Bundesliga Preview | Week 2: Can Niko Kovač end Wolfsburg’s dismal streak vs Bayern Munich as Borussia Dortmund travel to Freiburg

The Bundesliga returned with a bang last weekend, which only whets the appetite ahead of the second matchday. Here, we take you through five things to keep an eye on this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

1 | Tale of two attacks before RB Leipzig vs Köln

It is never ideal to lose your star man, even less so on the eve of the season’s opening game. Köln ultimately dealt with the absence of Anthony Modeste as they beat Schalke 04 3-1 on Sunday, but they will face many sterner tests than the Könisgblauen offered. As the Geißböcke cruised to victory, Modeste was in Dortmund ahead of a move to Borussia as a replacement for Sébastien Haller.

The Frenchman has played for several clubs but has not settled anywhere other than Köln. There, he scored 79 goals in 156 games in all competitions across two spells, and it seemed like a match made in heaven on both occasions. Therefore, the speed with which he was ready to jump ship to the Signal Iduna Park will bitterly disappoint Steffen Baumgart. The boss now has the unenviable task of replacing the centre-forward, and he does not have many options – Sebastian Andersson is the likely candidate, but he was recently also close to a move away, while Mark Uth will miss the Leipzig match through injury.

The Rotenbullen, meanwhile, welcome back Timo Werner, who recently completed his switch from Chelsea. The 26-year-old left Germany as one of the hottest strikers in Europe after 90 goals in 156 games for Leipzig, but although he did get his hands on a Champions League winners’ medal during his time at Stamford Bridge, he did not live up to expectations and ultimately found himself out of Thomas Tuchel’s plans. With this being a World Cup year, the forward is clearly desperate to play, and he knows German football and Leipzig particularly well. Still, there is no guarantee he will be a regular starter under Domenico Tedesco, who already has André Silva, Yussuf Poulsen, Christopher Nkunku and Alexander Sørloth as attacking options.

As such, all eyes will be on the two attacks on Saturday, and it will be intriguing to see who adapts best to their new situations.

2 | Nico Schlotterbeck returns to Freiburg

We were already well aware of Nico Schlotterbeck’s talent following his magnificent season with Freiburg last time out, and he made a fantastic impression on his Bundesliga debut for Borussia Dortmund. As the Schwarzgelben kept a morale-boosting clean sheet in their 1-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen, the centre-back won eight of his 13 duels and looked comfortable at the heart of the back four. Edin Terzić will be delighted with what he saw from the 22-year-old.

This weekend, he will return to where it all started as he and his teammates face Christian Streich’s men. The Breisgau Brasilianer have enjoyed a fantastic start to the campaign, winning 2-1 in the DFB Pokal first round before defeating Augsburg in their Bundesliga curtain-raiser last weekend. Matthias Ginter, who was brought in to replace Schlotterbeck, has slotted in seamlessly into the back four, and Freiburg will no doubt provide a massive test for Dortmund.

Streich will have been disappointed to see Schlotterbeck leave for pastures new during the summer, but he can expect a warm welcome upon his homecoming. Dortmund, though, will need him at his best once more – Niklas Süle is unavailable through injury, while Karim Adeyemi will also be missing after coming off 23 minutes into the Leverkusen game.

In this fixture last season, Freiburg prevailed 2-1. Terzić and co will be eager to avoid a repeat, and Schlotterbeck could be crucial to their chances.

3 | Eintracht Frankfurt begin life without Filip Kostić

Eintracht Frankfurt’s start to the season could have been better. While they convincingly beat Magdeburg 4-0 in the DFB Pokal first round, they were hammered 6-1 by Bayern Munich last weekend, and, although they improved massively in the UEFA Super Cup, Real Madrid still had far too much for them as they won 2-0 in Helsinki. The most significant blow, however, perhaps comes off the field as Filip Kostić, who missed that clash versus the Spanish giants, closes in on a move to Juventus.

Since his transfer from Hamburg four years ago, the Serbian has been key to Frankfurt’s cup and Bundesliga successes. One hundred seventy-one outings have returned 33 goals and 64 assists, and performances such as the one against Barcelona at the Camp Nou in the Europa League season, a game the Adler won 3-2, are important examples of the impact he had on Oliver Glasner’s side.

Not only does his departure deprive the Austrian manager of a top talent, but he will also need a tactical rethink. Kostić, along with Ansgar Knauff on the opposite side of the back five, provided continuous runs forward, almost playing as wingers, while the former Stuttgart man was not afraid of putting crosses into the box. Christopher Lenz replaced Kostić against Madrid and, while he was solid, he lacked the attacking threat of his predecessor.

Frankfurt travel to Hertha this weekend and, while they have bigger fish to fry this campaign, Glasner’s plan to thrive without Kostić starts here.

4 | Wolfsburg next in Bayern Munich’s crosshairs

Bayern’s mauling of Frankfurt last Friday is ominous for the rest of the division. Their opponents did not provide much of a challenge on the night, but the way the Bavarians repeatedly cut through the defence, ending up with six goals, was magnificent and scary simultaneously. Jamal Musiala was fantastic as he netted twice, while Sadio Mané banished some lingering memories of Robert Lewandowski’s goalscoring prowess.

Julian Nagelsmann’s team, of course, have won the last ten Bundesliga titles, and in this match, at least, there was little indication they are in any mood to slow down. They were also without Leon Goretzka, while Matthijs de Ligt, Ryan Gravenberch and Noussair Mazraoui all started on the bench. Worryingly, Bayern could get even stronger.

Next up is Wolfsburg, who kicked off with a 2-2 draw against Werder Bremen, not exactly the kind of result that will strike fear into their opponents. Manager Niko Kovač does at least know Bayern well, having led them to a league and cup double during the 2018/19 campaign, and the Wölfe have a point to prove after a poor showing last season.

Still, the stats do not read well for Wolfsburg. In their last 28 games against Bayern, they have conceded 80 times and have not won any of their previous 16 meetings, losing 14. Can Kovač end the streak, or will it be business as usual for the champions? Tune in on Sunday to find out.

5 | Time for Bayer Leverkusen to react

Leverkusen have fallen well below expectations in their first two matches despite so much positivity coming into the new campaign. The defeat to third-division Elversberg in the first round of the Pokal was, no disrespect to their opponents, a disaster and, while the loss at Dortmund was far more understandable, Gerardo Seoane will have been confident about getting a result at a ground where they won 5-2 last season. Lukáš Hrádecký’s red card in injury time was a further blow.

The Werkself are in danger of reverting to type – so clearly full of quality, but somehow capable of finding new ways to fail. This weekend’s match against Augsburg already feels like a must-win, otherwise the pressure may start to crank up on Seoane even if he is not in any immediate danger of being let go.

Fortunately for the Swiss, the Függerstadter come into this game on the back of that 4-0 Freiburg hammering. New boss Enrico Maaßen’s biggest problem is his forward line – Augsburg registered just two shots on target in that previous clash, and the arrival of misfiring Ermedin Demirović from last weekend’s victors, in exchange for Michael Gregoritsch, is hardly inspiring. Maaßen had Florian Niederlechner and Ricardo Pepi on the bench, but his decision not to include either in the starting XI is telling.

As such, a win on Saturday is undoubtedly on the cards for Leverkusen. Anything other than the three points will not be good enough as they look to build on their third-place finish from last term.

Jon Radcliffe

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