In recent weeks, the Bundesliga title race has captured the imagination of the league’s fans as Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich tussle to be crowned Champions. This, however, means that the battle for the remaining European spots has so far passed under the radar. But, just like the twists and turns at the top, the question of who will be playing in the Champions League and Europa League next season is up in the air.
This past matchday saw six of the top eight face off. In the Monday night game, RB Leipzig hosted TSG Hoffenheim. This was an interesting fixture, with Julian Nagelsmann, Hoffenheim’s manager, already confirmed to be joining Leipzig next season. It appeared that Nagelsmann would be coming away from his future employers’ home with an important victory but, as has so often arisen this season, Hoffenheim were unable to hold on to their lead. Willi Orban’s 89th minute strike levelled things at 1-1, which is how it remained until the final whistle. Hoffenheim have now dropped 16 points from winning positions, more than any other side in the division.
Just below Leipzig, in fifth place, sit Wolfsburg after their surprising 3-0 victory at Borussia Mönchengladbach. How Bruno Labbadia’s side managed to win, and by such a large margin, still perplexes. Mönchengladbach, who were at home, have lost just one game at home so far this campaign, and dominated proceedings in this encounter. However, thanks to some incredible saves from keeper Koen Casteels, as well as impressive efficiency from their forward line, Die Wölfe were able to close the gap to fourth spot to just four points.
The matchday’s most eye-catching game pitted Bayer Leverkusen against Borussia Dortmund and, much like Wolfsburg’s victory, Borussia Dortmund were perhaps fortunate to come away with all three points. Leverkusen had been in control, just lacking a goal to cap off a convincing first half an hour, when Dan-Axel Zagadou got on the end of a Jadon Sancho corner to put his side ahead. Kevin Volland soon equalized, but Sancho one again put BVB ahead just 91 seconds after the equalizer. Mario Götze scored a third before Jonathan Tah reduced the deficit. It ended 3-2, but Peter Bosz will be disappointed not to come away with at least a point in his first return to the Signal-Iduna Park.
Eintracht Frankfurt were still riding high from their Europa League defeat of Shakhtar Donetsk last Thursday as they put three past Hannover on Sunday. Luka Jovic, who leads the Bundesliga goalscoring charts with 15, Ante Rebic and Filip Kostic were all on target in the 3-0 rout. It could have been even more had Jovic been less wasteful with his chances. Frankfurt will play Inter Milan in the next round of the Europa League.
With Dortmund winning this weekend, it was important that Bayern kept apace with the leaders. And that they did, as they edged past Hertha Berlin by a single goal. This was not the most exhilarating of games, but Niko Kovac will not be unhappy with a sole Javi Martinez goal separating the sides. With just eleven games left, picking up as many points as possible is all that matters, especially with two other competitions in the form of the DFB Pokal and the Champions League to also consider.
At Nürnberg, little has changed since Michael Köllner was relieved of his duties. They lost 2-1 against Fortuna Düsseldorf in matchday 23 to extend their winless run to 17. And interim coach Boris Schommers is sure to have had strong words with Matheus Pereira after the match as the winger got himself stupidly sent off with just four minutes on the clock. Despite going 1-0 just before half-time, it was always going to be a tough ask for Nürnberg to pick up anything whilst having to play 84 minutes with just 10 men. After the break, Düsseldorf had too much in the tank, forcing Ewerton to head in to his own goal before Kaan Ayhan completed the comeback in the final 10 minutes.
Much like Nürnberg, Manuel Baum’s Augsburg continue to struggle. This week, they were put to the sword by Freiburg, but they were the architects of their own downfall. Numerous individual mistakes allowed Freiburg to repeatedly put them under pressure and, other than a brief 20 minute spell at the start of the second 45 minutes, Augsburg can have no complaints about the final result.
Stuttgart, also still struggling at the bottom, had the best weekend of all of those at the bottom. Despite that, Markus Weinzierl and his players will believe that they should have come away with more than just a 1-1 draw at Werder Bremen. Stuttgart’s problem this season has been their inability to maintain a strong performance for the full 90 minutes, with them only playing well for certain periods. This was the case again, with a promising first 45 minutes’ work thrown away in the first period’s stoppage time, as Davy Klaassen levelled the score following Steven Zuber’s opener. With 51 goals conceded so far, Stuttgart have the second worst defence in the top five leagues in Europe in terms of goals conceded per game.
Schalke may not be in the midst of the relegation fight, but they seem to be doing their best to get involved. They showed very little resistance against Mainz and were easily dispatched 3-0. They may have had 60% of the ball possession, but that is almost irrelevant when you have no-one to put the ball in to the back of the net. Mainz, however, had no such issues, with Karim Onisiwo (twice) and Jean-Philippe Mateta on hand to secure Mainz first win in four games.