The Bundesliga season got back underway with a bang on Friday, as a 4-goal thriller in Leverkusen saw Bayern roll to a 3-1 win. A youthful Leverkusen team came out firing, with their pacy 3-4-3 formation yielding many counterattacking chances. However, Javi Martinez scored for Bayern off of sloppy defending in the box, and Franck Ribery added a trademark curled finish at the start of the second half. Kevin Volland pulled one back for the home side with a good finish in the 72nd minute, but a magnificent free kick from James Rodriguez sealed the three points for Bayern, who sit comfortably atop the Bundesliga table.
A pair of 1-1 draws opened up the Saturday fixtures, with Serge Gnabry assisting Benjamin Hübner for the opening salvo for TSG Hoffenheim. However, Czech right-back Theodor Gebre Selassie equalized for Bremen off an assist from youngster Maximilian Eggestein to secure a point for both sides, which given the relatively even gameplay was probably a fair result. Ex-Utrecht talisman Sebastian Haller got Eintracht Frankfurt off to a good start at the Commerzbank Arena, but 21-year old Robin Koch scored in just his 9th Bundesliga start of his career to even the score. Meanwhile, Augsburg are just three points off the top four, as they took a 1-0 victory over relegation favorites Hamburg. Augsburg have been boosted by the performance of stellar left-back Philippe Max, who has a league-leading 9 Bundesliga assists. Ex RasenBallsport Leipzig man Rani Khedira has been looking like his older brother of late, with Khedira winning the majority of his duels on Saturday.
A hat-trick for Hannover’s Niclas Füllkrug took him up to 9 league goals, as he scored three unanswered goals to lead their comeback against Mainz 05. It is interesting to note that the trend of playing three at the back has well and truly spread, as both of these teams (and the Bundesliga as a whole) have well-established histories of playing with four-defender formations.
A team that does play with a concrete 4-4-2 system is that of upstart title contenders RasenBallsport Leipzig. Despite faltering in their previous games before the break, die Roten Bullen stormed out against Schalke. Ralph Hasenhuttl made the bold choice of playing Marcel Sabitzer at striker in his first game after a long injury layoff, and it certainly paid off; the attacking duo of Sabitzer and Jean-Kevin Augustin worked well and even won a penalty (which was subsequently saved). While Schalke had many more chances in the first half, the deadlock was broken by a deflected Naby Keïta strike at the close of the first half. However, experienced defender Naldo equalized for the visitors off of a corner kick in the 55th minute. Marko Pjaca made his debut for Schalke, but he did not contribute in the way he would have hoped as Timo Werner and Bruma scored a three-minute double salvo to secure the three points for Leipzig.
In a meeting of two mid-table teams in poor form, Hertha faced VfB Stuttgart at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. Perhaps fittingly, the only goal scored was an own goal from Hertha’s Niklas Stark, handing the three points to the home side.
In the Sunday fixtures, Dortmund continued to stumble. With a surprising starting lineup featuring young Englishman Jadon Sancho and wunderkind Alexander Isak, Dortmund got dominated from the offset by Wolfsburg. However, both teams could only really threaten from long range. With news that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could be set for a move to Arsenal (at least it’s not Bayern this time!), Dortmund must look to bring in a replacement for their prolific talisman.
Köln started off 2018 with a desperately needed win against Borussia Monchengladbach, capitalizing on a 90th minute winner from Sebastian Terodde to put them on 9 points. They sit 8 points below safety, but with half the season to play for, they are by no means in the 2. Bundesliga yet. For Monchengladbach, they fall to sixth, with plenty to play for in the upcoming games.