the feat. For Köln, Modeste is the offense, having scored 12 of their 18 goals. He may prove too good to stop.
Saturday, 12:30pm EST
Leipzig vs Schalke (FS2)
This meeting has the potential to be the most exciting match this weekend. Leipzig hope to maintain their unbeaten record atop the Bundesliga table, staying one step ahead of Bayern, while Schalke have been steadily regaining ground after a very unlucky start to the season. The Lawn-Ballers’ back line is still a work in progress, with key center-back Marvin Compper unlikely to play. Schalke’s offense, meanwhile, has gotten very good results despite playing without a natural striker since Breel Embolo, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, and Franco di Santo all succumbed to injury (after complications, Huntelaar has now been ruled out for the entire season, possibly his last with Schalke).
Player to watch: Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting. Schalke’s offense has relied heavily on Choupo-Moting’s outstanding all-around versatility, playing as a left-winger or as a striker up the middle from one play to the next. If he can outmaneuver Leipzig’s improvised defense as he did Darmstadt’s last week, Schalke just might hand Leipzig their first defeat.
Saturday, 9:30 am EST
Leverkusen vs Freiburg (FS2)
This is Leverkusen’s big chance to make up lost ground in an increasingly disappointing season. In fact, Bayer is currently ranked just one place ahead of Freiburg (respectively 10th and 11th). Will Chicharito finally show up again to put some goals past Freiburg’s weak defense?
Sunday, 9:30 am EST
Darmstadt vs Hamburg (FS1)
On paper, this match should be an opportunity for Darmstadt to score points against a team headed for relegation. But Darmstadt may have to line up without key midfielder Änis Ben-Hatira, who hurt his ankle last weekend. Even so, while Darmstadt’s defense is nearly as bad as Hamburg’s, they score twice as often and should win at home.
Sunday, 11:30 am EST
Augsburg vs Frankfurt (FS1)
With Omar Mascarell back in the midfield, Frankfurt will be even stronger against Augsburg than they were against Dortmund last weekend. This match is Frankfurt’s to lose.