German Bundesliga Team of the Week

A thrilling start to the second half of the 2011/12 Bundesliga season saw three times pull level on 37 points at the top of the table.

Reus hurdling over Van Buyten's challenge.

Gabriel Tan

Borussia Monchengladbach kicked off the action on Friday evening with a stunning 3-1 victory over Bayern Munich, which saw them move a point behind the league leaders.

And Schalke and Borussia Dortmund were both able to capitalise on Bayern's slip to move level at the top of the Bundesliga, after victories over Stuttgart and Hamburg respectively.

Bayer Leverkusen kept their hopes of Champions League qualification alive with a hard-fought 3-2 win over Mainz on Sunday, but they remain 6th behind Werder Bremen, who played out a 0-0 draw with Kaiserslautern on Saturday.

Interestingly enough, quite a number of players showed no signs of rustiness, picking up where they left off before the winter break, as three players who made our last Bundesliga Team of the Week are back in once again.

GK: Marc Andre ter Stegen (Borussia Monchengladbach)

It was always going to take a special performance to pip Bremen's Tim Wiese to the goalkeeper berth this week, but in the end, we had to go for Gladbach's 19-year-old stopper for an impressive performance against Bayern.

While it was his offensive team-mates who took most of the credit for the win, things could have been very different had it not been for Ter Stegen's heroics. Just three minutes after Marco Reus had given Gladbach the lead, Bayern nearly equalised through Mario Gomez, who was denied by a one-handed save, before Ter Stegen repeated the feat when he tipped Arjen Robben's fierce shot over the bar.

With Manuel Neuer making a howler in front of watching Germany coach Joachim Low, the youngster could not have chosen a better time to produce his best.

RB: Danny Da Costa (Bayer Leverkusen)

What an impression the 18-year-old made in just his second Bundesliga appearance. The German U-19 international showed excellent initiative from the back, charging forward at every opportunity to support his attackers.

And it was one of those early forays forward that Leverkusen took the lead, when Da Costa's cross from the right was bundled into his own net by Zdenek Pospech.

CB: Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Schalke)

The first of our players who picked up where they left off before the winter break, Papadopoulous was once again an immovable presence in the heart of the Schalke defence on Saturday.

And like he did against Werder Bremen back in December, the Greek youngster put his aerial ability to good use at the other end as well, rising highest to nod home Julian Draxler's corner.

CB: Alexander Madlung (Wolfsburg)

Madlung helped Wolfsburg pick up three valuable points with a sterling performance in the heart of defence.

He combined well with Felipe Lopes to quell the joint threat of Lukas Podolski and Milvoje Novakovic. On the only occasion his keeper Diego Benaglio was beaten, Madlung was on hand to clear Podolski's lob off the line.

LB: Edson Braafheid (Hoffenheim)

Hoffenheim's impressive season continued on Saturday as they recorded a deserved 0-0 draw with fellow Europa League hopefuls Hannover.

Braafheid starred for Hoffenheim in that match, winning his duel with Daniel Royer at the back, while also venturing forward to whip in a couple of dangerous deliveries.

RM: Jakub Blaszczykowski (Borussia Dortmund)

A scintillating display from 'Kuba' ensured Dortmund did not miss the injured Mario Gotze at all on Sunday, and based on his performance against Hamburg, one wonders if the Polish international would actually be playing a key role for any other club.

The dimunitive winger was almost impossible to track and he constantly harried around the park, and he bagged Dortmund's third with a well-struck effort from the edge of the area. Blaszczykowski also laid on a goal for Robert Lewandowski, before grabbing his second from the spot in the 76th minute.

CM: Almog Cohen (Nuremberg)

The 23-year-old played a vital role on Saturday as Nuremberg recorded an impressive 2-0 win over Hertha Berlin, a result which sees them move further away from the relegation zone.

Cohen regularly harried his opponents into giving up possession in the middle of the park, and was at the right place at the right time twice to clear efforts from Roman Hubnik and Peter Niemeyer off the line.

CM: Lars Bender (Bayer Leverkusen)

It's not often we have two defensive midfielders in the same team, as we often try to strike a balance in our team. However, while Cohen got the nod for his defensive display, Bender earns his spot after an all-action display for Leverkusen.

The 22-year-old looked at ease breaking up the Mainz attacks, but also showed good distribution when his side went forward, and it was Bender who bagged Leverkusen's winner when he headed home Michael Kadlec's corner in the 70th minute.

LM: Patrick Hermann (Borussia Monchengladbach)

Earlier this season, we mentioned how Herrmann could go on and establish himself as one of the brightest prospects in German football. And once again on Friday, the 20-year-old showed why he could soon follow Reus in becoming one of the Bundesliga's most sought-after players.

Regularly switching between flanks, Herrmann gave both Jerome Boateng and Philipp Lahm a torrid time with his pace, skill and movement, and put Gladbach 2-0 up when he raced onto Mike Hanke's through-ball and clinically finished past Neuer.

Put the game beyond doubt in the 72nd minute when he rounded Neuer after being played through by Reus, before tapping into an unguarded net.

ST: Marco Reus (Borussia Monchengladbach)

But what Gladbach victory is complete without a masterclass display from the man himself? Reus showed good awareness and technique to capitalise on Neuer's scuffed clearance in the 11th minute, chipping the ball into an empty net from 35 yards out.

The German international, who will join Dortmund in the summer, then proceeded to carve open the Bayern defence at will, and laid on a clever assist for Herrmann when he played a clever reverse pass.

ST: Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund)

Apart from Mario Gomez, Lewandowski has to be the most dangerous striker in the Bundesliga at the moment, as he showed with another two goals on Sunday which now takes his season's tally to 14.

Having already had a goal disallowed, the Polish international was not deterred and proceeded to put Dortmund 2-0 up after receiving the ball from compatriot Blaszczykowski and beating both Dennis Aogo and Jaroslav Drobny.

Lewandowski then grabbed his second of the game when he applied the finishing touches to a wonderful passing move from the defending champions with seven minutes to go.

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