5 things to know ahead of the Bundesliga weekend
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Five things to know about the Bundesliga ahead of this weekend’s games, with Hamburger SV playing its first match under new coach Bert van Marwijk in the trip to Frankfurt, while leaders Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich have home games:
BUNDESLIGA RETURN FOR VAN MARWIJK
Bert van Marwijk returns as a coach to the Bundesliga when he takes Hamburger SV on a difficult trip to Eintracht Frankfurt. Van Marwijk once coached Borussia Dortmund and reached the 2010 World Cup final in charge of the Netherlands. He took over this week after the firing of Thorsten Fink.
Hamburg is the only Bundesliga founder club never to have been relegated. But it sits 16th, with only one win in six matches and four points. Hamburg did win, 1-0 against second-tier Greuther Fuerth in the German Cup, with Van Marwijk still not on the bench.
Van Marwijk might bring back some of the players dropped from the first team by his predecessor, including Michael Mancienne and Gojko Kacar.
BAYERN’S STINGY DEFENSE
Under Pep Guardiola, perhaps surprisingly, it has been Bayern’s defense and not its attack that leads the Bundesliga. Bayern has conceded only two goals in six matches. The only time Bayern’s defense has been stingier this far into the season was two years ago when it had given up only one goal — and Bayern failed to win the title that season. Another encouraging fact ahead of Saturday’s home game against Wolfsburg: No other club has given up so many points in Munich as Wolfsburg — Bayern has 15 home wins and one draw.
Defender Dante says Bayern’s forwards are contributing to the defense “and it’s wonderful to see how they work in the back.”
SAD ANNIVERSARY IN HOFFENHEIM
Hoffenheim hosts Schalke exactly to the day one year after forward Boris Vukcevic’s car crash that left him nearly seven weeks in coma. Vukcevic’s parents say their son is improving and doing well “under the circumstances” but that it is too soon for him to attend a match. According to the parents, “it’s still a very long way” in Vukcevic’s recovery. They expect their son to be watching the match on television.
Schalke has never won in Hoffenheim. Coach Markus Gasdol was an assistant in Schalke until he was sacked along with head coach Huub Stevens last season.
LEWANDOWSKI’S BACK IS HURTING
Robert Lewandowski’s indication that he will be leaving for Bayern next season, which has been the worst-kept secret in the Bundesliga, hardly caused a ripple in Dortmund. With his contract running out, Lewandowski’s departure has been a foregone conclusion.
And Dortmund already has adequate replacements. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, both new signings, are scoring regularly. Aubameyang has five goals in the Bundesliga and both netted in the German Cup victory at 1860 Munich.
Lewandowski, who has four goals in the Bundesliga, was substituted and may miss Saturday’s home match against Freiburg because of an ailing back.
Freiburg has won only one of 14 matches in Dortmund, with two draws.
Bayer Leverkusen is only one point behind front-runners Dortmund and Bayern, yet the club remains something of an afterthought in the Bundesliga despite playing some of the most entertaining football.
Australia forward Robbie Kruse may be in the starting lineup after scoring twice last week in the 4-1 win in Mainz. With Stefan Kiessling, who has five goals in the league, up front as well, Leverkusen may have too much firepower for Hannover.
Hannover is coming off a 4-1 loss in Munich in the German Cup and is still without striker Mame Diouf, who is nursing an ankle injury. Hannover is fourth in the standings, three points behind Leverkusen.