Bundesliga Preview – Round 13: Eintracht Frankfurt’s stock continues to rise, Hertha Berlin face difficult Bayern Munich test & more

Just three Bundesliga matchdays stand between now and the World Cup, and all 18 sides will be looking to go into the winter break on a high. Here, we take you through five things to look out for this weekend.

1 | Can Daniel Farke end Borussia Mönchengladbach’s rut?

At the start of the season, Daniel Farke received plenty of praise following his start to life as Borussia Mönchengladbach manager. The former Norwich City boss appeared to have implemented a style of football that afforded the Fohlen more control over matches and, after just one defeat in Gladbach’s first eight competitive games of the term, the change in philosophy seemed to be having the desired effect.

The honeymoon period, though, is now over – Gladbach have won just one of their last six matches in all competitions and, while that series of fixtures included understandable defeats to high-flyers Union Berlin and Eintracht Frankfurt, there is no excuse for their 2-1 loss to 2. Bundesliga outfit SV Darmstadt in the DFB-Pokal and the 5-1 hammering at the hands of Werder Bremen. They have conceded 16 times during that run and have slipped to 11th in the table after suggesting they could challenge for a European berth.

Earlier in the campaign, Stuttgart’s visit to the BORUSSIA-Park would have been seen as a strong opportunity for Gladbach to pick up three points. They still go into the match as favourites, but this is not the same Stuttgart team that struggled under Pellegrino Matarazzo. Interim manager Michael Wimmer has presided over four games and, the 5-0 defeat at Borussia Dortmund aside, has produced some positive results, with the Schwaben prevailing in each of the other games. They have moved out of the bottom three and have a spring in their step, which will only make Farke’s task harder.

2 | Plenty of intrigue as Werder Bremen host Schalke

This weekend, the two newly-promoted sides, Werder Bremen and Schalke 04, face off in contrasting form. Bremen have performed well beyond expectations this season, moving up to eighth in the Bundesliga table and scoring more goals than all but three of their top-tier rivals. No player has bagged more than Niclas Füllkrug’s nine and, while three league defeats in a row and a DFB-Pokal penalty shoot-out exit at the hands of second-tier Paderborn dampened the Werderaner’s confidence, they returned to winning ways with a 1-0 victory over Hertha Berlin last time out.

Schalke can only dream of such a solid showing. The Königsblauen are rock bottom of the table, picking up just one win from their 12 matches this term and finding the back of the net on only 11 occasions, the Bundesliga’s joint-lowest total. They have now lost their last seven games in all competitions and look condemned to return to the 2. Bundesliga if they do not find some form from somewhere.

Frank Kramer’s appointment as manager in June was always questionable, so it came as little surprise to see him given his marching orders halfway through October. The man tasked with turning around the Könisgblauen’s fortunes is ex-Bochum boss Thomas Reis, who led the Unabsteigbaren to 2. Bundesliga promotion and a fantastic first season back amongst the elite. Poor performances earlier this campaign convinced Bochum to part ways with the 49-year-old, but Reis has proven he has what it takes to compete at this level. After defeats against Hertha and Freiburg to start his reign, he will be desperate to get off the mark as he and his side travel to the Weserstadion.

3 | Eintracht Frankfurt riding the crest of a wave

On Tuesday, it was a special night in Lisbon as Eintracht Frankfurt came from behind to beat Sporting CP and book a place in the Champions League Round of 16. The Adler’s stock continues to rise and, while they will be underdogs no matter who they are drawn against on Monday, their impressive performance on the international stage will give them the belief they can beat anyone they face.

Considering the increased standard and work the Champions League demands, many Frankfurt supporters may well have been happy with mid-table Bundesliga mediocrity this campaign in exchange for a European run. However, not only have the Hesse-based club risen to the challenge in the continent’s premier club competition, but they have also excelled domestically. They currently sit fifth in the league table, just six points off the summit, and have only been outscored by Bayern Munich. The departure of Filip Kostić has barely been felt, with new signings Randal Kolo Muani and Mario Götze shouldering much of the offensive burden in the absence of the Serbian. Daichi Kamada, though, has been the star of the show, finding the back of the net 12 times in 20 outings.

In recent years, Frankfurt losing their star players to wealthier clubs has become a sad trend, but they have consistently displayed the ability to replace them with other gems, and further qualification for the Champions League will only make them more attractive to exciting talent. This weekend, they face an Augsburg side without a win in their last four league matches – another fantastic opportunity to prove their top-four credentials.

4 | Hertha Berlin face Bayern Munich test

This was always going to be a challenging season for Hertha and, on the face of it, they are within a whisker of finding themselves in the bottom three at the end of the season once again. However, there is plenty for supporters to be optimistic about: new president Kay Bernstein continues to make all the right noises and is well-liked by supporters, while Sandro Schwarz has provided a calming influence on the sideline. Yes, Hertha have only picked up two wins from their 12 matches this season, but they have been competitive in almost every game and are proving to be difficult opponents.

On Saturday, they face their biggest test yet as they welcome Bayern to the Olympiastadion. After a stop-start beginning to their Bundesliga campaign, the Bavarians are now in full flow, winning each of their last seven games in all competitions and scoring 24 goals along the way. Only Thomas Müller and Bouna Sarr are unavailable for the trip to Berlin, meaning Julian Nagelsmann has a whole host of options to choose from.

Anything other than three points will be deemed a massive disappointment for Bayern, especially considering their recent record against the Alte Dame – Hertha captain Marvin Plattenhardt, for example, has not tasted victory against the 31-time Bundesliga champions in 14 meetings, while the side from the capital have lost each of the last five match-ups. Even if Bayern prevail as expected, though, a tight scoreline would give Schwarz plenty to build on ahead of more important matches against Stuttgart and Köln.

5 | Wolfsburg continue to climb

Just a few weeks ago, Wolfsburg manager Niko Kovač appeared to be teetering on the edge of the sack. Since the start of October, however, the Wölfe have improved leaps and bounds, going six games unbeaten in all competitions. Admittedly, only three of those have ended up in victory, and one was a win against 2. Bundesliga Eintracht Braunschweig in the DFB-Pokal, but the Volkswagen Arena is now a much happier place to be around.

Credit must be given to Kovač for making the necessary tactical changes. The midfield is now far more solid, while they have an increased attacking edge – they have scored 12 times in their last five games after netting three in five before that. There has been a whole host of different scorers, and it finally seems the former Bayern and Frankfurt manager is putting the depth of talent at his disposal to good use.

They make the trip to Mainz as they look to prolong their run without defeat, and there is no reason to believe they can’t back up last week’s 4-0 victory over Bochum with another three-point haul. Mainz are one of the most consistent sides in the division, but their home form is poor. In five matches at this MEWA Arena this term, they have won just once, with only three sides possessing a worse record at their own ground. With the World Cup just around the corner, Kovač will be eager for his team to indicate they can attack the second half of the campaign by putting together a string of positive performances. With difficult matches against Borussia Dortmund and Hoffenheim to come immediately after, this match versus the Nullfünfer could set the tone.

Jon Radcliffe

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