Munich - Two weeks have passed since we last sampled a slice of Bundesliga pie, but Matchday 3 promises to reawaken those taste buds after an international-inspired pallet cleanser. Though last year's top two are stealing the Saturday spotlight, the remaining three afternoon fixtures (kick-off 15:30 CET) should serve up a veritable feast of football.
Hannover 96 - SV Werder Bremen
High-flying Hannover 96 have a chance to lay down the gauntlet against SV Werder Bremen, as they look to successfully defend their current status as Germany's most prominent northern side. Elsewhere, VfB Stuttgart are desperate to open their account at home to Fortuna Düsseldorf, while Borussia Mönchenglach play host to 1. FC Nuremberg with both sides hoping to preserve their unbeaten starts to the season.
The AWD-Arena will bear witness to a clash between two derby winners from Matchday 2 on Saturday as they both get set for their second consecutive local showdown. Hannover emphatically beat VfL Wolfsburg 4-0 and Bremen eased past Hamburger SV with a 2-0 win before the international break, so it only seems fitting that they should face-off on Matchday 3 in an unofficial bout for northen supremacy.
For Hannover, the game will be their eighth so far this season, but forward Jan Schlaudraff sees his side's hectic schedule as an advantage. "We've played ourselves into a rhythm, we're familiar with each other's movements and we're very threatening when our defenders push up, forcing us to drift in-field," said the classy playmaker. Head coach Mirko Slomka will be without Christian Pander (thigh) and Christian Schulz (torn muscle), but Mohamed Abdellaoue has recovered from a back injury and should play a part.
Executive director Klaus Allofs issued a rallying cry to his side ahead of Saturday's encounter by stating that Werder are "the No 1 team in the north", a title 96 relieved them of two years ago and are yet to relinquish. Bremen boss Thomas Schaaf, not known for his overly exuberant displays of emotion, was clearly excited: "I'm really looking forward to the match, it will be an interesting affair," said the 51-year-old before highlighting the strength of their opponents: "[Hannover] are in great form right now and have an abundance of self-confidence, which they exude at all times."
VfB Stuttgart - Fortuna Düsseldorf
Coming into Matchday 3, fans could be forgiven for thinking that Stuttgart and Düsseldorf's roles had been unexpectedly reversed. Bruno Labbadia's side are currently propping up the rest of the league after two straight defeats, but the VfB boss is aware that turning their fortunes around against the newly-promoted side won't be easy. "Düsseldorf will make life difficult for us. They keep themselves compact at the back and pounce on their chances up front," explained Labbadia, who is hoping the international break has helped his side move on from a 6-1 drubbing against Bayern Munich last time out: "The important thing is that we learn from our mistakes and make sure they don't happen again in the future."
The suspension of Bosnian striker Vedad Ibisevic will have been welcome news for fifth-placed Fortuna, while boss Norbert Meier has the option of handing captain Andreas Lambertz an historic Bundesliga debut after the midfielder completed his own ban. "That Stuttgart aren't happy with their start to the season is clear to see. They'll want to turn a corner against us, which suits us well as the newly-promoted team. Maybe it will give us a chance [to cause another upset]," said Meier. The proverbial underdogs will not be able to call upon the services of injured trio Bruno Soares, Leon Balogun and Stefan Reisinger.
Borussia Mönchengladbach - 1. FC Nuremberg
With four points, two goals scored and one conceded apiece from their opening two matches of the season, Gladbach and Nuremberg are on a completely even keel. For the hosts' Havard Nordtveit, Saturday's fixture pits him against his former employers. "They won't just pack out the defence, they'll also look to break forward," said the Norwegian defensive midfielder, who played for the Franconian side during the 2009/10 Bundesliga season. "They definitely played incredibly well against Dortmund to pick up a point. They'll want to pick up more to maintain their solid start to the campaign."
Visitors Nuremberg are just as wary of Borussia, but are determined build on their "promising performances" in a match against a "dangerous opponent" according to head coach Dieter Hecking. "They lost three cornerstones of their team, but brought in worthy replacements. Still, the fact the newcomers need time to fit in is obvious," said the 48-year-old. Long-term absentees Adam Hlousek and Markus Mendler are joined on the sidelines by Mike Frantz, but Hecking did confirm that Tomas Pekhart, who netted the opening goal against BVB "will, like he did against Dortmund, start up front."