Bayern slipped up for the second successive weekend in the Bundesliga, but the real drama is unfolding at the other end of the table. We take a look at five of the key talking points from Matchday 30.
Bayern Munich need to be sharp to avoid title loss
Of all the teams to hold FC Bayern München at the Allianz Arena, Mainz would be one of the less-fancied teams in the Bundesliga. But Martin Schmidt’s relegation-threatened side held the German champions to a 2-2 draw, leading twice on Saturday. It’s another blow to Carlo Ancelotti, whose side lost to Real Madrid in the Champions League in midweek.
Bayern’s season may very well be essentially over, but there is still a job to be done in the German championship and the German Cup. The Bavarians host Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday with Thomas Tuchel’s attack-heavy side hoping to win their first trophy under the coach. In the league, it appears to be a formality for Bayern with RB Leipzig passing up the chance to make it a six-point gap.
Losing the title would be an unmitigated disaster for Ancelotti. The season will probably end on a downer after the defeat last week, but there’s still a need to continue this transition from Pep Guardiola to his successor. Ancelotti’s side remains devoid of ideas, variation and speed, something which will be likely addressed in the summer. Until then, the Italian can least afford further slip ups.
Signs of great character in Dortmund
The football lexicon in the German language can often surprise with its ability to conjure up brand new words from merging others together. “Mentalitätmonster” (Mentality Monster) was how Borussia Dortmund were described for their 3-2 win at VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach on Saturday evening. Though there is not quite a return to normality, the strength of character is admirable.
Despite taking a lead at Borussia-Park, Thomas Tuchel’s side slipped behind to two sloppy goals. But the sprouts of aggression and leadership were visible through the cracks again. Mikel Merino replaced Nuri Sahin and commanded respect instantly with a strong showing. Sven Bender, Shinji Kagawa and Marcel Schemlzer have been cogs in the Dortmund machine for some time – and at different times.
To walk out of Mönchengladbach with three points and move closer to their expected target says a lot about the culture which has been cultivated at the Westfalen. When Dortmund gear up for next season – and even in Munich on Wednesday – this should only stand them in good stead for the test to come.
Cologne need a solid run
The atmosphere was pretty down at full time of 1.FC Köln’s 1-1 draw with TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. After all, Peter Stöger’s side turned in their best performance of this year and were still denied all three points by a last-minute effort from Kerem Demirbay. Hoffenheim were jubilant after reaching Europe, while Cologne and their fans were despondent.
And for the wrong reasons. A point against Germany’s fourth-placed club, which is likely to play Champions League football next season, is a good result. Secondly, Stöger’s team deserved more credit for their effort. A missed chance late on could have tied up the game at 2-0 and the narrative would have been totally different.
If you took a screenshot of the table over the last 5 games, Cologne would be the second-bottom team. Stöger’s side have performed in peaks and troughs this season, overly-reliant on Anthony Modeste to turn up in attack. In order to have any chance of reaching Europe, the Billy Goats need a big run of results in the run in.
Dortmund, Bremen, Leverkusen and Mainz is hardly the easiest run in. But Friday’s performance will give causes for optimism at the RheinEnergieStadion.
Could Leverkusen be in relegation trouble?
It’s beginning to look ostensibly precarious for Bayer 04 Leverkusen with four matches to go. Pascal Stenzel’s 88th-minute winner succumbed Tayfun Korkut’s side to another defeat on the road. Just a win at Darmstadt breaks up a frustrating period of draws and defeats since the German-Turk was handed the job as successor to Roger Schmidt.
But Leverkusen look rudderless and careless under Korkut. There are doubts over the commitment of several key players. They are consistently a yard off the pace, look devoid of any general game plan and are struggling to create in attack. Kai Havertz, just 17, was by far their most promising attacking outlet in the defeat.
Looking forward, the run in could be a spectacular capitulation for the Werkself. Leverkusen meet Schalke next week, then head for Ingolstadt before the derby against Cologne. The season comes to a conclusion at Hertha Berlin, a side notoriously strong on home soil and chasing the fifth-placed access to the Europa League.
Max Kruse’s sensational performance
The 29-year-old was subject to analysis this week on FOX Sports Asia, and he continued his quite fabulous form for SV Werder Bremen into the weekend. Kruse scored four goals as Bremen pushed closer towards European qualification with a 4-2 win at Ingolstadt. He is the first Werder Bremen player to score four goals in a league game since 1986.
Kruse now has five in his last two matches and seven in his previous five encounters. Die Welt wrote about how he was a symbol of Werder Bremen’s improvements this season. Thomas Gröbner of the Süddeutsche Zeitung continued: “Kruse was tried as a one-man pressing machine, as a wide player and a creative hub. The astonishing thing: he succeeded.”
Many analysts in the German media have touted him for the national team. On this form, it is beginning to prove hard to argue. But is that enough to change Jogi Löw’s mind? “I don’t know. You’ll need to ask him,” was Kruse’s response after the game.
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