Bundesliga Zeitung, by Andy Wales.
The second set of Bundesliga games since the restart saw the focus shift to events on the pitch. The weekend started with the Berlin derby and ended with another from the Rhine. Sandwiched in between was a large helping of goals, goals, goals. Or Tor, Tor, Tor, as they say in Germany.
Friday night in the capital clearly missed the raucous atmosphere the fans would have undoubtedly brought, and nobody missed the fans more than the Union team. Their incredible underdog adventure this season has been in perfect symmetry with their fans. Without them, they look a tough but functional side, lacking inspiration.
In contrast, Hertha actually look like a team again. Perhaps the lack of fans helps ease the sense of pressure on them. Or maybe head coach Bruno Labbadia has had an instant and profound impact upon the squad. Either way, four second-half goals helped ensure a measure of revenge for Hertha over their local rivals.
Hertha BSC under Bruno Labbadia in the Bundesliga:
❍ 2 games
❍ 2 wins
❍ 7 goals
❍ 0 conceded
An emphatic derby win continues the perfect start. pic.twitter.com/ko85xA4n55
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 22, 2020
Saturday provided a mouth-watering tie, as Borussia Mӧnchengladbach hosted Bayer Leverkusen. Not only are they rivals for a place in the top four, but also regionally. 30 miles separate the two cities, and although it’s not as fierce as other rivalries, it is a Rhineland derby.
Added to this was the tight situation in the table. Gladbach went into the game 2 points ahead of Leverkusen. On top of that, they are two teams under up-and-coming coaches that play exciting football.
For Gladbach, Marcus Thuram and Alassane Plea have spearheaded a dangerous attack under Marco Rose. In the absence of the injured Kevin Volland, Leverkusen have looked to the prodigious Kai Havertz to lead their line.
With the world watching Havertz intently, the 20-year-old midfielder has quickly adapted to a false 9 role. It took him just seven minutes to calmly put Die Werkself ahead with the technique of an experienced finisher. It was a lead the visitors deservedly maintained until half-time.
Shortly after the break, Thuram drew the hosts level with a smart low drive inside the far post. Parity was short-lived, though, as a lunge from Nico Elvedi to block Karim Bellarabi resulted in a penalty.
The decision was reviewed and approved via VAR, and although considered controversial by some, it was still the correct call. Havertz converted from the spot and a late header from Sven Bender confirmed the win.
Leverkusen are in a hot vein of form, were worthy winners, and deserve to be in the top four. Peter Bosz has earned the praise he’s received, and appears to have learned from his time at Dortmund.
Despite the coaches, players and goals on show, the biggest talking point from this game was the fans. 13,000 cut-out images of fans on the terraces was certainly a unique sight.
There was even space for some cut-out away supporters. The Bundesliga really does have a personality all of its own.
Elsewhere, Werder Bremen secured a vital win away to Freiburg, who were again denied late on by VAR. It was a win that makes the relegation fight all the more intriguing with Mainz getting thrashed by Leipzig. Timo Werner ended his goal drought by grabbing a hat-trick, and Mainz will be looking nervously over their shoulder.
The same can be said of Eintracht Frankfurt, who sit just a point above Mainz. They both would have been even more nervous if Fortuna Düsseldorf had been able to hold on against Kӧln…
Last week Kӧln threw away a two-goal lead, but this time the roles were reversed. Jhon Cordoba rescued a point in injury time of this Rhine derby. Fortuna showed enough to suggest they can catch those ahead of them.
As much as the Berlin and Rhine derbies may mean to those locally, Germany’s biggest game is not a local rivalry.
It is, of course, Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich. Or Der Klassiker as it’s become known. Unusually, it’s happening as part of an Englische Woche, which is what a full set of midweek fixtures are affectionately known as in the Bundesliga.
The two biggest clubs in Germany go head-to-head with both battling for the title. Dortmund took care of Wolfsburg 2-0 on Saturday to maintain their pressure on the champions. Bayern responded by crushing Frankfurt 5-2, a scoreline that flattered the Eagles.
Tuesday evening’s showdown will be a crucial clash. Dortmund cannot afford to lose as a seven-point gap would almost certainly hand Bayern the title. A draw would keep things interesting, but a Dortmund win would blow things wide open.
With so much on the line, the pressure will be intense. Can Lucien Favre handle it this time? Can Hansi Flick pass this test? We will find out on Tuesday in what promises to be a fascinating tactical battle.
Tactics aside, there are two fantastic attacks to admire. We’ll witness a clash of two generations of goalscorers in the emerging Erling Haaland and the evergreen Robert Lewandowski.
In addition, the Bundesliga’s two leading assist makers will be on show. The exciting Jadon Sancho has 16, whilst a rejuvenated Thomas Müller is on 17.
Both sides also possess the threat of pace from an overlapping full-back. For Dortmund, Achraf Hakimi is like a devastating winger from right-back, and Alphonso Davies is much the same dow the left for Bayern.
Two top teams with fantastic players facing off with the destiny of the title at stake. What more could you ask for?