With the first round of midweek European fixtures behind us, we look forward to the return of a full weekend of Bundesliga action with the league starting to take shape. As a way of previewing the action, let’s take a look at five talking points ahead of matchday 5.
1. Could Schalke go top of the league?
Check your calendar. No, it is not April 1st, and this is not a prank. With Schalke kicking off matchday 5 on Friday evening hosting Mainz at the Veltins Arena, there is every possibility that the Königsblauen could be sitting top of the Bundesliga for a few hours at least this weekend.
Successive wins for David Wagner’s side against Hertha Berlin (3-0) and Paderborn last week (5-1) have put them sixth in the early table and another big win over the Nullfünfer could see them usurp RB Leipzig at least until the Saturday fixtures are completed.
It is not a time to be getting carried away, but at least it is something to smile about for die Knappen following a disastrous campaign last season. Do we expect them to remain there? Probably not, but enjoy it while it lasts Schalke fans.
2. So, Freiburg for the Champions League then?
Much like Schalke, SC Freiburg find themselves in the heady heights of the Bundesliga table normally alien to them after four games this season. The Breisgauer are currently in fourth- one point ahead of reigning champions Bayern and with a home game against Augsburg, could cement their place in the top four this weekend.
The aim of the game for Christian Streich is to reach Bundesliga survival as soon as possible rather than targeting European places, but the phrase ‘make hay while the sun shines’ is wholly apt here.
The fixture list has been kind to Freiburg with Mainz, Paderborn, Köln and Hoffenheim their opening opponents, and their next two games are certainly not unwinnable starting with Augsburg this week and then Fortuna Düsseldorf away.
A fourth win would be fantastic for Freiburg, but it won’t mean that they will looking forward to a trip to Monaco next year for the Champions League group stage draw.
3. What’s going on with the Werder injury crisis?
Florian Kohfeldt must be tearing his hair out with the start Werder have had to the season regarding injuries. Having seen his defence decimated by injuries to Niklas Moisander, Ömer Toprak, Ludwig Augustinsson, Sebastian Langkamp and Milos Veljkovic, there was further bad news this week with the revelation that Yuya Osaka had sustained a serious injury.
The Japanese international pulled out of training due to a thigh injury and is now expected to be out for up to six weeks. With Nuri Sahin also suspended, the options are thin on the ground for trainer Kohfeldt as he prepares to face league leaders RB Leipzig.
There is some good news however with both Milot Rashica and Maxi Eggestein close to full fitness and consideration for the first-team this weekend.
4. Do Köln go for bust or damage limitation against Bayern?
There is no doubt that 15th place Köln face a tough task this weekend as they travel to face Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. They will be keen to put in a good display, but equally keen to avoid the fate of Mainz, who came away from Bavaria on matchday 3 with a 5-1 loss after taking the game to Bayern.
“We’ve got to be brave on Saturday and invest everything” Köln trainer Achim Beierlorzer said in this week’s press conference. “We’ve got to be active and not passive. If it’s about damage limitation, then I’m the wrong man to speak to. That’s not my thing. Naturally it will be a challenge. But we want to get something from the game.
Jonas Hector echoed the positive approach of his coach adding, ““If we just want to give up, then there is no point going to Munich. That’s why training is on the programme, where we’re focusing on our challenges to offer something in the game. Otherwise we might as well give them the three points and stay at home. We want to put in a good performance and give our best.”
Midfielder Birger Verstraete will be a big loss for the Geißböcke as he misses out through injury.
5. Is this a must-win game for Hertha Berlin?
It all began so positively for Hertha Berlin this season with a new investor, a record signing and an opening night draw away at champions Bayern Munich, but since then it has all turned sour and the Alte Dame have slumped to the foot of the table following three successive defeats.
The pressure is mounting on new coach Ante Covic after losses to VfL Wolfsburg, Schalke and Mainz. The last time the capital club started a season as badly (1990-91), they were relegated, so the need for a big result this weekend against 17th place Paderborn is mounting.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to get any points recently. We’re lacking a bit of fluency” explained coach Ante Covic this week. “We want to play attacking football but at the same time we cannot lose our defensive stability. We have to start picking up wins.
“We respect Paderborn and what they achieved in the past few years, but we are at home and need to win the game. We have to strike at the right moments.”
Manager Michael Preetz added, “We have had a bad start to the season, but it’s been a tough run of games. If you are struggling, you simply have to work harder. We’ve done that and now want to put things right at home.”
Nobody is talking about a crisis (yet), but the pressure is mounting on Hertha to get a result this weekend to lift themselves off the bottom of the table and restore some much-needed confidence. Matchday 1 brought optimism, more of that is needed right now at the Olympiastadion.
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