Bayern Munich will try to replicate the big result they had to open the Bundesliga when they take on Hamburg. Gladbach want to prevent Dortmund from doing the same to them.
Bayern Munich and Hamburger SV may be the two most tenured Bundesliga clubs, but recent fixtures between the two have clearly differentiated their statuses in German football. Bayern have scored at least three goals in eight of their last nine matches against Hamburg, including a 5-0 trouncing to kick off the Bundesliga season.
Is Bayern ready to put in a big result when the Bundesliga restarts on Friday? A loss in a friendly against second-tier Karlsruhe last weekend was a rude awakening they may not be. "I don't know at which level my team is playing at right now," said Pep Guardiola in his prematch press conference on Thursday. We will need three or four games before I know that."
Limping into the winter break with a banged-up squad, Bayern will get several key players back from injury, including David Alaba and Arjen Robben. Along with player of the first half Douglas Costa, Bayern have a lot of left-footed quality Hamburg will have a hard time containing. The defensive challenge for Hamburg may be even tougher if Johan Djourou, who is questionable with knee issues, is unable to play with Emir Spahic already sidelined with a stommach muscle tear.
Hamburg will not afraid of this challenge though, even if only eight of their 22 points this season have come in Imtech Arena. "Of course it is something special to play against Bayern," said defender Cleber Reis. "But fear? I'm only scared of my parents."
Gladbach seek revenge for Dortmund drubbing
It was Borussia Dortmund's 4-0 shellacking that kicked off the back-breaking five-match losing streak for Borussia Mönchengladbach. That Foals team has a completely new identity in this reverse fixture, revitalized under new coach Andre Schubert. Though they are still nine points back from Dortmund in the table, Gladbach appear ready to give their yellow and black neighbors a good challenge.
The Foals will be without one of their best players though, Granit Xhaka beginning a three-match ban after picking up his third red card of the season before the winter break. That leaves a lot of heavling lifting for Gladbach youngster Mahmoud Dahoud, who may have a hard time handling Dortmund's passing posse Ilkay Gündogan, Julian Weigl and Shinji Kagawa.
Saturday's showcase will also be Jonas Hofmann's opportunity to play against his former team less than a month after his move to Gladbach. His selection will not be a guarantee though, even with the injuries to Patrick Hermann and Jonas Hofmann. "I have the impression he would be particularly excited," said Schubert. "But Jonas still has to get familiar with some things, and we still need to get familiar with his strengths."
Borussia Park is where Gladbach have gotten their season back on track, and their home form will be a big factor going into the match. The Foals have collected 19 of a possible 21 points at their home gound since Lucien Favre stepped down in September, a strong record to build on when going up against Germany's second-best team. "We know about the quality of Dortmund," said midfielder Ibrahima Traore. "But we are playing at Borussia Park and want to show that we deserve to be up the table."
Bundesliga matchday 18 fixtures: Hamburg vs. Bayern Munich (Friday); Cologne vs. Stuttgart, Hannover vs. Darmstadt, Hertha Berlin vs. Augsburg, Hoffenheim vs. Leverkusen, Ingolstadt vs. Mainz (early Saturday); Gladbach vs. Dortmund (late Saturday); Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Wolfsburg, Schalke vs. Bremen (Sunday)