After a lengthy period in hibernation, the Bundesliga returned this past weekend in all its glory. Perhaps not in the style that we’re usually accustomed to, Saturday being one of the lowest scoring days to date this season, but certainly not lacking in excitement. Gladbach sprung the upset of the round by completing their first league double over Bayern in over 15 years while both Dortmund and Schalke pulled level on points with the league leaders with their respective wins. Freiburg got a big win over fellow cellar dwellers Augsburg in an early relegation battle exhibition and Köln’s troubles on the road continued after a narrow loss in Wolfsburg.
Here are the best performers of the weekend:
Kevin Trapp – Not many goalkeepers have managed to keep Claudio Pizarro goalless this season, making Trapp’s standout performance against Bremen that much more impressive. The U-21 international single handedly earned Kaiserslautern a valuable point against one of the league’s most dangerous striker. Trapp frustrated Pizarro and Rosenberg all match long, making save after save and earning Kaiserslautern only their second clean sheet of the season.
Kyriakos Papadopolous – Considering his build, it is no surprise that “Papa” is so strong in his challenges and nearly impossible to knock off the ball but the young Greek defender has also improved his positioning and reading of the game this season. The game against Stuttgart was the perfect example of his progress, never allowing room to the attackers and cleaning up whenever necessary. Of course, his threat on set pieces is also a huge plus, scoring his third Bundesliga goal against the Swabians.
Martin Stranzl – The Austrian center back has to go down as one of the best transfers in recent Bundesliga history. His introduction into Favre’s Gladbach side last year has turned one of the leakiest defenses in Germany into what is currently the best in the league. Against Bayern, Stranzl was ever present, won important duels and was always in the right place at the right time. It is no coincidence that Stranzl is the league’s best tackler and he proved it in Gladbach’s historic win.
Ricardo Rodriguez – When Bayern München met Zürich in the Champions League playoff earlier this season few players from the Swiss team were able to keep up. In fact, only one really distinguished himself. That player was 19 year old Ricardo Rodriguez, one of Wolfsburg’s January acquisitions. Against, Köln, Rodriguez showed why Magath paid over 8 million Euros for his services, proactive in attack and solid in defense. If it wasn’t for Rensing’s heroics, Rodriguez could have even scored on his debut, making the game a perfect start to his Bundesliga career. Next up? A trip to Bayern.
Danny da Costa – If you remember the young fullback’s league debut against Bayern earlier this season you might recall the worst imaginable start for a player his age and a losing battle against Franck Ribery. Dutt didn’t give up on him though and consistently good performances in the reserves earned him another start and this time, a more memorable performance. Against Mainz, da Costa shook all nerves, assisted Leverkusen’s first goal and linked up well with Castro all game long.
Shinji Kagawa – Back to his playmaking best, the diminutive Japanese midfielder pulled the strings like a well drilled conductor against Hamburg. Whether it was his dribbling, passing or the quickness of his transitions, Hamburg simply had no answer to Kagawa as he ran the show for Dortmund. His pass to Grosskreutz for the first goal was truly special and indicative of a player with restored confidence. Football purists everywhere, rejoice!
Patrick Herrmann – Some are already calling the recently turned 20-year old the “new Reus”. While that may be premature his talents are not. Herrmann’s performance and two impressive goals against Bayern may have been the best of his career so far. Even better was his movement and constant running around and in between Bayern’s backline, confusing them and opening up for Reus and Hanke all game long. His consistent performances have even sparked discussion about a possible call up to the national Team for this summer’s Euros.
Jakub Blaszczykowski – “Kuba”, to keep this entry at a legible length, replaced a supposedly irreplaceable Götze. Dortmund’s record without the prodigious Götze suggested they would struggle against Hamburg but the Poland international ensured that people would forget Götze’s absence in the first place. His two goals earned Dortmund one of the most impressive team performances of the season and gives coach Klopp a real selection headache once Götze returns to fitness.
Matthias Ginter – How many players can claim to be their team’s youngest ever goalscorer? How many can also say they scored a goal on their league debut? Matthias Ginter can claim both. Two days away from turning 18, the industrious Freiburg midfielder scored his side’s winning goal against Augsburg, lifting them out of last place and giving them the all important confidence needed to escape the drop.
Marco Reus – After his multi million move to Dortmund was announced some people questioned Reus’s commitment in his remaining months with Gladbach. Reus’s response? Another outstanding performance against the league leaders. A goal from 30+ meters out and setting up one of the better team goals of the season are part of a typical Reus performance nowadays. A Team of the Week without Reus is simply not feasible, is it?
Robert Lewandowski – 14 goals this season and none of them forgettable. His brace against Hamburg could not have been scored by many other players, his combination play and movement being particularly exquisite. What also makes Lewandowski special is his involvement in his team’s build up, perfectly symbolized by his assist and the way he gets himself into space. There’s a reason Lucas Barrios looked depressed sitting on the bench.
Coach of the Week
Christian Streich – It may not be the greatest individual achievement but Freiburg’s win against Augsburg may be a turning point in the season for the Braisgau-Brasilianer. Streich came in at one of the low points in recent Freiburg history, replacing a coach with one of the worst single season records around all while having to integrate several new signings ahead of an all important clash against another side battling relegation. The win, albeit narrow, could give Freiburg the momentum to survive the drop.
Tim Wiese, Filip Daems, Roel Brouwers, Marcel Schmelzer, Lukasz Piszczek, Julian Draxler, Kevin Grosskreutz