Drink it in: football is back. Last weekend, the Bundesliga attracted unprecedented attention from around the globe as football marked its return from suspension. The upcoming weekend of action promises to be just as eye-catching, with clubs from Germany’s top two divisions locking horns.
Hertha host Union in the Berlin Derby in the 19:30 (BST) kick-off this evening. Hertha were among the big winners upon the Bundesliga restart, registering an impressive 3-0 win over Hoffenheim in their first game under new coach, Bruno Labbadia, last weekend.
Union were beaten comfortably by Bayern Munich last time out, but won the last meeting between the teams 1-0 in November. With just one point between the sides, the Berlin Derby has all the hallmarks of being a classic encounter, although Hertha should have enough quality to take the points.
Only Borussia Dortmund managed to win on home soil last time out
Borussia Mönchengladbach versus Bayer Leverkusen is undoubtedly the pick of the matches on Saturday afternoon. Impressive performers last weekend, Mönchengladbach and Leverkusen are separated by just two points in the race for the Champions League. Leverkusen – led by the increasingly popular Kai Havertz – sit fifth in the standings; Mönchengladbach are third.
Mönchengladbach are the hosts, although home advantage didn’t seem to count for much last weekend: only Borussia Dortmund managed to win on home soil. Both sides are thrilling to watch; both will press to take all three points. A win for Leverkusen would see them jump into the Champions League spots: it’s the must-watch match of the gameweek 27.
Elsewhere on Saturday afternoon, Dortmund travel to Wolfsburg, Freiburg host Werder Bremen and Paderborn take-on Hoffenheim in their desperate battle to survive the drop. Werder Bremen start the weekend five points adrift of safety, defeat against Freiburg would be a catastrophic dent to their survival hopes.
Schalke will be hoping to return to form against Augsburg at home
The league leaders, Bayern Munich return to the Allianz Arena on Saturday evening; Hansi Flick’s side host Eintracht Frankfurt. Bayern were utterly dominated against Union Berlin last weekend, a performance that will make grim viewing for Frankfurt manager, Adi Hütter. Anything other than a dominant victory for the hosts would be a surprising result.
On Sunday, Schalke will be hoping to return to form against Augsburg at home. Schalke have been abysmal under David Wagner since the Christmas break, sinking without trace in the Riverderby against Dortmund last weekend. While Schalke lack pace in the final third, Augsburg have conceded the third most goals in the division. If Wagner’s side are going to pick up three points: this would be the weekend to do it.
RB Leipzig will also be hoping to return to form, having failed to win at home against Freiburg last Saturday. Julian Nagelsmann’s side travel to Mainz on Sunday afternoon and are strong favourites to record their first win since the restart. A victory for the hosts, however, could see Mainz jump as high as twelfth in the standings.
Arminia Bielefeld could move a step closer to promotion with a win over Hamburg
The final Bundesliga match of the weekend pits FC Köln against Fortuna Düsseldorf in a contest that is comfortably more important for the travelling side than the hosts. Perched comfortably in midtable, Köln have little to play for throughout the remainder of the season; the same can’t be said for Düsseldorf.
The visitors sit four points adrift of Mainz, and currently occupy the relegation playoff place. If top scorer, Rouwen Hennings, is restored to the line-up, Düsseldorf could cause their hosts some issues. In a match that isn’t likely to be a goalfest, whichever team starts fastest will hope to have enough to hold on.
In the second division, Arminia Bielefeld could move a step closer to promotion with a win over Hamburg. Bielefeld sit seven points clear of their opponents at the top of the 2. Bundesliga and are unbeaten in their last five matches. Hamburg squandered a 2-1 lead in the final minute against Greuther Fürth a week ago; they must win if they are to stand a chance of mounting a late title charge.
With another round of fixtures scheduled for midweek, clubs across Germany are likely to name rotated line-ups this weekend. With matches played behind closed-doors, and with managers allowed to make an increased number of substitutions, football has a different feel these days. The world will be watching regardless.