The Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho connection, players adapting to the new normal and why the match of the week may NOT be Dortmund’s derby with Schalke… 10 THINGS to look out for when the Bundesliga returns this weekend
- The Bundesliga is back as starved football fans finally get to watch some action
- It all restarts on Saturday with Dortmund hosting arch-rivals Schalke in the derby
- Title rivals Bayern Munich travel to minnows Union Berlin on Sunday afternoon
- Here, Sportsmail picks out 10 things to look out for when football finally returns
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Finally, we have some football on our TV screens again!
The Bundesliga is back this weekend and promises to fill the giant sporting void in our lives during the current coronavirus crisis.
Action returns with a barnstorming Revierderby on Saturday afternoon as Borussia Dortmund and Jadon Sancho welcome arch-rivals Schalke to the Westfalenstadion while Bayern Munich travel to take on plucky underdogs Union Berlin on Sunday.
All nine games will be broadcast on BT Sport as the sporting calendar takes its first steps to normalisation. With a set of interesting fixtures lined up, Sportsmail gives you some of the things to keep an eye out for.
Football is back this weekend as the Bundesliga prepares to return with a full set of fixtures
The Haaland and Sancho connection
Apart from Liverpool’s blockbuster front three, there is probably no attacking line-up more exciting in world football than these two at Dortmund.
Since Dortmund won the race to sign Erling Haaland in January he has scored nine goals in eight Bundesliga appearances, taking his ridiculous tally for the entire campaign to 40 goals in 33 appearances.
Sancho’s output in front of goal has also been ridiculous this season. He has 14 goals and 15 assists in 23 Bundesliga matches and they were combining effortlessly before the season was halted.
Their relationship will face a test in the derby against Schalke on Saturday with Haaland yet to play against Dortmund’s bitter rivals. Sancho, though, netted the winner in the away fixture last season.
Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland were in devastating form for Dortmund before the shut down
The new ‘normal’
Bundesliga football will look very different this weekend as it adapts to the new normal. There have been a very strict set of instructions sent out to players, managers and clubs to follow if matches are to be played out safely.
This week, teams have been in quarantine camps where the ideal scenario was for clubs to have either entire hotels or floors to themselves.
If that has not been possible, squads have had to use their own entrances, lifts and team meeting rooms to avoid contact with other visitors is advised.
Teams have to use multiple buses with enough space for players to sit at least 1.5 metres apart on their way to stadiums. Players and staff must wear masks on arrival. Home players are allowed to travel in their own cars but car sharing is forbidden.
Players are going to have to adapt to the new rules put in place to get the season back on
Players are limited to a maximum of 40-minute stints in dressing rooms, where they must keep masks on.
On the field, everyone bar the active players and officials has to wear a face mask, although managers can lower theirs to shout instructions.
Balls will also be disinfected before and during the game and players have to use personalised, disposable bottles. Substitutes must sit at least one seat apart, or in the stands if the benches are too small.
Players can no longer celebrate in groups, high-five or embrace, and they have also been asked not to spit, other than when re-hydrating.
The derby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke will be played in front of empty seats
Plenty of British interest
In recent seasons we have seen increasing amounts of under-valued English players head to Germany to kickstart their careers.
Sancho is the obvious example but more and more are taking the plunge. This season there are a number of talented youngsters plying their trade in Germany.
Chelsea’s Ethan Ampadu is on loan at RB Leipzig under the tutelage of Julian Nagelsmann, while Wales’ Rabbi Matondo is enjoying a breakthrough season with Schalke.
Ademola Lookman ditched Everton permanently last summer and signed with RB Leipzig after a promising loan spell there in 2017-18.
Former West Ham prodigy Reece Oxford represents struggling Augsburg and Jonjoe Kenny, on loan from Goodison Park, will have the tough task of handling Sancho for Schalke this weekend.
Welshman Rabbi Matondo has enjoyed his breakthrough season at Schalke at just 19 years old
Lewandowski vs Werner
Everybody wants to see goals and these two are the best in the business in that department in Germany. They sit at the top of the Bundesliga scoring charts with Lewandowski (25) just ahead of Werner (21).
The Pole had an outrageous start to the season, becoming the first player in the league’s history to hit double figures after six games, and he also netted in each of the club’s first 11 top-flight games.
Werner has been just as impressive, firing RB Leipzig into title contention. Amid the constant links to Liverpool, Manchester United and even Bayern themselves, Werner has terrorised defences with his searing pace and precise finishing.
Bayern, Dortmund and Leipzig are all in the hunt for the title but the battle for the Golden Boot promises to be just as fascinating.
Robert Lewandowski (left) and Timo Werner (right) are leading the race for the Golden Boot
Frankfurt vs Borussia Monchengladbach
Aside from Schalke’s trip to Dortmund, this well could be the match of the weekend.
Despite not having the star names of their rivals, Frankfurt are always capable of upsetting the odds with the energetic brand of football played by Adi Hutter’s side.
They took Chelsea to penalties in last season’s Europa League semi-finals before losing at Stamford Bridge. Frankfurt also beat Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium earlier in the season.
Impressive form last season led to a huge transformation in attack after they lost Luka Jovic to Real Madrid, Ante Rebic on loan to AC Milan and Sebastien Haller, who was a big loss despite his woeful form for West Ham.
Frankfurt smashed Bayern Munich earlier in the season and have the ability to cause an upset
Monchengladbach were top earlier on in the season but their recent form has seen them drift
They have not been quite as good this season and sit 12th but they did dismantle Bayern 5-1 in November. Keep an eye out for Serbian winger Filip Kostic, he’s their star man now.
Monchengladbach, meanwhile, are flourishing under manager Marco Rose after his arrival from Red Bull Salzburg in the summer.
The offensive trio of Marcus Thuram (Lillian’s son), Alassane Plea and Breel Embolo had them leading the Bundesliga in the early stages of the season before a slight drop off in form.
They also have Denis Zakaria, a player tracked by Liverpool and Manchester United, and the impressive German midfielder Florian Neuhaus. World Cup winner Matthias Ginter is at the heart of their defence, too.
OPENING WEEKEND TV SCHEDULE
May 16- Borussia Dortmund v Schalke, 2pm, BT Sport 1
May 16 – RB Leipzig v Freiburg, 2pm, BT Sport 2
May 16 – Hoffenheim v Hertha Berlin, 2pm, BT Sport 3
May 16 – Augsburg v Wolfsburg, 2.30pm, BT Sport Extra 1
May 16 – Fortuna Dusseldorf v Paderborn, 2.30pm, BT Sport Extra 2
May 16 – Bundesliga – Goals Show – Matchday 26, 2.30pm, BT Sport Extra 3
May 16 – Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Monchengladbach, 4.45pm, BT Sport 1 & 5.15pm, BT Sport Ultimate
May 17 – Cologne v Mainz, 2.15pm, BT Sport 1
May 17 – Union Berlin v Bayern Munich, 4.45pm, BT Sport 1
May 18 – Werder Bremen v Bayer Leverkusen, 7.15pm, BT Sport 1
A whole new viewing experience
It will be tough to get used to at first.
We have all watched matches play out in front of sparse attendances but the matches played behind closed doors before football was shut down was bizarre.
The echoing of the players’ cries for fouls will become the new normal and TV companies are going to have to adapt to bring viewers a product that still has plenty of excitement, despite the flat atmosphere.
For British viewers BT Sport will have the first go at broadcasting football with its new backdrop.
The main fixtures will be analysed by a live punditry team, starting from 2pm on Saturday with James Richardson and Raphael Honigstein in the studio, joined by former Bayern midfielder Owen Hargreaves remotely from his home.
On Sunday, coverage from the studio will begin at 2.15pm, led by Lynsey Hipgrave and Honigstein from the studio, with Hargreaves from home.
Alongside the live games will be the Bundesliga Goals Show, which will bring viewers all of the action and all of the goals as they happen, from every single Saturday Bundesliga game, live.
The Goals Show has been a success story of BT’s Champions League coverage.
BT Sport is the home of Bundesliga action and will show every game for the rest of the season
Hennes still at home
Due to the strict guidelines that have been put in place in order for the Bundesliga to return, some of the club’s mascots will not be able to attend matches.
Perhaps the most famous of them all is Cologne’s goat, Hennes IX, who will not be in attendance when they take on Mainz on Sunday at the RheinEnergieStadion.
It will be Cologne’s first match without their mascot since 2008 and Hennes will be joined on the sideline by Frankfurt’s, Attila the eagle.
Attila normally flies around Frankfurt’s 51,000-seater Commerzbank Stadium before home games and helps to whip the crowd into a frenzy but that won’t be happening this weekend when they host Monchengladbach.
Cologne will be without their famous goat mascot, Hennes, when they play Mainz on Sunday
Young stars in the making
The coming weeks will give Premier League fans a flavour of some of the players being linked with summer moves to their club.
Nobody is more in demand than Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz with Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Chelsea all interested in the 20-year-old No 10.
He has 10 goals and eight assists so far this season, a little short on his numbers from last campaign when he scored 20 goals from midfield.
Kai Havertz is arguably the pick of the bunch when it comes to the Bundesliga’s youngsters
There is also Bayern’s flying full-back Alphonso Davies who tore up Chelsea’s defence in their Champions League win at Stamford Bridge earlier this year.
Lethal going forward and equally adept in his defensive duties, the Canadian could make Manchester United regret not signing him when he was about to leave the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Elsewhere, there is American starlet Josh Sargent at Werder Bremen, Leverkusen’s January arrival Exequiel Palacios and RB Leipzig midfielder Christopher Nkunku.
A relegation battle humdinger
Saturday afternoon brings us a huge match at the wrong end of the table as basement boys Paderborn travel to take on Fortuna Dusseldorf.
It was always going to be tough for Paderborn to stay in the top flight after winning promotion last season and that has proven to be the case.
Paderborn resume the season bottom with 16 points from 25 games. They are six points off Dusseldorf, who currently occupy the relegation play-off spot and 10 points behind Mainz who are safe as it stands.
Paderborn have to take three points if they are to have any hope of surviving while Dusseldorf could kill off one of their relegation rivals if they get across the line.
Basement boys Paderborn travel to Fortuna Dusseldorf in a huge match at the bottom
David and Goliath
There would not be a bigger mismatch in any of Europe’s top five leagues if they were all up and running than Union Berlin against Bayern Munich.
Union are as traditional as they come. The Stadion An der Alten Forsterei holds 22,000 but 18,000 of that is terracing, for example. Unfortunately it will be empty when Bayern show up.
Many predicted their arrival to the Bundesliga would not last long but, currently sat in 11th place, they look likely to still be there next season. It will delight their fans, who once gave blood to save the club from bankruptcy.
Union Berlin restart their season with the toughest task, playing host to Bayern on Sunday
It is a far cry from the might of Bayern, who roll up on Sunday looking to claim their eighth consecutive league title.
It seemed for a while Bayern would be too far off the pace, given the underwhelming start they made under Niko Kovac. The Croatian was sacked and in came Hansi Flick, who has now been named the club’s new permanent manager.
With Flick, Davies and Thomas Muller all given new contracts during the shut down and Miroslav Klose brought in to coach the first team, Bayern are in a good place and on track to win the title again. Given how they were playing before the shutdown, you would not bet against them in the Champions League if it were to conclude.
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