BERLIN (AP) — Runaway Bundesliga leader Bayern Munich continues its quest to break records with a derby at Nuremberg, Borussia Dortmund visits troubled Werder Bremen and Schalke hosts Hannover in a clash between two sides unbeaten this year. At the other end of the table, Hamburger SV desperately needs a good result against Hertha Berlin and Eintracht Braunschweig visits Eintracht Frankfurt for a relegation six-pointer. Bayer Leverkusen gets the 20th round underway at Borussia Moenchengladbach, where it hopes to consolidate second place. Here are five things to know ahead of the weekend:
THE NEW NUREMBERG
Bayern and Nuremberg are the in-form teams of the moment, with two wins from two games this year. While Bayern's excellent return from the winter break is no surprise, Nuremberg hadn't won any of its opening 17 games this season.
Gertjan Verbeek's Nuremberg finally appears to have turned the corner for a combination of reasons. Nuremberg hit the post or crossbar 15 times in the first half of the season without the ball ever going in or out to be scored on the rebound; twice already this year, the side has scored off the post and on the rebound, while Timmy Chandler's harmless shot was deflected for the opening score in the 4-0 win over Hoffenheim. Referees' decisions also appear to be going Nuremberg's way now, while strikers Josip Drmic and Daniel Ginczek are suddenly taking their chances.
Nuremberg's record of seven goals scored and one conceded in 2014 is bettered only by Bayern's (7-0). Don't be surprised if Verbeek's side finally ends its Bavarian rival's record 44-game unbeaten streak on Saturday.
Robin Dutt is coming under increasing pressure at Werder Bremen after his side claimed just one win from its past eight games. Last weekend's 3-1 loss at Augsburg left Bremen just three points above the relegation zone, while its performances to date have done little to suggest improvement.
"To say I'm somewhat annoyed is an understatement, but I prefer to leave it there before the wrong word passes my mouth," said Dutt, who canceled his players' day off last Monday.
Dutt is likely to start recently signed attacking midfielder Ludovic Obraniak against Borussia Dortmund on Saturday, but Argentine defender Santiago Garcia is suspended after his red card in Augsburg.
Dortmund's mini-crisis is over after claiming its first win since November last Friday at Eintracht Braunschweig, though defender Mats Hummels — who just returned from a knee injury — has been ruled out for two weeks with a strain in his right foot.
The winter break appears to have been just the tonic Schalke needed to turn gloom to optimism, with, two wins from two games in 2014. The revival has coincided with the return of Klaas Jan Huntelaar after five months out with a right knee injury. The Dutchman scored on his return against Hamburger SV (3-0) and last week's 2-1 win over Wolfsburg, a direct rival for a Champions League qualification place, has given Schalke a boost for the second half of the season.
"Our priority is qualifying for the Champions League," Huntelaar told Sport Bild. "We could still even finish second, but let's just take things from game to game."
Schalke's new confidence will be put to the test at home Sunday against Hannover, also perfect so far in 2014.
Hamburger is deep in crisis before Saturday's visit of Hertha Berlin. Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk canceled his players' day off Monday after their fifth loss in succession — a 3-0 defeat at Hoffenheim — left the side second from bottom in a relegation place.
"Now we've reached the point where everyone in football in Germany says we're already relegated," Hamburg sports director Oliver Kreuzer said.
Hamburg is the only Bundesliga side to have played every season, and thoughts of its first ever relegation are sowing panic at the club, yet Hamburg chief executive Carl-Edgar Jarchow is backing Van Marwijk to keep his job.
"Even a defeat against Berlin wouldn't affect our trust in Van Marwijk," Jarchow told Kicker magazine. "The coach is always changed here, now the position is up for discussion again. It annoys me that it takes the well-paid players out of the spotlight. They're given an excuse but they are accountable."
Moenchengladbach needs to get back to winning ways to maintain hope of clinching Champions League football next season. Two defeats in a row saw Lucien Favre's side surrender the all-important fourth place to Schalke last week.
"You get the feeling a little bit that not everyone is at the limit like they were (before)," Moenchengladbach sporting director Max Eberl said. "The lads know what needs to be done. They themselves are unhappy. That's the best impetus."
'Gladbach hasn't won any of its past four games, and opens the round with Leverkusen visiting on Friday. Leverkusen is 13 points behind Bayern but looking to consolidate second place with Dortmund another four points behind.
- Sports & Recreation
- Borussia Dortmund
- Eintracht Braunschweig
- Hertha Berlin
- Werder Bremen
- Borussia Moenchengladbach
- Hamburger SV
- Bayern Munich
- Eintracht Frankfurt
- Bayer Leverkusen