Bundesliga matchday 20 preview: Race for best of the rest

If anyone had any doubts about Bayern winning the title they have should have gone after the last two weeks with Bayern putting more points between them and 2nd-placed Leverkusen than they managed to put between themselves and 16th-placed Bremen.

Looking at the table right now there is a whole host of possible candidates for the title “Best of the rest” – even Frankfurt has sneaked into that group thanks to their stellar away form. They start the matchday on Friday (8.30 CET) when they host Gladbach. Frankfurt’s home form hasn’t been very good this season, only raking in 9 points at the Commerzbank-Arena. Both teams’ form has been topsy-turvy in recent history so it’s close to impossible to predict anything here and since this game can’t end in one of the surprising results that the Bundesliga is so partial to, it will probably end up being a boring 0-0.

Last week I talked the Hoffenheim – Leverkusen game up and it didn’t disappoint with 5 goals – 4 of them on the side of the away team. Now Hoffenheim has to travel to München as part of the 3.30 Saturday fixtures. Hoffenheim’s form has been all but good and Bayern is Bayern so everything but a home win in an entertaining game would be a big surprise. In western Germany you’ll get to see another part of “Dortmund tries to recover from an abysmal Hinrunde against a team they should beat (Freiburg in this case)” and Part IV of the enthralling “Köln can’t possibly stay up or can they” when they meet Augsburg. Elsewhere both Stuttgart and Schalke are going to try to turn around their fortunes after a rocky start to the Rückrunde and Bernd Hollerbach gets his first game in charge of Hamburg and has to travel to Leipzig to either gave slaughtered or to start something that will inevitably lead to Hamburg staying up on the last day.

Hamburg vs Köln wasn’t a particularly exciting 6.30 game last Saturday and this week’s game doesn’t promise a lot either. Bremen are hosting Hertha in a bid to bridge the gap between them and the first safe haven that is 15th place. Neither team has been playing good attacking football this season and even though Bremen gave a good account of themselves in München that doesn’t mean they can repeat that sort of display when it actually matters. Unless you really like watching below par Bundesliga games or are really into any of the two teams, watching any other game is probably a good decision.

Leverkusen knows how it feels to be “Best of the rest” and they were called Vizekusen for a long time after that 2002 season where they came second in all three important competitions. But this season is obviously different since the 2nd place would be an accomplishment and guarantee a Champions League place. At 3.30 on Sunday they meet Mainz in what should be an easy win but as we know Bundesliga football it will probably be a 5-5 with 3 goals in stoppage time.

Action is concluded on 6.00 on Sunday when Hannover and Wolfsburg meet for what is a small Niedersachsenderby. Hannover earned a well-deserved point at Schalke last week and with 27 points they only need a few more wins to be 100% safe but Wolfsburg is only 5 points ahead of the relegation zone and their latest performances haven’t been inspiring despite the 0-0 at Dortmund. Now would be a good time to start a run of two or three wins that would catapult them right into mid-table mediocrity.