One of the most exciting title races in recent memory is shaping up as the top four created a considerable gap between them and the rest of the league by winning all their matches this weekend. Elsewhere, Augsburg and Kaiserslautern played one of the most exciting games of the season in an early relegation six pointer while Hamburg, Hannover and Mainz all returned to winning ways after disappointing results last week. Finally, Bremen and Leverkusen had to share the spoils as they continue to try and break into the Champions League spots.
Here is the Bundesliga Fanatic Team of the Week:
Lars Unnerstall – Augsburg’s Simon Jentzsch came close but Schalke’s #1 was a crucial in Schalke’s comeback win at Köln. With all teams at the club unable to afford to drop points, a win was important for Schalke to keep up with Bayern and Dortmund. The 21-year old made sure Schalke stayed in contention with a memorable performance against Köln. Had Köln extended their lead by two or three goals Schalke would have struggled to get back into the match but Unnerstall’s great reflex saves and confident performance paved the way for their comeback.
Florian Dick – Kaiserslautern’s right back may have the most underrated right foot in the league. The fullback’s brace against Augsburg earned Marco Kurz’s team a valuable point in the long process of Klassenerhalt, or their attempt to stay in the league. Dick had more shots than any other Kaiesrslautern player and won 14 of his duels. The combination between Dick and Tiffert on the right may be Kaiserslautern’s best chance to stay up this season.
Dennis Diekmeier – Hamburg’s right back is one of the many young German players whose potential and talents are always under the magnifying glass going back to his impressive U-19 European Championship winning performances in 2008 with the National Team but injuries and switching clubs has slowed down that development. Under Fink Diekmeier is finally playing the football he should be though and his performance against Hertha may be his best as a professional to date. He created both Hamburg goals and was played an auxiliary winger in the absence of Töre.
Marco Höger – The match against Köln was bittersweet for Höger. On one hand, he was back in the city of his birth, on the other he scored his first Bundesliga goal in Schalke’s impressive comeback. With his entire family watching in the stands, Höger put on a performance to remember. He scored Schalke’s fourth, and perhaps the most inconsequential goal of the match, but deputized brilliantly for the absent Jones, running more than any other Schalke player, winning 12 duels and completing more passes than any other player on the pitch. (65)
Sokratis Papastathopoulos – With injuries to Naldo and Prödl, Sokratis had to leave his familiar right back spot to anchor the central defense in Bremen’s match against Leverkusen. He also had alongside him a 20 year old debutante with no Bundesliga experience. Despite all that, Sokratis performed brilliantly, winning more challenges than any player on the pitch and completed 80% of his passes all while firmly keeping in check Leverkusen’s Kiessling and Schürrle.
Shinji Kagawa – Back to his best for a while now, the Japanese playmaker continued his impressive form in Dortmund’s win against Hoffenheim. Recently a bogey side of theirs, Dortmund overcame that hurdle in style with Kagawa again orchestrating every attack like a master conductor. Kagawa is crucial to Dortmund’s transition play and his technique and vision make him their most valuable offensive player in the absence of Mario Götze. His two goals were just the cherry on top of another man of the match performance.
Kevin Grosskreutz – Along with Kagawa, Grosskreutz was the heartbeat of Dortmund’s scintillating offensive play. He may not have the technique of some of his teammates but his work rate and winning mentality is a perfect compliment in Klopp’s system. His goal and assist, a clever back heel to Kagawa on the third goal, rounded off another industrious effort from the 23 year old. Every now and then, Grosskreutz may surprise even the biggest of his detractors.
Franck Ribery – Bayern are a different side without Frenchman. In his absence last week, they lacked a certain degree of creativity and incisiveness and were all too easily overwhelmed by their opponent. This weekend, the impetus and threat was back as Ribery’s willingness to take on players created a constant threat and uneasiness in Wolfsburg’s defense. Ribery was by far the best player on the pitch on Saturday and the reason Bayern got back on track after last week’s blip against Gladbach.
Patrick Herrmann – The 20 year old shooting star picked up where he left off against Bayern last week with another awe-inspiring performance at Stuttgart. When the match seemed destined for a stalemate, Herrmann’s dynamism broke the game and Stuttgart as he set up two goals in quick succession. His link up with Reus, Arango and Hanke was once again outstanding and too much to deal with for Stuttgart’s defense. His unpredictability and understanding of space has made Herrmann one of the most dangerous players in the league.
Ciprian Marica – Well it took long enough but the Romanian finally showed glimpses of why Schalke decided to invest in him. With Raul out of the match, Stevens needed to figure out a way to replace his invaluable playmaker. Some speculated on Pukki, others on Draxler but Stevens gambled and played the Romanian forward who has largely been disappointing since joining. Sure enough, Marica scored two goals and was involved in the other two in Schalke’s impressive comeback against Köln.
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting – The return of Adam Szalai after a year off was one of the few positives for Mainz supporters this season but it is another striker who stole the headlines this weekend, namely Choupo-Moting, whose two goals earned his side an important win against Freiburg and moved them into 12th spot in the standings. Choupo-Moting’s strengths lie in his movement and and clever positioning and he made great use of that as Mainz took a 3-0 lead against Freiburg after just 17 minutes.
Coach of the Week
Huub Stevens – It is always a challenge when your best player is missing. Even more so when you rely so much on that player but Stevens compensated for that brilliantly against Köln. While the first half was anything to write home about, he made the right changes after the break and kept faith in Marica for a marvelous comeback and result, keeping the club firmly in the title race and breathing down the neck of Dortmund and Bayern.
Simon Jentzsch, Tom Starke, Stefan Reinartz, Sebastian Kehl, Jerome Boateng, Eugen Polanski, Marcel Jansen, Moa Abdellaoue, Marco Reus, Tobias Werner