FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — One round into the Bundesliga season and the top of the table already looks like it might at the end of the campaign — Bayern Munich in front, Borussia Dortmund right behind.
Dortmund appears to be back in the role of challenger to Pep Guardiola’s team. After faltering last season, Dortmund has looked impressive in the early matches so far.
Bayern picked up where it left off and thrashed Hamburger SV 5-0 in its opener last weekend. Dortmund opened with a 4-0 rout of its namesake from Moenchengladbach.
Bayern could have a tougher job on Saturday, when it travels to Hoffenheim. Dortmund is also on the road, to newcomer Ingolstadt, which won 1-0 in Mainz in its Bundesliga debut. But Hoffenheim has not won against Bayern in 14 tries.
Here are some things to know about upcoming Bundesliga weekend:
The arrival of Douglas Costa has speeded up Bayern’s attack considerably. The Brazil winger has been impressive in his first few matches, speeding down either flank to bamboozle opposing defenses. He scored one and set up one against Hamburg, proving to be — so far — an adequate replacement for the injured Franck Ribery.
Ribery started only nine Bundesliga matches last season and is still recovering from an ankle injury. Bayern’s other winger, Arjen Robben, is also injury-prone and started 20 league matches last season.
“His energy levels are crazy. He’s a great team player and I hope he carries on like this,” teammate Thomas Mueller said.
If the opening match is anything to go by, Dortmund is again a force to be reckoned with. Dortmund fell to the bottom of the standings midway into the past season but bounced back to finish high enough to have a place in qualifying for the Europa League.
Now, under new coach Thomas Tuchel, Dortmund could be back as Bayern’s toughest rival.
Defender Marcel Schmelzer is cautious: “There is reason to be too happy too soon,” he told Kicker magazine. “Tuchel has introduced many new things and when it all works out immediately, it’s fun.”
Wolfsburg replaced Dortmund last season as the second-best team in the league and looked set to be Bayern’s biggest headache, especially after beating Guardiola’s team in the German Super Cup.
But the uncertainty about Kevin de Bruyne’s future is distracting Wolfsburg, which struggled to beat Eintracht Frankfurt 2-1 at home in the opener.
De Bruyne is reportedly the target of a lucrative offer from Manchester City and the midfielder looked unsettled against Frankfurt.
Wolfsburg’s director Klaus Allofs believes the tension could continue, since the transfer period ends only at the end of the month.
HAMBURG VS. STUTTGART
The two tradition clubs that barely escaped relegation last season both began the season with defeats and now clash in Hamburg.
Stuttgart beat Hamburg in the next-to-last round in a key match last season. Hamburg has revamped its squad but there was little improvement to be seen in the 5-0 loss to Bayern.
Stuttgart did not play badly but still fell 3-1 at home to the counter-attacking Cologne.