Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich stars dominate the Bundesliga Team of the Hinrunde, but who else makes the grade after 17 match days? bundesliga.com presents its best XI of the season so far...
Peter Gulacsi (RB Leipzig)
There were plenty of candidates worth mentioning for the goalkeeping position, with Hannover’s Michael Esser making more saves (76) than any other netminder. Playing for the league’s second-bottom team, though, he also faced a lot of shots and conceded more goals than many of the other contenders.
The top three teams in the standings – Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Borussia Mönchengladbach – all conceded just 18 goals. Dortmund’s Roman Bürki missed the 3-2 win over Bayern, had five shutouts in his 16 matches, and kept out almost three-quarters of the shots that came his way. Bayern’s Manuel Neuer kept four clean sheets in a row to finish the year, while Yann Sommer is a major reason why Gladbach are flying so high.
The Swiss shotstopper kept out 77 per cent of attempts on his goal – a league-high – and one of his seven shutouts came in the memorable 3-0 win in Munich on Matchday 7.
Leipzig had the best defence in the Hinrunde, though, with Gulacsi conceding only 17 goals. The second-best shot stopper in the league – less than a percentage point worse off than Sommer – the Hungarian also kept seven clean sheets. For five league games in a row between 7 October and 11 November, opposition teams found no way past RB Leipzig’s last line of defence. He also won the battle with Sommer in his team’s 2-0 win over Gladbach in December.
Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)
Such is his versatility that Kimmich could have made this eleven in any number of positions. He was restored to a midfield role for Germany after the World Cup, and played there more often for Bayern in December than at right-back.
Wherever he plays, though, the 23-year-old is highly reliable. He has not missed a minute of action this season, and his raids down the right mean that he currently ranks third in the league for crosses (61).
Better yet, Kimmich is also second on the list for setting up shooting chances (53) and for assists (7). In the 4-0 win in Hannover on Matchday 15, he had his most effective game to date. The former Leipzig player got his first goal of the season, made another – one of three assists in December – and also played a part in the other goals.
Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig)
Leipzig’s impressive record in the goals against column has been a collective effort, with seven defenders playing at least eight matches this season. Upamecano has featured in 13 – as many as anyone else – helping Ralf Rangnick’s side climb to fourth place by the winter break.
He’s no longer one of the most promising teenagers in Europe – he turned 20 at the end of October – but he is continuing to develop on his obvious potential in his second full season at the club. The France under-21 international helped Leipzig keep a clean sheet in four league games in a row at one point, and also did the same during that run in Leipzig’s 2-0 win over Hoffenheim in the DFB Cup.
Niklas Süle (Bayern Munich)
Süle is not yet one of the senior members of Bayern’s backline but in only his second year at the club he has become one of its leaders. The 23-year-old has rarely been out of the side this season, starting 15 games and sitting out just one in its entirety.
When he does play, the Germany international is both tough off the ball and assured on it. He won 66 per cent of his challenges in the first half of the season (fourth in the league), and had a passing accuracy of 94.53 per cent (third in the league). He made more passes than even the sleek Dortmund midfielder Axel Witsel, with only 70 of the 1,280 he attempted failing to find a teammate.
Achraf Hakimi (Borussia Dortmund)
Undoubtedly one of the signings of the summer, Hakimi was the fastest player in the league before Christmas – hitting a top speed of 22 miles per hour. Equally comfortable in either full-back position, the Morocco international’s raids from deep have caused all sorts of havoc.
He had to wait for his chance in the Bundesliga, but took it with both hands by drilling home on his league debut in a 7-0 win over Nuremberg. Since that Matchday 5 success, Hakimi, who turned 20 in November, has started every game – coming up with three assists as well. He was named Rookie of the Month in both September and November, and he also caught the eye in Europe by making three of Dortmund’s four goals in their win over Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League.
Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund)
So much for second season syndrome. Sancho bedded in nicely in his first year in Germany before bamboozling defences all across the country in 2018/19. The Londoner has developed from a supersub into one of the league leaders’ key players, finishing the Hinrunde with a hugely impressive six goals and seven assists. The 18-year-old has played a part in every game so far, starting all but one of them since Matchday 6.
Dortmund moved almost as quickly as Sancho does on the wing by tying the teenager down to a new, improved contract in October, the same month he earned his first cap for England. On Matchday 9 he became the youngest ever Dortmund player to get a brace in the Bundesliga, when he struck twice in the 2-2 draw with Hertha Berlin, and he has been directly involved in a goal every 79 minutes this season. Not surprisingly he’s amongst the top five dribblers in the league, and is just outside the top five for speed (21.49 mp/h) and shooting chances created (40).
Watch: Find out what makes Jadon Sancho so good
Axel Witsel (Borussia Dortmund)
The metronome that keeps Dortmund ticking, Witsel had the second-highest passing accuracy in the league behind Gladbach’s Nico Elvedi – 94.54 per cent of his 1,173 passes found their target. The Belgian started life his new life in Germany in spectacular style. Following up a debut goal in the DFB Cup win over Greuther Fürth, he got the first Goal of the Month award of the season thanks to his acrobatic effort in the 4-1 win over Leipzig on the opening weekend.
Along with fellow summer arrival Thomas Delaney, Witsel provides a superb screen in front of the Dortmund defence. The 29-year-old started all but one of his team’s league matches, completing more passes than any of his teammates and getting, on average, 89 touches of the ball every 90 minutes.
Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund)
Never has the phrase “captain fantastic” seemed so apt. Handed the armband after being reunited with his former Gladbach boss Lucien Favre, Reus has responded in incredible fashion. Never before has Reus been involved in as many goals in the first half of the season – scoring 11 and making six more.
Many of the goals he has got have been vital to the cause as well: the equaliser in the come-from-behind 4-2 win in Leverkusen, the only goal in Wolfsburg, a brace in victory over Bayern, and the winner in the final game of the year against Gladbach.
No surprise, then, that he was named Bundesliga Player of the Month in both September and November. Keep this kind of form up and Reus will beat his previous season-best goals tally of 18 – achieved as a Gladbach player in 2011/12. He may well lead his team to the title too.
Sebastien Haller (Eintracht Frankfurt)
A partner in crime for Luka Jovic, Sebastien Haller has been in devastating form as well. Much more than a target man, the former Utrecht player is key to Eintracht Frankfurt’s high-pressing game. Apart from Reus, no one has been directly involved in as many Bundesliga goals in 2018/19 as Eintracht’s number nine.
The 24-year-old has netted nine goals himself – matching his total from his first year in Germany - and is the top provider in the league with eight assists so far. If he keeps stacking up those kind of numbers, then surely France manager Didier Deschamps will be seeking out his number.
Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
It’s says a lot about the standards that Robert Lewandowski has set that it’s something of a surprise not to see him leading the scoring charts. The three-time topscorer in the Bundesliga is still only two off the top, however, after registering 10 goals so far.
The prolific Pole also has five assists – two more than he got in the whole of last season – and there were plenty of signs to suggest he will push on after the winter break. In December, he scored three goals and made one more, and on Matchday 14 he got his 50th brace in a Bundesliga game - something only Gerd Müller (87 times) and Jupp Heynckes (51) have managed before. A total of 22 goals in 24 games in all competitions this season makes the 30-year-old the most dangerous striker in Europe this season.
Luka Jovic (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Young Serbian Jovic got eight goals in 22 matches last season – with many of his appearances coming from the bench – but this year he has already improved on that tally by 50 per cent.
Jovic is joint-top of the scoring charts with 12 goals already – all the more remarkable considering he has started only 11 of the 15 league games he has featured in this season. Jovic made the headlines by scoring FIVE in the 7-1 victory over Fortuna Düsseldorf on Matchday 8, but he has followed up with five more since then. That included a brace in the 2-2 draw in Mainz on 19 December, shortly before he celebrated his 21st birthday.
He also starred for the Eagles in their triumphant return to Europe, scoring five goals as his side won six games from six in their UEFA Europa League group.
Watch: All of Luka Jovic's Bundesliga goals to date
Paco Alcacer (Borussia Dortmund)
Paco Alcacer has been so good that we’ve had to create a new category especially for him. The 25-year-old is the joint-best goalscorer in the Bundesliga with 12 – but 10 of them came after he was sprung from the bench. The Spaniard has only started five league matches this term, setting a new record for most goals in a season from a substitute.
Signed – initially on loan – from Barcelona, Alcacer announced his arrival by scoring with his very first shot in the win over Frankfurt on Matchday 3. That set the tone for a Hinrunde that saw him net a goal a game – or one every 42 minutes. In Bundesliga history, no other player with at least 10 goals has come close to matching that scoring rate. Just think how good he will be once he feels fully settled in.
Watch: Paco Alcacer and the rise of the Supersubs