Cologne - Borussia Dortmund on a roll, Bayer 04 Leverkusen's 'Little Pea', Pep Guardiola's supposed bogey team, Borussia Mönchengladbach on the ropes and life after Kevin De Bruyne at VfL Wolfsburg. bundesliga.com has the pre-Matchday 4 skinny...
Top of the charts
With eight wins from eight competitive outings under Thomas Tuchel, Dortmund are the team to beat right now. As well as cruising through the qualifying rounds of the UEFA Europa League and making serene progress in the DFB Cup, die Schwarz-Gelben have been lighting up the Bundesliga, scoring 11 goals and conceding just one in their first three assignments of the new campaign so far.
If the likes of Shinji Kagawa, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marco Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang weren’t enough to contest with for Saturday’s opponents Hannover 96, BVB have since added Belgian hotshot Adnan Januzaj to their ranks, the Manchester United loanee being touted to make his Bundesliga debut this weekend.
Another man expected to take his Bundesliga bow on Matchday 4 is Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez. The Mexico international, who played alongside Januzaj at former club Manchester United, joined Bayer 04 Leverkusen on deadline day, having spent much of last season on loan at Real Madrid CF.
With ample European top-flight and UEFA Champions League experience under his belt, as well as 40 goals in 47 senior international appearances, ‘Little Pea’ has all the credentials to be a big hit at the BayArena. Bad news, then, for Saturday’s visitors SV Darmstadt 98.
The standout fixture this weekend comes from the Allianz Arena, where defending Bundesliga champions FC Bayern München host near-neighbours FC Augsburg. Pep Guardiola’s side have made an ominously good start to the new campaign, most recently chalking up a 3-0 win over Leverkusen without even a single nominal centre-back in the side, as they look to become the first club in history to win four successive Bundesliga titles.
Not exactly music to the ears of winless Augsburg, who should nevertheless take heart from the fact they have won two of their last three meetings with Bayern.
Foals in a rut
Along with Augsburg, Leverkusen, SC Freiburg and VfL Wolfsburg, Borussia Mönchengladbach were one of just five sides to beat Bayern in the Bundesliga last season, in their case en route to securing automatic qualification to the group stages of the Champions League for the first time in their history.
Lucien Favre’s men make their debut in European club football’s elite club competition against Sevilla FC next week, but not before tackling Hamburger SV in Matchday 4’s opener. Inexplicably, Gladbach go into the game sitting bottom of the standings, already seven points off the top-four pace after losing their first three games of the season.
Wolfsburg’s new chapter
Enjoying their best ever start to a campaign, meanwhile, are last term’s Bundesliga runners-up Wolfsburg. Dieter Hecking’s Supercup 2015 winners put in their best performance of the season against FC Schalke 04 prior to the international break - and that without two players who had a hand in 42 of the Wolves’ 72 Bundesliga goals in 2014/15: the now departed duo of De Bruyne and Ivan Perisic.
To help fill the long-term void, Wolfsburg subsequently pulled off one of the coups of the summer transfer window by snapping up Germany international attacker Julian Draxler from Schalke on a five-year deal. Dante has also joined the club from FC Bayern to add a bit more meat to the Wolves’ defensive bones. Safe to say it’s going to take some effort from FC Ingolstadt 04 to keep the voracious wolf pack at bay on Saturday afternoon.