Bundesliga: Round Nine - Middle ground
Questions from Round Nine of the Bundesliga: Will Union continue to surprise? Can Stuttgart fend off the mighty Bayern? Can Leverkusen remain undefeated?
Round Nine action
There was another minor twist in the Bundesliga title challenge last weekend, and a welcome one for those tired of seeing Bayern Munich win the league every year. Having only just beaten Borussia Dortmund before the international break, Hans-Dieter Flick’s side were held to a 1-1 draw by Werder Bremen, while Lucian Favre’s outfit ran out 5-2 winners at Hertha Berlin.
Dortmund looked like potential winners in a rampant display that saw Erling Haaland score another four, taking his Bundesliga tally to 10 for the season. With Bayer Leverkusen also winning, there are now just four points between first and fourth.
This weekend, all of the top four have easy fixtures, facing clubs mired near the bottom of the table. There is unlikely to be any further movement at the top.
Here are previews of three of the biggest Bundesliga matches this round:
Union Berlin v Eintracht Frankfurt (zero margin game - offering the fairest odds)
This season’s surprise package is Union, who have continued their bullish football - with plenty of long balls forward and deep defending - to great effect, benefitting from the fitness concerns and lack of coaching time that comes with playing football during a pandemic.
They have only lost once this season and have won each of their last three, and while Frankfurt enjoyed a decent start to their campaign, the hosts are favourites for this one. Adi Hutter’s side are without a win in any of their last five, and goals have been hard to come by too.
Their 3-5-2 is a little bit too defensive to cause problems to a team as well-drilled and as confident as Union, pointing to a low-scoring game that the hosts will just about edge.
Stuttgart v Bayern Munich
Stuttgart are yet to win a home game in the Bundesliga this season and are increasingly struggling to show defensive security also, conceding three goals against Hoffenheim last time out and two the round before that. It is hardly the best time for them to be facing the champions, then.
We can expect a big reaction from Bayern following the disappointment of their draw against Bremen. Ordinarily, Flick’s side follow a poor result with a big and emphatic win, which suggests they will be firing on all cylinders against a Stuttgart side without a win in four.
Stuttgart are seemingly about to drop out of the top 10 - Bayern should make light work of this.
Bayer Leverkusen v Hertha Berlin
If Leverkusen, one of just two undefeated teams in the Bundesliga, are to maintain a title challenge they need to be able to dispatch clubs like Hertha Berlin – despite the visitors’ improving form of late.
Hertha’s poor run ended with a 3-0 win over Augsburg in their most recent away match, when a strong counter-attacking performance sealed the win. That is likely to worry Leverkusen, although even if the visitors are good on the break this should be an open and end-to-end game, suiting Peter Bosz.
Dortmund’s 5-2 win over Hertha was wild, and with the likes of Moussa Diaby and Leon Bailey sprinting down the flanks, Bayer Leverkusen can come out on top in a game like this.
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