The best of German football from the Bundesliga and beyond
BUNDESLIGA RESULTS Fri 16 Apr: FC Köln 2-0 VfL Bochum; Sat
17 Apr: VfB Stuttgart 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen, VfL Wolfsburg 2-4 Werder
Bremen, Schalke 04 3-1 Borussia M’gladbach, Hamburger SV 0-1 FSV Mainz,
SC Freiburg 2-1 FC Nürnberg, Bayern München 7-0 Hannover 96; Sun 18
Apr: Borussia Dortmund 1-1 1899 Hoffenheim, Eintracht Frankfurt 2-2
Three scorers, two braces, one hat trick hero - that's the story of Bayern München's ruthless demolition of Hannover 96 on Saturday evening.
And this time boss Louis van Gaal had no temptation to rest his star wingers Ribéry and Robben; the eleven players selected represented the Dutchman's strongest available selection, with the hammering sending Hannover back into the second automatic relegation place in the Bundesliga.
No bonus points for guessing which on-fire ex-Chelsea and Real Madrid winger grabbed the bulk of the goals. Still guessing? Well, his surname begins with a R, and ends with OBBEN.
Earlier on Saturday, though, it was the Königsblauen of Schalke who had regained top spot, after an Ivan Rakitic-inspired performance led them to a 3-1 defeat of mid-table Mönchengladbach.
This time though there were to be no goals from 18-goal Brazilian-born striker Kevin Kuranyi, who incidentally might this week be offered the chance to rebuild his international career under Joachim Löw for Germany, after he walked out on the national team in 2008 after being left out of the squad for a World Cup qualifier.
Naughty boy. No, Rakitic grabbed two, and Jefferson Farfan scored another. The Croatian international's first goal was pretty good...
And, even if Bayer Leverkusen somehow failed to read last week's Fundesliga blog – where their Bundesliga-winning dreams were written off - hopes that they might capitalise on any potential slip ups from the top two were truly killed off by Stuttgart, who are unbelievably just four points off that third Champions League qualification place.
Just six games ago the gap between Leverkusen and Stuttgart in the league was a massive 18 points; the Werkself were being tipped to take the title, while die Schwaben of Stuttgart were floating around in the middle of the table. The gap is now four points in Leverkusen’s favour, who share 54 points with third-placed Bremen.
What's more, that's now five wins on the spin now for Christian Gross' men. Manager of the season, anybody? I think he's got to be up there.
Unfortunately for him – and his club – they won't make that third place though, as Leverkusen especially have a more than favourable run-in, yet Tottenham Hotspur's best ever Swiss coach can be chuffed with his achievements this season, which, hopefully, will be rewarded with a Europa League place.
"How'd you like me now, Sugar?!"
Current title holders, Wolfsburg, whose home form this season has been sketchy to say the least, shared six goals with Werder Bremen. Trouble was, only two of those came for the home team – with last year's top European strike partnership of Edin Dzeko and Grafite getting one apiece.
It also looks like Hamburger SV are going to have to actually go and win the Europa League this season if they want to qualify for it next time, as a home defeat to Mainz has surely put them too far off the pace now.
With Fulham boss Roy Hodgson this week coming out and saying his team are focussed more on the Europa League than the Premier League for the rest of the season, perhaps Hamburg's players are thinking that too; the two teams meet in the first leg of their Europa semi final this week. Great win for Mainz, though, with the victory representing only their third away win all season.
Meanwhile, with Bochum going down 2-0 to FC Köln on Friday night (side note: yes! I was at least close to calling a correct Köln result!), it opened up the door for one of Freiburg and Nürnberg to seize the initiative when the two met in their relegation six-pointer yesterday.
That win for Köln, by the way, now guarantees their place in the Bundesliga next season, with Manchester United loanee Zoran Tosic helping himself to both goals in their win.
Back to that six-pointer, and it was the home side who scored a huge, huge win, coming out 2-1 victors to tie on 28 points in the Bundesliga table with Bochum and Nürnberg. All to play for in the final three games, then...
The Sunday games didn't produce any exceptional results, although Borussia Dortmund will see it as a two points sorely lost as Hoffenheim held firm to secure a 1-1 draw at Signal Iduna Park.
And in the day's other game between Eintracht Frankfurt and Hertha Berlin, it was the visitors who led twice, only for die Adler to hit back twice to take a point that they'll be bitterly disappointed with.
With the game poised at 2-2 with 70 minutes played - after Ümit Korkmaz and Marco Russ had responded to Hertha goals from Gojko Kačar and Brazilian Raffael – the away team's Swiss defender Steve von Bergen was played clear through, only to inexplicitly pass it to an attacking team mate who was in a clear offside position, when a shot on goal from 12 yards was surely the better option.
It's exactly these awful decisions that have cost Hertha dearly this season, and although their relegation can't be confirmed next weekend, it's now looking likely that their Bundesliga judgement day will be on the 1st of March as they travel to Leverkusen.
So who is going to win the league? Two points the difference as it stands, and three games to play. Fixtures below for the top two:
Bayern: Borussia M'gladbach (a), VfL Bochum (h), Hertha Berlin (a)
Schalke: Hertha Berlin (a), Werder Bremen (h), FSV Mainz (a)
It's now going to take Bayern to lose one and Schalke to win all three for the Königsblauen to take the title...
Likely? As we've seen already this season, absolutely anything can happen at any given time, so it's faaaaar from settled yet...
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