Leipzig travel to Dortmund without their key striker, while Thomas Tuchel’s own goalscorer has thrust himself back into the spotlight. Leverkusen are understaffed, and can a lackluster Bayern Munich overcome Schalke?Leipzig missing key man ahead of Dortmund test
One of the most mouth-watering ties of the weekend is undoubtedly RB Leipzig’s trip to Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. There, the second-placed, unlikely challengers to the Bundesliga title will face their latest test to see just how far they can go in their inaugural season in the top flight.
Yet Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side will head west with a notable disadvantage, knowing that they’ll be without key striker Timo Werner. Although one of Leipzig’s strengths has undoubtedly been the squad’s sheer array of talent – their front line alone is bolstered by back-up talents like David Selke and Oliver Burke – there’s no doubt the former Stuttgart striker is key to their success.
Werner has scored 11 goals and laid on two assists in just 18 Bundesliga games this season. That’s more than double the second best goalscorer in the squad. Not to mention the contributions he adds to the team by leading the line each week. Leipzig’s test in Dortmund just got much tougher.
Schmidt forced to experiment with Leverkusen midfield, front line
Where Leipzig may miss their star forward with flu, Bayer Leverkusen are adjusting to the prospect of completing the season without set-piece wizard Hakan Calhanoglu. The Turkish international now faces a 4-month FIFA ban, having lost his Court of Arbitration for Sport appeal, in a case dating back to his teenage years in Karslruhe.
Yet Leverusen may in fact make the most of its other notable absentee, Javier Hernandez, who will also miss Friday’s clash with Calhanoglu’s old club Hamburg due to an injury.
Although the Mexican international has been an ever-present feature of Roger Schmidt’s team when fit, he has been far from the prolific asset that scored 26 goals in 43 games last season. In this current campaign he’s bagged just eight in 25 games and has held his side back.
Kevin Volland may still be injured, but Schmidt could turn to Joel Pohjanpalo, a young player often preferred as a late substitute, but also one that has scored four goals in just six, limited appearances in the Bundesliga this season.
Before a midfield rammed full of talent that hasn’t really clicked in to place yet this season, a change up front may just be what Leverkusen and Schmidt have been waiting for.
Ancelotti missing necessary individual talent
With narrow wins over Werder Bremen and Freiburg, the new year has brought a continuation of Bayern Munich’s slow yet steady march to another league title. The Munich giants aren’t playing too well but for the most part individual talent continues to get them over the line.
In Freiburg it took a moment of magic from Robert Lewandowski, while Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery combined to down a spirited Bremen side last week. Yet this weekend against a bruised Schalke team Carlo Ancelotti will be without the Frenchman and may find his side struggling against the Royal Blues.
Ribery’s injury will most likely mean the return of Douglas Costa, who has struggled on the left wing for much of the season as he still tries to find a partnership with David Alaba to rival what the young Austrian international and Ribery clearly share. Add to that an out-of-form Thomas Müller on the other wing and things may become troublesome for the German champions.
Aubameyang in the spotlight
It’s been a busy week for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. As the Bundesliga transfer window shut, news broke that the Gabon striker had spoke to French radio about a possible move away from Dortmund to “take the next step.”
The club’s sporting director, Michael Zorc, later told local newspaper the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) that they had asked the striker to keep his thoughts out of the media, yet it seems as though the damage has already been done.
What now follows is how Dortmund fans react. If the striker can put the clumsy outburst behind him and get on with scoring goals then it may quickly be put to bed, but his current record shows just one goal in his last four league games.
Add to that Dortmund’s general poor form of late and you have a situation that could turn very nasty. Aubameyang is still very much a fan favorite but unless he returns to scoring and winning games for his side that could change at a club so used to losing its best and brightest in recent years.