Berlin: European champions Bayern Munich face a test of their strength in depth with a flurry of fixtures, starting on Saturday in the Bundesliga as the defending Bundesliga champions attempt to bounce back from an uncharacteristic dip in form before the international break.
The Bavarian giants have questions to answer on Saturday at newly promoted Arminia Bielefeld in the second of a tough run of eight games in just over three weeks.
Six points from their opening three league games this season is below-par by Bayern’s standards and they are fourth in the table.
“We have to find our rhythm,” said Bayern sports director Hasan Salihamidzic. “The calendar is full of games, it won’t be easy, but I believe the squad is well set up.”
Bayern made four new signings before the transfer window shut, recruiting Marseille right-back Bouna Sarr, striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Espanyol midfielder Marc Roca and Brazil winger Douglas Costa.
The quartet all have a chance of featuring at Bielefeld with several Bayern stars just back from international duty, including Robert Lewandowski, who picked up a leg knock playing for Poland.
Having already won Bundesliga titles with Bayern in 2015/16 and 2016/17, Costa has returned from Juventus to rival Leroy Sane, Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman for a place on the wing.
Bayern’s depth will be tested by an intense three-week period. They visited amateurs Dueren in the German Cup on Thursday evening, but the competition quickly becomes more intense, including the start of their Champions League defence at home to Atletico Madrid next Wednesday.
Bayern then face Eintracht Frankfurt (October 24), Lokomotiv in Moscow (27), Cologne (31), Red Bull Salzburg (November 3) and Borussia Dortmund (November 7) in quick succession.
Bayern needed four Lewandowski goals - including an added-time penalty - to see off Hertha Berlin 4-3 in their last league game nearly a fortnight ago.
Hansi Flick’s Bayern side threw away a two-goal lead against Hertha, a week after their record 23-match winning run was shattered by a shock 4-1 defeat at Hoffenheim.
After an 11-year hiatus, Bielefeld are back in the Bundesliga with four points from their first three games.
They made a bit of Bundesliga history when replacement Joan Simun Edmundsson scored their winner against Cologne at the end of September.
The midfielder became the first player from the Faroe Islands to play in Germany’s top flight.
Bielefeld’s last win over Bayern was back in September 2006 when Salihamidzic and Oliver Kahn, now a board member, were in the Munich team which lost 2-1.
Hoffenheim v Borussia Dortmund, 5.30pm
Freiburg v Werder Bremen, 5.30pm
Hertha Berlin v Stuttgart, 5.30pm
Mainz v Bayer Leverkusen, 5.30pm
Augsburg v RB Leipzig, 5.30pm
Arminia Bielefeld v Bayern Munich, 8.30pm
Borussia Moenchengladbach V Wolfsburg, 10.30pm
Cologne v Eintracht Frankfurt, 5.30pm
Schalke v Union Berlin, 8pm