Bayern, Leverkusen clash; Dortmund leading Bundesliga
BERLIN (AP) — After perfect starts, something has to give when Bayern Munich hosts Bayer Leverkusen for the first Bundesliga clash of the season among Champions League participants. Borussia Dortmund, currently leading on goal difference after two league games, hosts Hertha Berlin, while Borussia Moenchengladbach aims to avoid its third straight defeat at the other end of the table. Here are some things to know about the third round of games:
With Jerome Boateng suspended and both Mehdi Benatia and Holger Badstuber out with injuries, Bayern coach Pep Guardiola has a defensive riddle to solve before Leverkusen visits on Saturday. Dante and Rafinha could feature, despite reports linking the former with a move to Wolfsburg.
Thiago Alcantara extended his contract to 2019 on Thursday, an announcement that prompted speculation Guardiola might decide to stay with the Bavarian side. Guardiola, whose contract is up at the end of the season, brought Thiago to Munich from former side Barcelona. Bayern would like to keep the Spanish coach, who has so far left the club second-guessing about his future.
Leverkusen qualified for the Champions league with a 3-0 win over Lazio at home on Wednesday, overturning the first-leg loss for a 3-1 aggregate victory. Players celebrated with fans after the game and coach Roger Schmidt was visibly relieved, though he will now be hoping three days’ rest is enough before taking on Bayern in Munich.
Arturo Vidal will face his former side for the first time since signing for Bayern in the summer.
DORTMUND’S ‘ODD’ TURNAROUND
Since Thomas Tuchel took over from former coach Juergen Klopp, he has led Dortmund to six wins from six competitive games, and to the top of the Bundesliga for the first time since September 2013.
Dortmund was expected to make it seven from seven Thursday, when it hoped to reach the Europa League by defeating Odds Ballklubb. The Norwegian side, commonly known as Odd, was referring to the tie as “the odd adventure” on Twitter.
Dortmund conceded three goals to Odd in the opening leg in Norway - Tuchel’s side’s only blip in the season so far - before answering with four for a 4-3 win.
There have been no such issues in two Bundesliga games. With eight goals scored and none conceded, Dortmund has the best offense and defense in the league and it appears over last season’s problems. Hertha has been warned.
’GLADBACH’S POOR START
Moenchengladbach’s third-place finish last season is in danger of being forgotten after two uninspiring losses with an aggregate score of 6-1 in the Bundesliga.
’Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl has pointed to the departure of German internationals Max Kruse and Christoph Kramer, as well as injuries to Martin Stranzl, Alvaro Dominguez and Andre Hahn.
“We’re trying to compensate for these absences with young players and new signings. That doesn’t happen from one day to the next,” Eberl said.
On Sunday, ’Gladbach travels to Werder Bremen, which has problems of its own after claiming one point from its opening two games.
Stuttgart also finds itself without any points after two games, despite encouraging performances under new coach Alexander Zorniger.
The side was out-countered by Cologne in its opening game, a 3-1 defeat at home, and ran out of steam against Hamburger SV after defender Florian Klein was sent off to lose 3-2 away.
Stuttgart sporting director says victories are called for because “the belief in our way shouldn’t be lost.”
Stuttgart next visits Eintracht Frankfurt, another side to have endured a difficult start (one loss, one draw) in coach Armin Veh’s return to the club.
DE BRUYNE: STAYING OR GOING?
Arguably no side is looking forward to the end of the transfer period more than Wolfsburg is. The Bundesliga runner-up’s start to the season has been overshadowed by reports suggesting Kevin de Bruyne has agreed to leave the club for Premier League side Manchester City for what would be a Bundesliga-record €75 million ($85 million).
Wolfsburg sporting director Klaus Allofs was keeping his cards close to his chest Thursday afternoon, saying only “there is no agreement with Manchester City” and “at this point he is a Wolfsburg player.”
De Bruyne appears to have been affected by the ongoing reports, producing poor performances (four shots on goal, no assists) in both of Wolfsburg’s league games so far.
Schalke visits to get the third round of games underway Friday. Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking would not say whether De Bruyne will be in his line-up.
“We’ll see tomorrow,” Hecking said.