Neither Bayern Munich nor Borussia Dortmund are any closer to deciding on a long-term head coach. Postponing Bayern's title party would do Peter Stöger's credentials in Dortmund no harm.
Borussia Dortmund head coach Peter Stöger can launch his candidacy for the job on a longer-term basis by further postponing Bayern Munich's Bundesliga title party on Saturday when the Black and Yellows visit the Allianz Arena in Munich.
Neither Bayern nor Dortmund have made much progress on the issue of who will be in charge next season. But while current Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes has emphatically rejected attempts from club president Uli Hoeness to convince him to increase the length of his "favor for a friend," Stöger isn't ruling himself out of the Dortmund job.
"We said from the start that nothing will be decided by the end of March — when you don't know whether you have achieved everything or lost everything," said the 51-year-old Austrian. He added that "the relevant people, including myself, will decide how to proceed."
As it stands, both Jupp Heynckes (left) and Peter Stöger (right) will be out of contract at the end of the season
Bayern's coaching succession plans have been rocked by recent high-profile setbacks. First, former BVB coach Thomas Tuchel reportedly told Bayern's bosses in a conference call last week that he has received offers from abroad. On Thursday, coach Ralph Hasenhüttl said he has unfinished business with RB Leipzig.
But in Dortmund, despite a disappointing Europa League exit, current incumbent Stöger has the opportunity to put forward his own case in a series of season-defining games against Stuttgart, Schalke, Bayer Leverkusen and Werder Bremen. The immediate aim is a big performance and positive result in Munich.
"Seeing Bayern celebrate winning the title against us is not part of the plan," said Stöger. "Our only aim is the Champions League."
The former Cologne coach has never beaten Bayern, most recently suffering a cup defeat to the Bavarians in December in only his third game in charge of Dortmund. Still, he remains unbeaten in the Bundesliga with BVB after 12 games, a record for a Dortmund coach.
Stöger intends to take the game to the champions-elect, insisting: "We won't be playing five at the back."
Reus out, Dahoud key
If Dortmund are to compete in Munich, control and creativity in midfield will be key. Much is expected of Mahmoud Dahoud, whom BVB sporting director Michael Zorc says is "developing into a midfield conductor." His recent performances have finally begun to show why Dortmund spent €12 million ($14.8 million) to prise the midfielder away from Borussia Mönchengladbach in the summer.
"It's slowly coming together. My game's getting better and it's doing me good," Dahoud said.
Marco Reus will likely miss the trip to southern Germany due to a persistent groin problem. He has scored three goals in five Bundesliga games since his return from a knee injury in February.
Title within reach for Bayern
After results combined to ensure Bayern couldn't win the league away at RB Leipzig on Matchday 27, the five-time defending league champions now have the chance to wrap up the title at the Allianz Arena for the very first time — and at a home game for the first time since 2000.
Heynckes, who coached Bayern to the Bundesliga title in 1989, 1990 and 2013, said in a press conference in Munich on Friday that he is not concerned as to when the Bavarians clinch the league title.
Elsewhere on Matchday 28:
— Schalke's 1-0 win away at Wolfsburg on Matchday 27 postponed Bayern Munich's title party. An identical result against Freiburg on Saturday could put Bayern's plans on hold again. But after four consecutive 1-0 wins, the Royal Blues will be expecting more against Freiburg, whose defense is third-worst in the Bundesliga. "Not everything is working perfectly yet," admits winger Daniel Caligiuri. "We want more dribbles, more attacks on the opposition box and more shots on goal."
— Werder Bremen enter their match against Eintracht Frankfurt having won five of their last seven games, which has propelled them away from the relegation battle. Eintracht Frankfurt are in equally impressive form, knocking on the door of the Champions League after winning six of their last nine.
— "Passion can keep us up," was the rallying call from Cologne's Vincent Koziello this week. The 22-year-old Frenchman will be key if the relegation-threatened Billy Goats are to keep their survival dream alive. With Wolfsburg traveling to Berlin on Saturday evening and Mainz welcoming Gladbach on Sunday, Cologne have a chance to put the pressure on their relegation rivals if they can gain at least a point in Hoffenheim — where they lost 4-0 last season.
Matchday 28 fixtures
Hoffenheim vs. Cologne (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. CET)
Schalke vs. Freiburg
Leverkusen vs. Augsburg
Hannover vs. RB Leipzig
Stuttgart vs. Hamburg
Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund (Saturday, 6:30 p.m. CET)
Hertha Berlin vs. Wolfsburg (Satuday, 8:30 p.m. CET)
Werder Bremen vs. Eintracht Frankfurt (Sunday, 3:30 p.m. CET)
Mainz vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach (Sunday, 6:00 p.m. CET)