Eintracht Frankfurt host Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 33 of the 2015/16 Bundesliga season on Saturday.
While the Black and Yellows have a tiny theoretical shot at winning the title—Bayern Munich would need to lose their two remaining matches against Ingolstadt and already-relegated Hannover—the focus will be on the Eagles.
Saturday's hosts sit in the relegation playoff spot, level on points with 17th-placed Stuttgart but only one behind Werder Bremen above the drop zone. Two consecutive come-from-behind wins in derbies against Mainz and Darmstadt have given the Hessians new hope.
Hope will be needed against Dortmund, the Bundesliga's only unbeaten side in 2016. The Black and Yellows have looked untouchable in recent weeks, having won all four matches across competitions with a combined scoreline of 14-1 since crashing out of the UEFA Europa League against Liverpool.
With Frankfurt traveling to Bremen on the final matchday of the campaign, fans will surely be on the lookout for updates from Cologne, where Werder play at the same time on Saturday. Results in Berlin, where Darmstadt—only two points ahead of Frankfurt—face Hertha and Stuttgart, who play Mainz, will also be of great significance for the Hessians.
Dortmund won the first meeting of the season in December 4-1, while Frankfurt won all three points the last time the two sides met in the Commerzbank-Arena in 2014.
Date: Saturday, May 7
Time: 2:30 p.m. BST/9:30 a.m. ET/3:30 p.m. local time
Venue: Commerzbank-Arena, Frankfurt
TV Info: FS 1 (U.S. only)
Live Stream: Fox Soccer 2Go (U.S. only)
|Bayern: Loss (1-0)||Liverpool: Loss (4-3)|
|Hoffenheim: Loss (2-0)||Hamburg: Win (3-0)|
|Leverkusen: Loss (3-0)||Hertha: Win (3-0)|
|Mainz: Win (2-1)||Stuttgart: Win (3-0)|
|Darmstadt: Win (2-1)||Wolfsburg: Win (5-1)|
Centre-back Carlos Zambrano joins attacker Alexander Meier, defenders Bamba Anderson and Stefan Reinartz and midfielders Slobodan Medojevic and Johannes Flum on the injury list.
Central forward Haris Seferovic will also miss the game through suspension after his 10th booking of the season against Darmstadt.
United States international Timothy Chandler, meanwhile, returned to team training during the week and could feature, per Peppi Schmitt of Frankfurter Neue Presse (link in German).
Frankfurt will likely field a defensive selection with five, or even six, at the back at most times.
Predicted Starting XI: Hradecky; Regasel, Abraham, Russ, Oczipka, Djakpa; Hasebe; Aigner, Ben-Hatira, Huszti; Castaignos.
Defenders Neven Subotic and Joo-ho Park are still out injured, as is Ilkay Gundogan. The club announced (link in German) on Friday that the Germany international has picked up a knee injury.
Right-back Lukasz Piszczek didn't take part in team training during the week and won't make the trip out of precaution.
Midfielder Julian Weigl will miss the game after his fifth booking of the season against Wolfsburg, Dortmund's first suspension in the entire campaign.
Nuri Sahin should take his spot in the starting XI, while Erik Durm or Matthias Ginter will replace Piszczek. Up front, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should return to the starting lineup after overcoming a toe injury.
Predicted Starting XI: Burki; Durm, Bender, Hummels, Schmelzer; Sahin, Castro, Kagawa; Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, Reus.
Players to Watch
When Anis Ben-Hatira joined Frankfurt from Hertha Berlin on a free transfer in the winter, more than a few onlookers scratched their heads.
The former Germany under-21 international had only played three matches for Hertha's second team in the fourth division, the Regionalliga, after a nagging toe injury kept him out of football for months.
Disciplinary problems—per Uwe Bremer of local paper Berliner Morgenpost (link in German), Ben-Hatira punched team-mate Mitchell Weiser after the match at Bremen—sealed the 27-year-old's fate in the capital.
An afterthought in Frankfurt as well, the Tunisia international played in only two of his side's next seven matches of 2016.
Since former Croatia international Niko Kovac has taken over, however, Ben-Hatira has been an integral part of the team. Scoring the winner against Hannover and producing both goals against Mainz, the creative midfielder has been somewhat of a lifeline for the Eagles.
As for Dortmund, Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been in inspired form in recent weeks—or the entire campaign, if you like. The Armenian is one assist away from tying Kevin De Bruyne's record from last season, per Jan Reinold of sport magazine Kicker (link in German).
Having been involved in five goals in as many league meetings with Frankfurt, the 27-year-old has a good shot at equalising the record of 21 assists in the Bundesliga on Saturday.
Dortmund's Patience vs. Frankfurt's High-Intensity Defending
Frankfurt aren't exactly pretty to look at under Kovac, but their record has improved since he took over from Armin Veh in March. They're defending with more tenacity and grit, which was on display against Bayern Munich, as it took a wonder goal from Franck Ribery to beat Frankfurt 1-0.
Expect the Hessians to sit deep with five or six defenders at most times, narrowing the field for Dortmund, while challenging them with a lot of physicality.
Seeing as the Black and Yellows have little to play for against Frankfurt, and the DFB-Pokal final against Bayern is just around the corner, the Eagles will hope they can annoy Dortmund enough to lure them into mistakes.
BVB's patience will be tested, but head coach Thomas Tuchel is ready for just that, as relayed from his press conference by ESPN FC's Stefan Buczko:
Odds (via Odds Shark)