Join us for a look at what we learned from Bundesliga action on MatchDay 21. Again the Bundesliga Fanatic will feature observations from different perspectives.
MatchDay 21 was a strange one in the Bundesliga. Always one of the top two European leagues in goals scored (along with the Eredivisie), fans witnessed two scoreless draws including the high-scoring league leaders, Borussia Dortmund, shutting out and being shut out by rivals FC Schalke 04 in the Ruhr district derby. SC Freiburg and Eintracht Frankfurt also played to a scoreless draw Sunday, despite the presence of the Bundesliga’s top two goal-scorers behind Mario Gomez, Papiss Demba Cisse of Freiburg and Frankfurt’s Theofanis Gekas.
MatchDay 21 also provided us with the spectacle of two teams, Bayern Munich and Borussia Monchengladbach, losing to relegation zone clubs FC Koln and Vfb Stuttgart after building 2-0 halftime leads. Bayer Leverkusen, with the perfect chance to gain ground on Borussia Dortmund in the title race, stubbed its toe against 10-man 1. FC Nurnberg and lost 1-0, while Mainz also lost the opportunity to solidify its chances for European competition next season by allowing a late goal to Werder Bremen to share the points. Hoffenheim got its second consecutive win for new coach Marco Pezzaiuoli over Kaiserslautern, while Hannover added to its team-record victory total at this point in the season with a 1-0 victory over VfL Wolfsburg. What did we learn from this strange weekend?
Can 1899 Hoffenheim Continue Winning?
It has certainly been a bitter winter for Hoffenheim. Before the break Hoffenheim were winless in four matches and to compound their poor form, they lost their coach and sold arguably their best player in the Hinrunde. Hoffenheim started the Rueckrunde poorly as well, losing against Bremen and drawing at home to St. Pauli but things have started to pick up gradually. Last week Pezzaiuoli’s men were able to snatch an impressive away win at Schalke and added to their pick up in form with a hard-fought and narrow win against Kaiserslautern this week.
Pezzaiuoli has his work cut out for him though. Once again Hoffenheim allowed the opposition back into the match, a problem they have dealt with all too often this season. Kaiserslautern’s open formation allowed Hoffenheim to win this match ultimately but that will not be the case against more disciplined sides.
Hoffenheim appear stuck in 8th place and their European ambitions depend on his ability to pull his squad together and instill the necessary mental discipline. Bayern, Mainz and Dortmund are all coming up in the next five weeks in a series of matches that could well decide in how many competitions the club will play in next season. (Cris)
1. FC Nurnberg: Craftsmen at Work
Der Club” hasn’t played the most attractive football this season, but has certainly been amongst the most consistent teams in the league. Gathering another three points against Leverkusen, “Der Club” now finds itself in the top half of the table. Dieter Hecking and his sporting director have done a splendid job in finding young bright players that they could loan from other clubs, and they have also signed players like Timmy Simons who has added stability to the side.
In the next few weeks we will learn if “Der Club” can get involved in the fight for a place in next year’s Europa League. Although their performance this season has been more craftsman-like than artistic, they are getting results in unexpected places.
Have Werder Bremen Turned the Corner?
Bremen had no defenders sitting on the bench, and their defensive line looks now thinner then ever. The teams behind them, St. Pauli, VfB Stuttgart and 1. FC Cologne, have started to win their games. The side from Northern-Germany needs to win next week’s game, otherwise they will come as close to relegation as they were 30 years. (Niklas)
Even Superheroes Need Some Help
Dortmund defender Mats Hummels called it. “Manuel Neuer is the best goalkeeper in the world,” he said and there are few who would call his statement hyperbole, especially if they had witnessed the Ruhr derby on Friday evening. Neuer was at his imperious, unconventional best to keep out a marauding Dortmund side who could in reality have put five past their neighbours. Felix Magath’s Royal Blues escaped with the most fortuitous of goalless draws against a Mario Gotze inspired Dortmund. Also, if diamonds are a girl’s best friend, than the post is certainly Manuel Neuer’s. The Germany shot-stopper was twice saved by the woodwork, most prominently late on when Mario Gotze had squirmed through.
Bayern Munich Meltdown
Somewhere in the depths of Uli Hoeness’ boardroom is a self-destruct button that he presses to further his war against Louis van Gaal. And the president was furiously pressing on it on Saturday as he served to increase the pressure on the Bayern coach. The Bavarians (again) threw away a two goal halftime lead in their Bundesliga match against Cologne. Bayern are in complete meltdown especially when it comes to second halves in games. They struggle to impose themselves in games in the second period and despite enjoying goal cushions, they come crashing down. At the moment it seems that the team is so afraid of throwing it all away in the second half that they use all their focus to avoid that and in the process, self destruct. In short a self-fulfilling prophecy. (Zulquar