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Sports

Bayern facing 'toughest away game of the season'

The Bundesliga kicks off matchday 15 this Friday with Schalke playing host to Hannover. Neutral fans, though, will be looking forward to Saturday, when the schedule features two clashes involving the top four.

While Schalke will be looking to shake off their recent doldrums when they take to the pitch at the Veltins Arena, Hannover will make the trip west having taken some confidence from their 4-0 drubbing of Ingolstadt last week. On paper, at least, this clash of the eighth and the 14th-placed teams doesn't promise to be a barn-burner.

The two games that neutral Bundesliga fans are really looking forward to this weekend both take place on Saturday: Bayern Munich, who have absolutely dominated the league this season, travel to fourth-placed Mönchengladbach, while Dortmund take a trip to Wolfsburg in a matchup of the second and third-best teams.

The two top teams of the 'Schubert era'

Taking a quick glance at the standings, you would be forgiven if you predicted a walkover for Bayern, who are 17 points ahead of Gladbach. However, this is only part of Gladbach's tale of two coaches. Since Andre Schubert took over when Lucien Favre threw in the towel after five winless games, Gladbach are a team transformed - having gone undefeated and taking 23 points from their last nine matches. Only Pep Guardiola's Bayern have collected more points (25) over the same timeframe.

Not just that, but Gladbach in recent years has proven to be one of the toughest teams for Bayern to beat - with a record of three wins apiece and two draws in their last eight contests.

"This will be our toughest away game of the season," Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski said.

Coach Guardiola, who will have to do without David Alaba, Arjen Robben, Douglas Costa and Mario Götze in Saturday's game, is full of respect for Gladbach and the work of his opposite number.

"Their record shows how good they are," Guardiola told a press conference on Thursday. "I like the team and I like how they play."

Schubert expressed respect but no fear going into Saturday's game.

"We won't just park the bus and try to get a result, but instead, we will develop a plan to try to create our own scoring chances," Schubert said.

Gladbach captain Granit Xhaka echoed that sentiment.

"Every team is beatable, you just need to find good solutions," the Swiss national team player said. "We want to play our own game, create chances, and in the best-case scenario, make the odd one count."

Hummels and co. laid low by the flu

Saturday's other big match will see Wolfsburg try to narrow the seven-point gap that separates them from Dortmund.

Thomas Tuchel's men righted the ship last week with their 4-1 win over Stuttgart, putting their shock defeat in Hamburg behind them - and the Swabians' coach, Alexander Zorniger, out of a job. Tuchel though, will have to do without midfielder Julian Weigl and defenders Sokratis and Mats Hummels, who has been in terrible form of late. All three are suffering from a stomach flu that has been making the rounds through Dormund's players and staff.

DFB-Pokal Finale Dortmund Wolfsburg Bas Dost Tor

Dortmund's depleted defense will have to contend with Bas Dost, who will be looking to add to his total of seven goals this season

Despite their absence, Tuchel told reporters in Dortmund on Friday, that he had full confidence in the team he will field on Saturday.

"We will be ready despite this," he said. "It is a special game against a Champions League participant and a (DFB) Cup winner that is enjoying a good run of form at home. That's an ample incentive to produce a top performance."

For Hecking, Saturday's game will be his 100th in charge at Wolfsburg, meaning he has lasted longer at the club than any other coach since the Wolves first gained promotion to the Bundesliga in 1997.

"Matches against BVB (Dortmund) have always been tight and of a high standard. We have no reason to make ourselves smaller than we are," Hecking said. "There is no favorite, it will be decided by nuances. These are 50-50 games.

Matchday 15 in the Bundesliga:

Friday, December 4

Schalke vs. Hannover

Saturday, December 5

Cologne vs. Augsburg

Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Bayern Munich

Ingolstadt vs. Hoffenheim

Hamburg vs. Mainz

Hertha Berlin vs. Bayer Leverkusen

Wolfsburg vs. Borussia Dortmund

Sunday, December 6

Stuttgart vs. Werder Bremen

Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Darmstadt

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