Bundesliga: Round Four - Both ends of the table in focus
After a short break, Dortmund have a point to prove and get their title challenge back on track, Augsburg and RB Leipzig meet in a top of the table clash, and lowly Schalke hunt for their first points of the season.
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Once again, two of this week's Bundesliga matches are included in this promotion.
Week five of the league but the fourth round of matches as the the international break came at a good time for those hoping to challenge Bayern Munich’s supremacy in the Bundesliga. Hans-Dieter Flick’s side, having lost their second league game of the season, only narrowly beat Hertha Berlin 4-3 a fortnight ago in a match that proved their vulnerability.
Dortmund are surely the best bet to prevent Bayern lifting another title, and yet so far it is RB Leipzig and Augsburg who head the table on seven points from three games - and they go head-to-head this weekend.
Things are also starting to take shape at the bottom of the table too. Winless Schalke go hunting for their first points, still hampered by the confidence-sapping opening day loss to Bayern, while a change in management has not yet brought about a reversal in fortunes.
Hoffenheim v Borussia Dortmund (zero margin game - offering the fairest odds)
There is no doubt that this is the game of the round. Bayern’s mini-wobble has opened the door slightly for Dortmund, but their opponents here are the very side that thrashed the champions 4-1 earlier in the season. This is the perfect litmus test for whether or not Dortmund can outperform their great rivals in 2020-21.
Hoffenheim’s intelligent 3-4-3 formation utilises quick counter-attacks and vertical attacking football. For that Bayern match, they happily sat deep before breaking at speed behind Flick’s high defensive line; they held just 28% possession but repeatedly cut their opponent open. Dortmund, then, must be extremely careful as they probe for space in the Hoffenheim half.
Worryingly for Dortmund, Augsburg performed similarly in their 2-0 loss in the same match week, meaning more dropped points for the potential contenders, despite the good form of Erling Haaland and Giovanni Reyna. Expect Hoffenheim’s Andrej Kramaric to find joy as this young Dortmund team again come unstuck.
Augsburg v RB Leipzig
Augbsurg have only conceded one goal in three league games so far, reflecting their conservative counter-attacking style football that helped them roll Dortmund 2-0 and has lifted them to the top of the table. They are certainly tricky opponents, then, for an RB Leipzig team desperate to finally prove they are ready for a title challenge.
Julien Nagelsmann is among the most talented managers in Europe, and his Leipzig are one of three clubs currently on seven points. However, those points have been taken from three bottom-five teams which, collectively, have yet to win a single Bundesliga game this year.
This means Saturday’s game is RB Leipzig’s biggest challenge to date, and there’s a good chance, in our opinion, that they fail to take all three points. Christopher Nkunku and Angelino have made strong starts to the season, but there is a creativity and ruthlessness missing from the Leipzig team without Timo Werner. Consequently, Augsburg’s powerful defence should be able to hold out.
Schalke v Union Berlin (zero margin game - offering the fairest odds)
Schalke have been in alarming decline since they finished runners-up in 2017-18, and the current campaign threatens to be the nadir. They are rock bottom of the Bundesliga after three defeats, including a devastating 8-0 hammering by Bayern on the opening day that appears to have drained all confidence from the players.
That defeat set the tone and things haven’t got any better. David Wagner’s replacement, Manuel Baum, lost his first game in charge a fortnight ago 4-0 at RB Leipzig. It seems likely, then, that Schalke won’t enjoy a new-manager bounce, and will struggle yet again against a Union Berlin side on the up.
Union, who play an old-fashioned, long-ball style of football, beat Mainz 05 4-0 last weekend. Their bullish approach will probably ruffle Schalke’s feathers, whose low confidence may see them struggle to find their rhythm on Sunday. Yet more misery awaits the historic club.
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