Matchday 25 was to be about Der Klassiker – which was a thoroughly entertaining, high-intensity clash that had everything from superb atmosphere, lots of tension, to great chances. Goals were the only missing ingredient, but not for lack of trying, as millions of US viewers (on FX – which is available to 92 million viewers) had a chance to witness a match featuring the best that the Bundesliga has to offer. In the end, the goalless draw meant that Dortmund, who went toe-to-toe with Bayern, would in all likelihood have to go the Europe League or Pokal route in search of their trophy. The visitors, looking dominant for most the game, kept the distance at 5 points with the draw, all but assuring themselves another league title.
It’s as if the rest of the league did not get the memo not to outshine der Klassiker. It was raining goals, as the 6 other games on Saturday featured a whopping 26 of them for a better than 4 per game average. Let’s quickly recap those matches before selecting Matchday 25’s Team of the Week!
Schalke 04 (now in 4th position) were the big winners, as their hard-fought match at Cologne ended with a 3-1 win, thanks to some great goalkeeping and some timely finishes by Max Meyer, Klaas Jan Huntelaar (converting a PK and on 8 goals now)and Franco Di Santo (just 2) – the latter two both scored in the same game for only the second time this season (the first was in December against Hannover). Hertha’s surprising, but deserved loss in Hamburg on Sunday now means that Schalke can overtake them for the 3rd spot when these two teams meet on Friday in Berlin! One thing is for sure, Hertha are going to need a lot more than their 3 shots against HSV to stand a chance against Schalke.
Fifth place Mainz’ inability to beat Darmstadt, coupled with sixth place Gladbach’s loss to Wolfsburg means that the streaking Wolves are now in seventh and knocking on the door of European competition. Thanks to the improved play of Schürrle, Draxler and the two Maxes – Arnold and Kruse, die Wölfe have now taken 10 points out of 5 matches (pretty unlucky not to be leading vs. Bayern). If they can figure out a way to win a few matches away from home (27 of their 37 points have come at home) starting with an easy one at Hoffenheim, last season’s runners-up could finish the season in the top 4.
Four losses in a row: that’s what Leverkusen was looking it at before die Werkself mounted a furious comeback down 3-0 at Augsburg with a depleted squad, showing a lot of character in the process. Of course, it also begs the question: why does this team give up hat-tricks in back to back games to relegation sides?
Speaking of relegation, Stuttgart and Werder continue their climb out of that treacherous zone with 5-1 and 4-1 demolition jobs over the bottom two in Hoffenheim and Hannover. Eintracht Franfkfurtand Augsburg both feel like they let one slip away, as the Eagles missed a golden chance to take 3 points against Ingolstadt with 19-year-old Luca Waldschmit shooting wide of a gaping goal in the waning minutes – the final nail in Armin Veh’s coffin, as the Bundesliga legend was fired after the game.
Augsburg are finally scoring, as a hat-trick by Ja-Cheol Koo had them up by 3 goals with 30 minutes remaining, but they ordered the rare combination of a Hitz goalkeeping error + a side of a Paul Verhaegh own goal and a 90 plus minute red-card + penalty for dessert from the all you can concede menu and suddenly Leverkusen had climbed back to 3-3. Augsburg’s 26 points is only 2 ahead of Eintracht’s 24 for the playoff spot and just 5 ahead of the seemingly hopeless-looking Hoffenheim. With Werder Bremen visiting Munich, and Frankfurt in turmoil and travelling to Gladbach, the winner of the FCA – Darmstadt would take a massive step away from the drop zone.
After that rundown, it is now time to take a look this weekend’s best XI, so without further ado, the Bundesliga’s Team of the Week for Matchday 25 is:
Ralf Fährmann – Schalke made 8 saves including 3-4 huge ones to keep FC Cologne on just one goal, despite 17 shots taken. The 27-year-old who signed an extension to stay with the Royal Blues until the 2020 season is now up to 3rd in Squawka’s goalkeeper rankings, a fact that probably escaped Jogi Löw, as the Germany manager failed to include Fährmann among the 5 goalies in his preliminary squad. Roman Bürki was the toughest omission, as he made 2 showstopper saves to deny Douglas Costa and Arturo Vidal in the derby against Bayern.
Georg Niedermeier – VfB Stuttgart first ever brace, 3 interceptions, 6 clearances + a last man tackle in a 5-1 destruction of Hoffenheim for the big center back, who has been responsible for Stuttgart’s defense going from historically atrocious to occasionally passable.
Theodor Gebre Selassie – Werder Bremen –
No, that is not Luis Suarez laying it off to Dani Alves, but the ageless wonder Claudio Pizarro connecting with Gebre Selassie in one of the more incredible Werder goals ever. Perhaps Hannover are capable of making the aforementioned duo look like Barcelona stars, but let’s not sell the Czech right back short: his first Bundesliga goal this season was top-class!
Mats Hummels – Dortmund – it’s almost unfair for such an excellent defensive player – 11 clearances in this game and 6 interceptions – to be this good offensively. Poor Thomas Müller ran himself ragged to get away from Hummels’ pressure and chased him around, sometimes into Bayern’s box (before the Robben-Costa counter), as the 27-year-old was also his team’s leader with 78 touches.
Joshua Kimmich – Bayern – had 120 touches, including a crucial tackle on Marco Reus, who struggled against the 21-year-old, and led all players with 105 passes. The former RB Leipzig man (loaned from Stuttgart) is learning on the job and has been a revelation (aside from his miscues in the Juventus game) for Bayern. The Sergio Busquets master/disciple part two with Pep Guardiola is cute as well.
Lukas Rupp – Stuttgart goal and a half (Niedermeier’s first should belong to him) 5 key passes 3 shots sadly loses out to Max Arnold of Wolfsburg– 2 assists (one brilliant run, one miskick) + 6 key passes and 12.6 kms covered, mostly because the quality of the opposition (Gladbach > Hoffenheim) and a recognition of Wolfsburg’s recent efforts. The 21-year-old’s versatility has been massive for Wolfsburg – Arnold has played forward (1x) attacking mid (2x) defensive center mid (7x) and central midfielder (8x), and his 70 yard run before Kruse’s goal is one that few players are capable of!
Filip Kostic – Stuttgart – 2 shots, both on target, a goal and an assist, plus 6 key passes and a perfect 10 rating from Whoscored.com – what more could he have done? The Serbian is one of the hottest players of 2016, as he has already accumulated 4 matches with 5 or more chances created. Despite the 22-year-old missing 3 games, his 57 chances created on the season only trail Mkhitaryan (60) and Pascal Groß (72). His terrorizing pace and energy were too much on Saturday for Hoffenheim. Perhaps they had given up, perhaps he is just too fast, but goals like this are a joy to watch.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg – Schalke – the still only 20-year-old Danish midfielder basically had 2 assists (getting fouled for the PK) and 95% passing accuracy, with 2 shots and 1 key pass, 4 tackles + 3 interceptions in a hard-fought victory over Cologne. The Bayern loanee (signed at 17 for FCB) has mostly been losing the battle for playing time to the excellent other young defensive midfielder – the recently turned 21-year-old Leon Goretzka – for most of the season, but is now getting a chance to play more thanks to Goretzka’s injury (out until May with a shoulder injury). If he can build on this type of performance, Bayern just might interested in bringing him back, as Clark Whitney of Bleacher Report suggested in an earlier piece.
Nico Müller – HSV
Müller was superbly efficient with his 2 shots resulting in 2 goals in Hamburg’s dominant 2-0 win over Hertha on Sunday. The 28-year-old has been in hot form recently, as 4 of his 7 goals on the season have come in the last 6 games. The former Mainz product has good speed and an excellent first touch, and now only needs 2 goals to tie his career high of 9 goals. The fans of the Rothosen will hope that is the case, as Müller’s excellent goalscoring record is also an indictment of the misery that is HSV’s forwards -in other words, Müller is the club’s leading scorer this year…
Ja-Cheol Koo – Augsburg aka the Korean Dennis Rodman, scored a hat-trick as he got 4 shots, all 4 on target, but his team should be frustrated after giving away a 3 goal lead to earn just a draw. The 27-year-old is now Augsburg’s leading scorer with 7, despite sometimes being relegated to the bench.
Claudio Pizarro – Werder Bremen – Bergkamp like goal + Luis Suarez like assist to do away with Hannover. Just astonishing, what he is doing at this stage of his career in one of the world’s most competitive leagues when guys in their late 20s are selling out and signing in the MLS/China for tens of millions. Oh by the way, at 37 years of age the Peruvian won the most tackles on Matchday 25, with 22. All hail Pizarrinha!
Honorable mentions – Leonardo Bittencourt, Lukasz Piszczek, Xabi Alonso, Florian Grillitsch, Marco Fabian, Roman Bürki, Lukas Rupp.
Let us know if we missed anyone!