Koen Casteels, Rafal Gikiewicz, Peter Gulacsi, Manuel Neuer and Stefan Ortega have been nominated in the Goalkeeper position for the Bundesliga's Team of the Season, in association with EA SPORTS.
Getting things right at both ends of the field is the tried and tested recipe for success, and that is why Wolfsburg are currently enjoying one of their best seasons since winning the Bundesliga back in 2010. With Wout Weghorst plundering his personal best single-season haul of goals at one end of the field, the Wolves have been able to rely on Koen Casteels to give them the second-meanest defence in the league, and there is little wonder the UEFA Champions League anthem is being reloaded into the Volkswagen-Arena DJ's playlist in preparation for a return to European football's top table next term.
Averaging fewer than one goal conceded every game, the Belgian custodian has kept a clean sheet in well over 45 per cent of his appearances. Between late January and early March, the 28-year-old went a remarkable 673 minutes without conceding, ranking him sixth in the all-time longest streaks without conceding in the Bundesliga. Getting a daily test in training from Weghorst is clearly refining the skills of one of the league's longest-serving and most consistent custodians.
Not far behind Bielefeld's Stefan Ortega in the top three of the list of total saves made this season is Augsburg's Rafal Gikiewicz, who has repelled 114 of his opponents' attempts to beat him. The Bavarians have therefore built their ninth straight season in Germany's top flight on some of the most solid foundations in the division.
The 33-year-old's first season in Bavaria, after sustaining Union Berlin's successful survival battle in 2019/20, has seen him enhance his reputation as one of the league's leading shot-stoppers, with clean sheets against two of the leagues fiercest attacks in Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg, while the world's best striker Robert Lewandowski and the world's best team Bayern Munich were only able to beat the Pole once from the penalty spot back on Matchday 17.
The meanest defence in the Bundesliga this season is once again being conducted masterfully by Peter Gulacsi, who had to delve into the back of his net just 25 times over the first 31 matchdays. With 13 clean sheets over the first three quarters of the season, the Hungarian is into double figures in that particular statistic for the third straight season, which is one of the main reasons why Leipzig are once again heading for the Champions League next season, and still in the hunt for the Bundesliga title.
Furthermore, with four clean sheets in four DFB Cup ties, Gulacsi has helped Leipzig reach the semi-finals of a competition that could well provide them with their first ever major piece of silverware this season, and Gulacsi with a deserved prize to add to his award of 2019 Hungarian footballer of the year.
Little needs to be added to the curriculum of one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, but Neuer's stunning stop to deny Sevilla's Youssef En-Nesyri in the UEFA Super Cup helped ensure he and Bayern celebrated a unique accolade of completing a sextuple of Bundesliga, DFB Cup, UEFA Champions League, Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup and DFL Supercup in 2020/21. A month later, the dictionary definition of sweeper-keeper kept his 200th clean sheet with Bayern, in fewer than 400 games, taking him ahead of the legendary Sepp Maier, who fell just one clean sheet short of a double century.
His 197th clean sheet in the Bundesliga - breaking the previous league record held by Oliver Kahn, who needed 557 games for his 196 clean sheets as opposed to Neuer's 423 outings - came in January, after he had scooped the award of The Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper. While Neuer may already have conceded his most goals in a single season since joining Bayern in 2011, that does not take any gloss off yet another stunning season from some of the safest hands - and feet - to have graced the planet.
When you are the No.1 goalkeeper of a side promoted to the Bundesliga, you know you are in for a busy season. Stefan Ortega has understandably been tested this term, as the East Westphalians have adjusted to life back in the big time, where some of the world's best strikers are on the prowl, and if Bielefeld do manage to avoid an immediate return to Bundesliga 2, they can lay much of the thanks at the feet - or the gloves - of Ortega.
With a Bundesliga-leading 127 saves, the 28-year-old ever-present has risen to the occasion and successfully overcome an array of challenges to keep Bielefeld's survival hopes alive, ensuring even a side with the second-worst attack in the league can still fight its corner. Featuring also in the top five for clean sheets this season, Ortega - who has kept a minimum of seven clean sheets in each of his four seasons with Bielefeld - has certainly proven his credentials as one of the league's surest pair of hands.