Hertha next to try halt Bayern Munich's Bundesliga charge
Nov. 26, 2015
BERLIN (AP) — Bayern Munich's dominance in the Bundesliga has German football fans looking elsewhere for drama with the race for European places and relegation battles providing the lion's share of excitement.
Bayern is unbeaten, eight points clear, with a record points total from 13 games after 12 wins. The side has scored 40 goals and conceded just five. A draw at Eintracht Frankfurt is the only blot so far.
Next to face the seemingly impossible task of taking something from Munich is Hertha Berlin, well-organized if unspectacular under Hungarian coach Pal Dardai and exceeding expectations in fourth place.
Hertha managed the remarkable feat of winning a game without having a shot on target thanks to Eugen Polanski's own goal against Hoffenheim last weekend.
Bayern has no such difficulties in front of goal, having scored at least four times in each of its last seven games at home in the Bundesliga and the Champions League.
The last two meetings between the sides have been close affairs, with Bayern securing two narrow 1-0 victories. Hertha, which has been training behind closed doors all week, will do well to frustrate the defending champions for as long as possible with the hope of snatching an unlikely winner on Saturday.
Here are some things to know about the rest of the 14th round of games:
PETKOVIC'S BRATWURST BET
Darmstadt gets the round underway at home against Cologne on Friday night, when local tennis star Andrea Petkovic is to barbeque sausages at the mid-table game to fulfill a bet she lost.
Petkovic, a Darmstadt fan, made the bet ahead of her side's opening game of the season against Hannover, saying she would man the grill if the players didn't lose.
After the 2-2 draw, she posted a photo of herself with a barbeque on Facebook with the message, "a very strong performance from the Lilies! I'm already practicing to settle my gambling debts."
Darmstadt coach Dirk Schuster said his side "did everything for her to lose the bet," and he added, "we'd be very happy if she could make four little Bratwurst sausages available for us coaches in the dressing room after the game."
Werder Bremen hosts Hamburger SV for the first of the weekend's derbies on Saturday. Mainz hosts Frankfurt for the second later.
Bremen is desperate to make up for last weekend's 6-0 defeat at Wolfsburg with a morale-boosting victory over its old rival. The side is enduring a difficult season and is just three points off Stuttgart in the relegation playoff place.
Hamburg, on the other hand, is on an upward swing and 10th after last weekend's 3-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund. Bruno Labbadia's work as coach appears to be paying off despite most predicting another relegation battle for the only club to have played in the Bundesliga since its foundation in 1963.
STUTTGART'S FRESH START
Stuttering Stuttgart sacked Alexander Zorniger as coach following last weekend's 4-0 home loss to previously-bottom Augsburg, and the club hopes former under-23 coach Juergen Kramny can help turn fortunes around.
Stuttgart, which only narrowly avoided relegation last season, had placed faith in Zorniger to lead the side toward Europe but a host of injuries, bad luck and ongoing question marks over his system all contributed to the side's poor start.
After losing the first five games, there were encouraging signs, but Zorniger had no answers after the loss to Augsburg.
"It was clear that we couldn't simply pass over it," Zorniger said.
Interim-coach Kramny's task begins at Dortmund on Sunday.
LEVERKUSEN VS. SCHALKE
Mexican forward Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez is fast turning into Bayer Leverkusen's trump card. The "little pea," as he is affectionately called, has 12 goals in 16 competitive games for the side, which has lacked consistency so far this season.
Last weekend's 3-1 win at Frankfurt ended a three-game losing streak including the 3-2 Champions League defeat at Roma, and Leverkusen is already 17 points off the lead.
"If I could change some of these goals for points I'd do it without hesitation," said Hernandez, who was signed from Manchester United after spending last season on loan at Real Madrid.
Sunday's visitor Schalke is level on points and hopeful of recapturing its early good form after failing to win any of its last seven competitive games.