Bundesliga: Round Five - Settling in
Three matches this week in which Stuttgart should continue their surprise start to the season; it's never too early to vie for a Champions League place in the table; and favourites Bayern could be tested.
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Round Five action
After a relatively haphazard start to the Bundesliga season the fourth round of action was more of a return to normality, with both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund recording simple wins over Arminia Bielefeld and Hoffenheim, respectively. And indeed the league table is beginning to look more like we expected at this stage, with those traditional big two and RB Leipzig rising to the top of the division.
Elsewhere, Wolfsburg drew their fourth consecutive game of the season and are one of four teams yet to record a victory. All signs point to another set of ordinary results for the Bundesliga as teams settle into a rhythm and fitness improves.
Stuttgart v Cologne (zero margin game - offering the fairest odds)
Stuttgart have made a very strong start to the season, defying expectations with seven points from their last three league games, after flirting with relegation last campaign. Their powerful counter-attacking style has won plaudits around the country, leading to emphatic and high-scoring wins against the likes of Mainz 05 and Hertha Berlin.
Their intelligent 3-4-2-1 formation is confounding their opponents, and the safe money is on the same thing happening on Friday with the visit of struggling Cologne. Their 1-1 draw with Frankfurt last time out was their first point of the campaign, but it was a lucky one; they held just 40% possession and were out-shot 17-9.
Stuttgart, then, have the attacking potency to make things worse for the visitors. Sasa Kalajdzik, with three goals in three, is certainly a threat and he will anticipate adding to his record against such a porous defence.
Werder Bremen v Hoffenheim
Sunday’s late kick-off is an intriguing one for two middle-tier clubs looking to ensure theirs is considered a strong start to the campaign; a win for either side would lift them into Champions League positions and put them on a road to a successful year. However, they do not enter this game as equals despite being separated by just one point in the league.
The form guide tells us a lot about here: Werder Bremen have won seven points from their last three games, while Hoffenheim’s fast start has been undone - or certainly pout on ice - by back-to-back defeats by Frankfurt and Borussia Dortmund. Confidence is a vital commodity in sport and Bremen, especially considering they are at home, will expect to take the three points.
What’s more, there is greater attacking variety in the Bremen team, particularly with last season’s top goalscorer Milot Rashica now back and ready to play a part in the 2020-21 season. In contrast, six of Hoffenheim’s seven league goals this season have been scored by Andrej Kramaric; shut him down, and the hosts can win the game.
Bayern Munich v Frankfurt
As expected, Bayern re-stabilised after their defeat to Hoffenheim and a narrow 4-3 win over Hertha Berlin with a comfortable 4-1 victory against the division minnows, Arminia Bielefeld. But that was always going to be easy, and Frankfurt will certainly apply considerably more pressure. This is by no means a foregone conclusion.
Frankfurt are one of four unbeaten teams this season and, on eight points, are only two short of Bayern. This is their best chance in a long time of laying down a marker for a challenge for Europe, and they will no doubt approach it as they do most away games: sit deep, soak up pressure and attempt to counter-attack.
Expect Bayern to be frustrated for long periods, and after an exhausting midweek game against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League they might just be held to a draw by this rigid and hard-working Frankfurt side. Dortmund could get a crucial advantage this weekend.
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