After European trips in which performances didn't equate to results, Borussia Dortmund and Hoffenheim meet in the Bundesliga. Memories of Hoffenheim's last day win over BVB in May will still be fresh in Dortmund minds.
Four months ago, the clash between these two clubs was set to dictate who made the Champions League. In the end, Hoffenheim's dominant 3-1 win was enough to book their place and allow Dortmund to scrape in on their opponent's coattails, courtesy of Bayer Leverkusen's inability to win their match by a big-enough margin.
For the 84 minutes before Christian Pulisic's fluky winner on Tuesday, Dortmund hadn't looked a team capable of taking advantage of their fortune, while Hoffenheim were vibrant on their Champions League debut and were unfortunate to take just a point off Shakhtar Dontesk.
But it's been a somewhat different tale domestically, where Julian Nagelsmann's side lost to newly promoted Fortuna Düsseldorf last weekend to make it just three points from their opening three games.
Time needed for Dortmund's attacking balance
Despite a reputation for getting the best out of attacking players, Lucien Favre's first five competitive games, with the exception of the 4-1 win over Leipzig on Matchday 1, have seen BVB struggle a little for creative coherence but, on the plus side, they have yet to concede more than a single goal in a match.
"It's clear that we will need some patience and time. We have good defensive stability, but we can certainly do something better in the game ahead," said Dortmund's sporting director Michael Zorc on Thursday.
Favre echoed the call for patience. "It takes time, it does not take just a week. It will take much longer than that for us to find the right system," the coach said at the same press conference.
The Swiss coach will again be without Paco Alcacer, who scored from the bench on his debut against Eintracht Frankfurt last week, while Mario Götze and Julian Weigl weren't picked to travel with the squad. Danish midfielder Thomas Delaney could return from a knee injury.
While his opposite number still needs time to get his ideas across, Nagelsmann's team are definitively his own. While the slow domestic start may trouble him, Hoffenheim also struggled early last season before losing just one of their last 11 games to finish in a record-high third position.
Hoffenheim squad spread too thin?
That run came after the side from Sinsheim had been knocked out of the Europa League and the German Cup, leading some to question whether their small squad was capable of competing on multiple fronts.
Nagelsmann suggested after Wednesday's 2-2 draw, that he was aware of the perils of regular games, particularly as Dortmund have had an extra 24 hours to recover.
"In the end, we lacked the legs, due to the amount of energy we had already used," he admitted after the Ukrainian side equalized for a second time late on. "We defended well and we knowingly sat deep in order to bring them to us, so we could counter. The result is fair, due to the final quarter of an hour."
Despite their decent start, Dortmund have still not won a Bundesliga game on the road since February. The chance to put seven points between them and a side that finished above them last term should enhance the motivation to end that wretched run.
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga
- Two more of Germany's European representatives continue their scramble to get off the mark in the league this weekend. Bayer Leverkusen host Mainz in a match that looks straightforward, until you consider that the Zero Fivers have already picked up seven points.
- The Werkself still face an easier task than the other pointless club, with Schalke welcoming Bayern in Saturday's late game. Leon Goretzka will return to Schalke for the first time since his free transfer to Bayern and he's not expecting to be applauded by the home fans like teammate Renato Sanches. "I am looking forward to going to Gelsenkirchen," the midfielder said after Bayern beat Benfica. "I do not think they will receive me as the [Benfica] fans received Renato [Sanches] today. There are two camps: Some wish me well, but others express displeasure."
- While Schalke and Leverkusen are the only side on zero points, Hannover, Nuremburg, Freiburg and Stuttgart are all still seeking a first win of 2018-19.
Bundesliga Matchday 4 fixtures
Stuttgart vs. Fortuna Düsseldorf (Friday, 8:30 p.m)
Augsburg vs. Werder Bremen
Hertha Berlin vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach (Saturday, 3:30 p.m)
Hoffenheim vs. Borussia Dortmund
Nuremburg vs. Hannover
Wolfsburg vs. Freiburg
Schalke vs. Bayern Munich (Saturday 6.30pm)
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Mainz (Sunday 3.30pm)
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. RB Leipizig (Sunday 6pm)