From a shock defeat for FC Bayern München to a Claudio Pizarro hat-trick, the Bundesliga produced countless talking points on Matchday 24.
bundesliga.com reviews the best of them...
Der Klassiker prelude
The biggest game on the German football calendar just got a whole lot more interesting. FC Bayern München’s shock 2-1 home defeat to lion-hearted 1. FSV Mainz 05 coupled with Borussia Dortmund’s workmanlike 2-0 victory in Darmstadt has seen the lead at the top of the standings ahead of Der Klassiker cut to five points. The onus is on the defending champions to show Wednesday’s reverse was just an aberration, but for once, the form books just about favour BVB. Who will blink first in front of a capacity crowd at the world-famous SIGNAL IDUNA PARK?
On Tuesday night, Germany international Andre Schürrle chose the perfect time to rediscover his form. The winger netted a clinical treble to drag VfL Wolfsburg’s belated push for a UEFA Champions League spot back on track and perhaps even put himself into contention for a place in the national team squad to face England and Italy at the end of the month.
Not to be outdone, veteran Bremen striker Pizarro scored an arguably even better hat-trick – a classy dink, a coolly taken penalty and a header from a corner – away at Bayer 04 Leverkusen to secure the Green-Whites three massive points and take his side up to 15th in the table. Signed on a free transfer from FC Bayern at the start of the season, is the 37-year-old – now on 185 Bundesliga career goals and ten for the campaign – the signing of the season?
A star is born
With the games coming thick and fast for a Dortmund side chasing glory on three fronts, Thomas Tuchel is having to make full use of the strength in depth available to him. In doing so, he has unearthed the latest gem in Dortmund’s mine of talent. At the tender age of 17, Felix Passlack made his Bundesliga bow against Darmstadt and fitted seamlessly into Tuchel’s system. Following in the footsteps of Mario Götze, a fellow graduate of the Dortmund academy, Passlack received the Fritz-Walter Gold Medal as one of the best three players in his age group. The versatile midfielder also captained the Germany U-17 side to the final of last summer’s UEFA European Championship and is already being tipped for full international honours.
Four into two does not fit
While Bayern and Dortmund surely have two of the four UEFA Champions League qualifying places for next season sewn up, the final two slots will be fiercely contested. Salomon Kalou’s influence ensured Hertha Berlin retained their grip on third place, three points clear of their rivals. Borussia Mönchengladbach, 1. FSV Mainz 05 and FC Schalke 04 follow, all within a point of each other after their Matchday 24 wins. With Leverkusen and Wolfsburg only three and four points back respectively, the race for Europe is set for a gripping finale.
Safety concerns for hot and cold quartet
Hannover’s defeat means they are rather cut adrift, six points from the relegation play-off spot of 16th and a further marker shy of guaranteed survival. Once seemingly doomed, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim are picking up momentum under Julian Nagelsmann, and though they remain in the bottom two, their defeat of FC Augsburg boosted them and dragged their opponents – in 13th on 25 points - into the mire. Bremen’s stunning win at Leverkusen, courtesy of the irrepressible Pizarro, means they can breathe the relatively rarefied air of 15th, with Eintracht Frankfurt – whose listless display in the capital boded ill – slipping worryingly into 16th if you are an Eagles fan.