The Perfect Setup
Bundesliga Match Day 29 Recap
Official Bundesliga League Table
April 8 – The weekend match day was the last opportunity for Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich to build their confidence before the big game on Wednesday, the game that can decide the Bundesliga title. The two were matched with two difficult opponents, hoping not to make any mistake before this game, wanting just to get the three points and move their focus to the big battle. For other clubs, there is no such “Final”, their remaining fixtures being all part of their schedule on the path to achieve the certain goals.
Bayern Munich was hoping that they will receive a helping hand from VfL Wolfsburg, as Felix Magath’s team was hosting the leaders. The good form of the Wolves allowed FCB to dream and get level on points with Dortmund exactly before the showdown, but it didn’t go according to the perfect plan. The reigning champions rising up to their talent to get all three points from this tough trip. With Robert Lewandowski shining again to get a brace and Ilkay Gündogan back on the score sheet, Borussia were just too much to handle for Wolfsburg. The game was almost always in the control of the champions, despite the comeback of Mario Mandzukic, Magath’s side just unable to respond to the good football shown by their visitors.
At the same time, FC Augsburg gave a good scare to their big brothers in Allianz Arena, transforming what was considered a routine win for Bayern into a tough battle. It only took Mario Gomez 24 seconds to open the score and give FCB a commanding start but they were woken up from their lethargy by Ja-Cheol Koo, who equalised after a scramble in the box after 23 minutes. With news of Dortmund’s performance reaching the ears of the fans, the tension was building but it was again Gomez the one to bring the relief, scoring again after the hour mark to bring the points. Even if Augsburg pushed, they did not manage another equaliser, but went out of the pitch with their heads up knowing that they played good football in front of the German giants.
With these two wins out of the way, the attention focuses to the match on Wednesday, towards the clash at Signal Iduna Park. I’ve wrote a couple of weeks ago that only one team in history has managed three consecutive wins against Bayern (Eintracht Frankfurt in the 70’s). Not only do Dortmund have the chance to equal that record, but they can take the lead in the overall history between the two. Borussia equalling that record with their last three wins, the one earlier this season at the Allianz Arena 1-0, and the double of last season, 2-0 at home and 3-1 in Munich.
As it stands, with a win in this game, Dortmund more or less clinch the title. If Borussia get all the points from this game, it would be a small miracle for Bayern to recover six points in four games without having the chance to play Dortmund again. It is the last chance for FCB to control their destiny, failing to win in Dortmund meaning that they have to rely on their rivals, FC Schalke 04 and Borussia Mönchengladbach to beat the defending champs to have a chance. It will be quite a task as Jürgen Klopp’s side proved in the first part of the season that they can get the best out of this trio of games, collecting 7 points from the first meetings.
The equation is quite simple. Win for Dortmund – 8th trophy for the Yellow-Blacks, draw – the battle continues but with Dortmund as clear favourites, win for Bayern – the situation turns around and Borussia have to hope for another slip-up by the Reds in the last four games. There are no favourites, there are no statistics to count for this game. It is a game of all or nothing with both teams at the peak of their form coming into this game. There will be no key battles, every duel being equally important, forces being quite balanced even if the teams have different strengths.
It will be a football feast for everyone, the best two teams at the moment in Germany battling it all out in what is only the first episode of their battles for trophies this season. The second game coming in Berlin for the DFB Pokal Final on May 12th. It is the big moment for Klopp and Jupp Heyenckes, both of them trying to get a hand on the first trophy of the season, even if there are games left.
If for the top spot the battle is still on, third place is set. With Mönchengladbach failing to get out of the dreads and drawing 0-0 at home with Hertha Berlin, Schalke took advantage and built a five-point advantage to practically seal the deal. Another magnificent Raúl performance erased the European tears of the Miners, Huub Stevens’s team putting three past the other victim of the Spanish armada, Hannover 96. The former Real Madrid striker had a fantastic day at the office, scoring twice to open another wound for Mirko Slomka’s men, Klass-Jan Huntelaar providing the icing on the cake with his 24th goal in the season.
That means that Schalke are almost assured of their Champions League place next season, while BMG will have to go to the qualification stage to book their place in the same competition, Lucien Favre’s men having no fear of losing fourth place with a nine point lead over the next team in the table. Schalke will hope now to continue this league form with a good game away in Nuremberg even if their minds will be already on the great derby with Dortmund this weekend. Mönchengladbach are going north, to Werder Bremen, hoping they can provide a good away win again to break a three-game winless streak, as they did in Leverkusen when they won 2-1.
Europa League places seem difficult to keep in the Bundesliga, important points being dropped allowing for other table changes to take place. Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen only accomplished 1-1 away draws against relegation fighters’ 1.FC Cologne and Hamburger SV but they remain in the all-important spots thanks to the defeats of Hannover and Wolfsburg. Stuttgart was the winner of the last match, keeping composure despite an early blow in their game with 1.FSV Mainz, cancelling Andreas Ivanschitz’s third minute opener with four goals, two coming from Vedad Ibisevic, who brings his tally to seven since the arrival in Swabian.
These three points pushed Bruno Labbadia’s side into fifth place, the only automatic berth into the Europa League, the errors made by their opponents in this race allowing them to even get a two point advantage over the next team in the table. Seeing how many points are dropped in this area of the table, it’s safe to say that Hoffenheim are joining this race, their 2-1 win away in Kaiserslautern placing them only four points behind the last qualifying spot, their calendar being quite good, Markus Babbel’s team meeting four teams from the relegation battle in the last five games.
This midweek we could see again a lot of changes in this race, especially with Hannover and Wolfsburg facing off in a game that could end the story for the losing team, if there will be one. Stuttgart has a rough game with Bavarian neighbours Augsburg, Werder will host Mönchengladbach, Hoffenheim are at home against Hamburger SV while Leverkusen are the only ones almost certain of victory, their mission being quite easy against Kaiserslautern. Six teams in battle for three open spots, a recipe destined to bring drama and passion until the end of the season.
Last but not least, the relegation struggle is also bringing its share of drama and entertainment, the only team really sure of their fate being Kaiserslautern, Krassimir Balakov’s team being just incapable of finding a win to spark some hope. Losing again at home against Hoffenheim shattered any doubt, the nine points separating the Red Devils from the playoff spot for sure too much to get back. SC Freiburg and 1.FC Nürnberg shared the points after their game to keep themselves three points clear of the playoff spot, Hertha, Cologne and Hamburg getting each a point to keep their collective hopes alive. Augsburg has returned close to the danger zone after their defeat in Munich meaning that we have six teams involved trying to avoid the disastrous 16th place.
Otto Rehhagel’s team has the chance to reduce from their two point deficit from the playoff when they meet Freiburg on Tuesday, the only matchup between two relegation contenders. FSV Mainz could be pulled into the pot by Cologne if they get a second consecutive loss in their game, Thomas Tuchel being only four points above the line. As for Augsburg, Nuremberg and Hamburg, there are chances to get some points in their games against European dreamers Stuttgart, Schalke and Hoffenheim but they will have tough games, so expect points to be dropped again.
Stay close to this week’s action in the Bundesliga, the fixture potentially providing the answers for some questions, especially the big question, who will be the next German Champion?
Bundesliga Finals – Match Day 29
1.FC Cologne 1-1 Werder Bremen
VfB Stuttgart 4-1 FSV Mainz 05
1. FC Kaiserslautern 1-2 Hoffenheim
FC Bayern 2-1 FC Augsburg
SC Freiburg 2-2 FC Nürnberg
VfL Wolfsburg 1-3 Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Mönchengladbach 0-0 Hertha BSC Berlin
FC Schalke 04 3-0 Hannover 96
Hamburger SV 1-1 Bayer Leverkusen