Heat Check: Bundesliga Matchweek 28
Written by Massimo Cipriano
German soccer has been back for just over a week, and each club has played two matches before a sea of empty chairs. Upon their return to action, some clubs have hit the ground running, while others have struggled to gain traction. In this Heat Check, I will categorize each Bundesliga club based on just how “hot” they have been since the season resumed.
Leverkusen’s recent performance has proved its legitimacy in the hunt for the Champions League spot. They have racked up seven goals in their last two matches, and have been abusing opposing back lines with their pace and incisive play. Kai Havertz has been on a tear, netting a total of four goals (two in each match) and facilitating play in the upper half. Moussa Diaby has been a huge influence up the wings, using his scorching speed to advance the attack. Their first win against Werder Bremen was expected, but the win at Borussia Monchengladbach was huge, lifting them into a Champions League spot with seven matches remaining.
(Photo: Getty Images)
The Bavarians did what they were expected to against two bottom-half clubs. While a two goal victory over Union Berlin could have been the product of some quarantine rust, Bayern was sure to eliminate any doubts in their 5-2 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt. The goalscoring has been widespread, with five players hitting the back of the net in the last two matches (7 goals total). Robert Lewandowski was responsible for two of these goals, as he maintained his spot as the Bundesliga top scorer. Bayern’s next match on Tuesday (May 26) will be the most important of the season, as they face Borussia Dortmund in Der Klassiker, the match which will ultimately decide the title race for the remainder of the season.
Nipping at the tails of Bayern Munich, Dortmund did just what they needed to by winning all of its matches building up to Der Klassiker. They started with a huge 4-0 derby win over Schalke 04, in a match which seemed like the ball belonged to them. Julian Brandt was the facilitator for Dortmund, setting up the opening goal with an impressive flick that opened the Schalke defense up. Dortmund followed this dominant display with another shutout, this time against Wolfsburg. Outside midfielders Achraf Hakimi and Raphael Guerrero both scored, showing how instrumental the flanks are for the Dortmund attack. Dortmund will decide their own fate on Tuesday, hoping to narrow the gap between them Bayern to one point.
(Photo: Stuart Franklin)
Coming into matchday 26, the stakes for The Old Lady were higher than ever, sitting just six points above the relegation playoff spot. However, Hertha Berlin truly lived up to the occasion. Hertha shut out two opponents who held higher positions than them, and scored a whopping seven goals in a masterclass that has moved them from 13th to 11th place, a slightly more comfortable position for the matches to come. Most importantly, Hertha avenged their derby loss earlier in the season by walloping Union Berlin in a 4-0 victory at the Olympiastadion. Dedryck Boyata put together a rock-solid showing in the back, and also got involved in the attack by scoring a rare goal of his own. Hertha’s next opponents, RB Leipzig, should present a more substantial challenge as they look to continue their climb up the table.
(Photo: Kai Pfaffenbach/ Getty Images)
Die Roten Bullen did not have the ideal circumstances coming into matchday 26 against SC Freiburg, with Dayot Upamecano unable to play due to a suspension against a club that they already lost to earlier in the season. That being said, a draw was disappointing, but didn’t discourage them from returning to their winning ways. In their next match against Mainz, Leipzig showed just how strong they were, continually surging on the attack and finishing with a 5-0 tally to prove it. Timo Werner netted a hat-trick, putting on a show for Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, the most eager suitor for a summer transfer move. Leipzig hope to make a winning streak out of this, as they are playing catch-up to Dortmund and Bayern in the top two.
(Photo: Achim Keller)
Bremen started off with a flattening, but expected 4-1 loss to Leverkusen. Milot Rashica’s performance was very pedestrian, and put Bremen’s future in deep concern. They showed that they are capable of scraping up points to formulate an escape plan, with a huge upset over SC Freiburg. Now, they need points at every chance they can get, as they sit three points behind the relegation playoff with a match in hand over Fortuna Dusseldorf. If they want to recover successfully, Werder Bremen need a huge series of matches out of Rashica, because Schalke and Monchengladbach are two fixtures that require such attacking prowess.
(Photo: Martin Meissner/ AP Photo)
Augsburg had an imminent challenge facing them after the lockdown, with their first two matches coming against Wolfsburg and Schalke. However, they handled the challenge quite nicely, emerging with one win and one loss, and moved up from 14th to 12th. They lost the first match 2-1 to Wolfsburg, who only narrowly escaped a draw in the waning minutes of the match. Their next match showed growth, as they dominated a declining Schalke side in a 3-0 victory. Augsburg’s next two matches should be less challenging, as they anticipate facing bottom-half squads Paderborn and Hertha Berlin.
Freiburg surprised many viewers by outlasting RB Leipzig in a 1-1 draw, as they persisted in their fight for Europa League contention. Performances like this could help solidify a club as they anticipate weaker opponents. However, this was not the case for Freiburg when they hosted Werder Bremen, as they lost 1-0 to the side who is fighting to escape relegation. Freiburg cannot make this a habit when they face Eintracht Frankfurt on Tuesday (May 26), or else they may find themselves further from Europa League birth. With a mere two points separating them from Wolfsburg in sixth, Freiburg must turn things around against the less successful clubs before they encounter the top dogs down the road.
Wolfsburg moved into a Europa League spot, but the battle to keep their placement secure is far from over. They prevailed over Augsburg in their first match back, uplifted by a 91st minute stunner from Daniel Ginczek. They did not enjoy the same fortune in their next match against Dortmund at the Volkswagen arena. These types of results can be deflating for a club trying to establish security, especially since Wolfsburg face Leverkusen next. It will be difficult to stop an attack that is in such good form, when the priority is to establish a line of consistent results to solidify their status in the Bundesliga top 6.
(Photo:Wolfgang Rattay/ Reuters)
Everything went according to plan for Borussia Monchengladbach in matchweek 26, scoring a pair of goals within seven minutes to help them beat Eintracht Frankfurt 3-1. Their next match held much greater importance, as a win against Leverkusen would make their position in the top four a lot more secure. However, they were not able to get the job done for their cardboard cutout fans in the stands, and now have an uphill battle if they want to return to a Champions League position. Hopefully, Breel Embolo could provide the goal scoring boos that Monchengladbach needs in order to make this a reality.
SC Paderborn/ Fortuna Dusseldorf
The status of these two clubs are very similar through their first two matches following the coronavirus lockdown. The 2019-2020 campaign has not been successful for either club, and their results have been very similar in matchweek 26 and 27. They have drawn both of these matches, the first being a goalless draw against each other. The second draw was one against a mid-table club (Paderborn drew Hoffenheim and Dusseldorf drew Köln), which ultimately made no change to the bottom of the table. As the season comes closer to its end, it seems like their fates are just about sealed, although they haven’t been playing terribly. We can expect the same progression for both of these clubs for the remainder of the season.
Köln’s first two matches back could be defined by mediocrity. They faced Mainz and Dusseldorf, the 15th and 16th place teams, two matches that they should’ve won. They should be disappointed to draw their inferiors in the Rhine. They will continue to face teams that are capable of getting similar results, which could mean there is more of the same ahead. Köln have remained in tenth place through these results, but they just seem out of reach of being relegated, or finding European soccer. Therefore, mediocrity could go on to describe the entire season for FC Köln.
(Photo: AP Photo)
Schalke’s net has been host to a plethora of goals in their first two post-lockdown matches. They were overpowered by their arch enemies, Borussia Dortmund, in a 4-0 rout that made them truly look like the little brothers of the Revierderby. To augment the despair of their situation, they were shut out again in a 3-0 loss to Augsburg. Schalke is in dire need of some attacking flair, as they have looked stolid in the upper half, and have welcomed the surging attack of their opponents with minimal interference. Despite their drop from 6th to 8th, Schalke can still bridge a two point margin to overtake Wolfsburg and retain the last Europa League position.
(Photo: Christian Kaspar-Bartke/ Getty Images)
Frankfurt were already in terrible form prior to the coronavirus lockdown, and the 2 month hiatus has not done them any favors. They have extended their losing streak to five matches, and now sit a meager four points out of the relegation playoff. For a club that was previously a consistent contender for European football, it’s hard to draw any positives from the 2019-2020 campaign. One of the few positives that could be drawn was their 5-1 victory over Bayern in November. This result did not repeat itself in May, as they were overpowered in a 5-2 loss. A week earlier they lost to Borussia Monchengladbach, another member of the Bundesliga elite. To be fair, Frankfurt faced really two good clubs, but that doesn’t change the fact that they have been playing so dismally, when we’ve seen what they’re capable of.
The newcomers were sitting comfortably in 11th before matchday 26, but Union Berlin have gone on a downward slide to 13th which will make them feel less secure. They had a tough fixture waiting for them upon their return, facing the juggernauts of Bayern right out of the gates. A 2-0 result where they had minimal possession was not entirely disappointing, albeit it was still a loss. Their next match was much more crucial. They were the victims of a 4-0 onslaught by their cross-capital rivals, Hertha Berlin, in a match where Hertha seemed so thirsty for vengeance after a dramatic loss to Union earlier in the season. For Union to stop their plummet toward the relegation zone, their next match against Mainz is a must win. If they don’t produce, they could easily see themselves fighting to prevent speedy return to the 2. Bundesliga.
Hoffenheim is still in the chase for European soccer next season, and they were presented with a great opportunity. Their first two matches back were against Hertha Berlin and SC Paderborn, two clubs that sit beneath them in the table. However, they only picked up one point from this stretch, and remain in ninth place. They received a 3-0 thrashing from Hertha, followed up by a disappointing draw against rock-bottom Paderborn. Luckily, Hoffenheim still has a chance to close the three point gap that separates it from 6th place, as they will continue to face bottom-half talent for the coming weeks.
Mainz are in big trouble. One more big slip and they could find themselves in the bottom three. Matchday 26 ended in an atypical draw against FC Köln at two goals apiece. The next match was much worse, as RB Leipzig put on a five goal clinic at the Opel Arena. Mainz haven’t necessarily moved anywhere, for better or worse, but they sit on thin ice, with three points separating them from Fortuna Dusseldorf’s relegation playoff spot. Hopefully, they can take advantage of another club in similar form, Union Berlin, to stay afloat before their fate is sealed.