The Bundesliga resumes after the international break with Bayern Munich looking unstoppable and Borussia Dortmund trying to bounce back after the side’s comprehensive defeat to the league leader. Bayern can set another record by beating Werder Bremen on Saturday, while Dortmund faces a tough game at Mainz on Friday.
Here are some things to know about the ninth round of games:
Times have changed since Bremen and Bayern formed a rivalry so intense their meetings used to electrify the league. No other side has beaten Bayern as often (26 times), but the Bavarian powerhouse hasn’t lost any of their last 15 competitive meetings since Bremen won 5-2 in Munich in 2008.
Bayern would become the first team to start the Bundesliga with nine victories if it wins on Saturday, while Bremen hopes to avoid its fifth consecutive loss.
Robert Lewandowski has 12 goals in eight games – five more than the whole Bremen team – prompting speculation the Bayern striker could beat Gerd Mueller’s record of 40 from the 1970-71 season.
Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel returns to former side Mainz for the first time since taking a one-year sabbatical from football. His decision to leave the club after five seasons at the end of the 2013-14 season surprised Mainz, which refused to rescind the remaining year on his contract.
Tuchel’s honeymoon period in charge of Dortmund is very much over. After his side started the season with 11 wins across all competitions, Dortmund drew two before being humbled 5-1 by Bayern last time out.
”It will be something special,” Tuchel said of his return, ”especially when I meet a few friends and see a few familiar faces.”
DUEL FOR THIRD
Hertha Berlin’s solid start to the season has lifted it into fourth place and a win at Schalke on Saturday would put the capital club above the home side to third.
Schalke slipped to a harsh 3-0 loss at Cologne before the international break as tiredness from six wins across all competitions took hold.
Schalke midfielder Johannes Geis, one of the reasons for the side’s resurgence since his arrival from Mainz, is expecting another tough game against Hertha, which is unbeaten in three games.
Bosnian forward Vedad Ibisevic’s arrival from Stuttgart seems to have coaxed the best from Salomon Kalou. The strike duo has contributed seven of Hertha’s 11 goals.
WOLFSBURG EMITTING ALARM
Wolfsburg has problems off the pitch – through main backer Volkswagen’s emissions scandal – and on it, where the side hasn’t won in three games ahead of the visit of Hoffenheim on Saturday.
”We feel the pressure because the results aren’t there,” right back Vieirinha said. ”They will come. I hope it starts on Saturday.”
Wolfsburg, last season’s runner-up, is currently ninth, already 12 points behind Bayern.
Hoffenheim has regrouped after a bad start and is unbeaten in three games. Kevin Volland scored twice in both the last two games and is forming a formidable partnership with Chile forward Eduardo Vargas.
STUTTGART UNDER PRESSURE
Stuttgart is backing coach Alexander Zorniger despite being bottom after starting with six defeats in eight games.
”He’s perfect for us,” said sporting director Robin Dutt, who defended Zorniger’s criticism of certain players. ”We’re not going to get out of this crisis by being all lovey-dovey.”
Stuttgart has also been hit hard by the injury to top scorer Daniel Ginczek. The striker is out till the second half of the season at least after undergoing surgery on a slipped disc.
Stuttgart hosts promoted Ingolstadt visits on Sunday when it hopes for its first home win after four defeats. Ingolstadt is sixth after making a fine start to its debut season in the top flight.