Following another intriguing weekend of Bundesliga action, we take a look at the five major talking points.
Sensational BVB win throws open the title race
Borussia Dortmund’s 1-0 win against Bayern Munich on Saturday means the German champions are playing the rare game of catch-up. RB Leipzig, unbeaten in their first 11 games, lead the table outright with Bayern three points behind, and Dortmund three behind the Bavarians. At this rate, it looks as if we might have a title race after all.
And despite a half-decent second half, Dortmund bettered the champions. Mario Götze and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang combined brilliantly to score early on, while the league’s most in-form striker passed up two great chances in the second period.
Tactically, Thomas Tuchel got it right on the night, ending his four-game stint without a win as Dortmund coach. He created situations where Bayern were uncomfortable, his side simply outpacing and manoeuvring their opponents. Götze, Ginter, Sokratis and Weigl all delivered a performance worthy of the result.
Although Dortmund remain the most fragile of the ‘top-three’, if there was any doubt about their place at the top table of German football, then it was thoroughly answered. A championship race comprising of all three, though, depends on BVB maintaining consistency when the focus perhaps isn’t as strong.
For once, Bayern have got it wrong
Should Bayern Munich fans be concerned? It’s only 11 league matches into Carlo Ancelotti’s tenure as head coach, but the signs so far haven’t been inspiring. Slow in transitions, one-paced and lacking attacking incision, the champions certainly haven’t delivered their A-game yet, with Leipzig hot on their heels.
Hindsight is wonderful after the summer window, but there is now a solid argument that Bayern’s transfer business wasn’t quite enough. Mats Hummels bolstered the central defensive area, which in practice under Pep Guardiola didn’t require much strengthening. Renato Sanches, signed from Benfica, hasn’t looked equipped for this level, as of yet.
It’s in attack, where Bayern are perhaps most insipid. Ribery’s return to fitness hasn’t been as impressive as many would suggest, while Robben isn’t in great shape. Coman is out for two months and according to reports, isn’t so happy with the Ancelotti style of management. Müller hasn’t scored in the league all season.
It’s worth taking a step back and giving Ancelotti time following on from a record-breaking period in the Bundesliga under Pep. But for the time being, the Italian and Bayern have a lot to prove.
Leverkusen can take heart from Leipzig
Table-toppers RB Leipzig continued their impressive start with victory in Leverkusen. But the eastern German side were forced to grind this one out as the Werkself demonstrated their Champions League quality. “We played well, but not good enough,” head coach Roger Schmidt told reporters. “The collection of mistakes was too big to win against a top opponent.”
Next week, Leverkusen are at Bayern Munich and have a second-bite at one of the league’s strongest teams. Schmidt’s side can take heart from their performance, though, against Leipzig, taking a 2-1 lead into the break. The manner of Leipzig’s second and third goals will have been infuriating for Schmidt, but signs of improvement are there.
Since going out of the German Cup, Leverkusen have looked back to their best. The win over Spurs at Wembley was an impressive performance, while the 3-2 win over Darmstadt was one to show the character and spirit of the squad. On 16 points, they aren’t out of the picture for top-four, and a win in Moscow next week will go a long way to securing a place in the financially-rewarding Last 16.
Frankfurt and Cologne still buzzing
Coming from behind: it’s the sign of a great team. Cologne, fourth in the Bundesliga, did it in their local derby of all games against Borussia Mönchengladbach. Peter Stöger’s team trailed one-nil at the break, but scored two in the second half to steal the points. Anthony Modeste bagged his 12th of the season, before Marcel Risse scored a fantastic free-kick in stoppage time.
Eintracht Frankfurt, meanwhile, came from behind at the Weser on Sunday to beat Werder Bremen by the same scoreline. Niko Kovac’s side are one of five teams locked on 21 points, with the Croatian’s joker card paying dividends in the shape of 18-year-old Aymen Barkok, who scored the winner in injury time. Alex Meier, another sub, scored to spark the revival.
Added to the statistics, which back up both of their positions in the top seven of the Bundesliga, things are looking great for Cologne and Frankfurt. This is no fluke, but as Hertha illustrated last year, avoiding the slump after the winter break is going to be crucial.
Homegrown Schalke duo typify Renaissance
Markus Weinzierl’s Schalke are 10 games unbeaten in all competitions. A month ago, that would have seemed like a distance away, with the Royal Blues struggling to discover a spark under their new head coach. And at the heart of such a turnaround, in typically Schalke fashion, are two home reared talents in Leon Goretzka and Sead Kolasinac.
The pair combined to great effect in Saturday’s 1-0 over Wolfsburg, their first away league win since May. But there’s more behind their respective performances than a simple goal-assist combination: they are bringing the thrust from defence and midfield and leading a buoyant club back into contention for a place in the Champions League next season.
Kolasinac, the 23-year-old Bosnian international born in Karlsruhe, has made the left wing-back spot his own, setting up a goal in each of the last two games.
Goretzka, signed from Bochum in 2013, is on his best streak of form since he chose to sign for the club ahead of Bayern Munich. A dynamic midfielder with great lung power, the 21-year-old returned from international duty, where he made his third Germany appearance, by deciding the outcome with his second goal of the season. “He is a mature personality,” said Joachim Löw last week.
As much of the German press noted, it won’t be long before he is subject to a huge offer.
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