Leverkusen plays 'Gladbach after Champions League losses
FRANKFURT, GERMANY: Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Moenchengladbach can work off some of their Champions League frustration on Saturday.
The clubs failed to reach the round of 16, and play each other in the top match of the Bundesliga round. Leverkusen managed only a 1-1 draw against an essentially second-string Barcelona side bolstered by Lionel Messi, while Moenchengladbach lost 4-2 at Manchester City.
While Leverkusen was at least left with the consolation of the Europa League, Moenchengladbach's European campaign was over for the season.
But in the Bundesliga, it was Moenchengladbach which was the team of the moment.
Moenchengladbach injected some interest into the title race last weekend by beating Bayern Munich 2-0. Since Andre Schubert took over as coach, Moenchengladbach has been unbeaten in 10 straight Bundesliga matches — after starting the season with five straight defeats under his predecessor Lucien Favre.
On the other hand, Leverkusen went into the season with high hopes. But the team was stagnating in eighth place and coach Roger Schmidt was beginning to feel the heat.
Newly signed striker Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez has been a bright addition with seven goals in the league. But some leaders from last season, such as Hakan Calhanoglu and Karim Bellarabi, are playing well below their potential.
Leverkusen is creating few chances and scoring few goals, only 19 in 15 matches. With six defeats already, it has nearly as many as for the entire last season (seven).
Moenchengladbach goes into the 16th round in third place, 14 points behind Bayern and nine points behind Borussia Dortmund.
Bayern suffered its first league defeat of the season in Moenchengladbach but retains a healthy lead over Dortmund. Bayern hosts promoted Ingolstadt in a Bavarian derby, while Dortmund hosts slumping Eintracht Frankfurt.
Here are some things to know about the round this weekend:
BEST vs. WORST: Unsurprisingly, Bayern has the most proficient attack in the league with 43 goals, while Ingolstadt has only 11, the fewest in the league. Robert Lewandowski (14) and Thomas Mueller (13) have more goals than the entire Ingolstadt team.
But the newcomer has managed to collect 20 points with those 11 goals, which speaks for its defense — Ingolstadt has conceded only 15. It has the stingiest defense after Bayern (eight).
Ingolstadt has won only one of its last seven, but also has lost only one of its last five.
FALLING FRANKFURT: Eintracht Frankfurt was hoping for a safe place in mid-table but the club is winless in 11 matches and dropping fast. Coach Armin Veh says he is still "totally disappointed" and frustrated after last week's 1-0 home defeat against promoted neighbor Darmstadt.
Veh has indicated he will revamp the team during the winter break.
Frankfurt will be out to limit the damage in Dortmund, especially since defenders Carlos Zambrano and Marco Reuss are suspended.
Eintracht has won only one of its last 18 matches in Dortmund, with that win coming in 2010.
SURPRISE, SURPRISE: Darmstadt remains one of the surprises of the season. The team of little means was expected to be relegated after just one season in the top tier but it is sitting 12th. Its rugged style is testing other teams, and Darmstadt is always dangerous on the fast break.
Hertha Berlin is even more of a surprise. It is fourth, ahead of last season's runner-up, Wolfsburg. Hertha already has four wins on the road as it heads to Darmstadt.
Pal Dardai's team is coming off a win against Leverkusen and knows what to expect: "A robust, aggressive, mentally strong rival," he says.
"I knew they would be passionate but I am surprised they have so many points (18) with so little possession."