Coming up on this week's Bundesliga Preview Show...
Another matchday, another setback for Borussia Dortmund. Saturday's 2-1 defeat at 1. FC Köln, the fourth in their last five Bundesliga outings, leaves Jürgen Klopp's troops hovering just above the drop zone on a meagre seven points and with plenty to ponder ahead of the next domestic assignment against Hannover 96.
A not inconsiderable silver lining to the ever more darkening storm clouds for Klopp was the return from injury at Köln of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marco Reus and, after more than 17 months on the sidelines, . The trio's combined creative talents have been sorely missed by die Schwarz-Gelben of late and, if the wished-for instantaneous upswing was not forthcoming, players, management and fans alike remain confident that it is only a matter of time - with a start preferably being made next time out against Hannover.
As top games go, second against first is hard to beat and Matchday 9 rounds out in high style with Borussia Mönchengladbach, still unbeaten on 16 points, playing host to FC Bayern München, four clear of them at the head of the table. One of the most intriguing sub-plots in Sunday's encounter at the Borussia Park is the duel between two of the Bundesliga's acknowledged master tacticians.
In the home corner, Swiss strategist Lucien Favre, whose Foals are in the process of turning the swift breakaway into a high art form. And hogging the touchline for the visitors, Pep Guardiola, still fine-tuning a Bayern side who already have far more strings to their bow than the relentless domination of possession. All-in-all, it promises to be very interesting indeed.
While Bayer 04 Leverkusen were kicking themselves at two points squandered after being 3-0 up in Stuttgart, FC Schalke 04 were welcoming Roberto Di Matteo on board as head coach with a home win against Hertha. That moved them to within two points of their hosts in this Saturday's late kick-off, in light of which the drastically contrasting rumblings of approbation and opprobrium dished out to the respective early-season efforts of the two Champions League contenders' could perhaps justifiably be said to have been a tad overstated.
New coach Roger Schmidt's Leverkusen have, nonetheless, been carving out scoring opportunities almost at will, with lapses at both ends of the pitch currently the main problem. Even newer coach Di Matteo meanwhile is focusing first and foremost on straightening Schalke out at the back. A debut clean sheet made for a good start - but at the BayArena, the Royal Blues could well find themselves on defensive overtime again.