Matchday 26 Team of the Week

What looked like a potentially bland slate of games in the Bundesliga turned into a weekend full of goals, excitement and upsets, as Matchday 26 concluded with 26 goals. Bayern and Dortmund show why they are in a league of their own, outshooting their opponents (Werder, who were coming off back to back 4 goal wins and Mainz who famously slayed Bayern just 2 weeks ago) a combined 42 to 6 and outscoring them 7-0.  3rd place Hertha proved us and the analytics people wrong, erupting for 16 shots (after having the fewest shots across 5 leagues this season!) and dispatching the disappointing Schalke, while the similarly underwhelming Wolfsburg lost a close one to Hoffenheim. Gladbach was able to take advantage of Frankfurt’s mess (can’t tell if Benny Hill or Niko Kovac is coaching the Eagles) to claim the 4th spot. Next week’s visit to Gelsenkirchen should be a doozy for the road-averse (11 pts in 12 games) Foals. Leverkusen came out on top in a rugged game, when HSV were unable to capitalize on a 98th minute chance and are still in the race for the top 6, as are 8th place Wolfsburg. Hamburg is 12th and  just a point behind Stuttgart and Ingolstadt who played a thrilling 3-3 draw in the Mercedes – Audi classic. The famously putrid attack of FCI even produced 3 goals, (including beauties by Moritz Hartmann and Dario Lezcano) despite missing their star,Pascal Groß, but their stalwart defense (which averages a goal allowed per match) let them down, as VfB showed a lot of character coming back from a 3-1 deficit. After sharing the points, they now keep chasing Cologne, who looked good against Hannover, but most teams do against the 96ers who are now 7 points behind Hoffenheim and surely relegated. Augsburg took a page from the Leverkusen playbook and came back against Darmstadt with a last-minute penalty courtesy of Alfred Finnbogason, as Sandro Wagner has hit double figures with a thumping header to put the home side up 2-0. The draw did neither team any good and with 27 points, the same as 15th place Werder, they will have to keep checking their rearview mirror. They will see Hoffenheim and Eintracht neck and neck on 24 points, but while TSV have taken 3 wins and 10 points from their last 6 games, die Adler will need to get their first win in 9 matches against Hannover in Matchday 27 to avoid a year in the Zweite Liga. These two teams will meet on Matchday 29 in Frankfurt in what surely will be the decider between who stays and who drops.

Having taken care of the roundup let’s now see who made Matchday 26’s team of the Week!

Goalkeeper – Oliver Baumann – Hoffenheim – 9 saves in the shutout vs Wolfsburg that gave his team a vital 3 points in their fight to stay in the Bundesliga. Those nine saves give him 117, edging Ron-Robert Zieler for most in the league, per Fox Soccer. Loris Karius of Mainz was a strong candidate for not allowing the Dortmund match to devolve into a bloodbath with his 8 saves.

Defenders

Philipp Lahm – 164 touches, 5 key passes, 95% accuracy, as Bayern had 83% possession against Werder. That number is not a typo. Check out Lahm’s and Bayern’s (going Left to Right) heatmaps!

sizzle
Lahm on fire!
bayernvwerder
Camp Werder

Markus Feulner – the 34-year-old filled in for penalty specialist Paul Verhaegh with 3 clearances, 2 key passes and a cracking goal for Augsburg, despite only playing 90 minutes once in 2016 (in the Europa League vs Liverpool). Not sure how he didn’t take the PK in the 90th minute, though.

Mergim Mavraj – Cologne had 11 clearances, 2 blocked shots, 2 interceptions in a huge game for the Billy Goats. The 29-year old also won 9 aerial challenges and was instrumental in keeping Hannover goalless despite 17 shots. It’s even more impressive when you consider that this was only the Albanian’s 6th game started this season (all in the Rückrunde) after being sidelined with injury for 6 months.

Midfield

Tolga Cirgerci was a surprise starter over Fabian Lustenberger (who sat on the bench despite having played over 2000 minutes in the center of midfield) for Hertha and with 7 shots, 81 touches and a game-high 60 passes, the Turkish midfielder repaid Dárdai’s faith in him. With a little better concentration in front of goal, the 23-year-old could have easily had a hat-trick, but it’s moves like this one that have worked out so often for Dardai that he must be seriously considered for the coach of the year award.

Leonardo Bittencourt – Cologne Having spent 2 seasons in Hannover, he had a massive homecoming with 2 key goals. The 22-year-old has been playing superbly as of late, his 3 Bundesliga goals all came in the last 2 weeks. On Saturday, 3 of his 4 shots were on target and he added another key pass to take his chances created total into the 30s. The Cologne trio of Bittencourt, Jonas Hector and Marcel Risse are all surprisingly in the top 30 in the Bundesliga as far as created chances, with Hector and Risse, who both had excellent games as well,  even cracking the top 10.

Thiago Alcantara – Bayern – 2 goals – his first two this season- on a whopping 6 shots, 6 tackles, 5 interceptions and 132 touches in the demolition job over Werder. It’s really hard to do much more in one game. In games like this, the Brazilian-born Spanish midfielder looks world-class and Bayern will hope that he can maintain this form and avoid injuries down the stretch run.

Kingsley Coman – Bayern had 3 assists- 3 shots, 4 key passes with 95% passing, becoming the first Bundesliga player to have 3 helpers since Franck Ribery did it in 2012. Two of those assists were to the aforementioned Thiago, as Bremen were just powerless against the pace of the 19-year-old. How Juventus let him go I will never understand….

Max Christiansen – Ingolstadt at 19 years of age was filling the big shoes of Ingolstadt’s Pascal Groß and his 42 key passes from corners and free kicks. With 4 tackles, 6 interceptions, 3 clearances, plus a superb free-kick delivered right onto the head of Matthew Leckie for the second goal – one of his 3 key passes on the day – the youngster more than acquitted himself in his 2nd time ever playing the full 90 minutes in the Bundesliga.

Forwards

Lars Stindl  – Gladbach had a goal, with 5 shots, 4 of them on target against the joke that is the Frankfurt defense.  The former Hannover man is now on 7 goals and with Raffael’s 13 they continue to form one of the  Bundesliga’s deadliest partnerships. Their combined 15 assists and recent form bodes well for the Foals’ European push.

Marco Reus – Dortmund Mercurial Marco! It’s really hard to find a combination of technique, pace and finishing that the 26-year-old brings to the table for BvB. After a weak showing against Bayern, Reus bounced back nicely, first with 2 goals against Tottenham then followed it up with a 6 key pass 3 shot, 1 goal outburst against Mainz. His 89% passing and 60 touches are also excellent signs for Dortmund and Germany. It speaks volumes of the caliber of Reus, that he is probably having a down year despite 10 goals already in the Bundesliga.

Honorable mentions

Apologies go out to Mahmoud Dahoud and Raffael – two of our favorites, as well as Thomas Müller (now on 19 goals!), but we tried to account for quality of opposition and expand our selections.

Florian Jungwirth set up the opening goal and had 7 interceptions and 5 tackles, while Sandro Wagner – 3 shots, 10 aerials and a stunning goal, his 10th of the season for Darmstadt,K just missed it.

Matthew Leckie  of Ingolstadt finally scored a goal (his first since August), and with 12 aerials and his manic pressing really deserved a spot. He and Christiansen can duke it out at practice. Moritz Hartmann and Dario Lezcano also deserve mentions.

Filip Kostic continues to terrorize the Bundesliga with another goal for Stuttgart.

Henrikh Mikhtaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mats Hummels could be selected every week, but that wouldn’t be much fun.

Let us know if we missed anyone!

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Abel started out watching and playing soccer in Hungary, before falling in love with the Bundesliga in the mid -90s (thanks to Kicker and Sat1's Ran). Now, he's in the USA -- and still loving it all many years later. Abel is faithful to BVB, but also endlessly fascinated by the emergence of new teams and talents from Germany, to the point that he even started a website about it, at www.bundespremierleague.com. Otherwise, you can find him working in publishing, teaching ESL, and/or drinking craft beer - not necessarily at the same time, or in that order. Abel tweets at @VanbastenESL and @BundesPL