This weekend presents a big opportunity for Jens Keller and Schalke to return to the Bundesliga's top three. Die Königsblauen haven't seen a top three position all season long, and a tough match against Augsburg stand in their way. Perhaps moving into one of the automatic Champions League places will be enough to take a little bit of pressure off of Keller's back.
After giving up 11 goals in two match against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, Schalke responded quite nicely last weekend with a 4-0 shutout of Hoffenheim. It was fairly shocking to see Schalke hold the third highest scoring team in the Bundesliga to zero goals. It all starts in goal with the emergence of Ralf Fährmann as a legitimate number one option. Since he replaced Timo Hildebrand, Fährmann has delivered (Forget about Madrid and Bayern for a second.).
Fortunately for the viewing public, their opponent is an Augsburg team that has lost only one match since the winter break. Augsburg have a great young coach in Markus Weinzierl, super talented players like Andre Hahn, and the surprising career resurrection of a player like Halil Altintop. While the fairy tale story of Augsburg qualifying for Europe would be one that everyone would live, it's better for the club if they finish just outside of the European places. It'll be tough for them to hold onto some of their more talented players, and depth will be a big problem for them.
Elsewhere, Borussia Mönchengladbach will try to pick up their first of the Rückrunde. That's right. One of the hottest teams of the Hinrunde hasn't won since the winter break and now find themselves in 8th place with the possibility of falling to 9th this weekend. They'll try for this win against none other than Borussia Dortmund. While Dortmund may be without star players like Marco Reus and Robert Lewandowski this weekend, they still have enough firepower to breakdown a struggling Gladbach defense. Lucien Favre was just given a contract extension this week, so might we see a "manager signing contract extension bounce" this weekend?
Saturday's "main" matchup will see Champions of the World Bayern Munich host Bayer Leverkusen at the Allianz Arena. While conventional wisdom says that Bayern will continue their 49 match unbeaten run and beat Leverkusen, it remains to be seen what effect the Uli Hoeneß verdict will have on the club. While no one man is bigger than the club, Hoeneß does strike an impressive shadow.
Friday, March 14
Augsburg vs Schalke
Saturday, March 15
Borussia Dortmund vs Borussia Mönchengladbach
Werder Bremen vs Stuttgart
Hertha Berlin vs Hannover
Eintracht Braunschweig vs Wolfsburg
Hoffenheim vs Mainz
Bayern Munich vs Bayer Leverkusen
Sunday, March 16
Hamburg vs Nürnberg
Eintracht Frankfurt vs Freiburg