The Bundesliga Diaries Editorial – Match Day 31

Revenge is best served cold. Schalke fans still remember Borussia Dortmund ending their title hopes in 2007, with BVB beating them on the penultimate day of the season to effectively hand the Bundesliga to eventual winners VfB Stuttgart. On Saturday, however, they got their own back, putting a terrible season behind them to beat Lucien Favre’s title chasers 4-2 at the Westfalenstadion. Dortmund started well, with Mario Götze opening the scoring early on. But a debatable Daniel Caligiuri penalty and a Salif Sané header turned the game around, and when Caligiuri scored a magnificent free-kick after Marco Reus’ sending off, Schalke were truly in pole position. Marius Wolf was also shown red, leaving BVB with nine men and, whilst Axel Witsel reduced the scoreline, Breel Embolo was on hand to restore a two-goal advantage and confirm Schalke’s season-saving victory. With Bayern facing a seemingly easy trip to strugglers FC Nürnberg, Dortmund’s title challenge was in ruins.

Football, however, is not that simple. Despite being overwhelming favourites, Munich looked off the pace, and created little in a tight first half. And when Der Club made it 1-0 just three minutes into the second period through Matheus Pereira, a shock looked on the cards. Nürnberg defended their lead staunchly until the 75th minute, when Serge Gnabry levelled it up at 1-1. Dortmund fans collectively groaned, expecting the inevitable Bayern triumph, but Nürnberg stayed strong and held the Bavarians at bay. At then, in the 90th minute, Nürnberg were awarded a penalty. Tim Leibold stepped up, with the chance to become a Nürnberg and Dortmund hero… but he crumbled under the pressure and hit the post! The action didn’t end there, either. In stoppage-time, Kingsley Coman found the whole Nürnberg half to himself, with only the keeper to beat. Much like Leibold, however, Coman failed to hold his nerve, hitting it straight at Christian Mathernia. As such, a barely believable 1-1 scoreline means the title race is still alive.

It would take a lot but, technically, RB Leipzig still have a chance of finishing top. Seven points behind with three games left should be too high a hurdle, but in this Bundesliga season, anything is possible. Their main objective for the season has been attained, at least. As they beat Freiburg 2-1 on Saturday, they confirmed their place in next season’s Champions League. It was their eighth win in a row and, after beating Hamburg 3-1 in the DFB Pokal semi-final in midweek, they also have a cup final to play for in Berlin at the end of May. Julian Nagelsmann, who will replace Ralf Rangnick in the summer as Leipzig manager, has a tough act to follow.

He still has a job to do at Hoffenheim, who themselves have hopes of Champions League football next season. They had been resurgent in recent weeks as they pushed themselves back in to the race for the top four. They vein of form was stunted against Wolfsburg, however, as they lost 4-1 to Bruno Labbadia’s side. Adam Szalai had put Hoffenheim in front, but Wolfsburg undoubtedly had the better of the play, and deserved their equaliser through William just before the break. The second half was all about Die Wölfe, and Oliver Baumann’s troubles in the Hoffenheim goal. The keeper was to blame for the second and third goals, before Wout Weghorst’s second of the match made it 4-1 and a club record-equalling eighth away win of the season for Wolfsburg.

Borussia Mönchengladbach will have been pleased with the Hoffenheim result, but it was the smallest of consolations after they lost 1-0 to Stuttgart. Nico Willig was in charge for his first game after replacing Markus Weinzierl as VfB manager, and he will have been ecstatic with his side’s victory. Neither side were impressive, but Stuttgart were the more clinical of the two, with Anastasios Donis scoring the only goal of the game. Stuttgart now sit six points from 15th place Stuttgart, whilst Die Fohle cling on to fifth place and a Europa League spot. Thorgan Hazard’s confirmation that he has agreed a deal with BVB for next season will do nothing to help the squad’s morale.

Hoffenheim and Mönchengladbach’s losses were good news for Eintracht Frankfurt, who currently sit in fourth. They will have expected their gap to be closed to fifth-place after their disappointing 0-0 draw against Hertha Berlin, but as it is, they actually extended their lead over fifth to three points. They can now concentrate on their midweek Europa League date, when they host Chelsea in the first leg of the competition’s semi-final.

Of all the sides chasing the Champions League, Bayer Leverkusen were the weekend’s real winners. Their 4-1 victory against Augsburg puts them on 51 points, just three behind Frankfurt, who they face at home next week. It will be a huge game for Peter Bosz’s side. A victory puts them in a fantastic position with two left to play. Anything other than three points, however, will leave them facing an uphill struggle.

It has not been a good week for Werder Bremen. Before they faced Bayern in matchday 30, they had scored in every league game of the season and were unbeaten in 2019. However, that 1-0 loss was followed with another defeat against the Bavarians, this time 3-2 in the DFB Pokal semi-final. And then, on Saturday, they were soundly beaten 4-1 by Fortuna Düsseldorf, effectively ending their European aspirations. Still, it does not take anything away from the job Florian Kolhfeldt has done with Werder, and this season gives them plenty to build upon in the coming years.

Hannover may be on the way out of the Bundesliga, but they aren’t done yet. A big three points against Mainz might have been undeserved on the balance of play, the win is what matters. They are still six points away from the relegation play-off spot, with Bayern at the Allianz Arena up next, so it is hard to expect much from a side that have disappointed throughout. But in the Bundesliga season, nothing is certain.