Well, that was an Augenblick. The latest Englishe Woche swept through like a wet spring wind these past two days. I’ll be honest: I didn’t know we were getting an Englische Woche until Monday when I happened to see “Dienstag” listed as the next Matchday on kicker.de. This is what typically happens three-fourths of the way into the season for me. Matchdays blur. Results pile. Unwatched matches accumulate on FoxSoccer2Go. And yet mid-week Bundesliga matches are some of my very favorite moments during any season. What a treat. Always!
No Changes at the Top
This subheading has to be good news if you’re a Bayern supporter.
The Bavarians lost 1-0 at Hoffenheim, but are still 10 points ahead of RB Leipzig, who are 2nd in the Bundesliga table. There is no title race, even with RB Leipzig, Hoffenheim, and Borussia Dortmund all winning their matches. This stasis at the table top puts a damper on this weekend’s big Bayern-Dortmund match, since there’s only symbolic stuff to play for, at least for Bayern, since Dortmund is still fighting for an automatic Champions League spot.
Nonetheless, Hoffenheim’s win on Tuesday against Bayern shouldn’t be underappreciated. Although I’m not surprised that Hoffenheim won this 1-0, going into the match, I gave the home side about a 60% of winning this one, the match itself illustrates just hard it is to beat Bayern in Germany. For thing, the seemingly obligatory opening goal, scored brilliantly by Andrej Kramaric, would have probably been saved by Manuel Neuer (he was out with an injury). Furthermore, after a bright first half, Hoffenheim mostly “assumed the position” during the 2nd half as Bayern build up attack after attack. Indeed, some woodwork and a great Oliver Baumann save prevented Bayern from equalizing and more. While the win keeps Hoffenheim breathing down the kit of 2nd place RB Leipzig, this match again demonstrated the sizable gap between die Rekordmeister and the Bundesliga’s other top clubs.
Speaking of top clubs, both RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund cruised to victories. The former won impressively on the road against a desperate Mainz 05 side, who threw everything at the Bulls. only to lose 2-3. The assists provided by Emil Frosburg and Naby Keita (the Bundesliga’s best midfielder right now?) were the match highlights for my money. Over in the Dortmund, after Bobby Wood fluffed an early 1-on-1 against Roman Bürki and Gonzalo Castro scored from a free kick (making Rene Alder look old), the home side never looked threatened, easily winning by 3-0 by the final whistle.
So despite only its 2nd loss of the season, Bayern sit very comfortably at first place with 65 points. RB Leipzig are next with 55, then Hoffenheim with 51 and BVB with 50. Thus are your current Bundesliga Champions League participants for next season.
Smells like the Europa League
Amazingly, only 6 points separate sides 5-12 on the Bundesliga table:
- 5th place: 1.FC Köln (40 points)
- 6th place: Hertha Berlin (40 points)
- 7th place: SC Freiburg (38 points)
- 8th place: Eintracht Frankfurt (37 points)
- 9th place: Borussia ‘Gladbach (36 points)
- 10th place: Bayer Leverkusen (35 points)
- 11th place: Werder Bremen (35 points)
- 12th place: Schalke 04 (34 points)
While Europa League aromas tickle these clubs’ noses, not all clubs on this list are equal. A couple of these clubs have been pointing downward for a long time. For example, Eintracht hasn’t won in 8 straights matches, while Leverkusen has only won 1 of the last 6 matches. The former lost a disappointing 1-0 match at Köln on Tuesday, while the latter won a somewhat mysterious match 0-2 at Darmstadt on Wednesday. With Angela Merkel looking on, the Billygoats rode home a Milos Jojic goal (52′) to remain in 5th place (on goal difference).
If the Rückrunde itself were a season, Eintracht would be in 17th place; the Eagles have been this bad since die Winterpause, only scoring 4 (!) goals while conceding 13. As for Leverkusen, the Rückrunde‘s 12th place team (-2 GD with 3 wins, 2 draws, and 5 losses), beating Darmstadt, even on the road, doesn’t tell us much. After all, Darmstadt have pretty much been the league’s worst club all season long. At least Liverpool/Arsenal/Chelsea’s Julian Brandt looked swell on Wednesday, completing a lovely whole-team scoring sequence for the visitors.
Meanwhile, Hertha, Gladbach, and Schalke have all been yo-yoing about with absolutely no consistency. In an absolutely crucial match, the Foals hosted and beat the capitol city side 1-0, thanks for a first time goal from teenager László Bénes from about 22 yards out:
Coach “Farmer” Hecking was all smiles, and the Gladbach cauldron of supporters went Phil-Spector-Wall-of-Sound crazy loud. Tingles all round for everyone.
In terms of yo-yoing, Gladbach have slowly yo-yoing uphill since die Winterpause. Meanwhile, despite optics otherwise, Hertha is still sitting at 6th place in the table. The Berliners have really entered a superior Bundesliga bracket it seems, despite having little scoring talent and virtually no bench to speak of. Impressive.
Then we have Bremen and Schalke. Anything other than a Bremen win would have made me look stupid after the Bremen love-in piece I published days before this match. And the home side affirmed my praise, winning 3-0 against a dazed and confused Schalke, who still look like they’re replaying the Revierderby from last weekend. Max Kruse did his thing with an assist and a penalty, while Max Eggestein and Theo Gebre Salassie scored Werder’s other two goals. Nonetheless, Schalke outshot, outpossessed, and out-dazzled Werder on the pitch, yet these accomplishments ring hollow as S04 only had 3 shots on target and struggled to create consistent final 3rd penetration.
The biggest story from the league’s bottom was the impressive 2-3 road win secured by FC Ingolstadt in a “six pointer” at FC Augsburg. The win featured some fine individual moments for Pascal Groß, whose free kick on FCI’s 2nd goal is almost my delivery of the season. Wow.
But it’s all probably too little, too late for FCI, who’ve been the Bundesliga’s hard luck club this season, seemingly able to hang with anyone, only find the woodwork, a last minute defensive breakdown, a booking, or an individual error ruining another well-played match.
After going down 0-3 in this match, FCA rallied for two goals (Paul Verhaegh penalty at 76′ and Halil Altintop 81′), but came up short. This season has spoiled what’s been a remarkable 6 season-long Bundesliga run for Augsburg. I can’t help but conclude that losing coach Markus Weinzierl this summer to Schalke, as well as the successive loss of its best players each season (Ragnar Klavan, Toby Werner, Tim Matavz, Abdul Baba, Mattias Ostrzolek, Andre Hahn, Kevin Vogt, Dong-Win Ji, and Sebastian Langkamp) are the reasons why FCA finally appear doomed.
At the moment, Darmstadt are surely relegated sitting in 18th place with 15 points, while Ingolstadt is 17th place with 25 points, then Mainz 05 (!) and FC Augsburg sit at 15th and 16th place on 29 points. However, Wolfsburg and HSV aren’t too far behind with both sides sitting 30 points at table positions 13th and 14th places.
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