Good evening, football fans. It's been a big week for the DFB and for supporters of the German game, with exciting domestic matches last weekend and this weekend, and some big wins in continental competition in between. The week's biggest winner was probably Schalke 04. Die Blau und Scheiss began the week by going on the road to beat local rivals Borussia Dortmund. On Wednesday, they took their travelling act to London, where they decisively defeated Arsenal to seize control of their group in the Champions League. And yesterday, they finished off the week by beating 1. FCN at home to climb into second place on the table.
On the flip side, the week's biggest loser was Felix "Mad-Man" Magath. The journeyman manager was fired by VfL Wolfsburg this week, after an ugly start that saw the club slip into the relegation zone. Now that Magath is out of Wolfsburg, he has it set up perfectly. He can bide his time for a few months, wait for Jupp Heynckes to retire, then make his triumphant return to the touchline at FC Bayern.
Aside from the aforementioned Schalke 04, Lucien Favre's Borussia Monchengladbach side had a week to remember, as well. The Foals secured a 2-0 Europa League win over Marseille on Thursday, but then went down a pair early in the second half today vs. Hannover. But a late fight back earned BMG a huge win: 3 late goals in the span of 10 minutes gave the points to 'Gladbach, and the 3-2 victory took them to the top half of the table.
Mainz has also been fighting their way towards relevance. Their 4 match unbeaten streak in league play culminated in today's 3-0 thrashing of Hoffenheim. Mainz now sits in a top-6 spot, and their next 3 are against clubs that are below them in the table. If they keep winning, FSV might be in real contention for a Europa League spot by the time we get to the winter break.
As mentioned above, TSG Hoffenheim looked weak in yesterday's loss to Mainz. Not only did they fail to score, but Ditmar Hopp's gang maintained only 40 percent of the possession (depsite Mainz easing up a bit towards the end) and managed only 2 shots on goal and 2 corners. Hoffenheim has had some wild swings so far: opened the year by losing 3 straight, then went undefeated in their next 3, and now have gone winless in their most recent 3. I guess if you're into betting patterns, see if you can get odds on TSG starting a 3-match unbeaten streak right about now.
Fortuna Duesseldorf has generally been a good story this year, winning a few big matches in their first year back up in the big league. And I'm hesitant to pick on the new boys. But they really failed to show up vs. VfL yesterday (at home, no less), getting only 2 shots on goal in a 4-1 loss. After their excellent start, which included some defensive and goalkeeping magic, Fortuna D has crashed to earth pretty hard: no wins, one draw, and 12 goals allowed in their last 4 matches.
Standout Individual Performers
- Ivica Olic got on the board for Wolfsburg today, but it was actually Bas Dost who had the bigger day: 2 goals scored and several threatening runs, as he was a nightmare for the Fortuna defenders. The young Dutchman now has 3 goals on the year in only 6 matches started, and it also appears that he might figure in LvG's plans for the Dutch national side.
- We've been talking up Huntelaar, Afellay, and the rest of Schalke's attack all week, but it's worth acknowledging their good performances at the back, too. GK Lars Unnerstall has been between the sticks for their last 4 matches: all wins, several big saves, and only a single goal allowed during that period (a Lewandowski header that Schalke defender Joel Matip should have found a way to scuttle). Unnerstall hasn't been beaten cleanly by a shot from distance in nearly a month; with the talent they have in the outfield, S04 can be a contender for multiple trophies if they get consistent performances out of Lars.
We'll be back with more tomorrow or Tuesday, as Europe's most exciting and unpredictable cup competition, the DFB Pokal, picks up once again. If you know of a Bundesliga story that you think deserves attention, let's hear it in the comments. Thanks for reading.