Eight match-weeks into the Bundesliga season sees some usual, and not so usual, sights. Guardiola’s mighty Bayern Munich sit proudly atop the table, but everyone’s favourite Dortmund side are floundering above the relegation zone. Susie Schaaf takes a look at what’s happening.
Di Matteo a surprise choice for Schalke
It wasn’t a matter of if, rather than when Jens Keller would get the boot as Schalke 04’s trainer. Promoted as an interim coach in December 2012, Keller never quite won over the Gelsenkirchen side; doing just enough (read: winning important matches) to get by. But, an uneasy beginning to this year’s Bundesliga season – despite drawing with league leaders Bayern Munich, and again at Chelsea away in Champions League competition – saw the board call for his head.
Thomas Tuchel, formerly and excellently at Mainz, seemed to be the obvious choice to replace Keller, seeing how cozy he is with board members Horst Heldt and Clemens Toennies. But the team moved in an unexpected direction, hiring Swiss-Italian Roberto di Matteo instead.
Di Matteo’s debutant Bundesliga match saw his Royal Blues defeat Hertha Berlin 2-0 on Saturday: “It wasn’t a necessarily spectacular game,” he told Schalke’s website, “But it was important to get the three points.”
Considering his work at Chelsea’s helm, perhaps it’s not surprising that Schalke recorded just their third clean sheet of this year’s campaign. Looking forward to this week’s Sporting Lisbon match – and ahead, domestically – one can expect an ultra-defensive side with promises of di Matteo’s 2012 Champions League-winning mentality.
What’s going on with BvB?
Possibly the saddest press conference in recent history occurred after Borussia Dortmund lost 2-1 to Cologne on Saturday; their third loss in as many weeks.
“We played a kind of football which is absolutely pointless,” an unnervingly stoic Juergen Klopp remarked.
Five defeats in the Bundesliga season sees the Black and Yellows with just seven points after eight match-days. Dortmund currently sit in 14th, a point off the drop zone.
While most of the big German clubs entered the season with significant injuries, Dortmund seem to have had the worst run of them all. Ilkay Gundogan and Marco Reus made their way back in to Dortmund’s starting XI against Cologne, but to no avail.
“We lack composure up front, and at the back? We keep making presents of goals,” sporting director Michael Zorc said. “‘So-called’ leaders are making huge mistakes. It’s our most difficult time in years.”
The one bright spot, perhaps, for the club is their Champions League form. A 2-0 win over Arsenal at home and a 3-0 victory away to Belgium’s Anderlecht sees them in prime position to qualify for the knock-out stages.
Bayern’s midfield bent but not broken
Thiago Alcantara suffered yet another injury blow just as he returned to first team training. The Spanish holding midfielder looks likely to be out until March, but Bayern Munich continue to run at full steam.
Xabi Alonso, arguably the transfer of the summer, hasn’t missed a step since signing for Bayern. His maiden Bundesliga goal in the 6-0 rout of Werder Bremen came from a cheeky, under-the-wall free-kick, and he seems to enjoy the set-up at Munich.
“The construction of play is very different,” he said before the Werder match. “At Real Madrid everything is quicker, more direct. Jazz, and Rock ‘n’ Roll,” he said, comparing the two sides.
Enforced absences of Javi Martinez, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Franck Ribery have put a slight dent in Pep Guardiola’s Rekordmeister plans, but all is seemingly well as the Bavarian squad sits atop the Bundesliga table with 20 points in eight matches.
Excellence from holding midfielders David Alaba, Philipp Lahm, Juan Bernat and Sebastian Rode has taken the sting out of losing so many key players, but a brutal away Champions League match to AS Roma awaits on Tuesday.
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