Bayern Munich took another step in the direction of their 23rd Bundesliga title and can realistically wrap it up next weekend following their win against Bayer Leverkusen. Borussia Dortmund had probably the most impressive win of the round with their emphatic 5-1 victory over Freiburg while Nürnberg had the surprise result of matchday 26, beating resurgent Schalke 3-0. Werder Bremen had to settle for a disappointing draw with Greuther Fürth while Augsburg’s great escape continues with a huge win in Hamburg. Here are matchday 26’s standout performers.
Raphael Schäfer – Last week the veteran goalkeeper had a night to forget when he spilled a shot against Augsburg and fumbled it into his own net. This week he played a big part in arguably Nürnberg’s best performance this season. Schalke may have hit the post a couple of times but Schäfer was terrific in keeping out the dangerous Jefferson Farfan and Julian Draxler. Nürnberg have one of the best defenses in the league and are now unbeaten at home in ten games and Schäfer’s leadership is a big reason for it.
Jan-Inger Callsen-Bracker – The great escape is still on. It’s amazing to think that only Bayern and Dortmund have been better in the second half of the season than Augsburg. Augsburg have picked up more wins in the last three weeks than on the first 22 matchdays this season. They are peaking at the right time and Callsen-Bracker’s defensive performances are a big reason why they are able to get results. The center-back scored the matchwinner in Hamburg and won 85% of his duels, the best rate in the match.
Dante – The signing of the season? It certainly looks like it. Bayern’s Brazilian center-back has barely put a foot wrong this season. Leverkusen are the only team to have beaten Bayern in the league this season so the game at the weekend was no easy task. Dante was more than up for it though. He was strong in the tackle, well positioned when Leverkusen attacked and always willing to receive the ball. He had more touches on the ball than any other player in the league this weekend .
Georg Niedermeier – The Bayern Munich youth product had an absolutely immense performance at Eintracht Frankfurt. He completed 100% of his passes (only one of two outfield players to do that all weekend) and won 85% of his duels (17), also a league high on matchday 26. Let’s not forget that he also scored the matchwinner against Eintracht Frankfurt. But most importantly, he helped Stuttgart out of their slump and put them at a safe distance from the relegation battle.
Nuri Sahin – After the Freiburg game, Sahin said he will repay the club for their faith with goals and this weekend was a great start. It was arguably Sahin’s best individual performance since that famous 3-1 win in Munich two years ago. Sahin was at his absolute best, assisting a goal and scoring two himself as Dortmund came from behind to beat Freiburg 5-1. It was the kind of performance that made Real Madrid purchase the player in the first place and after over a year’s worth of battles with injury and form, Sahin took a great first step back in the right direction.
Hiroshi Kiyotake – Another strong outing from the Japanese playmaker. Nürnberg celebrated their biggest win in eleven months against Schalke thanks to Kiyotake’s excellent performance. His two assists underlined a dominating performance from the 23-year-old whose stock continues to rise every week. Kiyotake has created close to 70 goal scoring chances for the club this season. The next highest number created by a player would be 15. That’s how influential he has been for the team.
Patrick Herrmann – Why look for a Marco Reus replacement when he’s been under your nose the whole time? Whenever Herrmann is on the pitch, Gladbach have looked more dangerous in front of goal and performed much better overall. This season he has done well playing out wide and off the striker. Against Hannover he set up De Jong’s matchwinner masterfully with a clever through ball and could have easily had his own had Zieler not stepped in. Herrmann is improving, as are Gladbach. Next season could be another memorable one for the club.
Jakub Blaszczykowski – It must be really difficult for left-backs and left midfielders to keep track of Kuba during games. He is a truly exhausting player to defend against and one who can whirl past you in the wink of an eye. Against Freiburg, Kuba was a big part of Dortmund’s resurgent comeback. He set up Sahin’s important go-ahead goal and put young Christian Günter under tremendous pressure throughout the match. 17 scorer points in the league this season, already a personal best for him at the club.
Alexander Esswein – The last year has been pretty hectic for Alexander Esswein. Last year he was one of the revelations of the season with a scintillating run in the league before injuries put an end to that. This year he has struggled to regain full fitness and a spot in the starting lineup but finally the 22-year-old seems to be back to that marvelous form. His goal against Schalke was well taken and he provided Kiyotake with a great option for his passes. Stay tuned for more from Esswein in the coming weeks.
Thanos Petsos – Greuther Fürth have struggled against the drop from day one it seems. They are bottom of the table and still without a win at home but won’t make it easy for other teams going into the final stretch, as they proved against Bremen. One of the players who will make that happen is Petsos. The German-born Greek midfielder was very influential in their draw against Werder Bremen. He covered more distance than any other player in the game, won 14 duels and was Fürth’s most involved player. His free kick goal would have sufficed for the win had Aaron Hunt’s penalty not canceled it out soon after.
Robert Lewandowski – That’s goals in eight straight games for the Polish international now, a club and personal record. There’s no question who the best striker in the Bundesliga is and Lewandowski again showed why he is an elite player. With two exquisitely taken goal and another assist against Freiburg, Lewandowski is now up to 26 total scorer points this season, more than any other player in the league. Workrate, technique, finishing, football IQ, Lewandowski has it all and it will be a shame when he eventually leaves Dortmund.
Coach of the Week
Michael Wiesinger – Dieter Hecking’s departure was thought to set Nürnberg back further after losing so many key players over the years but Wiesinger has done a fantastic job since taking the reigns. He has maintained one of the league’s sturdiest defenses and is getting results consistently. It may have seemed farfetched two months ago but Nürnberg are now just four points off a European spot.
Max Grün, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Marcel Schmelzer, Zdenek Pospech, David Alaba, Felipe Santana, Hanno Balitsch, Serdar Tasci, Daniel Baier, Aaron Hunt, Heinrich Schmidtgal, Bernd Nehrig, Markus Feulner, Arthur Boka, Stephan Fürstner, Ilkay Gündogan, Marco Reus, Mario Götze, Mathias Bolly, Ivica Olic, Sercan Sararer, Mario Gomez
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