Bayern visits slumping Schalke in Bundesliga
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Despite predicting that his injury-hit team would struggle in the first half of the season, Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich got off to a winning start in its bid to win a third consecutive Bundesliga title.
But even in its 2-1 victory over Wolfsburg, Bayern’s current deficiencies became obvious, hence the latest moves on the transfer marker.
One day after signing defender Mehdi Benatia from Rome, Bayern was in talks with Real Madrid on the transfer of veteran midfielder Xabi Alonso as it prepared to visit Schalke in the Bundesliga.
Here are some things to know about the Bundesliga weekend:
ON THE MOVE
Mehdi Benatia came to Freiburg in August 2009 hoping to get a contract that would see him move from the French second division to the Bundesliga. After a trial, Freiburg’s coach at the time and other club officials decided Benatia was not good enough and sent him packing.
Five years after getting rejected by the habitual Bundesliga stragglers, the Morocco defender was good enough to sign for the Bundesliga powerhouse and two-time defending champion Bayern and become the fourth most expensive player in the league history at a reported transfer fee of about 30 million euros ($39.53 million) paid to Roma.
BOLSTERING THE MIDFIELD
By adding Xabi Alonso, Bayern would bolster its hurting midfield. With Thago Alcantara and Javi Martinez on the long-term injury list and with Bastian Schweinsteiger’s date of return uncertain, Alonso will bring a wealth of experience with him.
“We believe that it’s necessary for our team and to meet the expectations of our fans and the entire club,” Bayern director Matthias Sammer said of Alonso’s expected move to the Bavarian capital.
It did not take Schalke long to start talking about a crisis. It got knocked out of the German Cup in the first round by third-division club Dresden, then lost the Bundesliga opener at Hannover. That was enough to revive the discussion about coach Jens Keller, who reportedly escaped getting fired several times in the past.
Schalke finished third last season and had ambitions of even maybe going higher this season, but it could find itself in an even worse situation if it loses to Bayern on Saturday.
For the record, Schalke has lost its last seven matches against Bayern, with a 2-23 goal difference. To make matters worse, defender Sead Kolasinac is out for half a year with a knee injury.
Bayer Leverkusen’s game plan under new coach Roger Schmidt seems to be simple: Don’t waste any time.
Leverkusen stunned Borussia Dortmund 2-0 in the league opener, with Karim Bellarabi scoring nine seconds into the game for the fastest goal in Bundesliga history.
In Wednesday’s Champions League qualifier against FC Copenhagen, Leverkusen was two goals up inside the first seven minutes en route to a 4-0 win. In the first leg in Copenhagen, Leverkusen was up a goal by the fifth minute and won 3-2.
Leverkusen will be looking to confirm its good start when it hosts Hertha Berlin on Saturday. Berlin arrives without several key injured players, including playmaker Alexander Baumjohann and defender Sebastian Langkamp.
Borussia Dortmund has run into problems right at the start. Expected to be Bayern’s main challenger, Dortmund lost its opener 2-0 to Leverkusen and has been hit by a series of injuries.
Central defender Mats Hummels is nursing a hamstring injury that is delaying his comeback. He was already late in returning to training after winning the World Cup with Germany.
Sven Bender and Adrian Ramos are doubtful for Friday’s match in Augsburg, along with several other players. Newly signed striker Ciro Immobile is still integrating.
Augsburg lost its opener 2-0 at Hoffenheim and also needs to rebound.