Team of the Week – Match Day 20

Greuther Fürth pulled up one of the upsets of the season with their last gasp winner against Schalke, Augsburg and Hoffenheim continue to improve and Bayern Munich, as is customary nowadays, continue to set new records every week. Sunday served up one of the most exciting matches of the season as Borussia Dortmund stopped Bayer Leverkusen’s unbeaten run at home while Nürnberg continued their good form at home against Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Goalkeeper

Alexander Manninger – It was a close call between Manninger and Trapp but the Austrian beat just beat him out and showed his experience.  The 35-year-old got into the action early to deny Wolfsburg and kept his cool and composure throughout the game to earn his side another much needed point.  A lot has been said about Augsburg’s improved defensive performances but make no mistake, Manninger has been instrumental in their turnaround in 2013.

Defenders

Lasse Sobiech – In the first half of the season, young Sobiech’s performances were one of the few bright spots in an otherwise underwhelming season and against Schalke, the 22-year-old showed again why he is valued so much by Dortmund and Germany’s U-21 national team. Sobiech won an impressive 94% of his duels against Schalke, a league high this weekend, and effectively marked Huntelaar out of the game.

Sokratis – The Greek defender was a man possessed against Hannover.  Rarely this season has a center-back made such a mark on a game than Sokratis against Hannover on Friday.  Sokratis won 80% of his duels and all the while found enough time to venture forward and have five attempts on goal himself.  No matter how much Hannover pushed, Sokratis was always equal to it.  His presence and determination almost willed Bremen the win.

Mats Hummels – Dortmund did not have it easy against Leverkusen.  After going up two goals, the defending champions were put under wave after wave of Leverkusen attacks and needed to be at their absolute best to maintain their win.  Deputy captain on the day, Hummels was one of the biggest reasons they were able to preserve their win in the end and inflict on Leverkusen their first loss at home this season.  He won 14 duels and had many important interceptions and clearances.

Midfielders

Stefan Aigner – With Trapp’s excellent performances in goal, Ozcipka and Jungs’ dazzling displays out wide, the prominent rise of Rode and the scoring of Meier it’s easy to forget the likes of Aigner who has been just as instrumental to the team as all the others and probably even more productive (involved in 15 goals this season). His two assists against Hamburg kept them in contention for Europe and earned them their first win in Hamburg in 14 years and their best league record in 24 years.

Kevin Volland – Probably the Bundesliga’s breakout player this year, Volland’s stock is just continuing to rise with every week.  Hoffenheim’s improving form is only setting a greater foundation on which the young attacker can perform.  His two goals broke a duck of nine games without a win for the club and as always this season, he was constantly moving and making things happen for his team.  Whether or not Hoffenheim avoid the drop or not, Volland will play in the Bundesliga next season at this rate.

Robbie Kruse – The Australian’s brace gave Düsseldorf their first home win against Stuttgart in 23 years, but more importantly, it extended their own good home form and gave them a vital win with Augsburg, Nürnberg and Hoffenheim all picking up their performances behind them. Industrious and eager to win the ball back as always, Kruse is always Fortuna’s first line of defense and his spirit and determination is admirable no matter how things go for the team on the pitch.

Stefan Reinartz – Bayer Leverkusen’s unsung hero in midfield.  Reinartz’s tenacity and stamina are a big reason most teams have a tough time competing against Leverkusen’s tireless and seemingly indefatigable midfield. His brace were the first two goals Dortmund conceded in 2013 and he was a big reason Leverkusen outplayed the defending champions’ midfield.  With 11 duels won, a match-high 49 passes completed, Reinartz epitomized Leverkusen’s spirited performance.

Forwards

Mario Mandzukic – Involved in five of Bayern’s six goals in 2013, Mandzukic has not only been vital to Bayern’s continuing dominant run but he has virtually displaced Germany’s most prolific goalscorer, Mario Gomez.  His brace against Mainz was scored with his first two attempts on cold, the kind of clinical finishing we’ve seen from Gomez over the years and with 14 goals in the league so far, he has also set a personal record for himself after 20 league games.

Srdjan Lakic – Can you say comeback of the year?  Well, perhaps it’s too early to declare that just yet but it could turn out to be one of the signings of the season if his Eintracht Frankfurt debut was any indicator.  Against Hamburg, the Croatian striker was trusted by Armin Veh to start against a strong Hamburg at home and repaid him with two crucial goals.  He could have even had a hattrick within the first 45 minutes. And all this after being with the club for just four days.

Robert Lewandowski – The Polish striker showed why he is up there with the best in Europe against Leverkusen.  Whether it’s holding up the ball, beating defenders on the sprint, playing brilliant through balls, Lewandowski really has it all.  He set up Reus’ opener with a sublime turn and through ball, won his side two penalties and scored the matchwinner himself. What more can you ask for?

Coach of the Week

Marco Kurz – Things are slowly starting to turn around for Hoffenheim after a dire first half of the season.  After 18 games without a win in the Bundesliga as a coach (his last also happened to be against Freiburg curiously enough), Kurz finally won a game again, and against one of the most difficult to beat sides in the league this season. More notably though, the much maligned defense is improving with Hoffenheim allowing the fewest number of shots all season in their game against Freiburg.

Honorable Mentions

Kevin Trapp, David Alaba, Sebastian Boenisch, Daniel Van Buyten, Bamba Anderson, Matthias Zimmermann, Carlos Zambrano, Sebastian Rode, Lars Bender, Sven Bender, Franck Ribery, Aaron Hunt, Koo Ja-Cheol, Nikola Djurdjic, Thomas Müller, Patrick Herrmann, Marco Reus, Stefan Kiessling, Nils Petersen

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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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