Cologne - As several clubs return from European exploits in midweek, the action continues apace in the Bundesliga, with some eye-catching fixtures in store on Matchday 8.
bundesliga.com guides you through everything you need to know ahead of a weekend which promises a wealth of drama at both ends of the table.
1) Return of Der Klassiker
Borussia Dortmund are back in business under Thomas Tuchel, and their fixtures against FC Bayern München already look like potential title deciders. Sunday sees the first Klassiker of the season, and it is Bayern who have the upper hand. After Dortmund stumbled to two draws on Matchdays 6 and 7, the Bavarians now have a four-point lead. They also have a certain former Dortmund striker who's been in record-breaking form of late. Robert Lewandowski will be the main worry for Dortmund's defence, which both Tuchel and Mats Hummels criticised after the draw against SV Darmstadt 98. Bayern are favourites, but then again, Der Klassiker has always been good for surprises.
2) Bayer back after Barcelona blues
Bayer 04 Leverkusen suffered a disappointing defeat to Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday night, and will be looking to bounce back against FC Augsburg. Leverkusen are in top form after a shaky start to the season, beating SV Werder Bremen 3-0 on Matchday 7 and performing brilliantly for 80 minutes in Barcelona. Augsburg, meanwhile, are struggling this season, having only managed to win one of their first seven games. Coach Markus Weinzierl blames the full-to-bursting fixture list Augsburg have due to their extra UEFA Europa League duties this season: “We just need to change little things, but it's a problem when we have to miss so many training sessions”, he said.
3) Wolves need a win
Dieter Hecking was not a happy bunny after Matchday 7. Just days after his VfL Wolfsburg side was put to the sword by Lewandowski, Hecking watched them stumble to a draw in the derby against Hannover 96. “We were too cumbersome,” said Hecking after the game. This weekend, the Wolves go west to face a resurgent Borussia Mönchengladbach, and they need a win if they are to keep up in the title race. Despite their dreadful start to the season, Gladbach have now won two consecutive games under caretaker boss André Schubert. They are still only 14th in the table, but that has done nothing to dampen the eternal, determined optimism of stand-in captain Granit Xhaka. “Our aim is still to finish third...at least”, said the Swiss this week.
4) Youthful optimism at Schalke
FC Schalke 04 look rejuvenated under André Breitenreiter, partly because the new coach is putting his faith in the squad's younger players. The likes of Max Meyer (20), Leon Goretzka (also 20) and Leroy Sané (19) have been at the heart of the Royal Blues' recent success. Sané in particular has been superb, scoring in all of Schalke's last three games. Breitenreiter's team are now riding high in third, and could move past local rivals Dortmund if things go their way on Matchday 8. They host 1. FC Köln on Sunday, whose blistering start to the season suffered a small setback last weekend when they drew at home to Ingolstadt.
5) It's grim up north
Just a few weeks ago, Claudio Pizarro was saying that Bremen could aim for a Champions League spot this season. The Peru international obviously cursed his team, as Bremen promptly lost their next three games and plummeted down the table. Since then, the talk has been of a relegation fight rather than a race for Europe. On Saturday, Bremen play away at northern neighbours Hannover, who have had an even more torrid time of late. Hannover are still searching for their first win of the season, having amassed only two points from their first seven games. They go into the game against Bremen in good spirits, however, after earning an unexpected point against local rivals Wolfsburg on Matchday 7. Can Michael Frontzeck's side ride the wave and claim victory on Saturday? Tune in to Matchday 8 to find out.