Following a two-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Bundesliga is set to return this weekend with the biggest fixture in the Ruhr region: Borussia Dortmund versus Schalke.
The German top flight is the first of Europe’s elite leagues to have been granted permission to resume the current season amid the global health crisis. All footballing activities in Deutschland were suspended in mid-March as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19, with the country presently having 174,098 confirmed cases of the virus and 7,861 reported deaths.
No more than 322 people will be allowed to attend the games until the end of the season, with all the fixtures set to be played behind closed doors. The attendees will include journalists, security guards, hygiene staff and emergency personnel apart from the players, coaches and referees themselves.
The return of the Bundesliga will not only serve as a relief to an audience starved of live football for months but it could also become a blueprint for the short-term future of the game. The football governing bodies in England, Spain and Italy are expected to keep a close eye on the proceedings, with the intention of mirroring a similar return for their respective leagues.
Bayern Munich currently occupy the top spot in the Bundesliga, with Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig following close behind in what appears to be a very close battle for the title. While BVB and Schalke will headline the fixture of the weekend, the league leaders will go head-to-head with Union Berlin at the capital. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls will play host to Freiburg as they look to close their gap between themselves and their title rivals.
Without further ado, we will now take a look at what the Bundesliga has in store this weekend and the possible outcomes of the first set of football fixtures in three months.
Fixtures and predictions
Borussia Dortmund vs Schalke 04 (Prediction: 1-0)
Borussia Dortmund are set to welcome local rivals Schalke 04 for a highly-anticipated derby at Signal Iduna Park on Saturday afternoon.
Lucien Favre’s men will be looking to secure their fifth consecutive win in the Bundesliga to move within one point of leaders Bayern Munich, who are scheduled to play on Sunday. Meanwhile, sixth-placed Schalke will hope to break their seven-game winless run in the league and maintain their challenge for Europa League qualification in the process.
While the absence of fans inside the stadium will surely have an impact on what is normally an enthralling fixture, BVB are likely to continue their scintillating run of form with a win over their Ruhr adversaries.
RB Leipzig vs Freiburg (Prediction: 2-0)
RB Leipzig will play host to Freiburg at the Red Bull Arena on Saturday as they aim to keep the pressure on Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in the race for the title.
Die Roten Bullen sit at third place on the standings, five points behind Bayern Munich and one behind BVB, with nine games left to go. Julian Nagelsmann’s men, who played out two consecutive draws in the Bundesliga before their 3-0 Champions League win over Tottenham Hotspur, will be looking to get back to winning ways in the league, especially if they want to maintain their place as title-contenders.
Meanwhile, Freiburg have failed to maintain their strong start to the season and currently sit at eighth position on the league table. They have registered only two wins from their last five games but will be hoping to mount a genuine challenge for the European spots in the weeks to come.
Hoffenheim vs Hertha Berlin (Prediction: 2-0)
Hoffenheim will go head to head with Hertha Berlin at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena on Saturday, as both clubs will be desperately looking to end their respective winless runs in the Bundesliga.
Die Kraichgauer are currently ninth on the league standings and are in contention for a Europa League spot as they sit only two points behind sixth-placed Schalke. Meanwhile, their Berlin-based opponents are in danger of falling into the relegation zone as they sit at 13th place, six points clear of 16th-placed Fortuna Dusseldorf.
Fortuna Dusseldorf vs Paderborn (Prediction: 2-1)
Fortuna Dusseldorf and Paderborn will lock horns in an intense battle for Bundesliga survival at the Merkur Spiel-Arena on Saturday. While Uwe Rösler’s men, who are placed 16th on the table, will be desperate to pull themselves out of the relegation dogfight with a valuable three points this weekend, bottom-of-the-table Paderborn will have to immediately change their fortunes if they want to avoid a swift demotion to Bundesliga 2.
Both clubs were suffering a dismal run of form before the suspension of the league in March but Dusseldorf have better chances to close the gap on those above them and are likely to get away with a narrow win.
Augsburg vs Wolfsburg (Prediction: 0-0)
Augsburg will face Wolfsburg at the WWK Arena on Saturday, almost one year after they suffered a humiliating 8-1 defeat at the hands of the visitors. Die Wolfe will be looking to maintain their bid for Europa League football with a win over their 14th-placed opponents, who are only five points away from the relegation zone.
While the visitors are certainly the stronger side in the fixture, Augsburg have never lost a home game to a club outside the top six and they could very well sustain their record this weekend.
Eintracht Frankfurt vs Borussia Monchengladbach (Prediction: 1-2)
Borussia Monchengladbach travel to the Commerzbank-Arena to face Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday evening as they look to maintain their place in the Champions League spots while also closing the gap on Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich.
Die Fohlen currently occupy fourth place on the league table, 6 points behind the leaders, and have only lost one of their five league matches. Meanwhile, the hosts, who are 12th on the standings, suffered three defeats in a row before the lockdown and will hope that the two-month break will help them finally put a stop to their horrendous run of form.
At the end of the day, Monchengladbach appear to be in bigger need of the three points and are more than capable of getting the better of a struggling Frankfurt side to secure them.
FC Köln vs Mainz (Prediction: 1-0)
FC Köln are set to host Mainz at the Rhein Energie Stadium in the Sunday’s first Bundesliga fixture. The hosts, who are currently 10th on the league table, will be looking to climb further up the table with a win over 15th-placed Mainz, who are dangerously close to the relegation zone with only a four-point gap between them and 16th-placed Fortuna Dusseldorf.
Mainz are unbeaten in their last three games against Koln, winning two and drawing the rest, but the hosts are likely to get away with the three points at the end of the game.
Union Berlin vs Bayern Munich (Prediction: 1-3)
Bayern Munich will continue their charge towards an eighth successive Bundesliga title when they face Union Berlin at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei on Sunday evening.
The Bavarians have only lost four games all season and will be keen on extending their lead at the top of the standings with a routine win against their Berlin-based opponents. Meanwhile, the Eisern Union, who are currently sitting at 11th place on the table, have been largely impressive in their first season in the German top flight and will likely put up a good fight against the reigning champions this weekend.
In the end, the league leaders are likely to come out of the game with an easy win over the hosts as they not only have higher stakes, but they also boast of an immensely strong squad, which will further benefit from the timely return of the lethal Robert Lewandowski from injury.
Werder Bremen vs Bayer Leverkusen (Prediction 1-2)
Werder Bremen are set to face Bayer Leverkusen at the Weser Stadium on Monday evening in what will be a crucial match for the relegation-threatened hosts.
Die Werderaner occupy 17th place on the table and have managed just four wins from 24 games in the Bundesliga this season. They also have the worst home record in the German top flight, having picked up only five points so far, and have all the odds stacked against their favour as they look to get out of the relegation zone.
Meanwhile, Die Werkself are currently fifth in the league standings and will be looking to leapfrog Borussia Monchengladbach to the final Champions League spot. Florian Kohfeldt’s men have lost just one of their last nine matches in the Bundesliga and will likely continue their good form with a win over Bremen on Monday.