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PREVIEW | Bundesliga – Week 3: Borussia Dortmund must bounce back from Freiburg defeat

This weekend’s Bundesliga action is the last before the first international break of the season. But what should you keep an eye on? Read on to find out!

1 | Pal Dárdai under pressure?

Following Hertha Berlin’s recovery towards the end of last season under Pál Dárdai, the club’s hierarchy had little option but to reappoint the Hungarian permanently. The side from the German capital lost just two of their last 11 matches, picking up 17 points during that spell as they secured their Bundesliga status on the penultimate day of the campaign thanks to a 0-0 draw with FC Köln. While Hertha’s lofty ambitions, bankrolled by investor Lars Windhorst, mean Dárdai is far from the glamorous manager they would have envisaged, they must run before they can jump.

However, given those objectives, the boss has little room for error if he wants to keep his job long-term. The new season has been underwhelming thus far – Hertha took the lead against both Köln and Wolfsburg before losing 3-1 and 2-1 respectively, making them the only team in the top flight without a point as a result. Things do not get any easier for Die Alte Dame as they next face a trip to champions Bayern Munich. The Bavarians had a poor pre-season and were lucky to get a draw against Borussia Mönchengladbach in their Bundesliga opener, but their 12-0 victory over Bremer SV in the DFB Pokal indicates they are beginning to warm up.

A win is not expected at the Allianz Arena but, with the pressure already cranking up on Dárdai, Hertha must avoid a heavy defeat.

2 | Wolfsburg and Van Bommel to make statement?

So far this term, Wolfsburg have been solid if unspectacular. They are the only side to have won both of their Bundesliga matches, albeit two narrow victories against 10-man VfL Bochum and Hertha. Still, they sit top of the table and, while a careless administrative mistake saw them kicked out of the Pokal, the league and the Champions League will keep new boss Mark van Bommel busy.

Die Wölfe’s first real test comes this weekend when they host RB Leipzig. As they qualified for a place at European football’s top table last term, Wolfsburg won the vast majority of games against the sides below them. However, they struggled versus their closest rivals – they picked up just 14 points from a possible 42 in match-ups with the rest of the top eight.

If Wolfsburg want to progress and become a regular feature among the top four – the €49m they have spent on new arrivals this summer suggests that is their aim – they must be more competitive against those towards the top of the division. The clash this weekend will give us a good idea of whether that is something van Bommel can offer.

3 | Stuttgart must find new long-term goalscorer

Last Friday was disastrous for Stuttgart in more ways than one. Not only were they well beaten by RB Leipzig 4-0, they lost star striker Saša Kalajdžić to a serious injury. It has since emerged the Austria international will be unavailable until next year which, given he was Die Schwaben’s top goalscorer with 17 goals in all competitions last time out, is a huge blow to Pellegrino Matarazzo and co.

The loss of the 24-year-old is even more damaging when coupled with that of Silas Katompa Mvumpa (former known as Silas Wamangituka). The DR Congo man was second to Saša Kalajdžić with 13 strikes last season, meaning the duo were responsible for more than half of their side’s goals throughout the campaign.

Of those still left at the club, Daniel Didavi was the next most prolific, finding the back of the net on just four occasions. As it stands, Hamadi Al Ghaddoui is the only fit striker available to Matarazzo, and he made just six appearances during the 20/21 season. Unless Stuttgart dip into the transfer market, they have a long few months ahead of them, starting with Freiburg on Saturday. Christian Streich’s side are a difficult outfit to play against – without a dependable centre-forward, Stuttgart’s task is a whole late harder.

4 | How will Dortmund react to Freiburg defeat?

Dortmund’s title aspirations were dealt a heavy blow away at Freiburg during the previous matchday. If they want to knock Bayern off their perch, those are the kind of games they must win, but they were deservedly beaten 2-1 by the Breisgau-Brasilianer. Despite having 77% possession, Dortmund managed just four shots on target – as many as their opponents – and looked susceptible to the counter-attack throughout the 90 minutes.

That defeat marked the end of a disappointing week for Marco Rose – Dortmund were also beaten 3-1 in the DFL-Supercup by Bayern just four days earlier. There is no need to panic – after all, the season is still in its early stages – but the Freiburg clash may have shown Die Schwarzgelben have not learned their lessons from the previous 12 months.

Next up, they host Hoffenheim, who have looked dangerous in their two Bundesliga matches to date. They have already found the back of the net six times and, surprisingly, star man Andrej Kramaric has not yet found his way onto the scoresheet. Dortmund are currently experiencing something of a crisis at the back with five defenders currently out injured, including key figure Mats Hummels, and you wouldn’t bet against Hoffenheim taking advantage.

5 | Augsburg hope to turn the tide

Only Hertha’s struggles mean Augsburg are not bottom of the table. This season, they remain the only side without a single goal to their name although, without having mustered a shot on target, that is hardly a surprise. For many Augsburg supporters, there will have been hope the dismissal of Heiko Herrlich would lead to a more expansive and exciting style of play but, despite positive early signs under Markus Weinzierl, they appear to have returned to type.

Their woes could well be compounded this weekend as they host Bayer Leverkusen and the WWK Arena. Die Werkself were in irresistible form against Borussia Mönchengladbach in their last match on their way to a 4-0 victory, and the plethora of attacking options they possess makes them dangerously unpredictable.

The omens are not good for Weinzierl, either. In 20 outings versus Leverkusen, Augsburg have not once been on the winning side, an unwanted Bundesliga record. Having said that, victory this weekend is not paramount, but a goal would be nice. Even forcing Lukáš Hrádecký into a save would be a step in the right direction.

Jon Radcliffe

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