Coming up on this week's Bundesliga Preview Show...
Treading water mid-table after an indifferent season start, FC Schalke 04 are looking to new head coach Roberto Di Matteo to revitalise their flagging fortunes. The Swiss-born former Italy international is certainly no stranger to success in that role, having led Chelsea FC in a caretaker capacity from the brink of a last-16 exit to ultimate victory in the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League, as FC Bayern München fans will recall with no great pleasure. Now, Di Matteo is looking forward to the challenge of steering Schalke back on course in the Bundesliga, a league “I've always liked and been fascinated by.” Up first, it's a home game against Hertha Berlin, where he is targeting a winning debut that would take the Royal Blues three points clear of their current neighbours in the standings.
It may not have quite the lustre of yore these days, but the meeting of FC Bayern and SV Werder Bremen will always have a very special resonance for one employee of the Bundesliga record champions. In two separate spells at Bremen, Claudio Pizarro racked up 89 of the 176 goals to date which make him the top non-German scorer in the history of the Bundesliga with something to spare. Recently turned 36, the prolific Peruvian frontman has lost none of his appetite or instinct for hitting the back of the net and the great affection for the club that was his first European port of call will be professionally put on hold for the duration of Saturday's contest at the Allianz Arena.
Two seasons ago they escaped relegation via the play-off on the back of a tremendous late form surge. Last time out, a solid-but-unspectacular-looking ninth-place finish disguised an extraordinary campaign that saw them bang in 72 goals while leaking almost as many at the other end. Now, heading into Matchday 8, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim are displaying every sign of being ready to move up to the next level. Unbeaten, second in the table and with a freshly-acquired streak of defensive discipline to add to their undiminished attacking panache, the team from the southwest are promising to make good on their long-held ambition of earning a place on the European stage. Markus Gisdol is the architect of the current success, but the blueprint has been in place for some time.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen's early-season form under new head coach Roger Schmidt garnered headlines aplenty but the Werkself have flattered to deceive somewhat of late, winning just one of their last five Bundesliga outings despite often threatening to overrun the opposition. If history is anything to go by, however, Saturday's trip to struggling VfB Stuttgart is a timely bit of scheduling in their search for a return to winning ways. Bayer are on an eight-game unbeaten run against Swabia's finest, for whom they have long been something of a nemesis. And Stefan Kießling is the very personification of that, the 2012/13 Bundesliga top scorer having netted no fewer than 14 goals in his 17 league outings against Stuttgart down the years - and scored in all but one of the last ten.