Following on from a very interesting round of DFB Pokal action in midweek, it is back to the Bundesliga this weekend with nine mouth-watering ties in store. With Bayern looking to be back on the winning trail, Borussia Dortmund will want to maintain their slender lead before they meet in next week’s Klassiker.
Werder Bremen and Borussia Mönchengladbach will be wanting to get back to winning ways after defeats last weekend, while both Fortuna Düsseldorf and VfB Stuttgart will be seeking the three points to lift them off the bottom.
So let’s take a look at five talking points ahead of the weekend action as a way of previewing matchday 10.
(1) Which face of Bayer Leverkusen will we see?
Will the real Bayer Leverkusen please reveal yourself? With the vultures swooping around the Bay Arena looking to pick over the bones of the seemingly doomed trainer Heiko Herrlich, the Werkself have produced two stunning displays to scatter the encircling carrion.
A 6-2 away win at Werder Bremen last Sunday injected some much-needed life into Leverkusen and then the squad was given another massive boost with their 5-0 DFB Pokal win away at high-flying Borussia Mönchengladbach on Wednesday night.
“We’ve scored eleven goals in three days against two teams who have had impressive starts to the season” Sporting Director Rudi Völler beamed. “A lot is going right at the moment that wasn’t before” he added.
Another very tough game awaits this weekend with Hoffenheim the visitors to the Bay Arena. So which Leverkusen will we see? The one that has stumbled through the opening eight games? Or perhaps the one that has shown its ruthless streak in the past two games?
(2) How will Dortmund cope with their makeshift back four?
Borussia Dortmund almost suffered a Halloween fright against Union Berlin in the DFB Pokal, but even though they won (in extra-time) they didn’t emerge unscathed. With Abdou Diallo limping off after just 14 minutes, more defensive woes have been heaped upon trainer Lucien Favre ahead of their matchday 10 clash with VfL Wolfsburg.
A groin strain means he will miss training and therefore be a major doubt for the weekend. With his partner Manuel Akanji also a doubt as he recovers from a hip strain and Lukasz Piszczek and Marcel Schmelzer also out, a much-changed back four could be sent out against Wolfsburg.
It looks set to be Hakimi and Raphael Guerreiro occupying the fullback berths with Dan-Axel Zagadou and Ömer Toprak filling the centre-back positions. Toprak however showed himself to be more than a little rusty against Union Berlin in the Cup, so the likes of Wout Weghorst and Daniel Ginczek should be looking forward to the match with a little more relish. Going forward BVB should be their awesome selves- it just remains to be seen whether they are as secure at the back.
(3) Can Markus Weinzierl stop the rot at Stuttgart?
To say that new VfB Stuttgart coach Markus Weinzierl has had a baptism of fire would be an understatement. Two 4-0 losses in succession has meant the worse possible start for Tayfun Korkut’s successor and Friday’s matchday 10 opener will provide another stern test of his ability to deal with the pressure.
The visitors to the Mercedes-Benz Arena are an Eintracht Frankfurt side looking to rediscover their top form after a disappointing draw last week against Nürnberg. It took a late, late equaliser from substitute Sebastian Haller to rescue point, but the performance fell well below those delivered in previous weeks.
Stuttgart are desperate for the points, but an Eintracht side keen on showing their mettle, are perhaps not the ideal opponents. If Markus Weinzierl is going to turn things around, then he needs to start with points somewhere. Could that be this weekend?
(4) Who will be top dog in the East?
Hertha Berlin host RB Leipzig in the late game on Saturday with more than a place in the top four at stake. The two sides have an almost identical record this season and a win would give the victor the bragging rights as the best side in the east of the country.
Both have won four, drawn four and lost just once. Hertha have scored one more goal than Hertha (16) and also conceded one less (9). Hertha will be keen on exacting revenge for the corresponding fixture last season when die Roten Bullen inflicted a 6-2 defeat on die Alte Dame at the Olympiastadion on the final matchday of the season.
Ralf Rangnick’s side have the best defensive record in the league with just nine goals conceded and clean sheets in all five of their matches across all competitions. Hertha however showed last week at the Signal Iduna Park that they can mix it with the very best, so we have a fascinating encounter on our hands this weekend.
Speaking ahead of the weekend, in-form Hertha fullback Maxi Mittelstädt was in confident mood. “RB are a side that like to press high up the pitch and don’t let you get into your rhythm” he told the club website. “But we’re in good form and want to carry this momentum into the match.
“It will be important for us to play to our own strengths, i.e. play attacking football, press them early and take our chances. If we do that, we can get a result.”
(5) Will Schalke prove Dietmar Hamann wrong?
After a mini-recovery, Schalke suffered a return to the uncertain and downright boring last weekend in their goalless draw with RB Leipzig and incurred the criticism of former Bayern and Liverpool midfielder and now SKY pundit Dietmar Hamann.
“Leipzig were bad, but Schalke were horrible” he moaned after the RB Leipzig stalemate. “They had a successful pass rate of 56 per cent. We’re talking about last season’s runner-up here.
“If you give half of your passes to your opponent, that’s embarrassing. It has nothing to do with football. Tedesco has to take the next step and develop the team, but I believe they haven’t improved compared to last year. And they weren’t even really good last year. It’s about time Schalke start playing football.”
Was there a basis for his outburst? Well, yes. The Königsblauen had just 31% of the possession and made just 276 passes throughout the 90 minutes compared to the Leipzig’s 602.
Schalke manager Christian Heidel however has been quick to hit back at the former German international for his criticism. Speaking after his side’s penalty shoot-out victory over Köln in the Pokal, he had some words of rebuke for the pundit. “I do not know what was going on with Hamann in the studio” he blasted. “He did not understand it, therefore he sits in the TV studio – not on the coaching bench.”
Domenico Tedesco’s side host Hannover at the Veltins Arena this weekend. Who will win the battle of the words-Hamann or Heidel?
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