Domenico Tedesco's appointment flew under the radar and his team are doing the same. After a patchy start, Schalke are rising up the table and they welcome a Hamburg side treading water, as the Bundesliga returns.
An unknown coach, younger than some of his players, taking an unfancied side in to Champions League contention. Sound familiar?
For Julian Nagelsmann last season, read Domenico Tedesco (top) this time round. When the 32-year-old was given the job in June, eyebrows were raised - was a man with 11 league matches in charge of second tier Erzgebirge Aue ready to deal with one of Germany's biggest basketcases? Or would he be the seventh coach out the door since Felix Magath led the Royal Blues to the runners up spot in 2010?
While the club have enjoyed too many false dawns to get carried away, Tedesco's side sit in fourth, level on points with great rivals Borussia Dortmund, who they play next weekend, and on a run of 10 points from four games. While he has yet to introduce a style as eye-catching as his former classmate Nagelsmann, the Italian-born coach has made Schalke a tougher proposition than they've been for some time.
Building from the back
"Defense in football is extremely important," he said ahead of Sunday's match with Hamburg. "If we concede few goals then we are also very hard to beat."
His words, and actions in letting Benedikt Höwedes leave on loan, have been borne out. Schalke have the division's second best defensive record, have kept four clean sheets and conceded more than one goal against only Bayern Munich and Nagelsmann's team. All this while integrating young talents like Weston McKennie and Amine Harit.
But Tedesco has also managed to get the best out of some of Schalke's more established assests, with top scorer Leon Goretzka and Max Meyer both starting to fulfil their potential. Unfortunately for the Gelsenkirchen club, both players are also out of contract at the end of the season and may follow the likes of Julian Draxler, Leroy Sane and Mesut Özil out of the door come the summer. But, like his bosses, Tedesco thinks the club may be able to hold on to this time.
"I do not think that we are without a chance (in keeping them)," he said. "We have a lot to offer. Schalke is a great club."
Same old story for Hamburg
The same could once have been said of Hamburg, one of Germany's biggest and most successful clubs now seemingly doomed to yearly relegation battles and consistent crises.
This season has been no different. In September, the club's major financial benefactor Klaus-Michael Kühne announced his intentions to suspend his investment, while on the pitch their 3-1 home win over Stuttgart last time out was their first three points since August, when they won their two opening fixtures. That was also the last time they picked up so much as a point away from home, against still-winless Cologne.
But there has been one bright spot in recent weeks with the emergence of 17-year-old Jann-Fiete Arp, who became the first Bundesliga scorer born in the 21st century when he came off the bench to notch in a 2-1 defeat to Hertha Berlin at the end of October. He repeated the trick on his first start in the Stuttgart game.
"The boy has something," said Horst Hrubesch, one of the club's favorite son's. "Actually, he has everything. Rarely can you see a player who can produce goals out of nothing like him. I believe that he can pave the way for Hamburg."
Both clubs have a lot of hope resting on young shoulders.
Elsewhere on matchday 12
- Borussia Dortmund kick off the weekend at Stuttgart but will be without striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has been suspended by the club for disciplinary reasons.
- Bayern Munich seek to continue their perfect record since Jupp Heynckes' return when they host local rivals Augsburg. Bayern have only lost to their Bavarian neighbours once in their history.
- Martin Schmidt looks to break his run of seven successive Bundesliga draws since taking over Wolfsburg when his side host Freiburg on Saturday. They'll rarely get a better opportunity - Freiburg have only picked up a single point on the road this season.
Matchday 12 fixtures
Stuttgart vs. Dortmund (Friday, 20:30 CET)
Bayer Leverkusen vs. RB Leipzig (Saturday 15:30)
Bayern Munich vs. Augsburg
Hoffenheim vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
Mainz vs. Cologne
Wolfsburg vs. Freiburg
Hertha Berlin vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach (Saturday 18:30)
Schalke vs. Hamburg (Sunday, 15:30)
Werder Bremen vs. Hannover (Sunday 18:00)