Team of the Week – Match Day 28

Bayern Munich wrapped up their 22nd Bundesliga title with their win over Eintracht Frankfurt, the quickest in league history and arguably the most dominant but matchday 28 was eventful all throughout Germany.  Borussia Dortmund look to have consolidated second place with their win against Augsburg while Leverkusen dropped points against Wolfsburg.  At the bottom of the table, Hoffenheim got their most important win of the season to keep hopes of staying in the league alive with an emphatic win against Düsseldorf and Gladbach and Freiburg both made stripes to qualify for Europe next season.

Goalkeeper

Manuel Neuer – If Bayern’s No. 1 has lacked action for much of the season the Frankfurt game certainly made up for it.  Neuer was kept busy by a barrage of Frankfurt chances that forced several fantastic saves.  His stops on Innui and Lakic at the end were particularly impressive.  The 1-0 win also meant a new personal record of 17 clean sheets in a single season, a remarkable achievement in itself.

Defenders

Benedikt Höwedes – The biggest criticism at Schalke this season has been their erratic defending, somethings fully justified.  The club has taken great strides recently to forget their poor run earlier this season including improving their defensive performances which, against Bremen, was exactly what they were looking for.  Captain Höwedes won every duel against Bremen and led by example by always being in the right place at the right time and building the play out of the back nicely.

Philipp Lahm – Bayern are not only breaking records collectively this season but their players are too.  Against Eintracht Frankfurt, Philipp Lahm collected his 10th league assist this season, the first time he has reached double digits in the Bundesliga in his career.  In an interview earlier this year, Lahm expressed how  fulfilled he felt at the club and that everything finally seems to be in the right place and that is really evident in his displays.  Full of confidence, characteristically consistent and always reliable.

Per Nilsson – When a defender is a team’s top goalscorer it doesn’t usually speak well for the striking department but in the case of Nürnberg and Nilsson it also shows one of the league’s best defenders.  The center back scored a brace in a huge win against Mainz, bringing their unbeaten run at home to 11 and overall to 9 games now and are just four points off a European spot.  Nilsson has been a rock for one of the best back lines in the league and a huge reason for their ability to cope to the loss of Dieter Hecking.

Naldo – An outstanding performance from the Brazilian center-back against two of the league’s best attackers.   Naldo did a formidable job in Wolfsburg’s draw with Leverkusen, winning many important duels on the ground and in the air and always being in good positions to mark or read the movement of players like Kiessling and Schürrle.  This season will finish with a lot of questions about what could have been but Naldo’s performance is a positive indicator of what progress the team can make into the next season.

Midfielders

Bastian Schweinsteiger – Bayern’s midfield maestro scored one of the most memorable goals of his career with a cheeky back hell that eventually decided the match and secured the title but the game was also symbolic of a fantastic overall season.  With that goal he reached a new personal record of 7 goals in a single season and was Bayern’s most successful tackler, runner and most involved player against Frankfurt.  After a season to forget last year, Schweinsteiger is back to his absolute best this year.

Sejad Salihovic – If Hoffenheim ever needed their veteran to step up it was in the game against Düsseldorf.  Fortunately for them, the Bosnian midfielder obliged. After a long absence due to injury, he returned to the starting lineup and had an immediate impact.  He set up two of the team’s three goals, putting them a single point off the relegation/promotion playoff spot.  It was also a timely result with the managerial changes that happened midweek and an important motivator.

Julian Draxler – It’s been quite a phenomenal second half to the season for the youngster and it doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down at any point.  Against Bremen, Draxler was again the best player on the pitch, whirling around the field with the ball at his feet and always bringing his teammates into the game.  His goal opened the scoring for an emphatic win and put them on the best possible course for a Champions League spot, a competition Draxler clearly deserves to play in.

Jonathan Schmid – One of Freiburg’s unsung heros in this memorable season.  When he’s not filling as a makeshift fullback he scores important goals for his club, like his matchwinner at Hamburg.  The win lifted them back into fifth and it was their 12th clean sheet of the season, only Bayern have more.  Schmid was everywhere and always dangerous and scored his 7th goal in his last 10 away matches in all competitions, a quite impressive record for the Frenchman.

Forwards

Julian Schieber – In a way, Schieber will always live in Robert Lewandowski’s shadow, of no fault of his own of course. Those are certainly high standards to live up to but Schieber is starting to prove that he is finally able to cope with the pressure and deliver when given the chance.  His two goals helped Dortmund to a win that will leave them in a much better place to focus on the Champions League.  And he did it with just his only two shots in the game.  The kind of efficiency you want from your starting striker.

Roberto Firmino – The buzzing little Brazilian was at it again when Hoffenheim took on Fortuna Düsseldorf in an early relegation six-pointer.  The importance of the game was monumental and with another coaching change they needed the three points. Because of Firmino’s excellent performance, and great combinations with Kevin Volland, Hoffenheim prevailed.

Coach of the Week

Markus Gisdol –  Hoffenheim’s sixth coach since 2010 achieved only what Ralf Rangnick did when he first took over the club, win the first game in charge.  Their 3-0 win over Düsseldorf was not only their biggest at home this season but their most important.  A loss could have put them way out of reach of staying in the league.

Honorable Mentions

Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Dante, Timo Hildebrand, Jerome Boateng, Joel Matip, Pavel Krmas, Alvaro Dominguez, Neven Subotic, Aleksandar Ignjovski, Tobias Werner, Jonas Hoffmann, Lars Bender, Hiroshi Kiyotake, Daniel Baier, Xherdan Shaqiri, Mario Götze, Max Kruse, Raffael, Patrick Herrmann, Robert Lewandowski, Cirpian Marica

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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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