Top Game I
The records continue to tumble for FC Bayern Munich. A 4-0 home thumping of Schalke 04, coupled with Dortmund losing at home and Leverkusen only drawing at Mönchengladbach, leaves the men from the Bavarian capital an unprecedented 15 points clear at the top of the table going into Matchday 22. The next side with the thankless task of having to try and knock them out of their stride are VfL Wolfsburg, who at any rate have home advantage for this one - if such it be, given that Bayern have yet to lose on the road this season in the Bundesliga. With two wins, a draw and an odd-goal defeat at Hannover to their name so far under new coach Dieter Hecking, the Wolves look to be maintaining the solid upward trajectory they commenced on during Lorenz-Günther Köstner's interim stewardship. The Friday evening contest with the runaway league leaders is of course a challenge of a different magnitude. In Diego, Perisic et al, VfL undoubtedly have the personnel capable of taking on the very best on their day - but will this be their day?
One player certain to be in for a busy evening against FC Bayern - and equally likely to be relishing the prospect - is Wolfsburg defensive linchpin Naldo. Signed from Werder Bremen last summer after seven years unstinting service with the Bundesliga's 'original' Green-Whites, some serious and protracted knee problems notwithstanding, the 30-year-old four-time Brazil international has settled in at his new club to increasingly evident effect. Having swiftly established himself as the Wolves' dominant back-row coordinator, Naldo also continues to deliver the goods up front, particularly from set pieces, like few other central defenders in the German top flight. In the current campaign he has had 20 attempts on goal already - three of which have ended up in the back of the opposition net.
3 Minutes with…
...Sami Hyypiä. Brought in on an initial caretaker basis along with Sascha Lewandowski to steady the Leverkusen ship in the wake of Robin Dutt's departure near the end of last season, Hyypiä has enjoyed almost uninterrupted success ever since. Under the new coaching duo, now installed for the duration, Bayer are back flying at Bundesliga heights they themselves would probably have considered unlikely as the 2012/13 campaign got under way. Far from being a season of consolidation as the top-flight rookies got to grips with the demands of their new role, it has become one in which Leverkusen are bang on course for a return to the Champions League stage - and are the only side to date to have taken three points off of Bayern Munich, in their own back yard at that. Former defensive stalwart Hyypiä gives us an insight into life in the hot seat so far.