Bundesliga Matchday 28: Bayern out to end bad week on a high
Bayern Munich will hope to silence the noise circling the club this week with a win on Saturday but in-form Hoffenheim could present a tricky test.
Borussia Dortmund are waiting to capitalise on any slip-up by Thomas Tuchel's side, sitting just two points behind the Bavarians ahead of their trip to struggling Stuttgart.
Elsewhere, Union Berlin can bounce back after losing to BVB with a victory over Bochum, while Bayer Leverkusen are aiming to continue their surge up the table at Wolfsburg.
And the division's bottom two sides — Schalke and Hertha Berlin — meet in Gelsenkirchen for a potentially decisive clash in the relegation battle.
Game of the weekend: Bayern Munich vs Hoffenheim (Saturday, 2.30pm)
Bayern may be top of the table but they will be licking their wounds after suffering a humbling 3-0 Champions League defeat at Manchester City last time out.
That result puts European progress in real doubt and — coupled with their surprise DFB-Pokal exit at the hands of Freiburg — means the Bundesliga is likely to be FCB's only realistic route to silverware this season, barring a dramatic turnaround in the second leg.
Matters worsened for boss Tuchel when Sadio Mane was suspended and fined for an altercation with team-mate Leroy Sane in the aftermath of the loss at the Etihad.
Thankfully for the hosts, Tuchel boasts a superb record against upcoming opponents Hoffenheim, losing just one of his 14 Bundesliga encounters with them as a coach (eight wins, five draws). However, that sole defeat (a 4-0 trouncing while Mainz boss) remains his biggest home loss as a manager.
Stuttgart vs Borussia Dortmund (Saturday, 2.30pm)
Dortmund are still very much in the title race after their morale-boosting win over Union Berlin and will hope to keep the pressure on Bayern by beating relegation-threatened Stuttgart.
BVB are the division's form side in 2023, picking up more points than any other team in the Bundesliga this calendar year (31). Stuttgart, meanwhile, have accrued the second-fewest (nine).
Edin Terzic's men will be confident of preventing Die Schwaben from scoring at set-pieces. The hosts have netted a league-low seven times from such situations, while Dortmund have conceded just six goals from dead-ball scenarios — the best record in the division.
Donyell Malen appears to have finally found his feet in Germany, scoring in three consecutive Bundesliga games for the first time. Sebastian Hoeness' team will need to keep a close eye on the former PSV star.
Union Berlin vs Bochum (Sunday, 4.30pm)
Union Berlin's title aspirations were severely dented by their 2-1 defeat at Dortmund last time out but a return to the capital should see them bounce back against lowly Bochum.
Union are especially strong on their own patch, after going unbeaten for 19 home league games (13 wins, six draws). Their last such defeat in the competition came in February 2022, over a year ago.
The visitors come into this fixture in dire defensive form, having conceded more goals (60) than any other team in the division. Sunday's hosts have shipped half that number (30) and boast the second-best defensive record.
However, the reverse fixture saw Bochum — then bottom of the table — emerge victorious against Urs Fischer's outfit, snapping a five-game winless run against them in the process.
Wolfsburg vs Bayer Leverkusen (Sunday, 6.30pm)
Bayer Leverkusen visit Wolfsburg looking for their sixth successive Bundesliga win — no other side in the division can boast an active winning streak as long as theirs (five games).
Wolfsburg, meanwhile, are winless in their last five home matches (three draws, two defeats) and have trailed for 447 minutes on their own patch this term. That is the second-worst record in the competition.
Xabi Alonso's appointment as head coach has seen Die Werkself enjoy a significant upturn in results, picking up the third-most points (38) in the 19 Bundesliga games since he was hired and the joint-most (34) since Matchday 13.
Leverkusen tend to kick into gear after the break, scoring a league-high 32 goals in the second half this season, though Wolfsburg have conceded the second-fewest in that period of matches (13).
Schalke vs Hertha Berlin (Friday, 7.30pm)
Schalke and Hertha Berlin will be equally desperate for a win tonight, as they both look to claw their way out of the relegation zone.
History favours Schalke in this fixture, who have recorded 42 professional wins against the Berliners. They have only beaten Stuttgart more often (44), while Hertha have only gone down to Bayern more frequently (49).
However, the capital club have come out on top in the last three editions of this match-up.
Die Knappen also have the worst home record in the league this season (13 points), though the visitors have the worst away points haul (five).
The weekend's other games
FC Cologne vs Mainz (Saturday, 2.30pm)
RB Leipzig vs Augsburg (Saturday, 2.30pm)
Eintracht Frankfurt vs Borussia Monchengladbach (Saturday, 5.30pm)
Werder Bremen vs Freiburg (Sunday, 2.30pm)
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