Fortuna Düsseldorf 4.50, the draw 3.55, Schalke 04 1.75
Boos greeted Schalke’s 3-0 win over Mainz in midweek; a Huub Stevens side is never stylish, even when they’re winning comfortably. A nervousness has crept into their game after the sobering defeat by Bayern but even a below par Schalke have too much for most Bundesliga sides. One or two players (Jones, Neustädter) are doubts but Stevens should be able to field his first choice side again at the home of Norbert Meier’s Unbreachables. New boys Düsseldorf are yet to concede a goal this season, but chances are they will on Friday night. Schalke should edge a fairly unsightly game that the home side will disrupt as much as possible in midfield.
Bayer Leverkusen 1.50, the draw 3.90, Greuther Fürth 6.60
The 3-1 win over Augsburg brought much-needed relief to Sami Hyypiä's side; Leverkusen have begun to believe in their own abilities again. Chelsea target André Schürrle, in particular, seems to be getting to his best. Another good performance will be needed from him at the Bay-Arena since there’s no one else of his calibre in the squad. For Fürth, though, it’s been a miserable few weeks. "Some of us are playing as if we’ve been promoted accidentally," said the increasingly unnerved coach Mike Büskens. The Clovers are yet to register a single point (or goal) at home but can at least take some heart from the fact that their counter-attacking style is better suited for away games. Leverkusen will struggle to find a way through initially, but should overcome their resistance.
TSG Hoffenheim 1.72, the draw 3.55, FC Augsburg 4.75
Hoffenheim are a bit of mystery. They were incredibly bad in the first few games of the season but have shown considerable improvement recently, beating an even sorrier Stuttgart side 3-0 away on Wednesday night. Markus Babbel’s side are still without keeper Tim Wiese, but that seems to have worked out well for them: the defence looks a lot more settled without the tanning studio regular between the sticks. While the home side are without any further serious injury worries, Augsburg continue to suffer in the absence of key players Koo and Mölders. One measly point from five games doesn’t bode well for them in their second season in the top flight. Another heavy defeat here, and coach Markus Weinzierl will soon come under pressure.
FC Nürnberg 2.20, the draw 3.40, VfB Stuttgart 3.10
"Bruno’s shooting gallery" was Bild’s take on the shambolic performance at the Mercedes Benz Arena on Wednesday. The Swabians will be better for Martin Harnik’s return to the side and boast much more individual quality than their opponents. Dieter Hecking’s side will be seen as slight favourites nevertheless. A 4-1 defeat at Hannover should not detract from an excellent start in this campaign; Nürnberg are one of the few sides who are bigger than the sum of their individual parts. They can’t afford to make silly mistakes, however: without the pressure of their home fans on their backs, VfB will look to exploit any weaknes at the back. This one could go either way. The only certainty is plenty of goals.
Werder Bremen 6.00, the draw 3.85, Bayern Munich 1.55
For once, Werder played badly and won, rather than the other way round. The new, rejigged Bremen feel that they’ve finally arrived after beating Freiburg away in midweek. Going forward, they’re perhaps the third most impressive side behind Bayern and Dortmund but their 4-1-4-1 system puts huge pressure on the sole holding midfielder Junuzovic. "We don’t have to be more defensive but we need to learn from our mistakes," demanded sporting director Klaus Allofs. Will manager Thomas Schaaf ever find the right balance, however?
Bayern will come under early pressure but should find plenty of space between the lines to bring their passing game to bear. Things have been going so well that Jupp Heynckes has been able to rotate at will. In the Weserstadion, Claudio Pizarro is expected to start against his former team. And he might just score a couple of goals, too.
Hamburger SV 2.25, the draw 3.40, Hannover 96 3.00
A full-blooded northern derby awaits in the Volksparkstadion (Imtech Arena). Hamburg were frustrated by their inability to close the deal in the 2-2 away draw at Gladbach but the match also showed that a corner might have been finally turned. Rafael van der Vaart has been nothing short of inspirational since his return, carrying his side on his own at times. They remain vulnerable at the back and quite lightweight at the top, however, so Hannover should not be opposed here.
Mirko Slomka’s men recovered well from their own mini-slump, beating Nürnberg 4-1. Cult central midfielder Leon Andreasen will be out for quite a while with a ruptured cruciate ligament after getting stuck in the grass. Coldplay, so the story goes, are to blame after staging a concert at the AWD Arena. Everyone else is on board, however. The value will be an away win here.
Borussia Dortmund 1.38, the draw 4.25, Borussia Mönchengladbach 8.00
What’s happened to the champions' defence? Six goals conceded in one week mark the worst spell under Jürgen Klopp’s reign and no one seems to know what’s going on. Is it a basic lack of concentration or a more fundamental problem, reflecting an inability to play their high-tempo pressing game to perfection twice a week? One thing’s clear: Dortmund can’t afford to drop points at this rate because Champions League qualification is a must. The other Borussia continue to miss Marco Reus’ ideas and movement up front. Lucien Favre’s counter-attacking style functions a lot less without that element of pace. It’s not inconceivable that the Foals will hold the Black and Yellows here but Dortmund should win.
Eintracht Frankfurt 1.80, the draw 3.50, SC Freiburg 4.30
The Eagles were simply sensational going forward in the 3-3 draw with Dortmund. Can they soar to similar heights in a game against much more modest and reactive opposition? Armin Veh has everyone who’s anyone available and the mood couldn’t be better. It’ll be interesting to see whether this autumn’s surprise package can create the same number of opportunities against Christian Streich’s deep-lying team. There’s a lack of confidence in Freiburg’s dressing room but there’s no reason they shouldn’t trouble the home side occasionally - it was widely overlooked that Frankfurt’s defending was pretty poor against the champions. Take the draw for value.
VfL Wolfsburg 2.25, the draw 3.40, Mainz 05 3.00
Felix Magath has reacted to recent limp showings in the only way he can: the training intensity has been ramped up to Full Metal Jacket levels. All his talk about "lack of fight" and "laziness" inside the team is a smoke screen though: Wolfsburg lack any coherent game plan beyond "pass it to Diego". There’s no width in the side and no guile whatsoever if the Brazilian playmaker is closely marked by the opposition. One could expect Thomas Tuchel to win the tactical battle hands-down. The only concern for the away team are the number of individual mistakes at the back. Wolfsburg will probably score here but Mainz can get a draw and quite possibly more due to their superior match plan.