After a bitter-sweet European week, German football is back to domestic action this week as second round of DFB Pokal and Bundesliga promise interesting fixtures in the next five days.
While the Champions League did not yield all positive results for the German teams, matchday 3 in the Europa League was fruitful as all three German representatives Augsburg, Dortmund and Schalke picked up points. Upcoming domestic weekend also promises some great action in the form of top clashes along with the unpredictability of the DFB Pokal. Lets take a look at the top five things to look forward in this week.
Gladbach And Schalke Back-to-Back Clashes:
It has been a roller coaster ride for Borussia Monchengladbach for the past few months as the team finished third last season to shockingly slump to a five defeats in a row at the season start. With Lucien Favre, stepping down as the Foalsa head coach, all looked lost for the Rhinelanders. But Andre Schuberta s appointment has managed to breath new life into the team as they fought their way out of the drop zone with a four match winning streak and also gained a crucial draw against last year finalists Juventus in the Champions League. Despite the dismal start, Gladbach are still in the race for European berths this season, as they host fellow European aspirants Schalke. Schalke on the other hand have improved a lot under Andre Breitenreiter and have shown that with consistent performances in all competitions. The fabled youth academy of Schalkea s Knappenschmiede has once again played an important role with Leroy Sane as the emerging star. The 19 year old Knappen graduate has already scored 4 crucial goals in all competitions for Schalke and teams have found it difficult to deal with this movement particularly on the counterattack. Sane will again be the dangerman for Gladbach in the back-to-back fixtures at Borussia Park (Bundesliga) on Sunday and at Veltins Arena(DFB Pokal) on Wednesday as his pace and trickery has caused many problems for opposition defenders. The League and Cup fixtures are equally important for both teamsa confidence as Schalke look to cement their place at the top of the league and advance in the Cup whereas Gladbach are in a desperate need for win to gain winning momentum after a woeful start to the season.
Crossing Paths Of Similar Fate? Augsburg Vs SC Frieburg:
On Wednesday two teams that have been the most surprising packages in recent seasons face each other in the second round of DFB Pokal. SC Freiburg shocked many in the 2012-13 season by finishing 5th and securing an automatic qualification spot in the Europa League with a meagre budget and a dedicated team under Christian Streich. But the following season, the team suddenly crumbled under the pressure of juggling three competitions and finished 2013-14 season just above the relegation zone in 14th position and their European campaign came to an end in the Group stage. Their run in the DFB Pokal also came to an end in the 3rd round after losing out to Bayer Leverkusen. Last season Freiburg were relegated after the final matchdaya s nail biting relegation battle and are currently working hard to gain back qualification to the top flight. Their Wednesdaya s opponents Augsburg have similarly astonished fans across Europe by qualifying to Europe after just three seasons in the top flight by finishing fifth last season all with the second lowest budget in the Bundesliga.They even pushed Schalke to the seventh position in the process. Much like Freiburg two season ago, fortunes have took a sharp turn for the Bavarian club this season, as they stand in the relegation zone after nine matches after securing European qualification in the previous season. Freiburg were 17th in the league table in 2013-14 season after nine matches and Augsburg as currently downright at the bottom of the Bundesliga table. But Augsburg will have gained some confidence after their first European victory against AZ Alkmaar in the Europa League on Thursday before they face Borussia Dortmund on Sunday followed by Freiburg on Wednesday. The club clearly lacks the personnel to compete on three fronts and the high profile departures of Abdul Rahman Baba to Chelsea, Andre Hahn to Borussia Monchengladbach have further weakened Markus Weinzierla s side. The pattern of both the teams after successful seasons are surprisingly similar, but will Augsburg follow the same path of Freiburg? Well, we have to wait till the season end for that. For now, wait for Wednesdaya s match.
Wolfsburg V Bayern Munich. Another Lewandowski Show On The Cards?
The wounds have not healed, the nightmares have not stopped and here they are facing the same team and the same man again. Wolfsburg and Dieter Hecking will not forget the pain inflicted by Robert Lewandowski last month at the Allianz Arena as the Polish international struck 5 goals in 9 minutes on Matchday 6 in the Bundesliga ripping the Wolvesa defence to shreds. And before any one predicted that would happen, both of these top teams have been drawn against each other in the 2nd round of DFB Pokal. This gives us a chance to enjoy quality football early in the competition and a chance for the lower ranking clubs to journey far into the competition. The spotlight will obviously be on Robert Lewandowski who has been on a hot streak since scoring those 5 goals against Wolfsburg. The striker has now 28 goals from 21 matches this season for both club and country and even though it is too early to say; is in contention to become Europea s top scorer. Despite all the buzz around Lewandowski, one should not forget that Wolfsburg are the defending champions in the Cup and have already beaten Bayern Munich twice in their last three meetings. Pep Guardiolaa s side have injury concerns and have also tasted their first defeat of the season against Arsenal on Tuesday at the Emirates. On the other hand Wolfsburg are also struggling on the creative front this season after the departure of Kevin De Bruyne. The team are clearly missing the vital part of their game play which saw them win the DFB Pokal which is the ball supply in the final third. De Bruynea s pace and dribbling supplied Bas Dost and other attackers with ample shooting opportunities last season which new arrivals Julian Draxler and Max Meyer have been unable to replicate this season. The other areas of the pitch have pretty much the same players from last season and have the ability to keep the star studded Bayern attack at bay. But with the magnificent Lewandowski leading the line, can the Wolves bury the recent past to defend their title?
Newcomersa Impressive Run In The Top Flight(SV Darmstadt and Ingolstadt):
There have been only few in recent times where newly promoted teams have been as impressive as Darmstadt and Ingolstadt. It is also a remarkable for a club like FC Ingolstadt which is just 11 years old after being founded in 2004, to gain top flight promotion and play impressive football consistently. They are already become an interesting side to watch out for with wins over Mainz, Augsburg, Werder Bremen and Eintracht Frankfurt. In the process, they also managed to remain undefeated away from home in the first eight matches which also includes a draw against a strong Wolfsburg side and against Koln who are currently 6th in the table. Clearly their tough tackling defence has to be credited for this as they allowed more than 2 goals only once in the whole campaign. Though this might seem trivial, it is quite a big achievement for a newly promoted side. With the defensive strength in their ranks, they host Hertha Berlin on Saturday and it will be exciting to see Ralph HasenhA?ttla s men keep up with the impressive work. After 33 years of wait, SV Darmstadt got promoted to the top flight and have surprised everyone so far. They started the season with an impressive 2-2 draw against Michael Frontzecka s Hannover followed by draws against third placed Schalke and Markus Gisdola s Hoffenheim side. Then came their first win of the season and it was the big scalp of Bayer Leverkusen. Despite losing 3-0 to Bayern Munich, the Lilies were tough enough to hold Borussia Dortmund in their own backyard on Matchday 7. With 3 wins, 4 draws and 2 losses Dirk Schustera s men are clearly a side to watch out for this term when they host last seasona s runners up Wolfsburg on Saturday in the Bundesliga. Stopping the likes of Wolfsburg needs more than just courage, but the way the Lilies have scored in the 90th minute against Dortmund shows their self belief and temperament when playing against big sides.
Draw Not An Option For Aubameyang And Dortmund:
Clearly Dortmund are flying high and so is their main marksmen Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Gabon internationala s 17 goals in 16 matches and his goal celebrations show that he is enjoying every moment his game under Thomas Tuchel. Die Schwarzgelben clearly have the momentum with them but all they need now is the points to close the gap between them and Bayern Munich. The same team which huffed and puffed to get goals last season, have found their groove back which is evident from the way they have been freely scoring goals. Despite all the exciting football they have been playing, there are still chinks in Dortmunda s armour which were exposed by Bayern Munich during the 5-1 hammering at the Allianz Arena. The way Tuchela s side have conceded in the dying minutes against Darmstadt also shows that they tend to become naive at times allowing oppositions to take advantage. Their current 7 points gap at the top of the table cannot be ignored merely by hoping that Bayern will slip up at some point. The champions have been clearly unstoppable from the start of the season and demonstrated their superiority in the league in the first Klassiker of the season which means only one thing to their challengers. Do not drop points. Reus, Aubameyang, Kagawa, Mkhitaryan have all been in terrific form which is a great sign for their Cup and Europa League prospects, but the League is possibly the toughest challenge for Yellow and Blacks. Although a trip to bottom ranked Augsburg cannot be called as a tough test at this point, but looking at the bigger picture, dropping points is not an option. Bayern can afford to lose once in a while, but not even a draw is advisable for Dortmunda s title chances.