Among the highlights in this week's edition of GOAL!:
With second-place Leverkusen and Ruhr district heavyweights Dortmund and Schalke all stumbling last time out, Bayern Munich took full advantage with a 2-0 win at Augsburg, which leaves them eleven points clear of closest pursuers Bayer and 14 up on reigning champs Dortmund. The men from Munich's final league assignment of the year is Friday's matchday opener at home to old-time rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach, themselves newly reestablished as a force to be reckoned with around the top end of the table. The Foals, revamped for the current campaign after the virtual backbone of the team decamped over the summer, now seem to be refinding the kind of consistency that earned them a fourth-place finish last May. A home victory over Mainz took them up to ten competitive games with just the one defeat, and they can run out at the Allianz Arena in an upbeat frame of mind – not least in light of the fact that they beat Bayern home and away last season.
3 Minutes with...
...Lucien Favre. When Favre succeeded Michael Frontzeck as head coach in mid-February 2011, Mönchengladbach were bottom of the table, seven points shy of the relegation play-off berth with twelve games to go. The team made the play-off, beat Bochum, and survived. The following season, with virtually the same personnel, Favre crafted an expansive, attacking side in his own mould which stormed to a fourth place finish and a Champions League qualifying slot. The transformation from a team seemingly bound for Bundesliga 2 to one of the best in the league within a matter of months is testimony to the talents of their Swiss coach, whose promotion of a quick, short-passing style has already earned the Foals a new nickname – Borussia Barcelona.
Second-place Bayer Leverkusen host Hamburger SV in another of the weekend's top matches and one of the players likely to be keeping things shipshape in front of the back four for Bayer is Hajime Hosogai. The 26-year-old defensive midfield specialist is kick-starting his career with Leverkusen this season, a year-and-a-half after the club snapped him up from Urawa Red Diamonds. He spent the interim period on loan at FC Augsburg, helping the team from Bavarian Swabia first to get into the Bundesliga, then to stay there. The arrangement appears to have been beneficial to all parties and Bayer are now reaping the rewards of Hosogai's spell down south where, while acclimatising to the new culture and playing style, he also became a pivotal figure in the Augsburg midfield. As that club's new sporting director Manfred Paula acknowledged, „We never made any secret out of the fact that we'd have liked to hold onto him.“
All this and more in GOAL! The Bundesliga Magazine.