Bundesliga Five Points: Dortmund close gap on Bayern’s title charge
Still nothing in the bottom fight
Talking points: What makes this relegation battle most exciting is simple: there's no clear candidates for the drop. Hoffenheim are still bottom, while Augsburg and Stuttgart make up the last two spots. Above them, Werder Bremen and Eintracht Frankfurt are level on points. All big clubs; but all with something to be concerned about at the moment. Hell, even Cologne, if they don't start scoring, are an outside candidate, Darmstadt's 1-0 derby win over Frankfurt on Sunday was against the odds. Dirk Schuster's men are fighters and won't give up easily. Ingolstadt, similarly, continue to pick points here-and-there to keep their head above water. But with 20 games left, there's still time for a side to go on a terrible run of form. It's just that, right now, there's nothing to separate between the teams.
Bongarts/Getty ImagesAlexander Hassenstein
Sane's worth the hype
Talking points: One of the great pictures of this matchday is Leroy Sane, among Schalke fans, but finding it all a little bit too loud. That's the kind of support Schalke 04 have in the region. But the 19-year-old's performance in the 3-1 win over Hannover was certainly worth that kind of reverence. Notably a talented player for months, doing what he did against Dortmund, Bayern and Hannover keeps raising his stock. Sane has four goals and four assists in 15 league games for Schalke. On top of his great dribbling, his decision-making is improving. He's controlling the tempo, a sign of a mature player, while working for the team. There's not a lot Sane can't do right now. For him, Schalke is a great level to play his first 100-odd professional games. After that, the sky is the limit for the winger.
Bongarts/Getty ImagesLars Baron
How important is Xabi Alonso for Bayern?
Talking points: As we chew the fat after Saturday's 3-1 defeat for Bayern at Borussia Mönchengladbach, there are a number of factors in the poor display. No Arjen Robben, No Thiago, No Douglas Costa and No David Alaba to name just four. But what about the influence of Xabi Alonso? His substitution after the first goal appears odd and opened the floodgates for the Foals to dominate the key areas. There's not necessarily ageism against Alonso, but the 34-year-old is clearly not the most popular player. He's pin-pointed by most fans at one of the main weaknesses. But are Bayern as functional without him? He passes well, covers space in front and around the center-backs and breaks up play superbly well. Why he would come off when Pep has stuck so resolutely to him remains strange.
VI-Images via Getty ImagesVI-Images
Leverkusen are soft
Talking points: Rudi Völler was right: Too many players aren't performing at Leverkusen. The sporting director directed his ire at Bellarabi and Calhanoglu, but the same could be said for others as well. Leverkusen don't seem to be consistent enough to put together a bid for a place in next season's Champions League – their current campaign comes to an end vs. Barca on Wednesday. “One in two of our goals lost is from set-pieces. That's not good enough,” he said. While there isn't really a great deal of pressure on Roger Schmidt at the minute, he has to realize that his high-pressing, full-throttle style isn't working. Leverkusen need to return to basics: tighten things at the back, take responsibility and feed Chicharito who remains the only reliable source of goals. Otherwise, the demise will continue.
Bongarts/Getty ImagesMatthias Kern
Talking points: Hours after the 2-1 win at Wolfsburg, the Armenian took to Twitter. “That was a great volley,” he retweeted. “What can't you do?” was another from a fan. It was like an assassin taking pride in his killings. He was right to: Mkhitaryan's two assists in the win on Saturday were devastatingly incisive and keep Dortmund on track this season. In all competitions, Mkhitaryan's numbers are dazzling: 24 games, 13 goals and 13 assists. He has three set ups in his last two league games. It's clear to see why Europe's top sides are sniffing around him. Mkhitaryan's intelligence and craft passes are key to Thomas Tuchel's side creating scoring situations. Fans of the Bundesliga and of Borussia Dortmund are praying he doesn't leave Germany for England or Italy in the coming 12-18 months.