Even though the winter break is fast approaching, the 16th week in the Bundesliga features two derbies including one of the fiercest: Dortmund vs. Schalke. Also, Bayern travels to Nuremberg for the “Bavarian” derby.
Will Bayern Munich have lots of reason to celebrate this Christmas?
The first leg of the Bundesliga is nearing its end. Bayern Munich are looking to go into the break with the lead; the contenders are trying to keep pace. Munich face their northern Bavarian neighbor, Nuremberg (actually, in Franconia—the Nurembergers don’t like being called Bavarians). Felix Magath’s squad had a stellar November, winning all six of their matches, including a Champions League and a German Cup contest and jumped to the top of the standings.
Nuremberg are in 12th place and more concerned with staying in the top division, but there is no reason to believe that they will win this match. The “Club” have managed to take home three points against Munich only once in their last seven meetings. One fact that might stand in their favor is Slovakian midfielder Marek Mintal. He has found the mark 12 times, making him the league’s current goal-scoring leader.
Bayern Munich, however, have an arsenal of weapons to beat any opponent: strikers Roy Makaay, Claudio Pizarro and super sub Paolo Guererro. There’s also international midfielder Michael Ballack.
And in the last row, they have Germany’s number one keeper Oliver Kahn. He has shown signs of weakness this season and now has an injured finger to boot. Everyone knows this, including Nuremberg’s coach Wolfgang Wolf, who plans to use the injury to his team's advantage: “We have to make Oliver Kahn use both his hands.”
Dortmund, Schalke: No love lost
Red cards aren't so unusual when Dortmund and Schalke meet.
The hottest match of the weekend takes place on Sunday, when bitter rivals Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 meet in Westfalen Stadion. There’s no love lost between the Ruhr area clubs and the latest “incident” did not help.
It occurred at the management level when Schalke’s general manager, Rudi Assauer, offered financial assistance to debt-ridden Dortmund in the form of a benefit match. Dortmund’s managing director, Gerd Niebaum, took offense and refused the offer, much to the displeasure of Assauer.
Schalke can afford to be magnanimous to their poor cousins. Dortmund’s midfielder Tomas Rosicky summed up the significance of this match, saying “for us it is about survival.” Survival because Borussia are just three points away from the relegation zone.
Schalke, on the other hand, have shot up to second place in the league under coach Ralf Rangnick. They are brimming with confidence. They are hot in the league. And they have not lost to Dortmund in their last 11 match-ups. Schalke’s international striker Gerald Asamoah has ticked his team for another victory against Borussia: “I do not think our run against Dortmund will be coming to an end," he said.
Hanover vs. Hamburg: a mid-pack race
One of the more interesting matches on Saturday could be Hamburg against Hanover. Coach Thomas Doll has fetched Hamburg out of the relegation zone, depending on the offense to win games. They have scored 12 goals in the last three matches and find themselves firmly in the middle of the pack. Unfortunately, one of their go-getters, Sergej Barbarez (6 goals) has to sit this match out after receiving his fifth yellow card last week.
Hanover have been riding the success of goalie Robert Enke. He has given up only one goal per game this season and helped Hanover to an UEFA Cup spot—so far. The only loss in their last nine Bundesliga matches was in Munich, 3-0.