BERLIN, Germany, Sep 28 – Leaders Bayern Munich play Hertha Berlin on Friday night, but their main Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund and Werder Bremen, both just two points behind in the table, are also gaining momentum.
Here are five things to look for in the German league this weekend:
Dortmund’s ‘weapon’ Sancho
English teenager Jadon Sancho has been dubbed Borussia Dortmund’s ‘weapon off the bench’ before their trip to mid-table Bayer Leverkusen.
Second-placed Dortmund are blooming with youngsters Achraf Hakimi, 19, Jacob Bruun Larsen, 20, and Sancho, 18, all scoring in the 7-0 thrashing of Nuremberg on Wednesday, Dortmund’s highest league win for 32 years.
Sancho, an England Under-19 international, was outstanding with a goal, then set up Julian Weigl in his 16 minutes off the bench.
“It’s incredibly important that he comes off the bench and does so well every time,” said Dortmund captain Marco Reus, who scored twice.
“When our opponents ease off a little and Jadon comes into the game, then he’s a weapon for us every single time.”
After several seasons battling relegation, Werder Bremen are on the rise under 35-year-old head coach Florian Kohfeldt and with Everton reject Davy Klaassen as their chief playmaker.
Along with Bayern and Dortmund, third-placed Bremen are the only other team unbeaten in the Bundesliga and expect three points at Stuttgart on Saturday.
After their impressive 3-1 midweek win over Hertha, Bremen director Frank Baumann rejected the tag of “Bayern hunters” bestowed upon them by Berlin coach Pal Dardai.
“That’s rubbish. Maybe many people in Germany would like someone to annoy Bayern, but that’s not our focus,” said Baumann.
“We won’t let ourselves be dazzled by 11 points.”
Nagelsmann faces future club
Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann insists Saturday’s home match will be “normal like any other” against his future club RB Leipzig, who he joins next season.
“I’m determined to get the three points on Saturday,” insisted Nagelsmann.
Despite facing his future employers, Nagelsmann wants a win before Tuesday’s Champions League clash against Manchester City, who want to bounce back after their shock home defeat to Lyon a fortnight ago
New Brazilian striker Joelinton scored his first goal in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Dortmund and set another up in Tuesday’s 3-1 win at Hanover.
England Under-19 international Reiss Nelson, on loan from Arsenal who scored on his debut off the bench in the 2-1 defeat at Fortuna Duesseldorf, should keep his place after playing the second-half against Hanover.
Schalke’s losing streak
After five straight defeats, bottom side Schalke are desperate for points at mid-table Mainz with head coach Domenico Tedesco under increasing pressure.
US international Weston McKennie is back in team training, despite a thigh injury in last Saturday’s home defeat against Bayern.
Veteran defender Naldo is expected to return after being rested for the midweek defeat to Freiburg along with midfielder Sebastian Rudy and striker Mark Uth.
Tedesco needs a confident booster for Wednesday’s Champions League trip to Lokomotiv Moscow after drawing their first game 1-1 at home to Porto.
Hazard in hot form
Thorgan Hazard, brother of Chelsea star Eden, is in hot form for fourth-placed Moenchengladbach as they look to break their winless streak at Wolfsburg.
After starting the season with two victories, Wolfsburg are winless in their last three games, but have not lost at home to Gladbach in 15 years.
‘Gladbach bounced back from Saturday’s defeat at Hertha with a thumping win over Eintracht Frankfurt, which lifted them to fourth while Wolfsburg are sixth.
Hazard scored and set up Nico Elvedi’s header in the 3-1 midweek win over Frankfurt.
Striker Alassane Plea, who has six goals and an assist in six competitive appearances since joining from Nice, is set to partner Hazard with captain Lars Stindl and Raffael injured.
Fixtures (all times 4:30pm unless stated)
Hertha Berlin v Bayern Munich (9:30pm)
Hoffenheim v RB Leipzig, VfL Wolfsburg v Borussia Moenchengladbach, Nuremberg v Fortuna Duesseldorf, Schalke 04 v Mainz 05, VfB Stuttgart v Werder Bremen, Bayer Leverkusen v Borussia Dortmund (7:30pm)
Eintracht Frankfurt v Hanover 96, Augsburg v Freiburg (7pm)