Augsburg vs Leverkusen
Friday, 2:30 pm EST (FS1)
Leverkusen look as if they have at last turned a corner this season, and that despite the loss of Hakan Calhanoglu to a four-month suspension. With coach Roger Schmidt’s job on the line, Leverkusen thrashed third-place Frankfurt 3:0. Now they come to Augsburg in the hope of extending their run back toward the top of the table. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez scored a brace in his last outing, finally ending a long drought. He showed great chemistry with Kai Havertz, and Karim Bellarabi’s return to the starting lineup gave Leverkusen a significant boost. Leverkusen has all the tools to be one of the top teams in the league - indeed where they expected to see themselves this season.
Augsburg, in contrast, are hoping to return to their winning ways after losing to Mainz last weekend. They had beaten both Werder and Wolfsburg previously, but they have not performed consistently against the better teams in the league. The return of Korean star Ja-Cheol Koo will give them a significant boost in the offensive midfield.
Hamburg vs Freiburg
Saturday, 12:30 pm EST
The Saturday matinee has all the makings of a close and entertaining match. Hamburg have been on an incredible tear - a complete reversal of their shockingly bad start this season: they have won three shutout games in a row against good defensive teams, beating Leverkusen (1-0), Köln (2-0), and most impressively Leipzig (3-0). Are they bound to regress to the norm? What on earth is the norm for this team now? Given the competition they have blown away, three points from Freiburg look to be there for the taking.
Freiburg are no pushovers either, though. Sitting pretty in eighth place, They handed Köln a defeat last weekend and will look to exploit any vulnerabilities in Hamburg’s defense. The man to watch is Vincenzo Grifo. He has scored just four goals this season, but he is tied for fifth in the goal-scorer’s leaderboard (ahead of the likes of Sandro Wagner, Vedad Ibisevic, and even Arjen Robben) because he has provided an astonishing ten assists, leading the Bundesliga.
Gladbach vs Leipzig
Sunday, 9:30 am EST
The upstarts of the league will visit Mönchengladbach looking to rebound from a humiliating 3-0 loss at home to Hamburg. Besides the scoreline, Leipzig also lost Yussuf Poulsen to a muscle injury and Willi Orban to suspension for earning a fifth yellow card. Otherwise, Ralph Hasenhüttl has a full compliment of starters. Leipzig have the additional advantage of being fresh for the weekend, while Gladbach played - and lost - to AC Fiorentina 0:1 this past Tuesday. Injuries and the general urgency of their race back up the table leave Dieter Hecking with few options for rotation. The one potential bright spot is Raffael. He was unable to play against Fiorentina, but he might be fit in time for Leipzig. Gladbach’s other starters will have a double-shift ahead of them this Sunday, and the Lawn-Ballers will look to capitalize on it with their fast-paced play.
Around the Bundesliga
Saturday, 9:30 am EST
Dortmund vs Wolfsburg: André Schürrle lines up against his former club, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will look to rebound from a dismal Champions League performance against Benfica.
Mainz vs Bremen: Martin Schmidt’s Mainz keep on rolling, this time looking to hand Bremen its fifth consecutive Bundesliga loss.
Hoffenheim vs Darmstadt: The Mephistophelian Sandro Wagner returns to action against the worst team in the Bundesliga - that just happened to beat Dortmund 2:1 last week.
Frankfurt vs Ingolstadt: If Frankfurt are going to hold onto their Champions League place in third, they have to dispatch weak clubs like Ingolstadt.
Sunday 11:30 am EST
Köln vs Schalke: Köln have lost their last two matches and face yet another strong opponent in Schalke, which has revamped their offense with the additions of Caligiuri and Burgstaller, while Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has returned from long injury.