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Bundesliga Weekend Preview: Round 26

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The Bundesliga returns following the international break for the World Cup qualifiers, and players will be returning from all over the globe. The race for the title is still as open as ever with three clubs within a point of leaders Hertha Berlin. Goal.com previews all the weekend action in Germany.Friday 3rd April (all times local)

20:30  Arminia Bielefeld – Schalke

Saturday 4th April

15:30  VfL Wolfsburg – Bayern Munich
15:30  VfL Bochum – VfB Stuttgart
15:30  Hertha Berlin – Borussia Dortmund
15:30  Eintracht Frankfurt – Energie Cottbus
15:30  Hamburg – 1899 Hoffenheim

Sunday 5th April

17:00  1.FC Koeln – Bayer Leverkusen
17:00  Werder Bremen – Hannover
17:00  Karlsruhe – Bor. Moenchengladbach   

Arminia Bielefeld – Schalke

It is a case of deja-vu for Schalke as they go into the closing stages of the season.  Last season Mike Buskens and Youri Mulder took temporary charge following the dismissal of Mirko Slomka, and they will do the same this weekend against Bielefeld following the sacking of Dutch trainer Fred Rutten.

The Koenigsblauen are looking for an interim trainer to see them through to the end of the season when they will look for their new general manager (as yet unappointed) to select a new trainer to take over the challenge at the Veltins Arena. First though, the Gelsenkirchen under-achievers have to go to Bielefeld and restore some pride.

Bielefeld meanwhile need the points just as badly as their visitors, with time running out if they are to move away from danger. They are currently in 15th just four points off the bottom two.

Prediction: Bielefeld 1-2 Schalke

VfL Wolfsburg – Bayern Munich

The big match of the weekend takes place at the Volkswagen Arena as Wolfsburg host Bayern Munich. Both sides are joint second and just a single point behind leaders Hertha Berlin so either could go top with a win on Saturday.

For the home side a win would have talk of the title firmly on everybody’s lips even though trainer Felix Magath continues to intimate that fifth place is his target.

Bayern face Barcelona in the Champions League next week, so don’t want to go into that game with the Catalan giants on the back of a disappointing result in the Bundesliga. It promises to be a fascinating encounter on Saturday.

Prediction: Wolfsburg 2-2 Bayern

VfL Bochum – VfB Stuttgart

A Europa League place remains the target for Markus Babbel and Stuttgart, and on their current form that looks a fair bet. The Swabians are sixth right now and did well last time out, beating leaders Hertha Berlin. A win this weekend could see them break into the top five.

Bochum, meanwhile, need the three points at home as they are still a little too close to the relegation zone for comfort.  They beat a direct rival in their last game (Moenchengladbach) and will want at least a point this weekend.

Prediction: Bochum 1-2 Stuttgart

Hertha Berlin – Borussia Dortmund

Leaders Hertha Berlin have a home game this weekend as they look to maintain their position at the top of the table under great pressure from the likes of Bayern, Hamburg and Wolfsburg.  The ‘Old Lady’ slipped up last time out against Stuttgart and saw their lead cut to just one point.

Lucien Favre will be demanding a return to winning ways when they entertain Borussia Dortmund at the Olympiastadion. BVB on the other hand will be seeking a second successive win having achieved their first three points of the season last time out against Werder Bremen.

Prediction: Hertha 1-0 Dortmund

Eintracht Frankfurt – Energie Cottbus

Energie Cottbus currently occupy one of the bottom two spaces in the table so need to start winning matches to lift themselves out of the drop-zone. Trainer Bojan Prasnikar succeeded in rescuing the Lausitzer last season, but it remains to be seen whether he can work his magic again this season.

Frankfurt seem poised for yet another mid-table finish, which considering the appalling injury crisis they suffered earlier in the season is no mean feat.

Prediction: Frankfurt 2-1 Cottbus

Hamburg – 1899 Hoffenheim

There is another mouth-watering, top of the table clash at the HSH Nordbank Arena as Hamburg host Hoffenheim. Martin Jol’s HSV side are still very much in contention for the league title sitting as they do just one point behind top spot, level on points with both Bayern and Wolfsburg.

Hoffenheim have slipped a little since the restart following the winter break, but they still cannot be counted out of the title race. Ralf Rangnick’s side could in fact announce themselves back in the title race with a win over Hamburg this weekend.

Prediction: Hamburg 1-0 Hoffenheim    

1.FC Koeln – Bayer Leverkusen

Having played (and lost) against fierce rivals Moenchengladbach recently, there is another local-derby for Koeln as they entertain Bayer Leverkusen this weekend. The 40-point total set by trainer Christophe Daum is just eight points away and a win over Leverkusen will take them closer to safety.

Bayer Leverkusen trainer Bruno Labbadia will want to see his side finish the season strongly in order to push themselves into the European places, and with the competition as fierce as ever, they will need three points from the Rhein-Energie Stadion this weekend.

Prediction: Koeln 2-2 Leverkusen  

Werder Bremen – Hannover

Things had been looking up for Werder Bremen, but then they slipped to a 1-0 loss away at Dortmund in their last game before the international break in a game they really could and should have won.

Thomas Schaaf’s side know that the Champions League is beyond them this season, but will still want to finish as high as possible and potentially seek European qualification by winning the UEFA Cup.

Hannover currently have 26 points and with 17th placed Energie Cottbus on 20, the Niedersachsen side cannot consider themselves safe yet. A win over North German rivals Werder however would go some way to confirming their top-flight status.

Prediction: Werder 3-1 Hannover

Karlsruhe – Bor. Moenchengladbach

As the saying goes: ‘points mean prizes’, but for these two points could very well mean ultimate Bundesliga survival. KSC hold the unenviable position at the foot of the table and following last season’s heroics, the ‘Badener’ seem doomed to the drop unless things take a huge turn for the better soon.

That said they have lost their last five games on the trot.

Moenchengladbach did well to beat Koeln in the Rhein-derby a few weeks ago, but couldn’t follow it up last time out and went down to a defeat to Bochum.

Prediction: Karlsruhe 0-0 Gladbach

Mathew Burt, Goal.com

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