While all eyes may be on Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund battling it out at the top of the Bundesliga for the first time in what seems like an age, it’s perhaps the race for a place in next season’s European competitions that should be drawing the eyes of the public. Eintracht Frankfurt’s narrow 1-0 win against 1. FC Nürnberg on Sunday afternoon has put them within one point of Borussia Mönchengladbach, who occupy that final Champions League spot. With a Europa League quarter-final against SL Benfica upcoming, their season couldn’t get any better, could it? Their fans deserve it and so does the club. After Niko Kovač left the club for Bayern Munich in the summer after winning the DFB Pokal with the Eagles, many had feared the worst.
The club turned to BSC Young Boys head coach Adi Hütter as his successor and it’s fair to say, he’s done extremely well. Sébastien Haller, Luka Jović and Ante Rebić are on par with some of Europe’s top attacking trio’s and while funds have been somewhat limited, Hütter and sporting director Fredi Bobic have managed to find a balance in the team, which makes them one of the most exciting and interesting sides in Europe’s top leagues this season.
Not only that, many would argue this season’s Bundesliga is one of the most exciting it has been in a long time. Hoffenheim’s draw against relegation threatened VfB Stuttgart meant that Werder Bremen had a chance to climb above their European chasing rivals. Florian Kohfeldt’s Bremen stormed into a 2-0 lead after 37 minutes against Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday, before Leon Bailey struck a sublime free-kick to give Peter Bosz’s side hope. But it was Max Kruse and his man of the match winning performance that sealed the points for Bremen. The 30-year-old has been in exceptional form all season while he has found his home back at Bremen, where he started his professional career. Kruse is happy and enjoying his football while his movement and left-foot just oozes class. His footballing brain is just one contributing reason as to why Werder Bremen are where they are in the table.
With just nine points separating Borussia Mönchengladbach in fourth and Julian Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim in ninth, it’s anyone’s guess who will claim that final Champions League spot. Dieter Hecking’s Gladbach have dropped off the pace following a captivating start to their Bundesliga campaign while both VfL Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen fail to show any consistency. Leverkusen have already shown they can beat the likes of Bayern Munich and do have the potential to challenge, while Wolfsburg need to turn their draws into victories.
Wolfsburg head coach Bruno Labbadia had announced during the week that he won’t be extending his contract with the club, which suggests that he has run out of ideas, and that he isn’t the coach to take them further. Champions League football is likely out of there reach but with no European football in the city in three years, Europa League at the bare minimum is their aim.
1 | Things couldn’t possible go worse for Schalke, could they? 11 goals conceded in three Bundesliga games followed by a 7-0 drubbing at Manchester City was Domenico Tedesco’s final act as head coach. With no league win since January 20, the 33-year-old was relieved of his duties on Thursday, with Huub Stevens and Mike Buskens appointed as his successor. Fans certainly expressed their concern before his sacking but prior to kick off against RB Leipzig on Saturday, Ultras unveiled a banner with a clear message that the situation Schalke are in isn’t his fault, “Cost the coach his job, embarrassed us in Europe and never understood Schalke: Remove mercenaries! Danke Domenico!” A 1-0 defeat followed and with Augsburg winning and Stuttgart picking up a point at Hoffenheim, Schalke now lurk just three points above Stuttgart, who occupy the relegation play-off – the two teams play each other on the final weekend. Add to this that Nabil Bentaleb has been dropped to the U23’s for disciplinary reasons, Schalke aren’t in a good place at the minute.
2 | For the second consecutive weekend, Borussia Dortmund left it late to pick up three points. Lucien Favre’s side travelled to the capital without key players such as Axel Witsel, Mario Götze and Paco Alcacér, which was evident in their performance. They missed the creativity of Götze, whom many had tipped for a Germany call-up, while the performance of Christian Pulisic was sub-par, potentially typical of a player that is on his way out of the club. The United States international failed to supply the goods, with Marco Reus becoming clearly frustrated with his teammate. Reus & Co. had to fight back after finding themselves a goal down on two occasions, with Jadon Sancho assisting Reus, for the umpteenth time this season, to seal the three minutes in added time. Who knows how important those three points will prove to be come the end of the season as many have found out, Hertha BSC isn’t an easy place to go.
3 | Just as Borussia Dortmund reclaimed top spot in the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich thrashed 1. FSV Mainz 05 for six, a resounding performance following their Champions League elimination to Liverpool in midweek. Niko Kovač certainly eager to show he is the right coach to take Bayern further, a Bundesliga title is the absolute minimum that the club’s hierarchy expect. The Croat clearly unhappy at questions posed by a reporter during his post-match press conference, suggesting he isn’t the person to make Bayern into a top four European club. The reigning champions have found their league form when they needed it most, while it wouldn’t be surprising if Robert Lewandowski and Co. went on to win their remaining eight league fixtures. A performance worth making note of is that of James Rodriguez, there had been questions regarding the future of the Colombian at Bayern Munich with the club yet to take up the purchase option in his two-year loan spell, which ends this summer. If his performance against Mainz is anything to go by, then Bayern should absolutely sign the 27-year-old, but a problem seems to be his inconsistency – this summer could be huge for Bayern’s transition period.