As the European tournaments return, it feels like matchday six is when the Bundesliga begins. Here, we take you through five things to watch over the next few days.
1 | Marco Rose’s Borussia Dortmund reunion
Had you been told in May, as RB Leipzig beat Freiburg in the final of the DFB Pokal to win the first-ever trophy in the club’s short history, that Domenico Tedesco would be out of a job by the middle of September, you would have probably started laughing. However, after a horrendous start to the 2022/23 campaign for the Rotenbullen – they have won just of their opening five Bundesliga matches – the former Schalke boss has been under increasing pressure and the embarrassing 4-1 home defeat in the Champions League to Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday was the final straw.
His replacement is Marco Rose, whose stock has decreased over the past 18 months. He did a stellar job initially at Borussia Mönchengladbach but after announcing a move to Dortmund midway through the 2020/21 season, the Fohlen’s form fell off dramatically. And, although the Schwarzgelben finished second in the Bundesliga table last term, it was an albeit underwhelming ten months that led to Rose’s sacking. The impressive job Edin Terzić has done in the short time since being appointed at the Signal Iduna Park has hardly validated arguments that his predecessor was let go too soon.
As fate would have it, Rose’s first game in charge will be against Dortmund at the Red Bull Arena on Saturday. Under Terzić, the Ruhr-based outfit sit second in the table, only behind Freiburg on goal difference, while they easily dispatched FC Copenhagen in their opening Champions League encounter of the season. Unsurprisingly, they come into this clash against Leipzig as favourites, and there is the belief that they could really challenge for the title this term. Rose, you would expect, would love to upset the odds, and he has the talent at his disposal to do just that. This is, quite easily, the most intriguing game of the weekend.
2 | Gerardo Seoane on the brink?
While Leipzig have struggled this term, Bayer Leverkusen’s beginning to the campaign has been an absolute disaster. Their 1-0 loss to Club Brugge in the Champions League was their sixth defeat in their opening seven games in all competitions, with them already out of the DFB Pokal following a shock defeat to SV Elversberg and sit 14th in the Bundesliga table. Many tipped them to be challenging at the top end of the table, but they look far closer to a relegation battle right now.
So far, Leverkusen sporting director Simon Rolfes and Co. have resisted the temptation to give Gerardo Seoane his marching orders. However, you get the feeling that if the Werkself do not get a positive result against Hertha Berlin this weekend, they will no longer be able to justify keeping the Swiss in a job. After all, Leverkusen are currently in the middle of their worst start to a season in 41 years, and their season is in danger of being all but over by the international break.
Typically, they would go into a game against Hertha full of confidence, but the Alte Dame have done better this term than the table suggests. They suffered narrow defeats to Mönchengladbach and Dortmund, both of whom have started well, while they picked up their first win of the campaign in a dominant 2-0 victory at Augsburg during matchday five. At their best, Leverkusen have more than enough quality to beat Sandro Schwarz’s men, but the question is whether the belief is there to back up their talent. Anything other than a three-point haul, and you feel Seoane will be relieved of his duties by Sunday morning.
3 | Schalke and Bochum face an early six-pointer
The relegation six-pointer is one of football’s most overly-dramatic clichés, but you feel that Saturday evening’s Topspiel meeting between Schalke and Bochum could already be decisive in the battle to beat the drop. After the highs of last term, the latter have been given a rude awakening this season. They are yet to win a single game, having conceded 15 times and scoring on just three occasions – unsurprisingly, they are bottom of the table, and goalkeeper Manuel Riemann’s midweek training ground outburst, for which he has since apologised, will not have boosted morale. Head coach Thomas Reis has also been reluctant to extend his contract at the club, only adding to the tension surrounding the Unabsteigbaren.
For Schalke, things look a little better. They have only lost twice and have three points after picking up as many draws. However, they too are yet to taste victory in this season’s Bundesliga, and their 6-1 hammering at the hands of Union Berlin was a bitter pill to swallow. Strikers Sebastian Polter and Simon Terodde are yet to make their mark this season (although the latter did net his first of the campaign in the 1-1 draw with Stuttgart last week), and you worry whether the squad has the creative ability to cause opponents problems regularly.
Both sides, therefore, come into this match-up knowing just how important it is. Bochum will be under the most pressure, while Schalke will be looking to prevail ahead of the Revier Derby against Dortmund next weekend. It does not excite as much as previous Topspiels this term, but plenty is on the line.
4 | A streak will end as Hoffenheim face Mainz
When Hoffenheim face Mainz on Saturday, a 100% record will end. The former have won both their home matches this season, while the latter have been victorious in all three of their away clashes. Something, therefore, has to give.
Mainz, you would expect, will be the happier of the two sides as we go into this sixth matchday. Their 10 points from five games put them in fifth place, just one point behind Union Berlin in fourth spot. The Nullfünfer’s rise under Bo Svensson over the past year-and-a-half has been astounding, and they will be looking at the likes of Union and Freiburg, as well as Köln, as inspiration. On limited budgets much like Mainz’s, all three of those teams secured European qualification last term, and there is no reason why Svensson and his squad can not push for the same after steadying a previously creaking ship.
There have been positives for Hoffenheim this term, too, although their tepid performance against Dortmund last Friday will have burst the bubble somewhat. That ended a run of three consecutive victories, including a comprehensive win away at Bayer Leverkusen, and there have been plenty of promising displays. Having said that, it still feels like the Kraichgauer are at a crossroads. The quality in the squad is clear, but they have underperformed over the past couple of seasons despite not losing any star players. The battle for Europe this term looks wide open, and Hoffenheim would expect to be involved. If they are to challenge, results against potential rivals will be crucial, so André Breitenreiter will be eager for his side to triumph against Mainz.
5 | Union Berlin look to bounce back versus Köln
Union and their supporters have been riding the crest of a wave in recent weeks as they continue to flirt with the Bundesliga’s top echelons. However, they were brought back down to earth with a bang on Thursday as they succumbed 1-0 to Union Saint-Gilloise in the Europa League. Losing to a side that almost won the Belgian title last season and defeated Rangers in the first leg of their Champions League third-round qualifier is by no means a disgrace, but the toothless nature of the Berlin attack will have concerned manager Urs Fischer.
Last year, the Eisernen competed in the Europa Conference League and were knocked out in the group stages as they faced challenging tasks in Slavia Prague and Feyenoord. The Europa League, of course, is a step up in quality, and there is more excitement around Union’s continental participation this term given they have finally been allowed to play their home games at the Stadion An der Alten Föresterei. As such, it will be interesting to see whether priority is given to next week’s trip to Braga rather than their visit to Köln this weekend.
The Geißböcke also embarked on a European adventure, which supporters have also welcomed. Unfortunately, their opening Europa Conference League match against Nice was marred by crowd trouble, and it seems the German outfit’s fans, or at least some who were pretending to be, were the instigators inside the stadium. In the end, though, they picked up a 1-1 draw, which will no doubt please Steffen Baumgart.
Union and Köln will now need to settle into the routine of games every three to four days. The likes of Bayern and Dortmund are used to such demands, but it is still something of a novelty for this weekend’s adversaries, even if the side from the German capital experienced it last season. Union are still unbeaten in the Bundesliga this campaign, and will be eager to bounce back as quickly as possible, as well as show they are ready and capable of fighting on several fronts.