Augsburg vs Leipzig
Friday, 2:30 pm EST (FS2)
Leipzig have won their last two matches against relatively good teams: Mönchengladbach and Köln, overcoming the loss of striker Yussuf Poulsen to a muscle tear with Marcel Sabitzer and Oliver Burke. Now Burke also is injured, but that should only slow the Lawn-Ballers down slightly: Davie Selke also remains an option, albeit less favored. The pace of Timo Werner, tactical acumen of Emil Forsberg, and all-around magnificence of Naby Keita have more than compensated.
Augsburg duly defeated Darmstadt last week (2-1), but before that lost to Leverkusen and Mainz. Now in Leipzig they face an opponent of a higher caliber. There is at least one cause for relief: their best scorer, Raul Bobadilla, will be fit to play despite taking a blow to the ribs last weekend. Whether that translates into a victory or draw against a far superior team is another question.
Gladbach vs Schalke
Saturday, 12:30 pm EST
Having drawn each other in the Europa League, Gladbach and Schalke are about to see far more of one another than probably either team wishes. This game is the first of three matches over the next twelve days. If you ever wanted a case study in rotation strategies, these games are it.
Gladbach and Schalke both are weary from the DFB Pokal earlier this week but came away with vastly different experiences. Gladbach secured a 2-1 victory over Hamburg on two penalty kicks. Schalke, in contrast, was sent home by Bayern after a 3-0 rout that was essentially wrapped up after just thirty minutes. While Dieter Hecking’s offense seems stable with Raffael back in the lineup, it is likely that Markus Weinzierl will shake up his starters. He had harsh (but true) words for Max Meier in particular after the loss to Bayern. Perhaps Klaas-Jan Huntelaar or Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, who largely sat out the Pokal match, will start alongside Guido Burgstaller this week.
Frankfurt vs Freiburg
Sunday, 9:30 am EST (FS1)
From third place three weeks ago, Frankfurt have dropped to sixth after suffering three straight shut-out losses to Leverkusen, Ingolstadt (!), and Hertha. Now they have a chance at taking three points from relatively weak Freiburg, but they are still paying for two red cards picked up in the past two matches: key defender David Abraham remains suspended for two games, and forward Haris Seferovic for three!
Freiburg is also weakened by a suspension - attacker Maximilian Philipp is serving a one-game suspension for collecting his fifth yellow card. Midfield maestro Vincenzo Grifo will have to bring his best game to serve assists to Freiburg’s lukewarm strikers, but that might be enough to overcome Frankfurts card- and injury-stricken defense.
Around the Bundesliga
Saturday, 9:30 am EST
Dortmund vs Leverkusen: Leverkusen are hoping to rebound from two embarrassing losses, but they face a tough challenge in a well-rested Dortmund, after their Pokal match against Lotte was canceled. Dortmund cannot afford to slip behind Hoffenheim into fourth place and potentially out of the Champions League.
Mainz vs Wolfsburg: After the dismissal of Valerian Ismael, Wolfsburg’s new coach Andries Jonker will attempt to win some points against Mainz after restructuring the team. It will also be Yunus Malli’s first trip back to his former home, but plucky Mainz have shown they can win without him.
Bremen vs Darmstadt: If Bremen beat last-place Darmstadt, they will have won three games in a row, after suffering four consecutive defeats. They have another incentive to beat the worst team in the league: they have lost every one of their home games this season.
Hoffenheim vs Ingolstadt: Hoffenheim play extremely well at home. With a healthy lineup, they should have no trouble in cracking Ingolstadt’s defenses. Of course, the Schanzer have shown an uncanny habit of beating the odds against very good teams.
Sunday, 11:30 am EST
Hamburg vs Hertha: After showing some signs of life, Hamburg received a brutal reality check in an 8-0 loss to Bayern followed by a 2-1 loss to Gladbach in the DFB Pokal. Hertha showed Frankfurt its limits last week, and should be able to dispatch the tired Dinosaurier.