The Bundesliga will resume after the international break with a humdinger of a game on Matchday 8 when Bayer Leverkusen host Bayern Munich. The battle of the top two on Sunday 17 October will feature a number of key battles featuring stars like Robert Lewandowski, Manuel Neuer, Alphonso Davies, Patrik Schick and Florian Wirtz.
bundesliga.com takes a look at where the crucial encounter in Leverkusen could be won or lost as we look at how the two teams stack up…
The goalscorers: Patrik Schick vs. Robert Lewandowski
Leverkusen (20 goals) and Bayern (24 goals) are the two highest-scoring teams in the league, so it’s no surprise to see that their two leading strikers are near the top of the scoring chart. The home side have a player who finished - with five goals - as the joint-top goalscorer at this summer’s UEFA Euro 2020 alongside Cristiano Ronaldo. Czech forward Schick has continued his fine form since returning to his club, opening his account in the 4-0 hammering of Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 2. He signed off before the recent international break with a double in another 4-0 rout - this time away at Arminia Bielefeld - and in between he also netted in wins in Augsburg and Stuttgart as well as during the 4-3 home loss against Borussia Dortmund. That means the 25-year-old has six goals in seven league starts this season.
Watch: All six of Schick’s Bundesliga goals this term
Just ahead of him as the Bundesliga’s top scorers this season are Dortmund’s Erling Haaland and, of course, Bayern frontman Lewandowski. Lewandowski is the reigning world player of the year and a record 41 German top-flight goals last season helped him pick up the European Golden Shoe award too. The Poland captain has started the current campaign in similar fashion, clocking up 13 goals already including seven in the Bundesliga and four in the UEFA Champions League group stage. Lewandowski was on target in the opening day draw at Gladbach, scored a hat-trick in the 5-0 thumping of Hertha Berlin, and also got on the scoresheet in victories over Cologne, RB Leipzig and Bochum. The 33-year-old has now gone two Bundesliga games without a goal - albeit he did score twice against Dynamo Kyiv in between - so he will be determined to add his 10 career strikes against Leverkusen.
Watch: Lewandowski wins the European Golden Shoe
The Wonderkids: Florian Wirtz vs. Jamal Musiala
Two young attacking midfielders who have both made their senior debuts for Germany could also take centre stage at the BayArena. Wirtz has been leading the charge for Leverkusen, and he is top of the pops for assists with five already. That stat is all the more impressive when you consider that the 18-year-old has only started four of the six league games he has appeared in to date. The Euro U21 champion has also proven a goalscoring threat in his own right. Having got five league goals in 29 league games last season, he has already netted against Augsburg, Dortmund, Mainz and Stuttgart this term. Only Haaland has had a direct hand in more Bundesliga goals this season. Throw in strikes in UEFA Europa League successes against Ferencvaros and Celtic and Wirtz has a total of six goals in all competitions this season – in fact having a hand in a goal in every single game he’s played. Whether he is picking a pass or lining up a shot the former Cologne player – who got his maiden Bundesliga goal against Bayern – the league’s most efficient player for shots will be hard for league leaders to stop.
Watch: Wirtz and Musiala – Germany’s next generation
Wirtz made his Germany debut in September this year, but Musiala got there a few months before him in March 2021. The former Chelsea academy player played a key role off the bench against Hungary in the Euro 2020 group stage, when he also became the youngest player to feature in major tournament for his country. Still only 18, Musiala’s sharp footwork and impressive technique make him a potent player for Bayern as well. After getting six Bundesliga goals last season, he already has four to his name across all competitions this time around. He netted in his only league start against Hertha, while he came on at half-time to score one goal and make another in the 4-1 win at Leipzig. He’s a player Julian Nagelsmann likes to turn to when Bayern need to step things up a notch and force a breakthrough.
The shot-stoppers: Lukas Hradecky vs. Manuel Neuer
“He’s incredibly valuable for us and proved that today,” Leverkusen boss Gerardo Seoane said of Hradecky following Die Werkself’s 4-0 thrashing of Celtic in the Europa League. But it isn’t the only time the Bayer goalkeeper and new captain has done so this season. He’s made the joint-most saves of everyone in the Bundesliga in 2021/22 while also watching over the equal third-tightest defence in the division with only seven goals conceded. Now 31 and in his seventh Bundesliga campaign, the Finn is looking at the peak of his shot-stopping powers and is already over a quarter of the way to matching his best haul of clean sheets in Germany before we’ve even reached the midway point of the Hinrunde.
One of the other teams to have only conceded seven goals is Bayern and their rock for the last decade, Neuer. Undoubtedly one of the finest goalkeepers to ever grace the game and one who revolutionised what it means to play in goal, the 35-year-old allows Bayern to play the way they do with a high line and sweeper-keeper lurking behind. He doesn’t make the number of saves Hradecky has this season (18 vs. 31) but they tend to be big ones when he does – think back to the most recent game when he denied Almamy Toure a certain goal one-on-one against Eintracht Frankfurt. #NeuerTheWall is looking as sturdy as ever when called upon.
The wing wizards: Moussa Diaby vs. Leroy Sane
After two seasons of promise at the BayArena, we look to be finally seeing the very best of Diaby in a Leverkusen shirt. He ended the last campaign with 10 assists but is showing just how deadly he can be down the wings now. Four goals and an assist in seven league games as an undisputed starter underlines his impact in Seoane’s side, constantly looking to stretch opposition teams with his speed and dribbling ability. His goals have come against the likes of Dortmund and Gladbach as he’s developed a fondness of the big occasion. Still only 22, there’s still plenty more to come from the recently capped France international.
There was a similar thought prevailing about Sane as well, but a simple tactical switch from Nagelsmann looks to have again brought the best out of the German winger. Now on the left, he’s been directly involved in five goals over the last five Bundesliga games. "I can really see his development, he’s incredibly committed,” Nagelsmann said after a goal and an assist from the 25-year-old in the 7-0 thrashing of Bochum. Sane once again looks like someone playing with confidence and even just pips the rapid Diaby for top speed so far this season (21.9 vs. 21.8 mph) and also putting in more sprints. Both these wing wizards will be looking to cast a spell when the sides meet – but blink and you’ll miss them.
Watch: Analysing the new Sane
The flying full-backs: Jeremie Frimpong vs. Alphonso Davies
And the same can be said for these two full-backs. Leverkusen have tried their hand with a number of right-backs over the past year or so but look to have found their man now in Frimpong. The 20-year-old Dutchman doesn’t stop up and down that right flank. The defender has five assists in all competitions already this term, while Die Werkself have only conceded eight time in 10 fixtures – with Frimpong playing all but two minutes of them. His top speed of just shy of 22 mph places him ninth for the Bundesliga’s fastest players and also among the league’s most impressive performers in 2021/22.
It's very difficult to talk about speed in the Bundesliga and not mention Davies. Until last matchday he was the fastest player ever recorded in the league, while he’s also the second quickest across the division this term. His 235 sprints is a Bundesliga best this season – with Frimpong second on 217 – as he’s chased down opponents with apparent ease while also raced past them going the other way. The Canadian has two assists to his name so far this Bundesliga campaign, also creating three clear-cut chances after starting every league outing – both at left-back and in a more advanced wing role. Given that he and Frimpong will line up directly opposite each other, this promises to be a fascinating sub-plot to the main event of second hosting first in the Bundesliga.
Watch: The best of Davies in the Bundesliga