Bundesliga Five Points: Pulisic debuts for Dortmund; Wolfsburg’s woes continue
The highs and lows of Matchday 19
An American's debut and Wolfburg's slump. Here is a look at what we have learned from an exciting and eventful Matchday 19 in the Bundesliga.
American Pulisic makes his mark
Remember the name: Christian Pulisic. The 17-year-old American from Hershey, Pennsylvania made his Bundesliga debut for Borussia Dortmund as the yellow-and-blacks stuttered to a 2-0 win over Ingolstadt. Thomas Tuchel has shown an great level of confidence in the youngster who was part of the team's winter camp in the Middle East. He scored in one friendly there before netting another in a bounce match against Union Berlin. And his cameo appearance in the Bundesliga was another milestone for the US U17 international. Confident, daring and blessed with a brilliant mix of speed and technique, Pulisic is a pleasure to watch already. But each step needs to be taken with patience: his development and maturity is most pertinent. Under Tuchel, he has the perfect teacher to grow into a superstar.
Borussia Dortmund/Getty ImagesAlexandre Simoes
Schalke united behind Breitenreiter
Schalke goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann said he and his teammates didn't know whether to laugh or cry on Monday. Following a 3-1 loss at home to Werder Bremen, coach Andre Breitenreiter came in for some scathing criticism with the story dominating headlines at the start of the week. As ever with Schalke, one of the biggest parts of the job is managing expectations: this is not a team that commands three points easily in the Bundesliga. But the players did respond with a professional, workmanlike performance against Darmstadt in difficult conditions. Max Meyer and Leroy Sane delivered the vital goals, yet it was the commitment of the players that showed clearly how much Breitenreiter has the backing of his players. Champions League qualifcation is still the realistic target for the Royal Blues.
Bongarts/Getty ImagesAlex Grimm
Hertha capable of challenging
Third in the Bundesliga, their second best showing in the Hinrunde - many had expressed doubts as to whether Hertha Berlin could maintain this form going into the second half of the season. Despite two draws since the restart, Pal Dardai's side have shown enough in their performances to suggest that they could keep delivering. Against Werder Bremen, Hertha lost a 3-1 lead, but the Berliners played particularly well and should have walked away with three points. Midfielder Vladimir Darida continues to excel, as does top scorer Salomon Kalou. US defender John Anthony Brooks was recently rewarded with a new and improved contract. Champions League qualification might still be a stretch, but with the current form of its rivals for the position, they have every chance of succeeding.
City-Press via Getty ImagesMarco Leipold
Stuttgart and Kramny on fire
When Stuttgart play at their best, they can be an exhilarating team to watch. Saturday’s 2-1 win over Hamburg was the first Bundesliga game on U.S. Network TV - and it didn’t disappoint. Hamburg’s equalizer though made the game much closer than it should have been. This was 2-1 going on 7-0 for the home side who squandered an incredible number of clear chances. Jürgen Kramny's impact there has been impressive: Stuttgart has won four games on the spin in all competitions. Balanced, composed and with a great attacking threat, the Swabians should have enough to finish mid-table. Kostic, Didavi and Werner are a superb front-three, arguably stronger than some of the top teams. Now Kramny will be keen to maintain this form and guarantee that Stuttgart don’t get embroiled in a relegation battle.
Bongarts/Getty ImagesSimon Hofmann
Wolfsburg's slump is a worry
Ever since qualifying for the Last 16 of the Champions League, Wolfsburg’s progress has hit the rails. The poor performances are continuing for Dieter Hecking's men who failed to win for the sixth successive league match. For a side that wants to be a contender for a Champions League place, that kind of form simply isn’t good enough. The loss of Bas Dost is one thing, but he barely affects the team’s overall play. Julian Draxler has done fairly well, but needs support around him. Max Kruse is out-of-form. Andre Schürrle has one goal to his name this season, while Daniel Caligiuri hasn’t scored a league goal since October. Perhaps the upcoming Last 16 tie with Gent has distracted the current squad, but that's little excuse for a team which should be in the top-four this season.