The slumber is finally over and the Bundesliga is back to its beloved best. Matchday 18 served up no shortage of surprises. No surprise of course was that Bayern Munich extended their lead at the top even further after inflicting on Gladbach their first home loss of the season. Their competition all dropped points while Nurnberg finally won their first game of the season and Hannover broke their away duck with a win in Wolfsburg.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen – He might be off in the summer but that doesn’t mean he won’t still be putting in top notch performances for Gladbach. Ter Stegen proved why he is arguably the best goalkeeper in the league this season and Manuel Neuer’s true successor in the national team. He was imperious against Bayern and prevented what could well have been a much higher scoreline. The keeper with the league’s second best save percentage saved an impressive ten shots against Bayern and proved why Barcelona have been after him for over a year.
Timothy Chandler – The German-American right back was fantastic in Nürnberg’s first win of the season and their biggest win in almost three years. His goal may have taken a deflection but it followed a good run and the kind of initiative that resulted in such a dominant performance from the team. Chandler and his teammates won a season high 148 duels against Hoffenheim. The right back combined well with Drmic on the right and put in a great shift at the back. The World Cup dream is very much alive at this rate.
Javier Pinola – Pinola is not a player you would imagine or even expect to play at center back but due to Emmanuel Pogatetz’s injury the Argentine full back was placed in the middle with the responsibility of stopping one of the league’s best attacks. Beloved at Nürnberg, the club favorite not only impressed in an unusual position but he was the catalyst of the best Nürnberg performance of the season. He won 81% of his duels and prevented what could have been a detrimental early goal for Hoffenheim.
Marco Russ – Eintracht Frankfurt is another team that need to turn their form around in the second half of the season and the win against Hertha Berlin is the perfect start. Armin Veh knew that to beat Hertha he had to contain Adrian Ramos and their counter attacking game. Also in tune with that was Frankfurt center back Russ who marked Ramos out of the game, created the goal, albeit accidentally, and won many important tackles and duels.
Marcelo – Both the Brazilian and his center back partner Andre Hoffmann deserve inclusion. They were both outstanding at Wolfsburg and played a big part in their first away win of the season. Marcelo, though, was the more involved player and won whopping 83% of his duels, especially in the air. He did a phenomenal job on Olic, De Bruyne, Arnold and Diego and whoever else Wolfsburg ended up throwing forward as they were chasing the game.
Leonardo Bittencourt – How Borussia Dortmund could use him now. Leo Bittencourt may have played his best Bundesliga game against Wolfsburg. He was Hannover’s biggest danger man and took his two chances with the ease and comfort of a seasoned striker. Bittencourt was always on the move, involved in several of Hannover’s build ups and chances and made life difficult for the Wolfsburg defense throughout the game.
Jonathan Schmid – the Schmid of last season is finally back. In arguably the upset of the round, Schmid and Freiburg took all three points against second placed Leverkusen in a high octane attacking game. Schmid scored one, set up another and created four other big goalscoring chances against Leverkusen. Dynamic, quick on the ball and always able to get behind Boenisch, Schmid was the standout player in the standout game of the weekend.
Philipp Lahm – The league’s best player this season had another brilliant performance. Surprise? Certainly not, but it merits pointing out because Gladbach had not lost a match at home before this weekend. Lahm was at the center of everything and has seamlessly become the most integral part of Bayern’s style and play. Whatever happens on the pitch, Lahm is always a step or two ahead. Transforming Lahm into a central midfielder may just be the key for Germany’s World Cup hopes as well.
Jefferson Farfan – Under pressure and criticism, Schalke needed a big performance coming out the winter break. And if anyone has stepped up in recent games it has been the Peruvian who has been involved in seven of Schalke’s last nine goals. Against Hamburg the right winger set up two goals and scored one himself. He tore Marcel Jansen apart and delivered great balls for the returning Huntelaar who was threatening precisely because of Farfan’s good service.
Mario Götze – There is no one like Lionel Messi but it’s easy to see how Guardiola is shaping and using the prodigious young Götze. Against Gladbach Götze played a hybrid False 9 and outside forward role, interchanging with his teammates and showing why he is the biggest talent of his generation. He scored the first and could have easily had another two or three. Brilliant performance from a player who will only get better.
Josip Drmic – If Nürnberg ever needed goals, it was in their opener coming off the winter break and against a team that has been leaking goals left and right. If they are turn their season around it had to start this weekend. Fortunately Drmic was in the right place at the right time and from an outside forward position. He took his two goals really well and was part of many of Nürnberg’s attacks. Their first win of the season could prove vital in swinging the momentum in their favor going forward.
Marwin Hitz, Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Park Joo-Ho, Daniel Baier, Lars Stindl, Lars Bender, Mike Frantz, Hiroshi Kiyotake, Thiago, Andre Hahn, Marco Reus, Max Meyer, Alex Meier, Mame Biram Diouf, Thomas Müller, Amer Mehmedi, Shinji Okazaki, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
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