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The Bundesliga Review – Week 26

Schalke vs Borussia Dortmund always brings controversy with one of the most famous rivalries in German football. This time it was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang that caused quite a stir. His goal opened the scoring before a Schalke equaliser meant that both teams shared the points. Upon his goal, the Gabon international donned a mask for the third time in this derby – having worn a Batman and Spiderman mask previously, this time it was Deadpool. Although there doesn’t seem to be much to stir up, the mask is said to come from his sponsors, Nike, whilst Borussia Dortmund are sponsored by Puma – whilst many said the mask showed ‘arrogance’. The 27-year-old later posted on Instagram, stating he’s just a kid who enjoys playing football.

The stunt however hasn’t gone down well with Dortmund CEO, Hans-Joachim Watzke who told reporters: “It will strain our relationship [with Puma].”

Although 20-year-old academy graduate Thilo Kehrer scored the equaliser for Schalke, they’ll no doubt feel hard done by after being denied a stonewall penalty in the dying embers – even so that Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel admitted his side were lucky. Prior to the penalty shout, referee Felix Zwayer had lost his red card and so following the FT whistle, Schalke mascot Erwin returned his card, but perhaps not in a manner that Zwayer appreciated. As a result, the mascot could now face disciplinary action from the DFB, whilst Schalke’s sporting director Christian Heidel said if he does have to face the German FA, then he should do so in his costume.

With the points shared, Borussia Dortmund now look nailed on to qualify for the Champions League once again next season, whilst Schalke find themselves an outside bet for the Europa League, currently sitting three points behind 1. FC Köln.

Although the Revierderby took centre-stage on Matchday 26; every game had something to offer.

1| Thiago the heartbeat of Bayern

Following Thiago Alcantara’s performance against Augsburg on Saturday, there had been stark comparisons on social media to Bayern Munich legend, Mehmet Scholl – there’s no doubt the Spaniard is one of the best midfielders to grace the Bayern trikot in recent history. Brought to Bavaria under Pep Guardiola, the now 25-year-old looks to be a bargain for the €25 million Bayern paid for him in 2013.

Not only effective going forward, Thiago also provides defensive cover – recording 105 interceptions across the Bundesliga this campaign. In Bayern Munich’s thrashing of Augsburg alone, the Spain international finished the game with a 91% passing accuracy, completing 101 passes of which two were key – assisting Robert Lewandowski for his first.

After the obvious contenders such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, Thiago is right up there in contention for a Ballon d’Or – making him the first playmaker to win the accolade since Kaka in 2007.

2 | Thomas Delaney revives Werder Bremen

An arrival from Copenhagen in January, Thomas Delaney seems to be the key catalyst in this Werder Bremen side in 2017 for Alexander Nouri. The 2009 Europa League runners-up look destined for the drop following a poor Hinrunde, but a change in fortunes has now seen them pick up five wins from their previous six Bundesliga fixtures, drawing the other.

Since the Denmark international has come into the midfield alongside Zlatko Junuzovic, the Grün-Weißen look a lot more stable. Delaney has scored four Bundesliga goals in seven appearances (610 minutes) whilst he possesses the ability to both attack and defend.

The 25-year-old netted a hat-trick against high-flying Freiburg, who deserve all the plaudits for what they’ve done this season under Christian Streich following promotion from the 2. Bundesliga. Delaney’s three goals helped Bremen climb up to 11th, but whilst still being just three points above the relegation play-off, Nouri has got his side playing like a team capable of picking up three points no matter who their opponent is.

Time will tell as to whether the bubble will burst in Bremen, but at the minute, it doesn’t look like it will do – their current form should see them beat the drop.

3 | Super, super Hoffenheim

“If next week Real Madrid calls and want me, then I would perhaps ask [Hoffenheim owner] Dietmar Hopp if he would let me go. But they won’t call,” Julian Nagelsmann told reporters at his pre-match press conference. The 29-year-old head coach certainly deserves the plaudits having guided Hoffenheim from battling relegation under Huub Stevens to Champions League qualification contenders. With just 10 games remaining in the Bundesliga, the Sinsheim club are 18 points clear of fifth-placed Hertha BSC.

Heading into this game, Hoffenheim were no doubt the in-form team, unlike Hertha BSC who like last season, have dropped off the pace after an impressive start. Peter Pekarik had given the capital club the lead with his first goal in 150 Bundesliga appearances. From then, it was downhill for Pal Dardai’s XI.

Andrej Kramaric continued his blossoming form with a brace, whilst outgoing Niklas Süle scored from almost 30-yards, telling reporters after the match he thought he was having a bad game – by his standards – and thus wanted to make amends. That he certainly did. Unfortunately for young Nagelsmann, he’ll be without both Süle and Sebastian Rudy next season, both of whom will join Bayern Munich – but as they’ve shown before, they can find replacements having found ones for Anthony Modeste, Kevin Volland & Roberto Firmino in the past.

4 | Goals EVERYWHERE

Heading into Matchday 26, the Bundesliga had fallen down the pecking order for goals per game in Europe’s top five leagues. After this weekend, it’s fair to say that they’ll no doubt rise above it following 35 goals in nine games across the weekend’s Bundesliga fixtures.

There were no goals for Cologne’s Anthony Modeste this week as 1. FC Köln fell to Hamburger SV, where Lewis Holtby scored a late 93rd minute winner, but there was a hat-trick for Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, who has scored 45 goals in all competitions for the German club and Poland this season. Staggering.

Seventeen goals came in the second-half of Bundesliga fixtures in the first seven games of the weekend as both Frieburg and Augsburg suffered heavy defeats. RB Leipzig got back to winning ways following a 3-0 defeat to Werder Bremen prior to the international break – with Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side putting four against bottom club SV Darmstadt 98, withouth newly capped Germany international, Timo Werner.

After going up 2-0 against Wolfsburg, Leverkusen collapsed – not for the first time this season – with a six-minute hat-trick from Mario Gomez. However, it wasn’t over there – Kai Havertz had the last laugh as his strike secured a draw for Leverkusen, although they certainly should have held onto their lead. That’s four goals in nine minutes to end MD26 of the Bundesliga.

5 | Tight at the bottom

Whilst Darmstadt are odds-on to finish dead bottom, anything can happen in the places above. 17th placed Ingolstadt defeated Mainz 2-1, with Martin Schmidt’s side allowing an ultra on the pitch at the final whistle to give a motivational speech ahead of their relegation battle. A defeat for Augsburg means they occupy the relegation play-off, but Mainz are just above them on goal difference.

Hamburger SV’s last-grasp win against 1. FC Köln means they’re now unbeaten in eight games at home whilst they sit just one point above Mainz and Augsburg – and with Borussia Dortmund up next, Markus Gisdol will be hoping they can keep it tight at the back.

Just four points separate Augsburg in 16th and Bayer Leverkusen in 11th.

By Daniel Pinder.

 

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