After dropping valuable points in Berlin last week, Dortmund may get another chance to gain ground on Bayern Munich. Wolfsburg meanwhile need a win as the pressure grows on Dieter Hecking.
Borussia Dortmund blew an opportunity to gain ground on first-place Bayern Munich when they failed to score in Berlin last week. Another opportunity could presented itself when they host last-place Hannover on Saturday.
Dortmund made short work of Hannover in the reverse fixture in September, collecting two penalties and an own goal to secure a 4-2 win. Hannover may be even less potent this time around, with Adam Szalai suffering a muscle tear in training and Hugo Almeida catching an illness. Coming off a 3-1 win in midweek against a rejuvenated Stuttgart, Dortmund will want another strong victory before they face off with Porto in the Europa League.
Bayern's test may be a tad tougher. Pep Guardiola going up against the only manager to beat him twice in the Bundesliga, Markus Weinzierl. However, Augsburg have committed the most fouls this season with 204 and fouls were what prevented Augsburg from getting a point in Allianz Arena earlier this season. The hosts may still be the underdogs, but with Bayern playing their third-straight away game, they might fancy their chances.
"Bayern are always going to be favorites, because they are one of the best teams in the world. We have beaten them twice in the last two years, but know that the timings of those matches were favorable," said Weinzierl. "On Sunday, they will be well prepared, and highly motivated - no doubt. We are, however, equally motivated and look forward to playing the underdog role. It will have to be our day."
Due to a rash of injuries, Guardiola has not assembled a full seven-man bench since Bayern's champions league match against Dinamo Zagreb in December. That is not likely to change with Franck Ribery, Mario Götze and Serdar Tasci missing midweek's cup game, but Rafinha and Juan Bernat both returned to provide Bayern more depth in defense. With Xabi Alonso suspended after his red card last week, Bayern's defense may once again struggle to keep a clean sheet.
Wolfsburg, Hecking need a win
Wolfsburg had one of the best seasons in the club's history last season, but their recent form has made those days seem in the distant past. They are winless in their last seven matches, causing them to fall down to eighth place in the table. Their demise has put a lot of pressure on head coach Dieter Hecking and sporting director Klaus Allofs, both of whom were instrumental in Wolfsburg's current rise.
"We need to win as soon as possible," said Allofs "The pressure is there, but we cannot lose our patience."
After their 6-0 outburst against Werder Bremen, Wolfsburg have scored just six goals in the Bundesliga. Max Kruse, acquired from Gladbach in the summer, does not have one of those goals either. Meanwhile, Bas Dost, with seven goals to his name, is still out injured with a foot injury. It also won't help this weekend that Ingolstadt are tied with Leverkusen and Hertha for the second-lowest goal concession total in the Bundesliga this season.
"Everyone needs to recognize and take on the situation," said Hecking. "The basic elements need to come back. The football quality is there."
Ingolstadt, trying to survive their first Bundesliga campaign, could hop over Wolfsburg in the table if they manage to win for the third time in four games. With a Champions League tie against KAA Gent next week, Wolfsburg's schedule is only going to get tougher if they trop points for the eighth-straight game.
Bundesliga matchday 21:
Mainz vs. Schalke (Friday)
Borussia Dortmund vs. Hannover (Saturday)
Wolfsburg vs. Ingolstadt
Stuttgart vs. Hertha BSC
Bremen vs. Hoffenheim
Darmstadt vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Cologne vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
Hamburg vs. Gladbach (Sunday)
Augsburg vs. Bayern Munich