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Bundesliga Matchday 24: Highlights and Game Thread

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Two teams in crisis square off Friday, as Leverkusen host Bremen, while Schalke and Gladbach look to leap up the table on Sunday.

VfL Wolfsburg v Hamburger SV - Bundesliga
Hamburg’s Kyriakos papdopoulos
Photo by Ronny Hartmann/Getty Images For MAN

Here’s your open Bundesliga thread: whether you’re a regular here at Bavarian Football Works, Fear the Wall, or just a Bundesliga fanatic, this is the place to talk BL (or EPL, or La Liga, or whatever!) when your favorite team isn’t playing. Keep the banter friendly, and welcome to all!

Leverkusen vs Bremen

Friday, 2:30 pm EST (FS2)

The specter of crisis hovers over the opening match this weekend. This past Sunday, Bayer Leverkusen finally dismissed long-time manager Roger Schmidt after Borussia Dortmund inflicted a 6:2 debacle on Bayer’s floundering stars. New coach Tayfun Korkut promises a “bit more controlled” style of play than Schmidt. The squad at his disposal is largely healthy, but Lars Bender seems unlikely to play. If Korkut can instill in Leverkusen the control it has so spectacularly lacked without him, they should have the skill to sweep away a crippled Werder Bremen.

Bremen have just been rocked by the news that their captain Clemens Fritz will miss the rest of the season after tearing the syndesmosis in his right ankle. The injury may indeed end the 36-year-old’s career. And that is not the end of it: young forward Johannes Eggestein also suffered a syndesmosis injury during a U19 training session. That rules him out to replace the biggest gap of all: Serge Gnabry, whose persistent knee pain has prevented him from practicing. That leaves the aged Claudio Pizarro, who started against Darmstadt last weekend with mixed results and a handful of unproven youngsters.

A Leverkusen victory would stabilize their free fall and potentially even bring them within striking distance of a Europa League spot. A win for Bremen would help them climb closer to the mid-table and away from the drop zone, one place ahead of Wolfsburg.

Ingolstadt vs Köln

Saturday, 12:30 pm EST

After a brilliant start, Köln are mired in a five-game winless streak and injury complications are mounting. Defensive stalwart Frederik Sörensen suffered a muscle injury against Bayern Munich, and seven other players are questionable, including all three goalies on the team, because of injury or illness. Coach Peter Stöger is prepared to make “unusual decisions” in order to field a team, but he is confident of success.

Ingolstadt retreated home last week to lick its wounds after a devastating 5:2 loss to Hoffenheim, sinking ever deeper in the relegation zone alongside perennial punching bag Darmstadt. Ingolstadt will get at least a hint of relief in the return of Mathew Leckie. The Australian striker was shown the red card and suspended for two games after taking out Frankfurt’s Bastian Oczipka.

Schalke vs Augsburg

Sunday, 10:30 am EST (FS2)

and

Hamburg vs Gladbach

Sunday 12:30 am EST (FS2)

Schalke and Gladbach lately go hand and hand. The two clubs met Thursday in an intense Europa League duel ending in a 1-1 draw. Now they must trudge through Sunday fixtures against weaker teams.

For Schalke, Augsburg is only weaker in theory: the Fuggerstädter actually are in 12th place with 28 points, one point ahead. Be that as it may, it is Schalke's standing that is the outlier: they are literally the only team after 7th place that has a positive goal differential (namely, +1). But they have to earn their ascent up the table with results. Holger Badstuber seems almost certain to start after sitting out Thursday's contest with Gladbach.

Augsburg moreover are no pushovers: they snatched a point from Leipzig with a bold 2:2 last weekend, featuring an immense debut by 18-year-old defender Kevin Danso, whom they promptly signed through 2021. Talk about rewarding outstanding play!

For Gladbach, things are looking up: they bested Schalke 4:2 last weekend, drew with them 1-1 on Thursday, and at last seem to have found some rhythm. Gladbach knocked Hamburg out of the DFB Pokal when they last met and are favored to win, but Hamburg remains a strong side at home. With top-scorer Nikolai Müller returning to training after getting over the flu, the dinosaur may have a fighting chance.

Around the Bundesliga

(Saturday 9:30 am EST)

Hertha vs Dortmund: Hertha have been extremely tough to beat in the Olympiastadion, but Dortmund have been in terrifyingly incredible form, blowing Benfica out of the water 4-0 to advance to the Champions League quarterfinals. Bayern’s prodigal son Mitchell Weiser may make his long-anticipated comeback.

Darmstadt vs Mainz: The short trip from Mainz to Darmstadt is an opportunity for Martin Schmidt's scrappy side to seize another victory. Thorsten Frings's relegation-bound Darmstadt have shown some signs of life, but not much in the way of results.

Freiburg vs Hoffenheim: This interesting match pits coaching prodigy Julian Nagelsmann against the creative Christian Streich, who has led newly promoted Freiburg to 8th place (33 points). It will be a challenge for Freiburg, but they at least will have the services of key striker Maximilian Philipp again.

Leipzig vs Wolfsburg: Wolfsburg managed a 1-1 against Mainz in new coach Andries Jonker's debut, but few people will expect the 15th-place club to come away from Leipzig with points. Rani Khedira (Sami’s younger brother) may fill in for the suspended Stephan Ilsanker in the midfield.