The final matchday of the Hinrunde plays out over two days of mid-week evening games. Behind the game of the season thus far – Bayern vs Leipzig – several matches present opportunities for the top teams to add to their points tally. Leverkusen and Köln square off in a tense derby, while neighbors Frankfurt and Mainz play in another.
Matchday 16: Key Matches
Tuesday, 2:00 pm EST
Dortmund vs Augsburg (FS1)
After a disappointing but dramatic draw against Hoffenheim, Thomas Tuchel’s team desperately wants to close out the first half with a dominant victory at home over Augsburg, but they will have to do so yet again without their best player, Marco Reus. Reus will serve a senseless one-game suspension for his ejection (yellow-red) against Hoffenheim – despite the fact that he demonstrably should not have received a second card at all. If Tuchel has his way, his team will channel all its indignation into a resounding victory over tough-defending Augsburg. Augsburg has its own ideas, of course: they have a chance at bringing down another big club after humiliating Gladbach over the weekend. It’s impossible to say, though, what new coach Manuel Baum will do in just his second game. The recipe will likely be to sit back and hit Dortmund on the counter.
Player to watch: Mario Götze. Götze scored the opening goal in Dortmund’s clash with Hoffenheim over the weekend. With Marco Reus suspended, he will have to step up and pull the strings in the midfield himself.
Frankfurt vs Mainz
Mainz will take the trip up the Main River to face next-door neighbor Eintracht Frankfurt. After a resounding 3-1 victory over Hamburg, Mainz will look to maintain its momentum with a win, bringing itself within striking distance of Frankfurt on the table (6th and 8th respectively). Frankfurt hope to rebound after a disappointing away loss to Wolfsburg last week, but their offense may be understaffed. Striker Alex Meier, who has been sick with a bad cold, may have to sit out. American defender Timothy Chandler meanwhile will return to the starting lineup. Coach Niko Kovac plans to press Mainz’s porous defense (27 goals conceded) ruthlessly. His counterpart Martin Schmidt hopes to crack Frankfurt’s rock-hard defense with an aggressive, physical performance by his team.
Player to watch: Jhon Cordoba. Mainz’s Colombian striker faces the daunting challenge of pressing and breaking down one of the toughest defenses in the Bundesliga (12 goals conceded), but he has the physical gifts to pull off the feat.
Wednesday, 2:00 pm EST
Köln vs Leverkusen (FS2)
The other major derby of the matchday pits Leverkusen (9th) against Köln (7th). On the face of it, the odds seem to be in Köln’s favor. Leverkusen were whistled off the field by their own fans last weekend after Ingolstadt walked all over them in their home arena. Bayer Leverkusen is in crisis – despite its current standing on the table. Since losing to Leipzig on matchday 11, the team’s only victory is a dubious 1-0 against Schalke after a controversial foul call. The fans have not seen Leverkusen play good soccer for over a month and disappointment is turning into anger. Their chief advantage against rival Köln? The fact that they are slightly – only slightly – less injured. On most days, Köln’s defense should be enough to stifle Leverkusen, who will again be without Stefan Kiessling. For Köln, the question comes down to offense: can Anthony Modeste finally break through again and lead his team to a last victory before the winter break?
Player to watch: Anthony Modeste. Strikers might get all the love, but Köln’s success really depends to an exceptional extent on the performance of their striker. After scoring 12 goals through matchday 11, Modeste has been goalless for the past four games – none of which Köln has won (0-3-1).
Around the Bundesliga
Tuesday, 2:00 pm EST
Gladbach vs Wolfsburg
Wolfsburg meets Gladbach at an ideal time to win its second game in a row: Gladbach is still reeling from the loss of Christoph Kramer, who suffered ligament damage after a brutal tackle by Augsburg’s Takashi Usami last week. Julian Draxler seems poised to receive a second start despite all the turmoil surrounding his relationship with the club. The Wolves need him.
Hamburg vs Schalke (FS2)
Hamburg’s unbeaten streak came to an end last week as Mainz’s Danny Latza announced his comeback with a hat-trick. Now Hamburg face a potentially much more dangerous opponent at home in Schalke. Coach Markus Weinzierl will field the same squad against Hamburg that drew 1-1 against Mainz: the regular strikers are all injured or sick (Choupo-Moting), so Evgen Konoplyanka is certain to start. That may give Hamburg just enough breathing room to come away with a positive result.
Wednesday, 2:00 pm EST
Bayern vs Leipzig (FS1)
Heard about this one? Yeah, thought so. They might be goons, but they’re glorious goons. Check out our projected lineups here.
Hertha vs Darmstadt
As the last few matchdays have repeatedly proven, points from teams at the bottom of the table cannot be taken for granted. Leipzig and Leverkusen both lost to Ingolstadt, and even Bayern struggled to steal a goal against last-place Darmstadt. Now Hertha have a chance to give their fans a parting gift in the form of a victory against Darmstadt, but they will have to do so without Mitchell Weiser, who suffered a setback after attempting a comeback last week.
Ingolstadt vs Freiburg
Now this has all the makings of a riveting game. If Freiburg-Darmstadt (1-0) thrilled you two weeks ago, this is the match for you. In fact, another win may see Freiburg rise above the studied mediocrity with which they have succeeded so remarkably this season, but Ingolstadt will be no pushovers, having scored themselves right out of immediate relegation (now 16th).
Hoffenheim vs Bremen
Serge Gnabry is healthy and so Bremen have hope. Hoffenheim will look to bury them despite the absence of Sebastian Rudy (suspended). With Kerem Demirbay back, the Hoff should have more than enough midfield presence to support Sandro Wagner and his diabolical schemes.