The Uli Hoeness trial dominated headlines in Germany this week but with the season winding down the pressure in the league is reaching a boiling point. Borussia Monchengladbach won in Dortmund for the first time in 16 years to put them back on path for Europe. Schalke meanwhile are pushing for second after their win against Augsburg and Hannover won their second consecutive away game in two years against Hertha Berlin.
Rene Adler – Adler continues to push for a place in the World Cup squad as well to keep his club in the Bundesliga. He put in a fantastic performance in Hamburg’s win over Nürnberg. He made a world class save in extra time to preserve the 2-1 win and several others as Nürnberg were rallying back.
Benedikt Höwedes – The Schalke captain was once again fantastic as Schalke put their European disappointment to bed. Augsburg put Schalke under tremendous pressure, especially in the last 20 minutes and Höwedes was almost single handedly keeping them out. He threw himself into challenges, led and organized his teammates and showed why he is a shoe-in for the World Cup.
Martin Stranzl – Gladbach needed a big defensive performance if they were going to keep Dortmund at bay. And they got it, through a disciplined organized backline and midfield but also through their Austrian veteran, Stranzl. Stranzl marked Robert Lewandowski out of the game and laid the foundation for Gladbach’s first win in Dortmund in 16 years.
Christian Schulz – Like Stranzl and Höwedes, Schulz was just about perfect in central defense for his team. Against the lightning-quick and dangerous Hertha attack, Schulz kept his calm and composure. He switched effortlessly between picking up Ramos and Ronny and organized his backline well.
Bastian Schweinsteiger – The Bayern veteran was back to his absolute best against Leverkusen. After such a lengthy layoff and struggles with injury, Schweinsteiger has finally established his place in Guardiola’s first eleven. He set up Bayern’s first goal and scored the second himself. He completed 95% of his passes and had an incredible 152 touches on the ball. The midfield maestro is back!
Leo Bittencourt – At last Hannover have two consecutive away wins, the first time in over two years. Hannover needed to avoid the wastefulness that have caused them issues this season. Against Hertha they had three shots on goal, and all went in. Bittencourt set up two of those perfectly. It was Hannover’s biggest away win since 2012 and Hertha’s biggest loss this season.
Hakan Calhanoglu – The Bundesliga’s freekick-taking phenom did it again vs. Nürnberg. Well, he didn’t score a 40-yard free kick this time but his performance was equally stunning. Calhanoglu’s match-winning performance gave Hamburg their seventh point in their last three home games. Because of Calhanoglu Hamburg had a season-high 26 shots (10 of which were his – a season record for a player in the league) and climbed up to 14th in the standings.
Raffael – Patrick Herrmann was fantastic but Raffael was the mastermind of Gladbach’s win against Dortmund. What a season the Brazilian is having. Raffael took the game to Dortmund from the start. He scored the all important go-ahead goal but also won more duels than anyone and was relentless in his pressing off the ball. He brought his teammates into the game brilliantly and always made himself available to receive passes. Fantastic all around.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar – If there was any doubt about how important Huntelaar was to Schalke it is clear now. Since he returned from injury he has scored eight goals in eight games and taken Schalke right into the fight for second place. He added two more goals in the team’s win against Augsburg and showed that his poaching and finishing is still world class.
Shinji Okazaki – It was one of the most remarkable comebacks of the season, if not the best. Mainz were down 2-0 against Hoffenheim and turned it around to win 4-2 in the second half. Okazaki almost single-handedly turned the game on its head. He spun the Hoffenheim defense left and right and backwards as the game progressed. He scored two goals to bring his tally up to 11 in the season. One of the most underrated performers of the season.
Karim Guede – Freiburg were on fire against Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday! The Hamburg-born Slovakian international scored two goals in their biggest away win of the season to lift Freiburg out of the automatic relegation spots. It was Freiburg’s most important game in a long time and all will become even more important in the coming weeks. Guede’s performance up front will be key to Freiburg’s campaign for survival.
Oliver Baumann, Mar-Andre ter Stegen, Ron-Robert Zieler, Raphael Schäfer, Dennis Diekmeier, Sead Kolasinac, Heiko Westermann, Eugen Polanski, Tolgay Arslan, Sebastian Rudy, Lars Stindl, Luiz Gustavo, Tobias Werner, Ivo Ilicevic, Patrick Herrmann, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Mario Mandzukic, Admir Mehmedi
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