The last few days have shaken the world of football to its very core – and no, we’re not just talking about FC Köln’s 2-1 victory over RB Leipzig. The Super League is already dead in the water unless you’re Florentino Perez, and German heavyweights Bayern and Borussia Dortmund are among the very few to come out of the whole debacle with their reputations enhanced. Now, we can get back to the football, and the 31st matchday of the Bundesliga promises to be an important one. Here, we take a look at five of the biggest talking points.
1 | Mainz 05’s tough run starts – have they done enough?
Bo Svensson’s Mainz revolution continued during the Englische Woche as Die Nullfünfer prevailed 1-0 at Werder Bremen. It means they are now unbeaten in their last six league matches, picking up 14 points across that period, and had the season started from the Rückrunde, they would find themselves fifth in the Bundesliga table.
Before Svensson’s arrival, Mainz were almost without hope of staying in the top flight, but with four games left they are five points clear of Köln in 17th and Hertha in 16th. It has been a turnaround of epic proportions, but it is hard to see Mainz picking up many more points this term. On Saturday, they host Bayern Munich, before fixtures against Eintracht Frankfurt, Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg round up the campaign.
They have the hardest run-in of those in the battle for survival, including Hertha, who will have three games in hand and six left overall at the end of this matchday. Svensson has carried out a spectacular job at the Opel Arena, but do Mainz have enough of a cushion to survive even if they end the season poorly?
2 | Bayern Munich close in on ninth successive title
The past year has been unprecedented not just in German society, but also in German football – it will be hard to ever get used to empty stadiums, especially in the Bundesliga where supporters contribute so much. Some things, though, never seem to change – Bayern are closing in on another title.
RB Leipzig’s shock defeat against Köln and the Bavarians’ 2-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen means Hansi Flick’s side are just one victory away from a ninth consecutive Bundesliga trophy. It has been far from a stellar campaign for Bayern – they were defeated by Holstein Kiel in the second round of the DFB Pokal, while Paris Saint-Germain knocked them out of the Champions League in the quarter-final. Flick, meanwhile, should soon be on his way out of the Allianz Arena despite being the manager with the highest win percentage in Bayern’s history.
Still, they can always rely on a league victory to get them through relatively turbulent times. The Super League fiasco has once again brought the 50+1 rule into focus and, while there have generally been calls for the system to be introduced into English football, some have questioned whether it is all that useful given Bayern’s domination. It must be pointed out that the 50+1 legislation was not brought in to level the playing field but rather to make sure clubs remain loyal to their fans. As we have seen this past week, even the Bayern juggernaut can’t get away from that.
3 | Wolfsburg vs Borussia Dortmund – could Eintracht Frankfurt be the big winners?
Just when it seems the battle for the Champions League has swung decisively, it is once again blown wide open. Frankfurt’s 4-0 defeat to Borussia Mönchengladbach and Wolfsburg’s 3-2 loss at Bayern allowed Dortmund to close the gap to the top four. All three prevailed in the Englische Woche, meaning just five points separate them going into the final four matches.
On Saturday, Wolfsburg host Dortmund in a huge fixture. Die Schwarzgelben won the first match between the two this season 2-0 and, with Jadon Sancho returning against Union Berlin, Edin Terzić will harbour hope that his side can inflict a sixth loss of the Bundesliga campaign on Die Wölfe.
The biggest winners of the matchday, though, could be Frankfurt. As those aforementioned two face off, they will travel to Leverkusen. On paper, that appears to be a difficult game, but Die Werkself’s form has been disappointing, and they have won just two of their last six games. After this clash, the Eagles face Mainz, Schalke and Freiburg – Hütter will be confident his side has enough to get the job done.
4 | Bremen dragged into the relegation battle
Not long ago, Bremen were coasting to a mid-table finish – exactly what the doctor ordered for Florian Kohfeldt’s men after they ended the previous term in the relegation play-off spot, with their Bundesliga status secured only after an away goals victory over second-tier Heidenheim. However, a club-record six Bundesliga defeats in a row mean they have been dragged into the relegation battle.
Only four points separate them from the drop, and they face a difficult run of fixtures to end the season. Next up is Union, who remain in the hunt for a European place, and the Alte Försterei has developed into a fortress for the side from the German capital – they are currently in the middle of a 14-match unbeaten run there.
Kohfeldt picked up the German Manager of the Year award in 2019 after Bremen just missed out on the Europa League under his tutelage. However, this season is, so far, the third-worst in the club’s Bundesliga history, and they had managed even fewer points at this stage last term. While Kohfeldt has promise, the praise he initially received may have been a little premature.
5 | Frank Kramer aims to continue Bielefeld’s turnaround
Frank Kramer’s arrival at Bielefeld has breathed new life into the side. From their last four matches, they have picked up eight points, while they have also kept three clean sheets in a row. The change of manager has had the desired effect and, with four matches remaining, they will feel they have every chance of a previously unlikely survival.
Next up is a difficult trip to Borussia Mönchengladbach. At home, they lost only 1-0 to Die Fohlen, and if they are to get more from the game this time around, they will need to rely heavily on their backline. Although they currently lie in 15th, they have a better defensive record than seven other sides and have shipped as many as their upcoming opponents, who are in seventh.
While their defence is in good shape, Kramer will be demanding more from his forwards. They have failed to score in five of their last nine matches and regularly struggle to create chances. Gladbach have failed to score in just three league matches all term – if Bielefeld are to get something from the match, they will surely have to find the back of the net.