Some incredible story lines continued to play out in Germany this weekend as (arguably) Europe's most competitive league saw title holders Bayern Munich continue their worst start in club history, while last years 9th place finisher Mainz stayed perfect with a commanding 4-2 win over Hoffenheim at home.
Surely the saga that's gripped Bundesliga fans the most over the course of the last seven weeks has been the form of Mainz who now hold a three point lead over Borussia Dortmund at the top of the table. Having now matched the record for the best start to a campaign in Bundesliga history, Mainz enter the international break on a flier after receiving goals from Sami Allagui, Adam Szalai, Lewis Holtby and Andre Schurrle.
Many involved in the Bundesliga are asking, 'will they (Mainz) pull a Hoffenheim '08?', referring to the brilliant start Hoffenheim produced in 2008 only to fizzle out and finish seventh after injuries plagued the squad. Time will of course tell whether or not Mainz can continue this form while it's always clear that the league table at the end of the season rarely lies.
Interestingly enough, the current Mainz squad of nineteen boasts seventeen Germans and two Americans. Odd stats for a European club team in this day in age.
What Mainz have perfected, Munich have forgotten.
Nothing seems to be going Munich's way as they've now lost three in seven and even now, in a shocking turn of events, the annual trip to Munich's Oktoberfest has been canceled by the board as extra training sessions will occupy the upcoming break (I'd personally be crushed). Bayern now trail Mainz by 13 points heading into the international break as they look to right the ship at least until star players Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery return from injury.
Still, Munich are a side largely unchanged from last season's Champions League Final appearance and Bundesliga winning side. Current personnel boast more than enough quality in all eleven positions to reflect something higher than 12th in the table. It'll be up to manager Louis van Gaal and his staff to get better performances out of the players they have fit right now.
Sunday's 0-2 away loss to Dortmund shouldn't be reason for major panic though. Dortmund did quite well in handling the early game pressure Munich were throwing at them. Munich created enough quality chances in the opening 20 minutes only to basically shut down and fall back to defend for large portions of the match. Lucas Barrios opened the scoring for Dortmund seven minutes after the restart before Nuri Sahin doubled Dortmund's lead with a stunning free kick in the 60th. Truly majestic.
Bayern aren't the only big name Bundesliga side suffering early season woes. Schalke stayed 17th with a 1-2 defeat away to Nurnberg. Felix Magath's men, yet to hit form, played a large portion of the match with ten men when Jermaine Jones was sent off in the 53rd for a second bookable offense. After going down to a Mike Frantz score soon after the sending off, Schalke equalized through Klaas Jan Huntelaar before Nurnberg captain Andreas Wolf grabbed the winner.
Former England boss Steve McClaren continued his up-down start to his first Bundesliga season with Wolfsburg away to Borussia Monchengladbach. Die Wolfe were actually on their way to a fourth consecutive victory before a Thorben Marx equalizer canceled out Thomas Kahlenburg's opener.
In other Bundesliga matches:
- Hamburg showed some guts at home to avoid losing their fourth straight by overcoming a one goal defect on Saturday v Kaiserslautern. Hamburg jumped to seventh with the win thanks to goals from Gojko Kacar and Maxim Choupo-Moting.
- Bottom of the table Stuttgart continue to prop themselves up in 18th having now won only once in seven outings while they remain unbeaten in Europe. Eintracht Frankfurt were the most recent victors over Stuttgart with goals coming from the fun to pronounce Theofanis Gekas and Chris before the equally fun to pronounce Pavel Pogrebnyak pulled one back before the eventual defeat.
- Bayer Leverkusen and Werder Bremen, Bundesliga representatives of the Europa League and Champions League respectively, shared a point in an entertaining 2-2 draw. Leverkusen are now unbeaten in five, currently in fourth and nine points behind leaders Mainz. Bremen's Marko Marin remains one of the Bundesliga's best up and coming players. His creativity, pace and skill make the youngster one of the league's most exciting.
- St Pauli beat third place Hannover 1-0, while a back and forth contest between Freiburg and Cologne ended 3-2 in favor of Freiburg in front of their home crowd.