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Bundesliga Previews

The big matches are saved for Sunday, with the stuttering giants of last season – Bayern Munich, Stuttgart and Bremen – all facing difficult games.

Early-season fairy-tale FSV Mainz will seek to continue their best ever start to a league season and Hannover will look to capitalise on the weekend’s early game by moving to within 2 points.

Friday:

Hannover 96 v FC St Pauli

St Pauli have a reputation for being a community club, and the aspirations of the fans never really exceeded having a good party. It was with severely reduced expectations that they began life in Germany’s top league but, much to everyone’s surprise, they take quite a beating and sit in mid-table, one point behind rivals Hamburg.

Hannover are having a great season so far, having just avoided relegation in May. Much credit must fall on young Norwegian striker Mohammed Abdellaoue, scorer of 4 goals in 6 matches; a summer transfer from Valarenga, he has ignited the Saxony club’s front line. Their only defeat has come at the hands of Steve McLaren’s big-spending Vfl Wolfsburg – and that is no disgrace.

Hard to really look past a Hannover win here. 3-0 to Hannover.

Saturday:

FC Nürnberg v Schalke 04

Nurnberg clung onto their top flight status by the skin of their teeth, and typically started the season with more elation than organisation. The consensus is that Nurnberg will face a relegation battle this year and, judging from the way Frankfurt easily brushed them aside in their last outing, that opinion seems valid.

Schalke were spared blushes thanks to Raul’s late equaliser against Borussia Monchengladbach. To say that the arrivals of Raul, Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Christoph Metzelder are yet to have the desired effect is an understatement but a morale-boosting win over Benfica should transfer over to their league campaign.

A weak home team will do their best to keep Schalke at bay but with renewed appetite for the match, the visitors will sneak this result. 0-1 to Schalke.

Hamburger SV v 1. FC Kaiserslautern

Hamburg came close to winning the Bundesliga last season but a mixture of bad luck and bad preparation towards the end of the campaign saw them fall out of a European place. 2 wins, 2 draws and 2 losses obviously aren’t good but with so many big names faring much worse, Hamburg will still believe in their challenge and will look forward to this game.

Kaiserslautern have all but forgotten those heady days of challenging the biggest and best of Germany but not quite yet. 11th place is a comfortable place to be but their last 2 games have been very, very bad, losing 5-0 away to Dortmund and 0-1 to Hannover.

With Ruud Van Nistelrooy back in form, Hamburg will expect to win this one. 2-0 to Hamburg.

FSV Mainz 05 v Hoffenheim

What more can be said about Mainz? Apart from containing English-born Germany U21 captain Lewis Holtby, theirs is a squad devoid of stars, yet they have won every single game of their season – a list which already includes heavyweights Wolfsburg, Werder Bremen and now Bayern Munich. Quite how they do it is anyone’s guess but betting against a Mainz victory would ignore the greatest overachievers in Europe.

No matter how well they have done, 4th-placed Hoffenheim would be forgiven for losing away to the leaders. No striker has come to the fore to lead the attack but a good all-round performance has lifted them.

By any means necessary, Mainz will somehow continue this remarkable winning-streak. 2-1 to Mainz.

Borussia Mönchengladbach v VfL Wolfsburg

Promoted ‘Gladbach were always going to struggle in their second season back in the Bundesliga. The departure of veteran striker Oliver Neuville has hit them hard and they look short of leadership. Since the spectacular 9 goal game against Leverkusen, they have lost two home games and a 7-0 loss away to otherwise helpless Stuttgart. ‘Gladbach are approaching free-fall.

The visitors, Wolfsburg, have turned their season around in a matter of 3 victories. The combination of Diego, Edin Dzeko and Grafite is possibly the most scintillating attacking trident in Europe (along with Inter Milan’s Eto’o, Milito and Sneijder). Between them, they have already scored 11 goals.

Wolfsburg are simply too powerful for Borussia Mönchengladbach, and will overpower them. 0-4 to Wolfsburg.

SC Freiburg v 1. FC Köln

When Freiburg acquired the services of Pappis Cisse last January, it is fair to assume they were looking for nothing more than a support striker. What they ended up with is the leading scorer in the division. Their form is a straight-down-the-middle 3 wins and 3 defeats, and a home game against leaky Koln (Cologne) is a good chance for that ratio to turn positive.

Koln’s main striker, Lukas Podolski, endured a terrible outing last season, scoring only 2 goals in 27 league games. Already this season, Podolski has scored 2 in 3, hinting at a revival of sorts, following a very successful World Cup with Germany. But, Podolski aside, Koln have been disappointing.

Ultimately, Koln will continue to waste chances and Freiburg’s Cisse will fancy his. 1-0 to Freiburg.

Sunday:

VfB Stuttgart v Eintracht Frankfurt

Along with Schalke, no team has failed to live up to their billing as much as Stuttgart. Packed with talents like Cacau, Mauro Camoranesi and Matthieu Delpierre, the Baden-Wurttemburg outfit are in serious trouble, having lost 5 out of 6 games.

Frankfurt have coped marginally better than their opponents, with Bundesliga top-scorer of 2007 Theofanis Gekas reaping the rewards of turning his back on playing for Greece. Goals are certainly not of concern for Frankfurt, who are growing comfortably into the season.

With so many defeats, bottom of the table Stuttgart would welcome immediate improvement but the calibre of the opposition implies a draw is more likely than a home win. 0-0.

Bayer Leverkusen v Werder Bremen

Leverkusen have enormous potential in their ranks – Michael Ballack, Rene Adler, Simon Rolfes, Stefan Kiessling and Sami Hyypia – so much so that the loss of Toni Kroos to Bayern Munich has had hardly any effect. They have carried over the distinct record from last year as being the last unbeaten team in the top European leagues, conceding 10 goals but only losing once.

Bremen, who were my tip to win the Bundesliga, have suffered some terrible injuries and struggled in every competition. The rise in fortunes that came in the 3-2 win against Hamburg was offset by the embarrassing bulldozing suffered against Inter Milan in the Champions League. Confidence is extremely low for Werder Bremen. But things are looking up overall.

As well as they did last year, Bremen are not the same team and will find the atmosphere at the Bay Arena all too intimidating. 3-1 to Bayer Leverkusen.

Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich

Dortmund are experiencing their best start to a league campaign in many years. The 1997 Champions League winners are 2nd and have rifled in a remarkable 16 goals, tasting defeat only in their opening game. Exceptional form has followed ever since, though they must be aware that they are over-performing.

Bayern will fear this game. After being shown up by league leaders Mainz, they were generally outplayed by FC Basel before eventually winning in the dying minutes 2-1. A stuttering start sees them 7 points below the hosts.

A likely result in this match, considering Bayern’s superior team meeting the form side of the division, is 2-2.

In summary:

Hannover 3 – 0 St Pauli

Nurnberg 0 – 1 Schalke

Hamburg 2 – 0 Kaiserslautern

Mainz 2 – 1 Hoffenheim

Borussia Monchengladbach 0 – 4 Wolfsburg

Freiburg 1 – 0 Koln

Vfb Stuttgart 0 – 0 Eintracht Frankfurt

Bayer Leverkusen 3 – 1 Werder Bremen

Borussia Dortmund 2 – 2 Bayern Munich