By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
Matchday 15 in the Bundesliga sees rivalries young and old renewed as FC Bayern München head to Borussia Mönchengladbach, while Borussia Dortmund make the trip to RB Leipzig in two mouth-watering clashes.
The weekend’s action kicks off with a cracker at Borussia-Park as the champions come to town. Gladbach vs. Bayern was the defining fixture of the Bundesliga in the 1970s as they shared nine titles, and the Foals continue to be a thorn in the side of the treble winners with the best record against them of any team since the start of 2014/15.
Bayern have only lost three of their 59 competitive matches under Hansi Flick, but one was in Mönchengladbach. The league leaders have been somewhat shaky in defence lately, and can’t afford many more mistakes with things so tight at the top. But they can always rely on the firepower of Robert Lewandowski, who is going for a record-equalling fourth consecutive brace.
Meanwhile, Leipzig are breathing down their necks only two points behind. Julian Nagelsmann’s charges have been imperious at the Red Bull Arena, only dropping points there in their last fixture of 2020. They know they have to keep pace with Bayern, but face a daunting task of their own as Dortmund – the only visiting team to ever beat them twice – rock up. Erling Haaland scored twice when the sides last met in 2019/20 – he’s now fit again and ready to go for Borussia Dortmund.
Hot on the tails of Bayern and Leipzig, Bayer 04 Leverkusen had started the campaign unbeaten in the first 12 games but have now suffered back-to-back defeats to slow their title push. They will see their fixture at home to SV Werder Bremen – hovering precariously above the relegation places with only one win in 11 – as a chance to get back on track, but Die Werkself boast only one win in their last six home games against Die Grün-Weißen.
The top-of-the-table action doesn’t end there, though, as surprise package 1. FC Union Berlin host VfL Wolfsburg with the pair tied on 24 points in fifth and sixth respectively. The Berliners are the Bundesliga’s second-highest scorers, with Liverpool loanee Taiwo Awoniyi shouldering the burden after injury to former Wolfsburg man Max Kruse. The Nigerian is in red-hot form with a goal in each of the last three games – two more than his parent club have in their most recent three fixtures.
In stark contrast to Union Berlin’s ongoing success, FC Schalke 04’s slump in form appears impossible to shake. The Gelsenkirchen club host TSG Hoffenheim knowing that if they fail to win, they will equal Tasmania Berlin’s ignominious Bundesliga record of 31 games without victory. It’s a home debut for head coach Christian Gross against a Hoffenheim side themselves suffering a dip but boasting an Andrej Kramaric who has struck in four of his last five games against the Royal Blues.
Saturday’s afternoon action also throws up a derby as Bo Svensson takes charge of 1. FSV Mainz 05 for the first time, against local rivals Eintracht Frankfurt. While Die Adler have won back-to-back games, the 05ers have had their worst-ever start to a Bundesliga season and threw away a 2-0 lead in Munich last week. They are also yet to win at home in 2020/21, but Frankfurt arrive having never won away to their local rivals in 12 attempts at the Bundesliga level. The form book goes out the window in a derby…
Saturday is completed by SC Freiburg – on a club record four straight Bundesliga wins – at home to 1. FC Köln sitting precariously above the relegation play-off spot but with the league’s tightest defence on the road, having conceded only four.
Sunday kicks off with Pellegrino Matarazzo’s VfB Stuttgart making the relatively short trip to FC Augsburg, who begin the matchday a point ahead of their guests. The promoted side arrive looking to avenge a 6-0 thrashing from their last visit in 2019. And make sure you watch until the end, as Augsburg have scored over half of their goals this season in the final 15 minutes.
Matchday 15 ends at the SchücoArena as Arminia Bielefeld and Hertha Berlin meet for the first time in 12 years. Last season’s Bundesliga 2 champions are only a point from outright safety and can halve the gap to their opponents to three points with a win, but face an Old Lady rejuvenated by the return of striker Jhon Cordoba, who struck alongside Matteo Guendouzi and Krzysztof Piatek in last week’s win over Schalke.