Bundesliga Zeitung, by Andy Wales.
It’s been an eventful week in German football. Normally the build-up to Der Klassiker would dominate the discussion, but Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund going head-to-head was merely a subtext to the week’s big headlines.
The recent victory for Dortmund over Schalke was as emphatic as the 4-0 scoreline suggested. It was also the last Revierderby we are likely to see in the Bundesliga for quite a while. Relegation for Schalke is a certainty, but the issues within the Gelsenkirchen club extend far beyond a terrible season and crippling debts.
Most recent coach Christian Gross received his marching orders along with sporting director Jochen Schneider and team manager Sascha Riether. The cleanout of the club’s management structure signals a desperate attempt to hit the restart button.
Years of poor decisions have ultimately led to this situation of huge debts, multiple coaches and a poor squad of players.
BREAKING: Total clear out at #Schalke. The Königsblauen have dismissed coach Christian Gross, head of sport Jochen Schneider, team coordinator Sascha Riether & athletic trainer Werner Leuthard. Gross is the 3rd #S04 coach sacked this season. Schneider was to leave in summer.
— Derek Rae (@RaeComm) February 28, 2021
The appointment of Dimitrios Grammozis certainly indicates a change of direction. His experience of working with younger players and willingness to develop speaks of a new model for Schalke. His first match in charge was a soulless goalless draw with fellow strugglers Mainz 05. However, it is no longer about survival for the Royal blues and more about preparation.
Hamburger SV are living proof that reputation alone does not guarantee Bundesliga status. So, with significant debts, Schalke must cut their cloth accordingly by developing talent and making full use of their acclaimed academy makes good business sense. It could also be the way forward on the pitch and at least give supporters some hope for the future.
Rivals Dortmund already have their new coach Marco Rose arriving in the summer. Borussia Monchengladbach have been floundering since Rose’s summer departure was announced. His future employers, on the other hand, have seen an upturn in form and had reason for optimism ahead of the Klassiker.
Sadly, that was dampened by the loss of Raphael Guerreiro, Jadon Sancho and Gio Reyna to injury. Interim coach Edin Terzic’s response was a change in formation and an opportunity for Thorgan Hazard to shine after his return from injury.
The withdrawn back three resembled the shape predecessor Lucien Favre adopted in a search for greater defensive solidity. Dortmund’s ability to counter-attack and having Erling Haaland on the pitch paid off dramatically in the opening ten minutes.
Haaland grabbed a brace and Bayern looked shell-shocked. Injuries and a relentless schedule have affected the champions this season. They’ve been unable to replicate the levels of intensity that brought them so much success last term. In recent weeks, conceding goals has become the norm.
The issue for Dortmund was that as they sat back deeper and deeper, it only invited more and more pressure. For a team that has had issues defending to do this against a team with the attacking prowess of Bayern was asking for trouble. The initial game plan needed adjusting, and the failure to address this proved costly.
Robert Lewandowski pulled a goal back and, just before the break, grabbed the inevitable equaliser. The pattern was now set and despite Dortmund’s best efforts, Leon Goretzka put the hosts ahead in the closing minutes. Moments later, Lewandowski grabbed his hat-trick to fully deflate a valiant Dortmund.
Lewandowski loves scoring goals but appears to have a particular fondness for scoring in this tie. Dortmund battled hard, but couldn’t hang on.
Top four is still a possibility but may depend on Haaland. Similar could be said of their Champions League exploits after their superstar striker added two more to eliminate Sevilla. He is now the fastest player to reach 20 Champions League goals and adding admirers just as quickly.
Usually, Bayern beating Dortmund would be them dispatching their closest rivals to the title. However, this season is anything but usual. You’d be brave to bet against them adding yet another Bundesliga crown to their already record haul. I certainly expect them to finish as champions.
However, there is no denying that Leipzig are in with a shout. The consistency that was such a byword of Bayern has somewhat escaped them. It was for that very lack of consistency that I ruled Leipzig out as genuine title contenders.
They are currently in a rich vein of form, but that is nothing new. Leipzig have gone on winning runs before and just as onlookers began to consider them title contenders, they would start dropping points.
The level of consistency normally shown by Bayern allows very little margin for error for prospective challengers, but the champions having their own issues mean that despite Leipzig’s shortcomings, they remain in the hunt. Indeed, after another win at the weekend, they briefly went top.
A Champions League exit at the hands of Liverpool means that the focus will be entirely on domestic honours for Julian Nagelsmann’s team. It starts with a vital game against Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday.
The question is now, with one of the old guard on their way out of the Bundesliga, could we see the ushering in of a new champion? The fans of most Bundesliga teams will not want to see Leipzig lift the title for obvious reasons, but perhaps those marketing the league will feel differently.
However you feel, at least there is something to play for as we approach the business end of this campaign.