After the second international break of the season we welcome the return of the Bundesliga this weekend with nine mouth-watering clashes served up for our delight. Ahead of the matchday 8 action we take a closer look at five talking points as a way of previewing the weekend’s fare.
(1) Can Wolfsburg seriously add to Bayern’s woes?
The international break probably came at the worst time for Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac. After three games without a win and two successive defeats to Hertha Berlin and Borussia Mönchengladbach, the Bayern trainer would dearly have loved to have his full squad together to work through the deficits affecting the reigning champions in the past few weeks.
However with the next round of international fixtures drawing almost his entire squad away from the Sabener Straße, the under-pressure trainer has been left to work with Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry, Sandro Wagner and a few others not off on their travels around the globe.
Wolfsburg will certainly be fired-up ahead of the arrival of the Bavarians and will have gained some confidence from the recent displays of Augsburg, Hertha and Gladbach against FCB, but they will also be extremely wary of a Bayern backlash.
The Wölfe, having won their opening two fixtures, have now gone five matches without a win so expecting them to upset the champions is a big ask. It will be particularly difficult for trainer Bruno Labbadia as he struggles to fill his defensive midfield berths. With both Joshua Guilavogui and Ignacio Camacho out injured, the number 6 role has been recently filled by Marcel Tisserand, who is a centre-back by trade.
Against a wounded Bayern with the quality their midfield and attack possesses, it could be an area of real concern for Wolfsburg.
(2) How are Nürnberg going to react after a second hammering?
Sitting in 12th place after seven games doesn’t tell the whole story of Nürnberg’s season so far and their hosting of Hoffenheim this weekend will prove very interesting. They are unbeaten at home in their first three games at the Max Morlock Stadion, but those points came against lowly Mainz, Hannover and Fortuna Düsseldorf.
Against teams from the upper echelons (away from home) they have been embarrassed twice- a 7-0 hammering at Dortmund followed by a 6-0 mauling at the hands of RB Leipzig. The arrival of Julian Nagelsmann’s side will prove a real test for Club coach Michael Köllner and his side’s ability to compete with the top teams.
It might be time for Nürnberg to play more cleverly. To their credit they have looked to instigate rather than just react, but sadly against BVB and Leipzig, their naivety cost them heavily. They need to be more compact defensively and the stats show they need to up their game in other areas.
A distance covered of 114.2km per game is the second lowest figure in the league, 73 shots puts them 16th, 31 chances 15th and 177 sprints per match bottom of the Bundesliga pile. There is also a question mark over the confidence and ability of under-fire goalkeeper Fabian Bredlow, whose place is under pressure from Christian Mathenia.
(3) Is Markus Weinzierl going to experience a baptism of fire as he returns at Stuttgart?
Markus Weinzierl will make his long-awaited return to the Bundesliga technical area this weekend as he takes control of VfB Stuttgart for the first time since he succeeded the sacked Tayfun Korkut. He probably couldn’t have asked for a tougher opening game with league leaders Borussia Dortmund the visitors to the Mercedes Benz Arena.
The Swabians notched up their 500th Bundesliga victory in the club’s history last season with a 2-1 win over BVB in the corresponding fixture on matchday 12. The Dortmund side that arrives on Saturday however is a completely different beast to the one under Peter Bosz eleven months ago.
Not only will Weinzierl have to come up with a way of stopping the attacking prowess of the Schwarzgelben, who are the league’s top scorers with 23, but he’ll also have to get his side playing to his style having had very little preparation time.
His preferred 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1 system with speedy attacks coming from the flanks may have to be tempered for now due to a lack of suitable players at his disposal. Anastasios Donis is currently out injured and the other midfielders/ forwards available are more central or don’t possess the pace required.
The atmosphere is sure to be great with a packed-out 60,000 fans inside the stadium, but the result at the end maybe won’t be. Welcome back with a bump?
(4) Where will the Mainz goals come from?
While it hasn’t quite got to the stage of seeing tumbleweed blowing across the penalty area, the situation of Mainz’s goal drought is becoming slightly alarming. The Nullfünfer’s opening seven Bundesliga fixtures have seen Sandro Schwarz’s side hit the back of the net just four times, although on the plus side they have also only conceded four. They have however failed to score in any of their last four outings.
After seven games it is the joint worst scoring record across the top three divisions in Germany with only Sandhausen matching such a lowly figure. The paltry stat of eight goals in total in the seven outings is also a Bundesliga historical record low.
The loss of Yoshinori Muto’s goals haven’t been replaced and the rest of the squad haven’t stepped up to chip in. Anthony Ujah has two, Jean-Philippe Mateta one and Alexandru Maxim one. A midweek friendly against Hessenliga side FC Eddersheim was arranged to sharpen up their shooting boots and a 4-0 win was secured. Things however will be much tougher as the Bundesliga returns.
Mainz face a tough trip to Mönchengladbach this weekend to face the recent conquerors of Bayern. What is the betting that Fohlen keeper Yann Sommer brings a deckchair and magazine to read to keep him occupied at the Borussia Park on Sunday?
(5) Will Paco Alcácer keep scoring?
If poor Mainz have a problem putting the ball in the back of the net, then Borussia Dortmund striker Paco Alcácer has the complete opposite issue. The Spaniard just cannot stop scoring at the moment, which is excellent news for BVB.
Such have been the scoring feats of the 25-year-old since he arrived on an initial loan from Barcelona that the Ruhr giants have made the deal permanent signing the prolific forward on a four-year contract until 2023.
This season has seen the former Valencia hit-man score 10 goals in just 245 minutes of football meaning on average he has hit the back of the net every 25 minutes. Robert Lewandowski on the other hand hasn’t scored now for 450 minutes in either Bundesliga, Champions League or the Nations Cup.
Alcácer bagged a hat-trick last time out for Dortmund in their win over Bayer Leverkusen and then in the international break scored twice against Wales and then once against England. Stuttgart keeper Ron-Robert Zieler has been warned.
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