This season, The Set Pieces will be taking a closer look at German football. We’ve sent Archie Rhind-Tutt out there to immerse himself in German culture and to travel to games around the country. We watched Schalke open up yet another new era with a thumping victory over Werder Bremen. It’s all been very interesting. Now it’s time for Week Two and we’re still looking ahead to the Bundesliga fixtures, profiling and highlighting the games that you can watch on television, as well as the ones you can’t. As always, we’re open to suggestions for new ways of covering the league. Let us know what you think by writing to us: [email protected]
Hertha Berlin vs Werder Bremen (Friday 1930, BT Sport Europe)
Hertha Berlin boss Pal Dardai was adamant that his side were, “going to Augsburg to win, not just to look good,” ahead of their season opener and the club’s all time record appearance holder will have been delighted to see his side snatch a 1-0 win in down in Bavaria. Salomon Kalou’s second-half penalty was enough to steal a victory but they rode their luck on several occasions. Augsburg were denied by the woodwork on three separate occasions late on as they pushed Hertha all the way, with stopper Thomas Kraft also in fine form between the sticks to ensure a clean sheet.
Forward Roy Beerens was stupidly sent off during the second half, but they held on and have now set their sights on bagging back-to-back victories at the start of a Bundesliga campaign for the first time in 33 years. Die Blau-Weißen will miss Beerens’ class and composure in the final third, but Valentin Stocker and Vladimir Darida are more than capable of supporting Kalou and scoring goals running deep from midfield. Here is a potential Hertha Berlin line up:
Standing in their way of another three points is a Werder Bremen side still reeling from their 3-0 home defeat to Schalke last Saturday. The River Islanders were convincingly beaten and head coach Viktor Skrypnyk admitted his side failed to create enough opportunities going forward and were rightly punished for their sloppy defensive errors. Theodor Gebre Selassie’s comical own goal summed up Bremen’s abject opening day performance perfectly.
But Skrypnyk knows his Werder side are capable of better and promised the travelling fans that his team will be fired up and ready for battle. Bremen improved dramatically last season but their poor form away from home ultimately cost the club a top-half finish. The sales of Davie Selke and Franco Di Santo have put a lot of pressure on both Anthony Ujah and Aron Johansson to score goals, but there is a feeling on the River Weser that they are more than capable of doing so. Here is a potential Werder Bremen line up:
Hamburg vs Stuttgart (Saturday 1730, BT Sport Europe)
Where to start with these two? Bundesliga giants of the past, now they battle relegation every year. Hamburg were well beaten at the Allianz Arena last Friday against a Bayern side who didn’t even get out of second gear, whilst Stuttgart were guilty of some shambolic defending as they were torn apart by Cologne on the counter attack in a 3-1 loss. New boss Alexander Zorniger will need to address this swiftly.
Both defences look extremely vulnerable, with Hamburg relying on Johan Djorou and Emir Spahic, while Stuttgart’s back line looks considerably weaker after the departure of Antonio Rudiger to Roma this week. In spite of Hamburg’s weaknesses, Bruno Labbadia’s side do at least have Nicolai Muller, Pierre-Michel Lasogga and Sven Schipplock who can provide that extra something in the final third to put the ball into the back of the net. Stuttgart aren’t short of forward options either, with Filip Kostic, Daniel Didavi, Martin Harnik and Daniel Ginczek all showing glimpses of what they can do against Cologne. Who cares about defending?
FC Ingolstadt vs Borussia Dortmund (Sunday 1430, BT Sport Europe)
Ingolstadt and Dortmund both head into Week Two full of confidence, and why shouldn’t they after their opening weekend performances? Ingolstadt travelled to Mainz and ground out a 1-0 victory, whilst Dortmund blew away Gladbach with a masterclass in counter attacking. Quite the start for both Ralph Hasenhüttl and Thomas Tuchel, and another three points this weekend will be the target.
It’s clear what Dortmund’s game plan will be, but knowing it and stopping it are two different things. It is always said that pace is the most difficult thing to defend against, and this is an attribute that BVB have in abundance. Not only this, but the defence that caused them so many problems last season has turned back the clock, with Marcel Schmelzer, Lukas Piszczek and Mats Hummels all looking sharp thus far. However, Ingolstadt will have been buoyed after their matchday one result, and in their favoured 4-3-3 system will get the ball wide and cross it into the box as much as possible, really putting that Dortmund back four under pressure.
Borussia Monchengladbach vs Mainz (Sunday 1630, BT Sport Europe)
Well, these two have a bit to make up for. After all that praise in last week’s matchday preview, they both lost, conceding five and scoring none between them. Gladbach were annihilated by a rampant Dortmund who were simply too much to handle on the counter, with the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Marco Reus running riot. Mainz faced newly promoted Ingolstadt and didn’t quite look at their most fluid, but will have disappointed not to at least draw. The goal which won the game scored by Lukas Hinterseer was a brilliant one, though.
Gladbach need a response, and quickly. Their 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Dortmund will be seen as a blip, and this weekend is where their season really starts. Lucien Favre will be expecting improved performances from key men Raffael, Josip Drmic, Granit Xhaka and Yann Sommer who all were way below their best last weekend as they look to register some points on the board for the first time this season. Martin Schmidt and Mainz will also want to change their fortunes, and with lots of pace up front they could sit back and spring which has the potential to hurt Gladbach, especially with the makeshift and inexperienced defence that they have been forced to field due to injury.
Hoffenheim vs Bayern Munich (Saturday 1430)
The Bundesliga schedule hasn’t been kind at all to Hoffenheim. Away to Bayer Leverkusen last week, and this week they’ve got the small task of facing the defending champions. Bayern, on the other hand have had no complaints with their fixture list. They’ve started typically well, after strolling around and putting five past Hamburg in last week’s Friday fixture. New signings Douglas Costa and Arturo Vidal seem to be settling into the club without any problems too.
It’s natural to miss big players when they leave your club, but boy, do Hoffenheim miss Roberto Firmino. They lack drive and creativity through the middle, as well as a considerable goal threat which puts the onus on Kevin Volland and Kevin Kuranyi to instantly settle and score goals. Bayern do not have this problem. What they do have, is goals aplenty, options aplenty, pace aplenty and work ethic aplenty. If you can afford to keep World Cup winning goalscorer Mario Gotze on the bench every week, you’re in a good place. Not to mention they have Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller up front. And Arjen Robben. Good luck Hoffenheim!
Hannover vs Bayer Leverkusen (Saturday 1430)
Michael Frontzeck and his Hannover side take on Roger Schmidt in charge of Bayer Leverkusen at the HDI-Arena this weekend, and their objectives for the season couldn’t be more different. One side will be constantly looking over the shoulder in a battle against the drop, and one will be pushing the likes of Dortmund and Bayern for the title. No prizes for guessing which is which. After somehow coming away with a point from Darmstadt last week, Hannover will be looking to improve in as they play front of their home fans for the first time this season. In contrast, Leverkusen were excellent in their 2-1 win against Hoffenheim and despite going 1-0 down, they should have scored more.
Despite Hannover playing at home, it’s difficult to see anything but an away win. The likes of Mevlut Erdinc and Felix Klaus could pose a threat going forward, but Leverkusen not only match them, but raise them with Stefan Kiessling, Karim Bellarabi and Son Heung-Min in their front three. Only teams that are comfortable in possession can survive their hectic ‘gegenpressing’ style and Hannover aren’t one of those teams. This is where the game could be won on Saturday, with Die Roten simply unable to deal with the speed on the counter and the work rate in midfield.
Cologne vs Wolfsburg (Saturday 1430)
The Billy Goats take on the Wolves and both of these sides bagged three points last week. Cologne were clinical on the counter away at Stuttgart, whilst Wolfsburg did just enough to scrape past the energetic Frankfurt after scoring twice in a matter of minutes early on.
For Cologne, this might actually be a good time to face last season’s runners up. Still with some early season rustiness present, in addition to their fluidity not quite reaching the standards of last season, Peter Stöger and his men will fancy their chances against Dieter Hecking & Co in the comfort of their own home. The speculation surrounding key players Kevin de Bruyne and Ivan Perisic will not be helping much either. However, with another week of training under their belts, Wolfsburg should now be a lot sharper, and already buoyed from last week’s victory it wouldn’t be a surprise if we saw them with their mojo back. Stacked with talent in every department, on their day they are capable of beating anybody.
Schalke vs SV Darmstadt (Saturday 1430)
Let’s not jinx anything, but Schalke looked good last week. Our latest ‘The Match You Missed’ feature analysed their 3-0 victory against Werder Bremen, and you could not find fault in their play. The Royal Blues look to be onto a winner with new boss André Breitenreiter after some questionable managerial appointments of late. Newly promoted Darmstadt also looked good, playing with a refreshing freedom and were unlucky not to win against Hannover after going ahead twice through two excellent Marcel Heller goals.
This is where Schalke show what they’re really made of. After last week’s impressive win, can they keep their momentum going, or will they let overconfidence creep in and let their game suffer? They are a very youthful side, so Breitenreiter and the more experienced heads in the dressing room will need to make sure that everybody is 100% focused as the core is there for them to have an exciting season. Darmstadt are in the Bundesliga for a reason though, and after playing some good football against Hannover they will be looking to cause an upset in Gelsenkirchen as they look to retain their status in the top flight. Heller, last week’s goalscorer will be one to watch.
Eintracht Frankfurt vs Augsburg (Saturday 1430)
Both Frankfurt and Augsburg suffered opening day defeats despite giving good accounts of themelves. Frankfurt had chances to take something from their game at Wolfsburg, but paid the price for a slow start after conceding two early goals in four minutes. Augsburg, like their weekend opponents created plenty of opportunities against Hertha Berlin but couldn’t take any of them, hitting the post and the crossbar late on. Fuggerstädter striker Raul Bobadilla certainly didn’t help his side out after getting himself ludicrously sent off just before half time.
It’s still early on in the season, and neither side have quite found their rhythm despite showing glimpses of potential here and there. Frankfurt were very strong at home last season under Thomas Schaaf, losing just three times in 14 matches and new boss Armin Veh will be looking to continue this trend into this season. Their performance against Wolfsburg will offer plenty of encouragement as they look to get their first points on the board in front of their own supporters. In contrast, Augsburg will want to prove that their 5th place finish last season was not a fluke and that last week’s home defeat to Hertha was exactly that. Without the suspended Bobadilla, goals may be difficult to come by but they are more than capable of causing problems with the Alexander Esswein and Tobias Werner leading the line.