Bundesliga preview: Faltering Bayern look to steady the ship
October 19, 2018
Bayern Munich travel to Wolfsburg in search of their first Bundesliga win in four as Niko Kovac starts to feel the heat. Leaders Borussia Dortmund take on a Stuttgart side under new management and Schalke host Bremen.
The international break would have felt like an eternity for Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac, who hasn't tasted victory in any competition for almost a month and has overseen his side's slide to an unfamiliar sixth place in the league.
Kovac has been given the backing of the club's president Uli Hoeness, who made the slightly odd claim recently that he would "protect Niko Kovac until the last drop of blood is drawn". While unorthodox, it was a much-needed vote of confidence for Kovac, who has overseen a start not dissimilar to the one that saw Carlo Ancelotti get the chop a little over a year ago.
The difference between Kovac and the Italian is that mutiny has not yet beset the Bayern dressing room. But there is a distinct feeling of discontent among some of a Bayern's established players, not least James Rodriguez. Under Kovac, the Colombian has started only once — the 3-0 meltdown against Borussia Mönchengladbach — and stormed out of the Allianz Arena just 10 minutes after full time of the Champions League draw with Ajax.
While there are strong arguments that Bayern's hierarchy could have done more in the transfer market to prepare Kovac for the season, he must quickly find a solution for their lack of attacking potency. Two goals in their winless run of four games in all competitions tells its own story and Kovac seems no closer to solving this issue. Getting Robert Lewandowski in form and ensuring a harmonious dressing room are his two immediate concerns, otherwise things could unravel for Kovac before they've really started.
For the trip to the Volkswagen Arena, Bayern are boosted by the news that David Alaba, Jerome Boateng and Leon Goretzka are all fit to play and Rafinha is available again after suffering ankle ligament damage last month.
The team looking to pile on the misery for Bayern is Wolfsburg. The Wolves had a promising start to the season under Bruno Labbadia, but have gone five league games without a win, having failed to record a victory since Matchday 2. Labbadia has lost 12 of his 13 career games against Bayern, and Wolfsburg forward Daniel Ginczek is not underestimating the visitors' quality.
"When Bayern have a spell like they're currently having, some people say 'it's now or never', but you can't forget that Bayern have unbelievable quality and probably have the best squad in the Bundesliga," Ginczek said.
"That said, we'll analyze them and will try to exploit their weaknesses," he added. "We've picked up points against good teams at home this season, so why shouldn't we do so against Bayern too?"
Elsewhere on Matchday 8
Stuttgart vs Borussia Dortmund
The first game of Markus Weinzierl's reign as Stuttgart coach could scarcely be tougher, as Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund come to town. Lucien Favre's Dortmund are the only unbeaten side in Germany's top flight this season and are looking to maintain a three-point cushion over a chasing pack of four teams. But Stuttgart go into the game confident of hauling themselves out of the bottom three. "The players that have been here during the international break are really giving their all, so that we are well-equipped for Dortmund," winger Erik Thommy said. "I have a good feeling."
Schalke vs Werder Bremen
One of Matchday 8's most intriguing match-ups is that of improving Schalke and high-flying Werder Bremen. Domenico Tedesco's side bounced back after a miserable run of five consecutive defeats in the opening five matchdays with back-to-back league wins against Mainz and Fortuna Düsseldorf. Those victories sandwiched a win over Lokomotiv Moscow in the Champions League and, with confidence running through their veins once more, Schalke could take some stopping on home turf against Bremen. But the visitors have won three of their last four and look vastly improved this season. The late kick off on Saturday promises to be a tasty one.
Matchday 8 fixtures:
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Fortuna Düsseldorf (Friday, 8:30 p.m. CEST)
Bayer Leverkusen vs Hanover (Saturday, 3:30 p.m.)
Augsburg vs. RB Leipzig
Nuremberg vs. Hoffenheim
Stuttgart vs. Borussia Dortmund
Wolfsburg vs. Bayern Munich
Schalke vs Werder Bremen (Saturday, 6:30 p.m.)
Hertha Berlin vs. Freiburg (Sunday, 3:30 p.m.)
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Mainz (Sunday, 6:00 p.m.)