FRANKFURT, Germany — The vanishing spray used by referees in free kick situations is making its debut in the Bundesliga this weekend despite a recent study that called it potentially unsafe.
Dortmund visits Cologne, while Schalke hosts Hertha Berlin under a new coach and second-place Hoffenheim visits Hamburg.
Here are some things to know about the weekend matches in the Bundesliga:
VANISHING SPRAY HERE TO STAY
A recent study commissioned by one of Germany's newspapers recently showed — rather vaguely — that vanishing spray could potentially be a health hazard and that it was not properly labeled. However, a technical inspection agency, which incidentally sponsors Germany's referees, found nothing wrong with the spray and certified the product made in Argentina that was used at the World Cup in Brazil.
The German Football Federation (DFB) is introducing the spray at the urging of the clubs, although the referees themselves were skeptical about its benefits. It is used to keep the wall at the proper distance from the ball at free kicks.
"The spray is nothing revolutionary, it is not going to change football," said Lutz Michael Froehlich, chief of the refereeing section of the DFB. "If a can malfunctions, the match will not be interrupted. But it could lead to calming the situation in the penalty area during free-kick situations."
DORTMUND'S FRESH START
Seven matches into the season, Borussia Dortmund finds itself only in 13th place and, more importantly, already 10 points behind leader Bayern Munich.
Dortmund has lost three of its last four, with one draw. Now, after the break, Dortmund is hoping to resurrect its campaign.
"We've sworn to each other that this will be a restart now," defender Kevin Grosskreutz said. "We want to show our real football again. We haven't played well until now."
The reason for Dortmund's optimism is the return of three stars from injuries. Forward Marco Reus, midfielder Henrikh Mkhitayran and midfielder Ilkay Gundogan are available again. Gundogan, one of Bundesliga's best midfielders, has not played in 14 months because of back problems.
SCHALKE'S NEW COACH
Schalke is also hoping for a fresh start under new coach Roberto Di Matteo. Di Matteo, who won the Champions League title in 2012 when Chelsea beats Bayern on penalties in the final in Munich, was hired during the international break after the firing of Jens Keller.
Schalke is off to a shaky start and is only 11th in the 18-team league. It beat great rival Dortmund but then lost to Hoffenheim. The inconsistency cost Keller his job.
Captain Benedikt Hoewedes has praised Di Matteo.
"He gives clear instructions, has clear ideas and a clear system he wants to use," he said.
Werder Bremen and Freiburg are still without victories. It would be a major surprise if Bremen notched its first in Munich, but Freiburg has a better chance at home against Wolfsburg.
Bremen, which played in the Champions League five straight seasons starting in 2004, has fallen on hard times. But a recent fresh injection of cash by its chief sponsor could help the team overcome its slump.
Former star and Germany international Marco Bode will take over before the end of the year as president of the supervisory board from Willi Lemke. Bode's promotion is expected to draw more local sponsors to the club.
Bayern Munich's director of sport Matthias Sammer says the club is "shocked and sad" over the new injury sustained by midfielder Thiago Alacantara.
Just days after returning from a long-term injury break, Thiago requires another operation after reinjuring the ligaments in his right knee.
"Thiago was so close to his comeback after a long time," Sammer said. "But he should know that the entire club is there for him. We'll do everything that he recovers and wins many titles with us."
Thiago partially tore the ligaments in practice on Tuesday. The Spaniard returned to team practice last week, and faces another lengthy recovery. He probably won't play until March.
He was injured in March and returned to training in May, only to suffer a setback and required surgery on his right knee that ruled him out of the World Cup.
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