Coming up this week on GOAL!...
Top Game I
After the rigours of Tuesday's Revierderby at Dortmund, FC Schalke 04 did not at any rate have much of a journey home to worry about before starting the necessary refocusing on the upcoming job in hand. Next on the list for the Royal Blues in their quest for a top-three finish and the accompanying automatic UEFA Champions League berth is a home meeting with Hertha Berlin. Themselves fresh, or otherwise, from hosting FC Bayern, the men from the capital have a very solid record on the road in their first season back in the top flight, having won five and lost just four of their 13 away games to date. Schalke however are a real force to be reckoned with at the Veltins Arena, with nine wins, two draws and just a couple of defeats to their name in the current campaign. A repeat of the sides' first season meeting, moreover, would do Jens Keller's side just fine; on Matchday 11, goals from Adam Szalai and Julian Draxler sewed up a 2-0 win in Berlin.
Top Game II
When it comes to home form, like virtually every other statistical category at the moment, FC Bayern München are in a league of their own. Their 13 games so far at the Allianz Arena have yielded a flawless 39-point return, in the course of which they have scored 39 goals and conceded a paltry seven. 1899 Hoffenheim are next team tasked with trying to make a dent in that intimidating record and while they will undoubtedly head east more in hope than expectation, it is nonetheless certainly the hope of a team packing a puncher's chance. Bayern, unsurprisingly, head the Bundesliga scoring pack as well with something to spare but behind them, Hoffenheim are the only side currently challenging the mighty Dortmund when it comes to hitting the net. Unfortunately for them, Markus Gisdol's charges have also been leaking goals at a rate even the clubs at the very bottom of the division are struggling to keep up with. In short, it has the potential to go very pear-shaped indeed for the visitors on Saturday. If, on the other hand, they catch themselves on a good day, they undoubtedly have what it takes to make the record champions sing for their supper.
They swept all before them in unprecedented fashion last year and as it stands, FC Bayern are set to top even that remarkable domestic campaign this time around. The class of 2012/13 was formed by Jupp Heynckes and this, of course, is year one of what the management in Munich anticipate will be a long and fruitful era under his successor, Pep Guardiola. The man who shaped FC Barcelona into one of the best club sides of all time arrived in a blaze of publicity, his every move the subject of endless microscopic dissection and postulation. There were early murmurs that some of the new coach's success-soaked charges were struggling to adapt to his ideas. Murmurs which dissipated fairly quickly, and now seem to belong to the realm of ancient history. Whether this Bayern team are already better all-round than their treble-winning counterparts of twelve months ago is a moot point – what is not up for argument however is the efficacy of the Pep system they have taken to heart.