The international break has meant it’s been a while since we’ve seen Bundesliga sides in action. Matchday 3 was routine for the top four even if Bayern did get an almighty scare against Hertha Berlin, with both Dortmund and RB Leipzig recording 4-0 thrashings of Freiburg & Schalke respectively. Augsburg also continued their unbeaten start to the season despite dropping points at Wolfsburg.
Here are three things to look out for ahead of Matchday 4:
Battles at the top & bottom
It might be early days of the Bundesliga season, but the table is already taking shape. At the top, RB Leipzig seem to have improved on last season despite losing star striker Timo Werner. While new forwards Hwang Hee-Chan and Alexander Sørloth are yet to find the net, club stalwarts such as Emil Forsberg have stepped up and Julian Nagelsman’s side have looked very impressive.
Surprise package Augsburg have put Dortmund to the sword already this season and their organised defensive style means it will be far from an easy game. Their defense might be winning the plaudits but they are no slouch going forward. On the wings, Daniel Caliguri and Andre Hahn look like they still have plenty left to give and Florian Niederlechner through the middle is a threat, scoring in this fixture last term.
Leipzig ran out 3-1 victors that day and should probably have too much for Augsburg this time around, but organisation can go a long way.
At the bottom, draw specialists Bayer Leverkusen head to joint last place Mainz. It’s been tough for Leverkusen so far this term after selling their firepower in the summer. Between them, Kevin Volland and Kai Havertz scored more than a third of Leverkusen’s goals last term and while they got a large amount for the pair, their decision to opt for only Patrick Schick to replace them has raised eyebrows. Draws at Wolfsburg and Stuttgart mean they sit lower than expected, however taking a point off Leipzig shows they are still a good team.
Their opponents, Mainz, have been nothing short of woeful. Having replaced Achim Beierlorzer after two games following a 4-1 home defeat to Stuttgart they couldn’t improve and shipped four again this time to Union Berlin. They look like being in real danger of demotion if they don’t improve quickly. Having had two weeks to work with his defenders, new coach Jan-Moritz Lichte will be hoping for a better showing next time out.
Can Schalke finally kick start their season?
I think most people would agree that Schalke are probably the worst team in Europe’s top 5 leagues at the moment. This year has been one of the worst in the club’s recent history, having started it in the European places they now sit rock bottom. Embarrassed after shipping another four goals last time out, David Wagner was quickly sent packing, which was expected after the 8-0 hiding on opening day.
Manuel Baum is now in the dugout alongside the constantly smiling Naldo, whose joy might be getting tested now. They host a rejuvenated Union Berlin fresh from the 4-0 battering of Mainz, who will probably wish the international break hadn’t come. This comes ahead of an away derby against Dortmund ,who will be loving every second of their neighbours’ pain.
The big issue the Royal Blues are having is obviously in defence, but their issues at goalkeeper are causing huge headaches as well. Captain Alexander Nubel has gone to Bayern without a fee coming the other way and Schalke have already had to tighten the purse strings. They are relying on Ralf Fahrmann, who has had a tough couple of years, failing to get any real game time on loan to Norwich City last term despite them finishing rock bottom and having the worst defensive record in the Premier League. His only competition is former Frankfurt backup Fredrik Rönnow who they brought in on loan. Neither will provide much confidence to an already shaky defence.
A 5-1 friendly win over Paderborn during the international break may have restored some confidence, but if they can’t get it together soon and finally break their losing streak, it could be a long season, with a historic relegation potentially on the cards.
Bayern are there for the taking
After beating Schalke 8-0 on opening day there was a sense of inevitability that Bayern would steamroll the league again. That illusion came crashing down at Hoffenheim, where they just didn’t turn up. Even last time out against Hertha they threw away the lead twice and were bailed out by a four-goal haul from Robert Lewandowski.
They are always going to have the threat up top. They’ve added Douglas Costa on loan from Juventus, which probably gives them the strongest quartet of wingers in world football. But defensively, they look questionable. Manuel Neuer’s resurgence looks to have been short lived and while he hasn’t been as bad as he was in 18/19, he seems to have found a happy in-between. They are still missing Nikolas Sϋle, with Jerome Boateng looking past his best. David Alaba has looked uncomfortable as a centre back this season, perhaps not being protected as well by the pace of Alphonso Davies as he was last season.
Perhaps the biggest miss is that of Thiago who complemented Joshua Kimmich well in midfield. Now, since Kimmich is being asked to play the Thiago role, he’s finding it difficult to take up the defensive positions he did. Corentin Tolliso can’t cover the ground and Leon Goretzka has always been better going forward. Marc Roca has come in from Espanyol and should hopefully take some of the burden off Kimmich, but he will probably need time to settle and Bayern need results quickly.
If Dortmund and Leipzig can get their act together and keep getting results, Bayern could be left playing catchup, and this time, they won’t be able to rely on frankly ridiculous form.
As for their opponents Arminia Bielefeld, they have had a solid start to the season. A draw at Eintracht Frankfurt and victory over Cologne has them midway up the table. This game should be a great occasion for the city of Bielefeld, a sign that they have made it back. But instead of 26,000 passionate Die Blauen fans backing them there will be a mere 1,000 inside the SchücoArena.
Bielfield will still fancy themselves for an upset since Bayern have shown they aren't invincible, but it's going to be a tough game and whether they will be able to keep the ball out of their net is yet to be seen.