Munich - It's derby time in the Bundesliga on Saturday, with record-chasing Bayer 04 Leverkusen hosting near-neighbours Borussia Mönchengladbach and 1899 Hoffenheim taking on fellow south-westerners SC Freiburg. Elsewhere, 1. FSV Mainz 05 are looking to make it three wins out of three to start the season against a rejuventated VfL Wolfsburg (kick-offs 15.30 CET).
Bayer 04 Leverkusen - Borussia Mönchengladbach
bundesliga.com previews the action on Matchday 3 in the Bundesliga...
Victory over Gladbach on Saturday would make it eight straight wins in the Bundesliga for Leverkusen, a new club record. Head coach Sami Hyypiä is counting on the fans to reproduce the "great atmosphere" of last season's derby meeting, and looking to his charges to maintain their historically excellent balance against their Rhineland rivals. Bayer, in fact, went an incredible 26 games unbeaten against the Foals between 1994 and 2010 - a top-flight record.
Not that there are any grounds for complacency. "Gladbach looked in great form last time out (3-0 against Hannover, ed.). We drew twice with them last season, so we know exactly what they're capable of," B04 midfielder warned. Hyypiä can call on the versatility of Germany international Lars Bender again for this one, but Sidney Sam had to sit out training on Thursday and remains a doubt.
Swift return for Kramer
Mönchengladbach coach Lucien Favre is sure of one thing ahead of the visit to the BayArena, namely that "We won't find as many gaps as we did against Hannover." One of Borussia's scorers in that encounter, Christoph Kramer, is a new arrival from Leverkusen on a two-year loan and will be looking to impress again for the visitors in familiar surroundings.
Skipper Filip Daems appears fit to continue at left back having recovered from an Achilles problem and Max Kruse, another new signing who found the net against the 96ers, is set to once again spearhead the Foals' attack.
1. FSV Mainz 05 - VfL Wolfsburg
Mainz are one of five teams to have won both their opening fixtures, and on the back of a sizeable summer personnel reshuffle, head coach Thomas Tuchel is more than satisfied with the progress made so far. "We know which areas we can still improve in, but feel we're capable of competing already."
The early results certainly bear that out, Mainz following up an inaugural victory over VfB Stuttgart with another three points at SC Freiburg last weekend, with the on-form Nicolai Müller among the goals again. The current good news extends to the personnel front, where Tuchel has an almost full-strength squad at his disposal for the visit of the Wolves, defender Bo Svensson included.
Wolves improving fast
Wolfsburg head west on a high in the wake of their 4-0 pummelling of FC Schalke 04, but head coach Dieter Hecking is well aware his charges are "going to be tested right from the off. Mainz play with massive enthusiasm, commitment and aggression man-on-man - especially at home." For their part, VfL are looking ever stronger at the back, with Robin Knoche emerging as a genuine alternative to Timm Klose as a central defensive partner for Naldo.
The arrival from FC Bayern Munich of holding midfielder Luiz Gustavo seemed to work instant wonders against the Royal Blues, while Wolfsburg's third key Brazilian, playmaker Diego, was also in outstanding form in that encounter. The injured Bast Dost and suspended Maximilian Arnold aside, Hecking's main concern is goalkeeper and captain Diego Benaglio, who has been training individually on account of a back problem, but should be fit to start at Mainz.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - SC Freiburg
The Baden derby pits on-form Hoffenheim against off-the-boil Freiburg in something of a reversal of their roles over much of the previous campaign. Fresh from a thumping 5-1 success at Hamburg, 1899 are showing every sign of maintaining the upward curve that commenced with Markus Gisdol's appointment as head coach in April. In the run-up to this one, Gisdol has been at pains to stress the need for total focus on the task in hand, as "A lot of teams in the Bundesliga are operating at a very similar level. A game can turn on a single detail or moment."
Playmaker Roberto Firmino has been providing plenty such turning points and with new frontman Anthony Modeste already making his mark with three league goals as well, Hoffenheim will be confident of another victory.
Freiburg looking to get off the mark
Freiburg coach Christian Streich praised Saturday's hosts as "strong up front and man-for-man. It's a tough assignment for us because they play good football." On top of that, he noted, "The players work like crazy. They're doing a good job there." The same can undoubtedly be said of Streich's own team, but it has been a difficult start to the campaign for the Europa League participants, whose two league outings to date ended in defeat at Leverkusen and at home to Mainz.
Summer recruit Mike Hanke got off to a promising start, but the experienced former Gladbach forward has not been able to take part in team training this week due to a knee complaint. That may give Admir Mehmedi the opportunity to show what he can do up front at Hoffenheim alongside Sebastian Freis.