German clubs are set to play their third league game in just a week and TheHardTackle previews all the action that Europe’s most exciting league has to offer.
Fortuna Düsseldorf v Schalke 04
Norbert Meier’s side has confounded fans and critics alike this season with some incredibly solid defensive football. The Fortunen haven’t conceded a single goal this season, keeping this clean sheet going for about 540 minutes. They remain the only club in Europe’s top four leagues that is yet to concede a goal. And this is no small feat for a newly promoted club, especially for one in the roller-coaster Bundesliga.
Schalke have shown a good amount of stability in the first five games, with Lewis Holtby being their key player. The 22-year-old attacking midfielder has already racked up three goals and one assist in the league. Unlike Düsseldorf, the Royal Blues haven’t looked too solid at the back, having conceded two against Hannover and Bayern, and one against Augsburg. Stevens is also faced with a few injury problems as the likes of Jefferson Farfan, Jermaine Jones and Roman Neustadter are all doubtful.
This is going to be a hard game to call. Düsseldorf will finally face their first real test of the season, but have shown such resoluteness that they cannot be written off. With Schalke’s biggest name, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, in poor form, the over reliance on Holtby might hurt Schalke. Expect a tight and cagey affair at the LTU Arena.
Bayer Leverkusen v Greuther Fürth
Leverkusen are yet to find their feet under the tutelage of the duo of Sascha Lewandowski and Sami Hyypiä. Their showing against Augsburg in mid week was their most positive performance this season, with Andre Schürrle finally getting his first goal of the season. Leverkusen might go into this weekend fixture with Stefan Reinartz out, while Sidney Sam might be in line for his first start of the season.
Fürth do not have much going their way so far. Other than their shock victory over Mainz on Matchday 2, the Cloverleaves have been unable to show any of the flair and colour that gave them their first ever promotion to the Bundesliga.
Fürth’s poor start to the season should continue this week and their goal tally should continue to stay put at just two. This game could be that momentum boost that Leverkusen were looking to get in order to get their season back on track.
Werder Bremen v Bayern Munich
Luck finally favoured Thomas Schaaf and his men, as they managed to come back against Freiburg and hold onto the win. Bremen have shown a great deal of promise so far but have not been clinical and somewhat shaky defensively. With their central midfield pairing of Kevin de Bruyne and Aaron Hunt in top form, Bremen will be a dangerous side.
But can any side stop Bayern Munich? The Bavarians have been in mind boggling form in the first five games, with Thomas Müller, Toni Kroos and Mario Mandžukić being their top players. Averaging at over three goals per game and having conceded just two in five games, they seem unstoppable for now.
Bremen might just have to count themselves unlucky once again. This time for having to face a Bayern side that is beastly. The visitors might not have the easiest game but it should be a fairly simple win.
FC Nürnberg v VfB Stuttgart
Overshadowed for two weeks in a row now, Nürnberg have seen a big drop in their performances. Der Club have been very reliant on Hiroshi Kiyotake and his brilliance from dead ball situations. But this is beginning to cost them. The likes of Robert Mak, Per Nilsson and Alexander Esswein need to wake up if Dieter Hecking’s side are to push for Europe.
Stuttgart, oh Stuttgart! The Swabians boast the worst defensive record in the league, are one of only two teams yet to record a victory and sit second from the bottom in the table. Their 3-0 loss to Hoffenheim, another club that was languishing at the bottom, has to be their wake-up call or we could see Bruno Labbadia on his way out and a long wait to the winter transfer window.
Nürnberg’s home form has been just as poor as Stuttgart’s away form this season. A lot will depend on Kiyotake once again and this could hurt Nürnberg. Stuttgart’s first win of the season might be just round the corner.
1899 Hoffenheim v FC Augsburg
Markus Babbel must be one of the happiest men in Germany. His side has now managed to pick up two consecutive wins and jump to eleventh place in the table. Takashi Usami, another Japanese starlet, has hit peak form in the last few games and will be most influential in putting Augsburg to the sword.
Augsburg have been awful. Awful to an extent that is hard to fathom. Markus Weinzierl must be counting down his days at the club, as a win seems unachievable for his side. Also, injuries to the likes of Simon Jentzsch, Ja-Cheol Koo and Knowledge Musona have not helped one bit.
Hoffenheim’s climb up the table should continue over this weekend. Usami and Robert Firmino will be looking to notch up a few more goals and assists, while Eren Derdiyok should look to turn his fortunes around. Don’t even bother about Augsburg.
Hamburger SV v Hannover 96
This is the most mouth watering tie of this weekend’s fixtures.
Hamburg have finally begun to steady their boat, picking up a memorable win over Dortmund and a hard fought draw against Gladbach. Rafael van der Vaart has been the messiah at the Imtech Arena, providing for two goals against Dortmund and scoring a screamer against Gladbach. But Hamburg’s main worry will be their defense, having let in ten goals in just five games.
Talking about weak defenses and them being put to the sword, the first name that comes to anyone’s mind is high flying Hannover. And when one talks about Hannover, the first name that pops up is Szabolcs Huszti. The return of the Hungarian has been nothing short of spectacular, as he has been involved in all of Hannover’s goals (barring one own goal) this season.
Hannover have the upper hand on paper, but this is an in form Hamburg side that will be hard to stop. Expect a lot of goals and some poor defending.
Borussia Dortmund v Borussia Mönchengladbach
Both sides have been ghosts of their selves from last season and their problems have been fairly similar. Their defensive units are nothing like those from last season and they have gone on to concede far too many goals far too early in the season. Their goals haven’t come as regularly as they would have liked and their summer losses are really hurting them.
Injuries aren’t an issue for either side, with Marco Reus also being declared fit for the game. It will be very interesting to see how Reus performs against his former club and whether they can shut him down completely. Juan Arango will be crucial to Gladbach’s success in this fixture, all the more so given Lukas Piszczek’s tendency to push high up the field.
Dortmund haven’t had too many problems at home, picking up two wins out of two. Their defensive record has also been a lot better at home and gives them a massive advantage in this tie. Gladbach will have to pull off something special if they are to upset the defending champions.
Eintracht Frankfurt v SC Freiburg
The surprise package of the Bundesliga defied all odds by pulling off a remarkable comeback against Dortmund in midweek and will be looking to build on that performance. Takashi Inui and Stefan Aigner have been the Eagles’ players to watch, while their mainstays Pirmin Schwegler and Sebastian Rode add much needed solidity in midfield. Scoring past this Frankfurt side hasn’t been a mammoth task but keeping them from hitting the back of the net seems almost impossible for now.
Freiburg’s home record under Christian Streich finally has a blemish to it. But their away record has nothing but blemishes. They have managed just three wins out of eleven away games, not scored in their last four away games and maintained just four clean sheets in these eleven fixtures. Julian Schuster and Cedric Makiadi will have their hands full in keeping Frankfurt’s attack as far away from the Freiburg penalty area as possible.
The odds are stacked strongly against Freiburg, but how long can Frankfurt’s fairy-tale run go on for? This seems like a highly unlikely place at which it will end, yet it cannot be written off. As unlikely as it may seem, do not be surprised if we witness an upset at the Commerzbank Arena.
VfL Wolfsburg v Mainz 05
Wolfsburg have been far from good this season. With just two goals scored in five games, Felix Magath’s approach is questionable. Their midfield lacks any creativity with Diego not at his best and their forwards being outright poachers hasn’t helped either. Their story in defense hasn’t been any different. Three of their four starting backs are new signings and are far from comfortable in Magath’s care. It doesn’t look like winds of change are going to be blowing around here any time soon.
Mainz haven’t been too different from Wolfsburg in terms of how they’ve fared this season. The only massive difference is that they didn’t spend truckloads of money in the summer. Attackers Nicolai Muller and Maxim Choupo-Moting will be their most potent threats on Sunday, with the experience Nikolce Noveski being the backbone of their defense.
Not the game that neutrals will be looking forward to, but one of huge consequence to both the clubs. A win here will give either side three hugely valuable points and some much needed confidence. This game is as wide open as Tim Wiese’s goal.