A whopping 32 goals in 9 games saw the Bundesliga get back to work in style in a matchday that started with an El Plastico thrashing of Wolfsburg at the hands of Leverkusen. That was followed by 5 intriguing early games on Saturday, only to conclude with a manic last quarter of an hour in Dortmund. Thankfully, there was still excitement left for Sunday, as a Raffael-less Gladbach yet again demolished Hertha Berlin to the tune of 5-0, while Hoffenheim salvaged a point against a shocked Cologne side in the dying moments.
After that quick recap of the Bundesliga weekend, let’s dive into Matchday 28’s team of the week:
Rene Adler – HSV is the obvious choice, despite playing against Hannover, who finally let go of Thomas Schaaf after the match. The 3-0 scoreline looks comfortable, until one realizes that Adler made 9 saves, as the 96ers outshot Hamburg 16 to 9. A quick summary of the match from over at the HSV reddit forum basically mentions Adler in every other line – continuously befuddling the Szalai, Almeida duo who both took 4 shots but were denied by the Hamburg keeper time and time again.
Danny Da Costa – Ingolstadt was the easiest choice at right back for his 2 assist, 3 key pass performance against Schalke in the battle of the Matip brothers. The 22-year-old former Leverkusen academy product has only become a regular in the Rückrunde for Ralph Hasenhüttl out of necessity, as veteran Tobias Levels went down with an ankle injury in January. With 75% pass accuracy against Schalke, 15 points higher than his average, the ex-U20 international had his best game of the season.
Robert Bauer – Ingolstadt – the left back for die Schänzer was equally impressive, but while Da Costa shined going forward, current U20 Germany international Bauer excelled in defense with a total of 17 tackles won and 6 tackles, 7 interceptions and 4 clearances. He should also get credit for limiting Leroy Sané to just 1 shot and 1 key pass and forcing the talismanic winger into several wrong decisions and bad passes. (Skeptics and some disgruntled Schalke fans might argue that Sané hasn’t needed help in that department). Da Costa and Bauer (and the injured Levels) are FCI’s leaders with close to 3 tackles per game and with a strong center-back pairing of Benjamin Hübner (who missed this game) and Marvin Matip – both contenders for spots in the Bundesliga’s team of the season at centerback it’s no surprise that only Bayern and Dortmund have conceded more goals than Ingolstadt.
Cléber – HSV scored a wonderful header after using Emir Spahic as a human shield against Hannover, besides 3 tackles, 5 interceptions and 5 clearances. The 25-year-old Brazilian, signed from Corinthians in 2014 has had a tough time nailing down a starting spot in place of Emir Spahic (35) and Johan Djourou (29), but should be worth more than 1100 minutes of playing time. In the 8 games he started in the Rückrunde, Cléber has been among the top 10 defenders in the league in defensive actions per 90 minutes with over 9 per game, compared to Spahic’s 8 and Djorou’s 6 respectively. The Brazilian also makes more tackles per game 2.2 to 1.8 (Djourou) and 1.6 (Spahic) and is equal in every other defensive metric and passing (77% the same as Spahic, but trails Djourou’s 84%). If Bruno Labbadia and co aren’t willing to give him more playing time and are shopping him, as it was the case in the winter break, when Gremio were willing to offer 2.5 million for his return to Brazil, other Bundesliga teams with poor central defenders (Werder, Stuttgart, Augsburg ) or even teams like Wolfsburg, Dortmund, Leverkusen, in need of depth due to European games, should snatch him up.
Ermin Bicakcic – Hoffenheim rounds out our defense, with a huge performance against Cologne that saw the Bosnian amass 4 tackles, 6 interceptions and 8 clearances. The 26-year-old was voted man of the match by Whoscored.com and also leads the league in per 90 min. defensive actions with almost 12! He is another reason why TSV are the 4th best team (tied with Mainz behind the big two) in the league since appointing Julian Nagelsmann as head coach on February 11th, collecting 14 points from 8 matches.
Julian Brandt – Leverkusen – 2 shots, both on target , 2 key passes and a great goal in the match versus Wolfsburg – has now had back to back man of the match performances for Bayer 04. The 19-year-old’s 1.88 key passes per 90 minute are comparable to Marco Reus’s 1.95 and one begins to wonder why it has taken so many injuries and this much time for Roger Schmidt to play him. Brandt’s 5 goals are more than Bellarabi’s (4) and Calhanoglu’s (3) despite playing 1200 minutes to 2200 and 1850 respectively and his 76% pass completion rate is also surprisingly superior. Of course it’s easy to say this with hindsight, but it shouldn’t take a devastating slew of injuries for Brandt to get more time as a starter in place of Calhanoglu, Bellarabi or even one of Kießling and Chicharito (enjoying a quiet and injury-riddled Rückrunde).
Just a fun side note that came up during research: Brandt scored the lone goal for last year’s Germany team that lost to Mali 4-3 in a penalty shootout at the U-20 World Cup with the aforementioned Bauer Niklas Stark, Julian Weigl, Levin Öztunali and Marc Stendera all featuring. Given that all those players are regulars for Bundesliga squads, and with the likes of Jonathan Tah, or the Schalke quartet (Geis, Meyer, Sane, Goretzka) banging on the doors of the senior squad and Mo Dahoud exploding onto the Bundesliga scene, Germany’s future looks very bright indeed.
Pablo de Blasis – Mainz – 2 goals on 5 shots would have already earned him man of the match honors, but the diminutive Argentine put in quite the defensive shift with 4 tackles and 2 clearances as well. Martin Schmidt, former car technician, and great Bundesliga tactician can now add magician to his resume: the Mainz coach just keeps pulling rabbits out of his hat, despite the devastating Muto injury news and Jairo’s suspension, die Nullfünfer just keep chugging along with not one, but two braces – the second by honorable mention Christian Clemens – in a 4-2 defeat of Augsburg.
Mahmoud Dahoud – Gladbach would be a featured actor if this were a TV series, the 20-year-old just keeps making our team of the week! With 2 assists – now 7 on the year and 2 key passes plus 6 tackles and 3 interceptions the midfielder, who just 8 months ago was valued at 600 thousand Euros is now the target of a 35 million Euro bid by Chelsea and Tottenham … that is if United or Guardiola’s City don’t beat them to it. Need I mention that Squawka has him as the highest rated midfielder in the per 90 rankings in the Rückrunde?
Speaking of the Bundesliga as a TV show, its lead actor this season would unquestionably have to be Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Dortmund. Two more assists – a brilliant throughball to Auba and a deadly corner on to the head of Adrian Ramos give him 12 for the season, two ahead of Raffael, as he and his coach Thomas Tuchel continue to get everything right (Ramos and Kagawa scored their two goals just seconds after coming on) for BVB. Aside from his 3 key passes, Mkhitaryan once again showed what a versatile player he is, with 38 sprints (4th best on the matchday) and 3 tackles in the victory over Bremen.
Thorgan Hazard – Gladbach was the all-time no-brainer for this week, with two great goals on a shunning 6 shots in a 5-0 demolition of Hertha. One of the scapegoats for Lucien Favre’s disastrous start, the Belgian had struggled with his form and to get playing time under Schubert in the Hinrunde, but has now picked up all 3 of his goals and 2 assists in the last 10 games along with his manager’s trust. His 2.7 shots per game are the same as teammate Raffael and 2 more than his career per game average! It is easy to forget, but Hazard’s just turned 23 and has just played 2200 total Bundesliga minutes. With his combination of speed (40 sprints in Sunday’s match) and dribbling. Hazard should shine for a long time.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wins just by a hair over the Paraguayan Dario Lezcano – 17 tackles won, earned a penalty and scored a goal against Schalke – because of his classy finish and EIGHT shots – double his average – against Werder. 23 goals in the Bundesliga, or you know 1 more than Hannover! and 10 more in the Europa League and German Cup are the biggest reason why the whole world is salivating over Auba and he has even come out with a song.
We’ll even forgive him that it sounds/looks like a Sean Paul song 10 years after Sean Paul was a thing with someone named Ghost, who possesses the rap skills of Barcelona legend Lord Pinto and the lyrical complexity of Pitbull, prominently involved.
Just missed the cut:
Sandro Wanger (up to 12 goals now) the vibrant Sven Schipplock – 2 assists for HSV’s offense, Daniel Brosinki – 4 key passes and an inch-perfect cross to de Blasis were difficult omissions from this week’s best XI, as was Xabi Alonso – with his thunderbolt striking the bar along with 100 passes. Heartfelt apologies also go out to Granit Xhaka.
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