Bundesliga Five Points: Bayern, Dortmund falter as Schalke shine
Not so pretty weekend
Bayern and Dortmund were less than stellar in the Bundesliga this weekend. Here are five things we learned from the games. -- Ross Dunbar
Bayern don't smell like roses
Even with a championship almost in the bag, Bayern Munich's season is threatening to unravel in the most bizarre of fashions. Recent months have been particularly destabilizing for the German champions who have seen spats behind closed doors with Guardiola and his medical staff, continued injury problems and news of Pep's confirmed departure to Man City. The ego-driven press conference looked a bit embarrassing for the club. His pre-match press conference before the trip to Bayer Leverkusen was similarly clumsy, as Guardiola directly criticized the German media. This is not going to please Bayern's hierarchy despite what they will say in public. With German Cup and Champions League games around the corner, it could be a frosty ending for Guardiola, if Bayern go out early on.
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Borussia Dortmund stumble in Berlin
As highlighted before, Dortmund's tendency to turn in sub-standard performances every so often is precisely why they won't realistically hurt Bayern Munich this season. The draw at Leverkusen turned out to be inconsequential following news of a 0-0 in Berlin as third-placed Hertha held Thomas Tuchel's side out – the first time they haven't scored in a league game all this campaign. The result isn't quite so embarrassing as the draw at home to Darmstadt, for example, but the performance wasn't up to scratch. Dortmund, backed by a superb away support in the German capital, barely mustered much in attack, although Hertha's man-marking game was tough and effective. Reus was off-the-pace, as was top scorer Aubameyang. But second-place, as targeted, should be all-but secured for BVB this season.
Bongarts/Getty ImagesStuart Franklin
Big response from Schalke
Schalke's 'kick-up-the-backside' moment to start the year has clearly galvanized the Royal Blues who want to secure a return to the financially lucrative Champions League. Andre Breitenreiter's side turned in a superb display to beat struggling Wolfsburg 3-0 with Johannes Geis leading emphatically from midfield and scoring a great free-kick. When there's an intensity and purpose to their play, Schalke is more than capable of competing towards the top. Although Breitenreiter suffered lots of criticism in the wake of the defeat to Bremen – some of which he described as smudging his reputation – there's a unity among the players, hardcore supporters and the staff. If Schalke can channel such positive energy into consistent form, then they will certainly finish in the top-four this season.
Bongarts/Getty ImagesMartin Rose
Gladbach want the Great Dane long-term
For a defender, goals are not exactly the best way of analyzing talent. Two goals against Werder Bremen on Friday aside, Andreas Christensen has been a very impressive performer for Borussia Mönchengladbach this season. The Danish defender has been on loan from Chelsea, and now the Foals are keen to make him a permanent asset at Borussia-Park. At 19, Christensen espouses the same kind of composure and maturity of a top-class center-back. He's quick, strong, perceptive and is a leader for Andre Schubert. His consistency has been just as noteworthy. Those who follow German football won't be surprised to see clubs finding talent for next year already - and Christensen would be a smashing coup for Mönchengladbach, if they can secure a full transfer.
Relegation candidates becomes clearer
The Bundesliga relegation battle shaped up to be one of the unpredictable areas of competition for most of the first half of the season. But after three games in 2016, the table is beginning to take shape. Hannover and Hoffenheim are stuck in the automatic relegation spots on 14 points – five behind Werder Bremen who is third-from-bottom. The two stricken teams at the bottom are seven points off clear survival. Are Hannover and Hoffenheim already doomed? Hannover started the year with a change of coach - Schaaf replacing Frontzeck. But there's been little bounce for Schaaf and the Reds. Hoffenheim, meanwhile, has only won two games all season, despite boasting a fairly robust squad with proven players. The pair will need something significant to survive now with 14 matches to play.