Team of the Week – Match Day 33

Following last week’s subdued matchday, this week returned in typical action packed hara kiri Bundesliga fashion.  With all matches played at the same time and lots on the line for several teams still goals were aplenty and drama not  too far away.  Dortmund are still chasing their record total points earned in a Bundesliga season and put on a show with the relegated Kaiserslautern while Heynckes and Bayern rested and experimented with two major finals approaching.  Elsewhere, Köln and Hertha’s losses mean that both wait until the last matchday of the season to find out who is relegated directly and who goes to the playoff spot while the race for the final Europa League spot still remains very open between Bremen, Wolfsburg, Hannover, and Nürnberg.

These are our picks for the best performers of this exciting matchday:

Goalkeeper

Hans-Jörg Butt – Bayern’s second choice goalkeeper was one of many players who bid farewell to their home supporters on this matchday.  The veteran will retire after this season following a 387 league matches and went out in the best way possible, with a fantastic performance against Stuttgart.  It was the first time since March that Stuttgart were kept from scoring and Butt played a large part in that, making four vital saves and bossing the box.  Butt received a fitting standing ovation from the Bayern supporters at the end, wrapping up a great career.

Defenders

Holger Badstuber – Badstuber’s suspension from the Champions League final cleared the way for 90 minutes in Bayern’s two remaining league matches this season.  His development this season has been very impressive and against Stuttgart he proved why he is one of the better defenders in the league, keeping a firm grip on Ibisevic and Harnik throughout the match. Another clean sheet for Bayern next week and they would have equalled their own record of fewest goals conceded in a single season.

Mensur Mujda – Freiburg have now equalled their own record from 2000/01 of ten consecutive matches unbeaten, a truly magnificent turnaround after the Hinrunde.  Mujda’s performance against Köln typified the determination rediscovered under Streich.  The rightback was unstoppable against Köln, bombarding forward, scoring the first goal of the match and never allowing Clemens or Podolski to make much of an impact.

Paul Verhaegh –  Every Cinderella story in football requires an inspirational leader figure, the player who rallies the team and steps up his game when it is needed the most.  Verhaegh has done just that, and while he might remain one of the more underrated performers in the league this season, most Augsburg supporters know his value.  Against Gladbach he was again strong in the tackle, a great organizer at the back and strong against the likes of Reus, Arango and Hanke.

Midfielders

Daniel Caligiuri – One of Freibug’s stars under Streich’s revolution, the left winger has gotten better and better since the winter break and against Köln he crowned that progress with arguably his best performance of the season.  Caligiuri set up Freiburg’s first two goals and scored the third himself, all while constantly looking like a scoring threat.

Mario Götze – Götze made his first start for Dortmund since December.  Already champions they didn’t have much left to play for but Klopp insists Dortmund win their remaining games and set a new Bundesliga record for most points.  Götze’s performance made sure they are just a game away from setting it. He terrorized Kaiserslautern’s defense all game and his goal was just the icing on the cake of a superb comeback.

Raul – It was an emotional day for Raul, playing his last match for Schalke in front of their supporters.  It was natural that he wanted to go out on a high note but Raul’s legacy is one of consistency and quality from week to week so another outstanding performance from the Spaniard came as no surprise.  Raul scored one and set up another in Schalke’s dominant win against Hertha and was his usual industrious self, creating chances for others and giving it his absolute all until the final whistle.

Daniel Didavi – 8 goals in his last 9 matches. It is no exaggeration to say that Didavi has single handedly turned Nürnberg from relegation candidates to potential dark horses for the final Europa League spot.  His impressive form was again the difference in Nürnberg’s big win in Hoffenheim and is going to cause quite the tug of war between Stuttgart and Nürnberg this summer.

Forwards

Lucas Barrios – It was the first start for the Paraguayan since February.  By the end of the match Barrios had touched the ball 35 s times, had three shots on goal but scored a hattrick.  It was the kind of form reminiscent of why he was one of the league’s best players last season.  And it may also be enough to make Barrios reconsider a move away from Dortmund.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar – The Dutch ace scored two and assisted another, all with just 28 touches on the ball.  The most impressing thing being that nearly all those touches were either goal scoring chances or led to goal scoring chances.  Whether it was getting himself in good positions or setting up others, his performance against Hertha was one of the most complete for the forward. His second goal also took him atop the goal scoring charts above Mario Gomez.

Patrick Helmes – Another remarkable comeback story.  Perhaps the best of the season even.  Against Bremen, Helmes scored his 8th and 9th goals in his last nine matches for the club.  His form has kept Wolfsburg in contention for Europe and also put himself in contention as a backup for Klose and Gomez at this summer’s Euros.

Coach of the Week

Jos Luhukay – Augsburg may have played a forgettable draw at Gladbach but with that point they all but assured themselves top flight status next season, something that few people would have predicted at the beginning of the season.  Luhukay’s astute management and tactical nuances improved the team significantly since the winter break, playing to the strength of his squad and improving their home form.

Honorable Mentions

Gibril Sankoh, Joel Matip, Jermaine Jones, Lewis Holtby, Ivan Perisic, Tomas Pekhart

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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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