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Bundesliga 2022-23: Matchday 18 preview

Published at :January 27, 2023 at 7:19 PM
Modified at :December 13, 2023 at 1:01 PM
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(Courtesy : Bundesliga)

Samad Haque

The meeting of leaders FC Bayern München and fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt as well as a pivotal Berlin derby are among the highlights as the Bundesliga moves into the Rückrunde on Matchday 18 this weekend.

Having now played every team once, defending champions Bayern begin the second half of the campaign with a tricky home tie in Saturday’s late kick-off.

After dropping points in two successive matches since the winter break, there is pressure on Bayern after their lead at the top was cut to just three points. On Tuesday in Munich, Julian Nagelsmann’s team needed a spectacular 90th-minute strike from Joshua Kimmich to earn a 1-1 draw against mid-table 1. FC Köln.

Eintracht started the year by beating FC Schalke 04 before drawing 1-1 against sixth-placed SC Freiburg, meaning last season’s UEFA Europa League winners are only five points off top spot. French World Cup star Randal Kolo Muani got their goal in Freiburg on Wednesday – his sixth of the season to go with a league-high 10 assists. He and his teammates will be keen to avenge the 6-1 loss the Eagles suffered against Bayern on the opening day of the season.

FC Union Berlin are second after coming from behind to win both of their matches in 2023. After a stirring comeback against TSG Hoffenheim in the capital last weekend, Union followed up with a 2-1 success at SV Werder Bremen in midweek.

On Saturday afternoon they will make the short trip west to face city rivals Hertha Berlin. Hertha are second bottom after their defeat in Bochum was followed by Tuesday’s 5-0 drubbing at home to VfL Wolfsburg.

Hertha will be desperate to deliver a good performance this weekend – all the more so given that Union have won the last four derby matches in all competitions. The last of them was on Matchday 1, when USA striker Jordan got a debut goal and the pacy Sheraldo Becker also starred in a 3-1 victory.

In-form RB Leipzig will get Matchday 18 underway when they host fourth-from- bottom VfB Stuttgart on Friday evening. Despite the absence of 12-goal Bundesliga top scorer Christopher Nkunku through injury, the home side have had a promising start to the year.

Leipzig are third in the table after extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to 15 matches with a whopping 6-1 win over Schalke on Tuesday. Andre Silva scored twice and Timo Werner once on the same night that Stuttgart conceded a 94th-minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Hoffenheim.

Borussia Dortmund have seen off FC Augsburg and FSV Mainz 05 since the winter break, but England star Jude Bellingham and his fifth-placed side will face a tough test away to Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Sunday. Guided by head coach Xabi Alonso and with gifted Germany youngster Florian Wirtz fit again, they have moved eighth in the standings after a 2-0 win over VfL Bochum 1848 – their fifth victory on the spin in the league.

Wolfsburg, meanwhile, are seventh but top of the form table after making it six wins in a row with victory in Berlin. Niko Kovac’s men are in Bremen on Saturday, and also that afternoon Freiburg play Augsburg and out-of-form Mainz host third- bottom Bochum.

There will also be a midtable clash on Saturday when Hoffenheim take on Borussia Mönchengladbach, while on Sunday bottom side Schalke will target just their third win of the campaign when Köln are in town.

Meanwhile the battle to reach the top flight will resume this weekend after the winter break. Fortuna Düsseldorf and SC Paderborn 07 will look to get themselves back in the Bundesliga 2 promotion mix when they face 1. FC Magdeburg and Karlsruher SC respectively on Friday.

League leaders SV Darmstadt 98 return against midtable SSV Jahn Regensburg on Saturday. Fifth hosts fourth in the evening as Hannover 96 take on 1. FC Kaiserslautern. Second-placed Hamburger SV will also look to start with a home win when they play Eintracht Braunschweig on Sunday.