Team of the Week – Match Day 32

A rare low scoring matchday in the Bundesliga did not mean a lack in excitement.  Above all, Dortmund clinched their second consecutive league title with their impressive win over Gladbach, rendering Bayern’s earlier comeback against Bremen inconsequential.  Schalke were unable to captialize on Gladbach’s loss and only picked up a point against Augsburg while Leverkusen made great strides towards a European spot.  At the other end Freiburg secured another season in the top flight with a draw at Hannover while an already relegated Kaiserslautern were victorious for the first time in 21 matches.

Here is our best eleven from matchday 32:

Goalkeeper

Bernd Leno – With Leverkusen’s European ambitions on the line Leno faced one of the best penalty takers in the league on Saturday with five minutes to go.  Conceding could have meant Leverkusen would have blown their lead and lost a valuable opportunity to stay ahead of their competition.  Leno came up big and saved the penalty, kept Leverkusen in the game and ensured three points against an in form Hoffenheim side.  They are now six points off 8th placed Bremen and in a great position to secure a spot in Europe.

Defenders

Mats Hummels – Dortmund’s centerback has been unrivaled in the second half of the season.  Already considered one of the best in Europe, Hummels is both Dortmund’s defensive organizer and their de facto playmaker.  Lauded by Lucien Favre for his passing and Klopp for his presence, Hummels has stood out consistently for his club.  Against Gladbach, Hummels was ever present in both attack and defense.  He kept Reus and Hanke quiet, was dominant in his duels and sprayed passes out of the back like a young Beckenbauer.

Marcel Schmelzer – Schmelzer seems to have saved the best for last.  His performance against Gladbach may have been his best this season.  He provided the assist for Dortmund’s first goal and initiated the counter attack that led to their second.  All the while he was a constant threat down the left and all but eliminated any threat from Herrmann.  Stranzl had a nightmare trying to keep up with Schmelzer’s bombarding runs and combination play with Perisic.  With his end of the season form he may just play part in Löw’s plans for the Euros.

Florian Dick – Kaiserslautern’s bright spot in a dim season. Following his suspension, Dick returned with an impressive performance against Hertha Berlin.  Already relegated and with nothing but pride to play for, the right back put in a shift worthy of a champion.  Dick owned the right flank, neutralized Rukavytsya and played part in many of Kaiserslautern’s most dangerous attacks.  Because of Dick’s industrious and determined performance Kaiserslautern were able to finally break their 21 match winless streak and finish the season with their heads held high.

Manuel Friedrich – It’s largely been a hit and miss season for Friedrich.  The veteran center back has found it hard to play at his best with the many inconsistencies at the club this year.  With an important run in though, Leverkusen needed his experience to ensure a place in the Europa League next year.  Sure enough, Friedrich came through.  Friedrich was no Matthias Sammer against Hoffenheim but his calm and composed performance set a tone on which the rest of the team were able to build and held off a Hoffenheim side that lost at home only once in the Rückrunde.

Midfielders

Franck Ribery – Jupp Heynckes fielded what most would consider a “B-team” against Bremen, hoping to save his best for the all important second leg against Madrid on Wednesday.  As such, they were weakened from the onset and Bremen took the lead and looked as though they would indirectly hand Dortmund the title.  The on 65 minutes Heynckes brought on the frenchman and single handedly turned the game on its head.  His work down the left lead to Naldo’s own goal for the equalizer and his individual class in the last minute decided the game.

Ivan Perisic – Grosskreutz’s injury paved the way for a rare start for Perisic. The Croatian has been a hit off the bench this season but not quite as effective starting.  Against Gladbach though, he made the most of his opportunity and put on a gala in front of the Dortmund supporters.  Perisic scored the all important go ahead goal and tormented Stranzl all match long.  His strikers instincts set him apart from Grosskreutz and his intelligent movement and link up with Lewandowski was on full display.  Another brilliant option for Klopp in a continually burgeoning team.

Oliver Kirch – A classic example of a hard shift in midfield.  Kirch was the man doing the “dirty work” for Kaiserslautern against Hertha.  His performance won’t make the highlight reels but every tackle, interception, duel was invaluable and a big part of Kaiserslautern’s eventual win. Kirch took Raffael out of the game and forced the Brazilian to make more misplaced passes than any other Hertha player all while laying a good platform for his team to perform on.

Christian Clemens – Normally used on the right but shifted to the left in recent matches, the young winger put on a strong performance seldom seen by Köln players this season.  Clemens was Köln’s best passer, had more shots on goal than any Stuttgart player and did a formidable job against Stuttgart’s dangerous right side.  His direct approach and willingness to take on players put Stuttgart on the backfoot and earned them a valuable point in the battle against relegation.

Martin Lanig – Another hard working performance but those are exactly the kind Köln need to beat the drop.  Lanig, true to his reputation, put his body on the line against Stuttgart and earned an incredibly valuable point.  Stuttgart have averaged almost four goals a game in their last four matches and to keep them at bay like they did is a testament to their hard work.  The person behind that first and foremost was Lanig, who made sure Hajnal never got into the game, always forcing him wide and without options to pass to.

Forwards

Andre Schürrle – It hasn’t been the most memorable season for the German international.  Following his high profile move from Mainz expectations were high but tumultuous surroundings, tactical inconsistency and a personal drop in form kept Schürrle from performing at his best.  Luckily for Leverkusen, the attacking all rounder has picked up his form just when Leverkusen needed him most.  His goal, a typical high powered curler from the left, won his side the match but Schürrle was also strong in his duels, dangerous in his movement and intelligent in his link up.

Coach of the Week

Jürgen Klopp – Many teams falter or drop in focus and determination when they have a comfortable lead and keeping a team motivated for extended periods of time may be the most difficult thing to coach in football. Dortmund’s success is built on exactly that kind of drive and determination.  That his players would be willing to run through a wall for Klopp would not be an understatement.  That is the kind of impact and effect he has had on this young Dortmund side and the consistency and gradual improvement over the course of the season is a testament to Klopp’s great managerial skills.

Honorable Mentions

Karim Haggui, Shinji Kagawa, Toni Kroos, Didier Ya Konan, Jan Rosenthal, Lukas Podolski, Andrew Wooten, Cacau

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari

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