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PREVIEW | Bayern Munich must find a way without Robert Lewandowski & more

With the international break coming to an end, we can now look forward to the weekend’s Bundesliga action. There are plenty of talking points amongst the fixtures for the 27th matchday, so we picked out five for you to keep an eye on.

1 | Bayern must find a way without Lewandowski

Just because a positive coronavirus test for one of their players is the main fear for clubs across Europe right now, it doesn’t mean run-of-the-mill injuries no longer exist. Bayern Munich had previously threatened to stop Robert Lewandowski from travelling to England to represent Poland, a decision which caused controversy. It eventually became a moot point, though, as the 32-year-old picked up a ligament issue against Andorra that would have prevented him from playing at Wembley anyway.

The four-week spell he now faces on the sidelines will be a bitter blow to Hansi Flick. Lewandowski was named Europe’s Player of the Year by UEFA for his performances in 2020, but he has somehow managed to raise his game another level this campaign, scoring 42 goals in 36 matches in all competitions.

While losing the Poland international is bad news in itself, Flick’s biggest problem is deciding on his replacement. Eric Choupo-Moting has just five goals in 24 games since moving to the Allianz Arena from Paris Saint-Germain, with only one of those coming in the Bundesliga. Serge Gnabry has excelled as a central striker for Germany, but according to Transfermarkt, it is a position he has only taken up twice for Bayern since moving there four years ago. This injury could not have come at a worse time – after RB Leipzig on Saturday, two Champions League clashes against PSG and league fixtures versus Wolfsburg and Leverkusen are to come over the next month.

2 | The Berlin derby

The fourth Berlin derby between Union and Hertha in the Bundesliga promises to be a big one. Both sides have plenty to play for at contrasting ends of the table – the former remain in the battle for a Europa League spot as they sit in seventh, while the latter are desperate for a win to pull themselves further away from the relegation zone.

This game had been slated to be a pilot event for the return of fans to stadiums, but that plan was recently abandoned following the rise in coronavirus cases in the German capital. The raucous Alte Föresterei atmosphere would likely have played into Union’s hands as it did last season, when they prevailed 1-0 in what was a tense affair. However, despite playing the majority of the campaign in front of an empty ground, Union’s home form is as strong as ever – they have lost just once as hosts in the league all term.

Hertha, though, will be buoyed by recent results. At the start of March, they picked up a huge three points against Augsburg, while they hammered an albeit underwhelming Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 in the last match prior to the international break. A win here could put some real distance between themselves and the drop, and victories don’t come much sweeter than away at your local rivals.

3 | Haaland vs Silva and the supporting cast

Lewandowski’s pursuit of Gerd Müller’s all-time Bundesliga single season goalscoring record has put the displays of both Erling Haaland and Andre Silva in the shade. Both are on 21 goals in the Bundesliga, their best performance to date in one of Europe’s top five leagues. Their displays, though, have come amidst contrasting form for their respective sides – Haaland has been one of the few shining lights for Borussia Dortmund as they trail the top four by four points, while Silva’s strikes have propelled Eintracht Frankfurt into true challengers for a Champions League spot next season.

As the two sides face off this coming weekend, this game may well be decided by the supporting casts. Jadon Sancho is set to miss out through injury, but Dortmund still have plenty of talent in the form of Giovanni Reyna, Thorgan Hazard and Marco Reus. Whether they can compete with Frankfurt’s forward line, though, is up for debate. Filip Kostic has long been one of the most exciting players in the Bundesliga, and the 10 assists he has already picked up in the league this season illustrate his threat. Alongside him, Adi Hütter can deploy the likes of Daichi Kamada, Amin Younes and Aymen Barkok, while he also has on-loan Real Madrid striker Luka Jovic as an option if he wishes to play two up front.

For the neutral, at least, this is probably the game of the weekend – even though Bayern face Leipzig in a top-of-the-table clash.

4 | No Hofmann makes Gladbach’s job even harder

Since Marco Rose announced his intention to leave Borussia Mönchengladbach at the end of this season, Die Fohlen’s form has plummeted – they lost seven games in a row in all competitions in the immediate aftermath, and only a match against sorry Schalke allowed them to get back to winning ways prior to the international break as they prevailed 3-0. This coming weekend, they face a difficult proposition in Freiburg, who although often unspectacular have proven themselves to be a hard team to beat under Christian Streich.

Gladbach’s chances of a win have no doubt been diminished following the news of Jonas Hofmann’s positive coronavirus test while away on international duty with Germany. He is currently enjoying his most lucrative season in terms of goal contributions, having managed five strikes and 10 assists in the top flight. Of the seven games he has missed this term, Gladbach have won just one. His absence this time around is likely to be a short-term one, but as we approach the end of the campaign, Gladbach realistically need points from every outing if they still have hopes of qualifying for the Champions League. Hofmann’s presence would have given them a much better chance of victory here.

5 | Mainz must improve against the bottom half

Bo Svensson’s arrival at Mainz has rejuvenated Die Karnevalsverein. Under previous bosses Achim Beierlorzer, Jan-Moritz Lichte and Jan Siewert in the Bundesliga this term, they picked up just six points from 14 matches and looked destined to drop to the second tier. With Svensson at the helm, though, they took 18 points from the next 12 and are now out of the relegation zone.

While Mainz’s recent form has given them a fighting chance of staying amongst the elite, their results against those around them will remain a worry. Of the 24 points they have managed, 13 have come against sides in the top half and just nine against teams in the bottom. Schalke have won one of their last 42 Bundesliga matches, but they still managed two draws against Mainz this campaign, and Die Nullfünfer were also defeated 2-1 by Arminia Bielefeld earlier on in the campaign.

This weekend, they host Bielefeld in what can only be described as a six-pointer. Only two points separate the sides – a defeat for Svensson’s men would see them drop into the relegation play-off spot at the very least. There has never been a better time for a reverse in fortunes.

Jon Radcliffe

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