It was a traumatic week for Borussia Dortmund and their coach Thomas Tuchel, but somehow they still managed to put a performance to be proud of. We take a look at five talking points from Matchday 29.
Borussia Dortmund deliver powerful performance
Words cannot comprehend the kind of week Borussia Dortmund have been through. Just after the tie with Monaco on Wednesday, Nuri Sahin gave a brave interview with former player Jan-Aage Fjortoft on Norwegian television.
“Last evening we felt how it was like to be in a situation like this. I don’t wish anyone to have a feeling like this,” he said. Sahin continued about the faces of his teammates after the explosions which rocked the team bus as it was set to leave the team hotel for the stadium.
As the dust settles, it becomes almost unbelievable that Dortmund’s squad were tasked with playing two games in three days. To deliver the kind of performance they did against Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday showed immense courage. But football continues to conjure up these moments of unity, an ardent connection between supporters and players. The team shared in its best wishes for the injured Marc Bartra before and after the game.
Without Bartra, Thomas Tuchel’s side held on to win 3-1 and consolidate their place in the top four. However in the end, the result was secondary as Dortmund try to move on from a troubling week.
Leipzig are heading to Europe
It is now official: Rasenballsport Leipzig cannot finish lower than fourth this season. Ralph Hasenhüttl’s secured a fantastic first-season finish in the Bundesliga with a dominant 4-0 win over SC Freiburg at the Red Bull Arena. Timo Werner was back on the scoresheet, scoring the second to take his tally to 16 for the campaign.
Saturday was yet another milestone for the club, founded in 2008. Though there are questions over the club’s connection to RB Salzburg, and their ascension to European competition, Hasenhüttl’s side have delivered impressive performances in their maiden top flight campaign. UEFA, Europe’s governing body, will have a decision to make come May and June, but restricting Germany’s second team from the Champions League is highly unlikely.
The next steps for Leipzig will be pivotal in their quest to become a heavyweight team in Germany and Europe. Ralf Rangnick, the club’s sporting director, has often ruled out compromising their strict wage budget; instead preferring to rear young, high-potential talents from abroad. But now with Champions League football and a burgeoning audience in the region, the club will feel it can attract the best talents.
Mainz battle for their trainer
Martin Schmidt’s position at FSV Mainz 05 was up for discussion last week. The Carnival Club hadn’t won in their previous six games and were threatened with the prospect of being dragged towards the automatic relegation spots. Though a 1-0 win over Hertha Berlin won’t secure their status for now, it’s some comfort to the club.
What Saturday’s win over the Berliners showed outsiders was that Mainz’s players were willing to fight for their coach. The 50-year-old Swiss boss is managing the club through its most turbulent period following the departure of key players and long-serving sporting director Christian Heidel. Schmidt was given the confidence of sporting director Rouven Schröder in midweek – and he got the same response from his players.
Schmidt made three changes, some of which were forced, with Jairo Sampeiro, Robin Quaison and Fabian Frei in from the start. Danny Latza scored the goal – a deserved reward for dominating with an intense, energetic display in the middle of the park. There’s still work to be done given there’s just four points between Mainz and the bottom spots. But Saturday’s fighting performance showed that keeping Schmidt was the right call.
Augsburg respond to criticism:
Similarly to Mainz, FC Augsburg’s 2-1 win over 1.FC Köln could have giant ramifications for the battle to avoid the drop at the bottom. Augsburg moved on to 32 points, opening a four-point cushion with Ingolstadt, but the struggling side are still in the relegation playoff position.
The Bavarians went to a training camp for the week with the aim of refining Manuel Baum’s demands and working on the team togetherness. Sporting director Stefan Reuter slammed the players’ application after Augsburg went down 2-0 at Hertha Berlin. It was a risky strategy from Reuter given the fragile levels of confidence in the Augsburg camp.
But Baum’s side were out of the traps like greyhounds on Saturday, scoring two early goals and holding off the threat of Anthony Modeste. The ultras demanded commitment, attitude and passion from the players at the final training session last week, and that is exactly what they got. Talent is perhaps in small quantities at Augsburg, but the fight is what is might allow them to protect their status as a Bundesliga club.
The Schalke Problem:
FC Schalke 04 were jeered off the park on Sunday afternoon by their own supporters following a 2-1 defeat at SV Darmstadt 09. The bottom-placed side could have been resigned to the drop, if they hadn’t won the game. But a 92nd minute winner from Jerome Gondorf succumbed Markus Weinzierl’s side to another disappointing defeat to weaker opponents in the Bundesliga.
The Royal Blues are ostensibly hard to analyse this season. European competition has been an added bonus throughout the campaign with Schalke still in the UEFA Europa League, albeit 2-0 down to Ajax. Since coming in last summer, Weinzierl has been afforded practically a clean slate to build and shape the squad however he sees fit.
But five points above the relegation zone with five games to go is simply unacceptable. The Schalke squad is capable of more, and many of the signings under sporting director Christian Heidel haven’t given much in return. There would be one heck of an uproar if the Royal Blues are sucked into a relegation battle, and that is something the club’s new regime doesn’t need in their first season.
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