5 things to know about Bundesliga round
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — No sooner did Franck Ribery become available to Bayern Munich, than Arjen Robben was lost for up to six weeks with a right knee injury.
Ribery, who broke a rib on France duty in mid-November, made his comeback on Wednesday in a German Cup win. But in the same match, Robben hurt his knee in a tackle and was taken off on a stretcher.
Bayern travels to Werder Bremen with a four-point lead in the Bundesliga over Bayer Leverkusen, which is away to Borussia Dortmund. Dortmund, three points behind Leverkusen, needs to win to preserve any chance of challenging Bayern for the title. Here are 5 things to know about the weekend matches in the Bundesliga:
STRIKER SUMMIT: Leverkusen’s trip to Dortmund brings together the Bundesliga’s two top strikers. Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski tops the league with 11 goals, and Leverkusen’s Stefan Kiessling has nine. Both also assist — Lewandowski has set up five goals, and Kiessling four.
Dortmund has to rely on its attack, since many defenders are out injured. Both teams were busy in midweek and both advanced to the quarterfinals of the German Cup. Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp was particularly pleased that “we advanced without suffering another injury.”
Leverkusen has won against Dortmund only once in the last 12 games, but its last victory was in Dortmund — 2-0 in August 2010.
FAMILIAR FACES: Borussia Dortmund’s newly signed defender, Manuel Friedrich, will meet some familiar faces when Bayer Leverkusen visits. Friedrich spent six years in Leverkusen before being left without a contract after the last season.
Friedrich kept fit on his own and was signed by Dortmund when the team’s entire back four went out injured. The 34-year-old former Germany defender was suddenly playing for a top club again after spending half a year practically in retirement. “I notice with each practice and every game that the routine is coming back,” Friedrich told Kicker magazine this week.
Apart from being on the same team with Kiessling for years, Friedrich played on the same defense with Sami Hyypia, who is Leverkusen’s coach. Friedrich says the only thing that could surprise him from Kiessling is “a new haircut.” ″Of course I know all of his strengths and weaknesses. He does everything to win and we must do the same,” Friedrich said.
STORM WARNING: Bayern Munich could have more problems with an expected storm in northern Germany than with the erratic Werder Bremen. The storm already has interrupted Bremen’s training schedule but the worst should be over by Saturday. Bayern is seeking to extend its unbeaten run to 40 consecutive matches. Bayern has won the last five games against Werder and is unbeaten in the last nine.
HOME BLUES: Fourteen matches into the season, three teams still have not won at home: Eintracht Frankfurt, Freiburg and Nuremberg, which hasn’t won anywhere. All have a chance to amend that miserable record over the weekend.
Frankfurt hasn’t won in nine consecutive games. It is particularly vulnerable in the last 10 minutes and would have 11 points more had it not conceded late in games, three of those times at home in the 86th minute. Frankfurt’s next opponent is Hoffenheim, another team that concedes late — and often. Hoffenheim has allowed a league-high 34 goals, but it has also scored 32, the same as Bayern. Both won in the German Cup, Hoffenheim beat Schalke 3-1 and Frankfurt defeated second-division Sandhausen 4-2. Nuremberg hosts Mainz and Freiburg plays Wolfsburg.
SCHALKE’S WEEK OF TRUTH: Schalke was stunned 3-1 at home by Hoffenheim in the German Cup and unless it beats Basel at home next week, it will also be out of the Champions League. It could also be out of next season’s Champions League if it loses at Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Moenchengladbach is riding a five-match winning streak and sits fourth, four points above Schalke in fifth. Schalke coach Jens Keller’s job would be on the line if his team loses the next two matches. Keller had a long discussion behind closed doors with his players a day after the cup loss.