Friday, 28 February 2014
Bundesliga Matchday 23 Preview: The battle for Europe shapes
While Bayern is in their second runaway season, well ahead of any opponents, Leverkusen, Dortmund, Schalke and VFL Wolfsburg are still serious challengers for a Champions League spot. Bayern and Dortmund won the first leg of the Group of 16 and should qualify for the quarter finals in this year's Champions League season. For both Leverkusen and Schalke this season in the Champions League should end after the second leg.
When Hertha BSC Berlin hosts Freiburg on Friday, the side has the opportunity to slip ahead of Wolfsburg with a home victory. On Saturday Bayern Muenchen hosts Schalke 04 and will strive to remain undefeated. Schalke, which played Real Madrid midweek, demonstrated some real deficiencies when playing against the truly great clubs in Europe. The club, at least on Thursday, lacked precision in passing and a definite weakness in defence, which was easily exploided by Madrid. Bayern will have taken note. Bayern knows that Schalke will come out fighting after the midweek disaster and is prepared to continue its winning streak. A victory with a one or two goal margin will do to increase their undefeated running total.
Second place Leverkusen welcomes Mainz 05. Mainz has had good season to this point and has the ability to win in Leverkusen. Kiessling and company need to pull up their socks and change their attitude if they are to remain ahead of Dortmund. This is a difficult match to call because of Leverkusen's inconsistency from week to week.
Dortmund hosts Nuernberg, a side that has recently started a come back and has now moved up to 12th spot on the table. Dortmund's performance in St. Petersburg showed that the club has some spark back, at least in the Champions League. Can this be converted to the domestic league?
Gladbach has an opportunity to close on Wolfsburg with a win over Braunschweig. On paper this should not be a difficult task for Gladbach. Only three points separate Hamburg and Bremen when the two northern most clubs tangle in Bremen. For Hamburg a win is important to finally move out of the relegation zone, while a home win for Bremen should give the club some breathing space.
When Augsburg hosts Hannover, the Bavarian side has an opportunity to close into a Euro League spot. Hannover, at least for the time being is too far removed to be a hopeful for Europe. On Sunday Wolfsburg travels to Hoffenheim and the Wolves have a great opportunity to move into a Champions League spot ahead of Schalke. Hoffenheim has an opportunity in Sinsheim to further distance itself from the relegation zone. A European spot for this season seems no longer possible.
The final match on Sunday features Eintracht Frankfurt against VFB Stuttgart. Frankfurt took a devastating blow in Euro League play on Thursday against FC Porto. After an away draw of 2-2 and an early lead in the return leg, Frankfurt had to settle for a 3-3 tie at home and elimination from the Euro League. The Hessen will want to redeem themselves against the Schwaben.
As the league moves into the final third of the season, the competition for European spots and relegation will continue to energize fans, despite Bayern's enormous lead. Sit back and enjoy, there is a lot to be decided yet.
Hertha BSC vs SC Freiburg 0-0
FC Augsburg vs Hannover 96 1-1
Borussia Dortmund vs 1. FC Nürnberg 3-0
Bayer Leverkusen vs FSV Mainz 05 0-1
Werder Bremen vs Hamburger SV 1-0
Eintr. Braunschweig vs Bor. Mönchengladbach 1-1
Bayern München vs Schalke 04 5-1
1899 Hoffenheim vs VfL Wolfsburg
Eintracht Frankfurt vs VfB Stuttgart
Posn Team GP W D L GF/GA Points
1 FC Bayern 23 21 2 0 66:10 65
2 Dortmund 23 14 3 6 54:27 45
3 Leverkusen 23 14 1 8 39:26 43
4 Schalke 23 12 5 6 42:35 41
5 Wolfsburg 22 12 3 7 38:26 39
6 Mainz 23 11 4 8 32:35 37
7 M'gladbach 23 10 6 7 40:29 36
8 Hertha BSC 23 10 5 8 34:27 35
9 Augsburg 23 10 5 8 35:33 35
10 Hoffenheim 22 6 8 8 46:46 26
11 Bremen 23 6 7 10 26:46 25
12 Hannover 23 7 4 12 30:42 25
13 Nürnberg 23 4 11 8 27:40 23
14 Frankfurt 22 4 7 10 24:38 22
15 Stuttgart 22 5 4 13 34:47 19
16 Hamburg 23 5 4 14 38:52 19
17 Freiburg 23 4 7 12 22:44 19
18 B'schweig 23 4 4 15 17:42 16