What looked like a rather bland slate of games heading into the weekend turned around (much like Cologne against Mainz) and became one of the wackier match days of the season.
Neither Bayern nor Dortmund needed to field a full-strength line-up to dispose of Schalke and HSV, respectively, and Leverkusen thrashed a weak Frankfurt side to take possession of third place, but those matches would not make the big headline, namely . . . Every team ranked fourth through ninth lost, with four of them losing to teams fighting against relegation. Stuttgart, HSV, and Eintracht were all losers, but it’s now 15th-placed VfB who might look back on the defeat in Augsburg at the end of the season as a disastrous one, given that FCA and Hoffenheim have now passed them and Werder’s win over Wolfsburg has brought the Green-and-Whites within two points. Those early days of the Rückrunde, when several of us (Ross Dunbar & Dustin Ward, included) were realistically talking about Stuttgart in the Europa League, seem like millennia ago. And they got Dortmund coming next week.
Here is the team of the week for Match Day 30:
Przemyslaw Tyton (Stuttgart) has been criticized enough this season, but on Saturday, his three gigantic saves at least gave his team a chance. The big Pole, who was among the running for worst Hinrunde goalkeepers (and some would say he was a runaway winner) has been better in the Rückrunde, his goals-per-90 is down to 1.75 from two, and his scorching 80% save percentage was key to Stuttgart’s early Rückrunde form. He is definitely still part of the problem, but with his atrocious defense leading the league with six own-goals and setting-up attackers to score (Niedermeier), he has not had it easy.
Bernd Leno, whose seven saves was the most of the matchday, will have to settle for extending his clean sheet streak to five games and for this fan video.
Salif Sane (Hannover), probably best known for this great overhead kick from last season, was the man of the match versus Gladbach. The 25-year-old was omnipresent , as he won 17 tackles, including eight aerials, three interceptions, and six clearances. Much more than just a big aerial threat – ranking fourth in the league with six aerials won per match – the versatile Sané, capable of playing center-mid, defensive-mid, and center-back is ranked tenth among all midfielders for the season (per Squawka). At just five million (per Transfermarkt), and with Hannover going down, he could definitely help a number of Bundesliga teams, perhaps none more so than the Foals, who are losing the similarly multi-positional Havard Nortdveit (almost identical in age and Transfermarkt value) to West Ham.
Ragnar Klavan (FCA) is also a surprisingly highly rated defender (12 on Squawka) who had an excellent game on Saturday. The 30-year-old Estonian, who spent several seasons in the Dutch Eredivisie before joining FCA, made three tackles, two interceptions, and seven clearances to give Augsburg its ninth clean sheet this year. Besides ranking in the top ten among defenders with over five clearances per match, the Estonian is also an excellent passer with 85% accuracy for the season, particularly in the short-passing game, where he has a better than twelve-to-one accurate-to-inaccurate pass ratio. Against Stuttgart, his 76 touches and 61 passes were game-highs.
Mats Hummels (Dortmund) looked majestic on Sunday with a brilliant assist to set-up Christian Pulisic, as well as adding 118 touches with 93% pass accuracy . His defense was stellar, with four clearances three interceptions, as BVB held the dismal HSV to a mere five shots. There is a reason Sven Schipplock is yet to score this season in the Bundesliga. And while some if it is because he is Sven Schipplock, getting owned by Mats Hummels is also a part of it.
Mats Hummels' save vs. Schipplock.pic.twitter.com/qz63DlL4up
— Stefan Buczko (@StefanBuczko) April 17, 2016
Karim Bellarabi (Leverkusen) had a well-taken goal and a 60-yard sprint (one of 52 on the day, the fifth-most in the Bundesliga in a single match this season) past a couple of defenders for an assist. His five shots (three on target are a very encouraging sign) but it is his connection with Julian Brandt that has been the biggest reason why die Werkself have become the hottest team in the Bundesliga with five straight victories. Only Bremen’s Zlatko Junuzovic has had more assists than Bellarabi’s four since the start of the Rückrunde, giving him a career-high of eight! In addition, the 26-year-old has already scored three times in the Bundesliga (plus three more in the Europa League) in the last seven games.
Arturo Vidal (Bayern) added a goal and assist on 106 touches, three shots, two key passes, and 95% pass-completion rate against Schalke. The Chilean has been a dominant player in the Rückrunde, ranking fifth overall in per-90 performance scores and adding three assists to his impressive displays against Benfica.
Nadiem Amiri (Hoffenheim) is a star in the making. He covered 12 kilometers and had four shots, seven key passes, and a Pirlo-esque free kick that landed on Fabian Schär’s head for the equalizer. About the only thing the 19-year-old could have done better is to get that rebound on target after a great Rune Jarstein save on Mark Uth in the second half. He also sent in the corner that Süle flicked on for Uth to head-in from a yard out. In the Rückrunde, he is averaging over two key passes per 90 minutes, the same as Thiago and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and he does not turn 20 until October!
Marcel Risse (Cologne) had eight tackles, but used a vital goal to just edge Fin Bartels of Werder (five shots, goal + post, and four dribbles) because we need to reward effzeh for their great comeback against Mainz and because his goal was nicer. I will keep repeating that Risse (50) and Jonas Hector (53) are in top 10 in key passes for all Bundesliga players, despite playing 33 of their combined 58 matches as right and left backs, respectively.
Zlatko Junuzovic’s (Werder) two assists came on a lovely pass through the legs to find Bartels unmarked and in on goal and, after some wonderful passing, a gift of a goal to Yatabare. In addition, the Austrian was brought down for a penalty, which should be another assist. The 28-year-old playmaker also racked up six shots and six key passes and covered 12.4 kilometers – second behind Lewis Holtby on the matchday – padding his great Rückrunde stats. Since January 1st, Junuzovic is leading the league with 3.60 key passes per 90, one more per game than Filip Kostic, and nearly double his own 1.95 per 90 from the Hinrunde. He has a stunning five assists in his last six games and is doing all he can to keep Werder in the Bundesliga. I wish the same could be said of Werder’s defense.
Braces for Robert Lewandowski (Bayern) and Adrian Ramos, the man who was brought in to replace Lewy at Borussia Dortmund, made this section easy. Lewandowski is now on 27 goals and could be the first Bundesliga player to get over 30 since 1976-77 (Dieter Müller), while Ramos’s 1.20 goals per 90 minutes is the only one higher than the Pole’s 1.02. Eight goals in under 600 minutes and six since February 28th have made up for Aubameyang’s quiet Rückrunde, as the Gabonese has only found the back of the net three times in that same time span. It might even soon be time to stop calling him “Lord Ramos.”
Aside from the Leno-Bartels duo mentioned above, goal-scorers Christian Pulisic (three key passes, two shots, and first career goal), Mark Uth, Julian Brandt, and Waldemar Anton all were tough cuts . . . Jeffrey Gouweleeuw had TEN clearances and really should have scored on back-to-back clear chances against Tyton . . . Hiroki Sakai, Daniel Brosinski, Sven Bender, and Rafinha (134 touches led the league) would have made a good alternative defense . . . striker omissions included Anthony Modeste for that volley goal and Sandro Wagner, whose confidence and composure is remarkable, and I fondly look forward to him leading Germany to World Cup victory in 2018.
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