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Bundesliga Review – Week 27

Fine art museums, a major financial hub for Europe and their famed Apfelwein, there’s a reason why Frankfurt is becoming a go-to destination for top-flight European football. Under the blistering March sun, Eintracht Frankfurt, coached by Adi Hütter, welcomed VfB Stuttgart to the Commerzbank Arena on Sunday evening. A win would see the Bundesliga club move above Borussia Mönchengladbach into a Champions League spot, a competition they’ve been absent from since 1960, when it went by its original name, the European Cup.

Sunday’s trip was also a chance to see Ante Rebić, Luka Jović and Sébastien Haller first hand. The trio have been involved in 46 of Eintracht Frankfurt’s 54 Bundesliga goals this season. It’s clear just to see why all the top European clubs are chasing Eintracht’s front three. Sunday’s game against Stuttgart perhaps wasn’t their best showcase, especially in comparison to earlier fixtures, but they still caused the visiting defence problems, who defended very well until they pushed for an equaliser.

It’s even fair to say that Stuttgart had the better chances in the first half, that was until Filip Kostic scored from an acute angle in stoppage time, forcing Stuttgart head coach Markus Weinzierl to change his team talk. They had to go for it, especially given FC Nürnberg’s win on Saturday afternoon. Pushing bodies forward in search of an equaliser evidently played into the hands of Jović and Co. Just past the hour mark Kostic scored his second of the evening, Rebic assisting the Serbian as Eintracht somewhat put the game to bed.

Stuttgart looked lost, a team that are fighting relegation but with not much hope of staying up. The appointment of Weinzierl hasn’t paid off and soon enough, Eintracht piled more misery on the visitors. Jović scored his 16thBundesliga goal of the season, latching onto Danny da Costa’s cross, finishing neatly past Ron-Robert Zieler. There’s a reason why Europe’s elite clubs – Barcelona and Bayern Munich – are chasing the young Serbia international, while Eintracht will do well to keep him, given the €50 million price tag that has been doing the rounds.

Eintracht’s 3-0 win on Sunday has moved them above Borussia Mönchengladbach into fourth and at the minute, they’re the in-form team in the Bundesliga. Play like they have been doing and they should make that spot their own. Kostic has finally found his form. Sporting director Fredi Bobic took a punt on signing the left-sided player from relegated Hamburger SV and it’s one that is paying off. In his last five Bundesliga games, the 26-year-old has four goals and three assists, while his campaign surely warrants a place in team of the season.

But let’s talk about Eintracht Frankfurt and their fans, who are deserving of European football.

This season in their Europa League campaign has shown the following they have. One of Germany’s biggest clubs, they’ve always sold out their allocation, and the rest, taking as many as 15,000 to Milan with just 9,000 tickets available. They have a mass following while this season alone is deserving of Champions League football.

Get German Football News journalist Axel Falk noted in January that Eintracht Frankfurt is the epitome of football and now that I’ve personally attended a fixture at the beautiful Waldstadion, it’s clear to see why. They play fantastic, flowing football and this is met with joy from the fans, which then transcends to the players who play with the full backing of the support.

This of course hasn’t always been the case. Unfortunately, Eintracht fans know all too well about relegation, having been relegated in 2011 under Michael Skibbe and Christoph Daum. This is still etched into the minds of SGE fans and with the recent departure of Niko Kovač – who clinched the DFB Pokal trophy – to Bayern Munich at the start of the season, many journalists had predicted that they would struggle to find any consistency.

But they are perhaps doing better now than they ever have. Appointing a head coach in Hütter was always going to be a bold move. But working alongside Bobic, it’s a relationship that is paying dividends. The Austrian has the complete backing of everyone at the club and who knows what this partnership could achieve in the long term. It’s an exciting time to be an Eintracht Frankfurt fan.

 

1 | It may be Julian Nagelsmann’s last season at Hoffenheim but he’s determined more than ever to bring European football to Sinsheim once again. Eliminated from the Champions League group stages this season, Nagelsmann & Co. will be ready to move up the table if another team slips up, as Borussia Mönchengladbach have done. TSG put four past Peter Bosz’ Bayer Leverkusen on Friday night and they now sit just one point behind them with a far superior goal difference.

Perhaps Bosz got his tactics wrong from the off with Leverkusen given their poor counter-pressing, with very little defensive cover allowing Hoffenheim space to run into. They played it into their opponent’s hands on Friday night and Nagelsmann capitalised. One thing’s for sure and that’s that RB Leipzig will be fun to watch under the German.

2 | As has been the norm this season, Lucien Favre’s Borussia Dortmund left it late once again to clinch the three goals. Starting from the off in place of an absent Marco Reus – who attended the birth of his new born – Paco Alcacér’s brace in the 90thminute moved BVB back above Bayern Munich, who could only manage a 1-1 draw at Freiburg. Add to the fact Borussia Dortmund go to the Allianz next weekend could well have its say in the title race. Win and Borussia Dortmund may go on to win their first league title since 2012 but lose, and the title will surely remain in Munich given they have the experience in this situation, as well as consistency.

Robert Lewandowski is just one goal away from his 200th, when quizzed upon if he is the best No. 9 in football at the minute, he told France’s Téléfoot: “Each time, I have to prove things on the pitch, ideally I score and the team wins. I am very happy with my career to date, I am playing for one of the best clubs in the world.” It’s clear that he’s happy and settled in Munich despite all the rumours and with a contract until 2021, the Poland international told Kicker he could well imagine himself at the Bundesliga club even longer, should the opportunity arise.

3 | A 1-0 defeat to relegation rivals Schalke on Sunday afternoon has left Hannover 96 depleted and rock bottom of the Bundesliga after FC Nürnberg’s outstanding 3-0 win over Augsburg. As has been the case with FCN, a change in coach can yield the results but the appointment of Thomas Doll at Hannover has put the club into further disarray. Things couldn’t have possible gone any worse for H96 following the sacking of Andre Breitenreiter but unfortunately, they just haven’t been able find their form, instead they look like a team destined for the drop. Schalke’s win over Hannover 96 has put them six points clear of Stuttgart in the relegation play-off and with the squad they have, they ought to be staying up.

But you can never say never in the Bundesliga, it’s happened before. With just seven games remaining, there’s six points between Hannover 96 at the bottom and Stuttgart in the relegation play-off. Sandwiched between them in FC Nürnberg, who travel to Stuttgart next weekend. Just like the title race, this is set to be quite the battle.

4 | Fortuna Düsseldorf clearly hadn’t read the script on Saturday. Tipped as relegation candidates prior to the season starting, and even at the Christmas break, F95 have surprised many since that 3-3 draw against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. They’ve won four and lost two of their last six home games, with the latest victory coming against local rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach. A brace from Rouwen Hennings and a goal from Kevin Stöger in the opening 16 minutes had Fortuna Düsseldorf three goals ahead at the break. They controlled the game, much to Dieter Hecking’s dismay, with a late Denis Zakaria goal nothing but a consolation for the visitors.

By Daniel Pinder.

 

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