A clear champion now, but things are sure getting lively elsewhere…
Welcome to the Match Week Review, where we go over the previous match weekend in the Bundesliga. We will name our player of the match week, three winners and losers, and discuss what we learned from another match week in the Bundesliga. This week’s edition covers a slightly longer time frame in order to include the Eintracht Frankfurt-Werder Bremen match from Wednesday, the game in hand for both teams.
So what happened in Match Week 30 in the Bundesliga? Here are your results:
Werder Bremen 0-3 Eintracht Frankfurt
Freiburg 1-0 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Fortuna Düsseldorf 2-2 Hoffenheim
RB Leipzig 1-1 Paderborn
Eintracht Frankfurt 0-2 FSV Mainz
Bayer Leverkusen 2-4 Bayern Munich
Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Hertha Berlin
Werder Bremen 0-1 Wolfsburg
Union Berlin 1-1 Schalke
Augsburg 1-1 FC Köln
Player of the Match Week
Rouwen Hennings, Fortuna Düsseldorf (2 goals in their 2-2 draw vs Hoffenheim)
Bit of a different one for this week, as we go to the bottom of the table to highlight the best performance of the match week. Rouwen Hennings scored twice for Düsseldorf, helping them come from a goal down to draw 2-2 with European place-chasing Hoffenheim. His first goal was taken very well; a cool, calm header from a great cross to place it past Baumann. His positional sense came in handy again later in the first half, as he would put the ball in the back of the net once again, only for VAR to chalk off the goal due to a foul in the build up. He would get his actual second goal late on in the match, scoring from the penalty spot. A complete center forward performance from Hennings, who moved up to 14 league goals on the season. Düsseldorf securing a point in this match made a significant difference in the relegation picture, but we will get to that more soon.
Honorable Mentions: Thomas Müller (Bayern Munich), Julian Brandt (Borussia Dortmund), Pierre Kunde Malong (Mainz)
Winners of the Match Week
1.) Bayern Munich
The reigning champions and this season’s champions-elect continued their winning ways, storming to a 4-2 victory over a Kai Havertz-less Bayer Leverkusen. After a strong start to the match by Leverkusen, Bayern kicked it into another gear, firing three past poor Lukáš Hrádecky and taking a commanding lead by halftime. The second half was largely more of the same, and it could have been much worse for Leverkusen had it not been for a good showing from their defense, Edmond Tapsoba in particular, and a late goal from Florian Wirtz. In arguably their biggest remaining test this season, Bayern were dominant and passed with flying colors. The added cushion at the top allows them to go into next week’s match up against Gladbach without Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller, who both miss out due to suspension, without any worries. The title seems to be an afterthought at this point, and it has become about how many records this Bayern team could break. Lewandowski still needs 11 goals to surpass Gerd Müller’s single season Bundesliga goalscoring record, but Müller only needs two more assists to surpass Kevin De Bruyne’s singe season Bundesliga assist record. Bayern sit 12 goals away from surpassing the league’s record for most goals in a single season. They have remarkably gone from being a team in crisis in December to a historically good side. We continue to underrate how good of a job Hansi Flick has done.
2.) Borussia Dortmund
It was ugly at times, it was tense at times, but Dortmund got the job done against Hertha. A win is a win, as they say, and that was a valuable three points in a very tricky match for Lucien Favre’s team. Emre Can’s goal was all that stood between two fairly good teams, but it was enough to send Dortmund four points clear of Leipzig and into a more secure position in second place. While their chances of catching Bayern have come and gone, that win, combined with Leipzig dropping points, helps them stay away from the top four fight brewing below them. With a fairly easy next two fixtures, it is possible they can have second place wrapped up before their trip to Leipzig in the penultimate match week of the season. No Håland, some problems, but not enough to cost them at the end of the day.
3.) FC Augsburg
A point may not have been the most ideal situation for Augsburg, but considering how that point was secured, it was a good result for them. The Bavarians, despite playing well, found themselves trailing late in the match following an 85th minute belter of a goal from Anthony Modeste, a goal that seemed to have sealed the three points for Köln. Two minutes later, Philipp Max tapped in a cross following some very poor Köln defending, and seemingly from nothing, Augsburg were level. The point gave them at least a little bit of breathing room from the relegation scrap, and with some relegation six pointer matches coming up, they should feel like they are in a good position to stay up this season. Three points would have been much more ideal, but given the situation they found themselves in with five minutes remaining, a point is definitely something to be happy with.
Losers of the Match Week
1.) Werder Bremen
The Impossible Dream just got a little more difficult. Werder were riding good form into this very crucial week, where they would play out their game in hand against Eintracht Frankfurt, followed by a league match against Wolfsburg. Two very difficult games, but even a point from either, along with results elsewhere going their way, would help them on their hunt for survival. Unfortunately for Florian Kohfeldt, his side lost both games, with a convincing 3-0 loss to Eintracht followed by a more tense 1-0 loss to Wolfsburg. Bremen now sit three points adrift of Fortuna Düsseldorf, occupying the relegation playoff place, and seven points from safety with only four matches remaining. Reaching safety might be a bridge too far, but the relegation playoff spot is still achievable, and giving yourself a chance of staying up in a relegation playoff is better than suffering automatic relegation. Looking at their final four matches, they will almost certainly lose to Bayern, especially with the form the Bavarians are in, so their matches against Paderborn and Mainz become must win games. They must also hope for help from elsewhere, as Düsseldorf still must face Dortmund and Leipzig, in order to guarantee overtaking the Rheinländer team. The dream is still alive, but it is on life support. Anything less than three points against Paderborn next week might doom die Werderaner to relegation.
2.) Union Berlin
Union Berlin have officially been dragged into the relegation race. Having only picked up one point since the league resumed, die Eisernen went into a match at home against a struggling Schalke team desperate for three points and some breathing room away from the relegation zone. They even took the lead only 11 minutes into the match, and Union looked comfortable and dominant against a hapless Schalke. Jonjoe Kenny’s goal around the half hour mark was a blow to Union’s resolve, and while they remained the dominant team for the rest of the match, they could not find the winning goal. This was two points dropped in the worst way possible. This was a match that Union should have won comfortably, three points that could have stopped a worrying decline in form, but they were held by a Schalke team who, really, did not do much going forward outside of Kenny’s goal. For you analytical people who love expected goals, the xG for this match was 2.40-0.17 in favor of Union. Schalke had no right being in this match and they came away with a point. This puts Union only four points ahead of the relegation playoff place with four matches to play, and with their current form, things could get scary for Urs Fischer’s team. Their match against Fortuna Düsseldorf on the last day of the season could be a relegation decider, depending on how things go.
3.) RB Leipzig
Yes, in theory, it was not a terrible weekend for Julian Nagelsmann’s team. Yes, they dropped points to the worst team in the league. Yes, they were quite poor, again, against the worst team in the league. Yes, star center back Dayot Upamecano will be suspended for at least their match against Hoffenheim after immaturely kicking the ball away in frustration after a referee decision. But, as both Gladbach and Leverkusen lost, they were able to extend their lead in third place to three points. Granted, this should have been more, as they were playing a team they should have comfortably beaten, and a five point gap over Gladbach and Leverkusen would have been much more comfortable, especially having to face Hoffenheim and Dortmund in two of their next three games, but it is still improvement. Ah, who am I kidding, it was not a great weekend for the Red Bulls. They did not look good against Paderborn, and, especially after Upamecano’s avoidable red card, looked like they were struggling. Two points dropped extends Dortmund’s lead in second to four points, so even with a victory over BVB in a week and a half, Leipzig will still be behind them by one point. More importantly, there is only a three point gap between them and fifth, so if they slip up against Hoffenheim, Dortmund, or another opponent, then they could potentially lose their grip on a Champions League place. They had a significantly easier opponent this weekend than either Gladbach, who lost to Freiburg, or Leverkusen, who lost to Bayern, so not being able to come away with three points against Paderborn is quite disappointing.
What We Learned
1.) Just give Bayern the title already
I mean really. They are the champions. They ripped Leverkusen apart like they were some random mid table team and not one of the best teams in the league. Seven points clear with four matches to go is not an insurmountable lead, technically, but given their relatively simple end to the season, paired with Dortmund’s clash with Leipzig, means they could lose to Gladbach next week and still be cruising toward the title. Hansi Flick deserves immense credit and celebration, being able to get this level of performance out of a team that so many managers before, apart from really only Jupp Heynckes and Pep Guardiola, failed to do. They score three goals a game on average, which is absolutely absurd, and are on pace to break a litany of individual and team Bundesliga records. Just let them have the title. Let them lift the Meisterschale and let them throw those massive glasses of beer on each other. It is basically already decided. They are the deserved champions.
2.) We have a very clear picture of the relegation race
I am very much going out on a limb here, but the relegation race is pretty fixed at this point. Paderborn are likely already relegated, and Bremen would require a miracle to achieve automatic safety. But when it comes to the relegation playoff place, the contest is clearly between Fortuna Düsseldorf, Mainz, Union Berlin, and Augsburg (and technically Werder Bremen). Augsburg, being in the best form of those five teams, are still in the frame, but are more or less on the outside looking in. Mainz, Düsseldorf, and Bremen are in direct competition surrounding that relegation playoff place, and Union Berlin’s poor form have dragged them into that competition. The final four fixtures will make this a very interesting relegation race, as Werder Bremen must still play Mainz, Union Berlin must still play Fortuna Düsseldorf, and Augsburg still has to play both Mainz and Fortuna. Both Union Berlin and Werder Bremen must still play Paderborn, so the basically already relegated team has the chance to impact who else is dragged down to the second division with them. It is possible that Union’s match against Fortuna on the last day of the season is the difference between survival and the playoff. Things are very interesting at the bottom of the table, and they will only get more interesting as we get closer to the end of the season.
3.) But the frame of the Europa League race has expanded
As I have said in previous weeks, Hertha Berlin are a very good team. While the result against Dortmund was less than ideal, they still played fairly well. It leaves them seven points adrift of the final Europa League place, which might be too steep of a hill to climb, but given each team’s run in with at least one of the top four, as well as Freiburg’s matches against Wolfsburg and Hertha, there is potential for things to change. Hertha are still on the outside looking in, but I would say they are at least within the frame of the Europa League conversation, taking the place of Schalke in that conversation. I would still likely bet on one of Wolfsburg or Hoffenheim finishing sixth, but given the final run ins for each team, there is the potential for quite a few things to change. It is not as interesting as the relegation race, but it is something to keep an eye on as we get to the end of the league season.