What should have been the marquee game of the Bundesliga weekend turned out to be anything but. The pre-match talk was focused on how Pep Guardiola’s decision to join Manchester City next season impacted Bayern’s players. There were rumours of player dissent and all sorts of disharmony within the squad.
How much of this is true is hard to say, but looking at things on the pitch, it was the most disjointed that Bayern have looked in a while. Despite having Douglas Costa, Arjen Robben and Kingsley Coman on the pitch, Bayern didn’t create much. The only time they looked like scoring was when Thomas Müller came on in the second half, but the German international blazed over two presentable chances. Meanwhile, injuries and suspensions continue to dog Bayern as Xabi Alonso was sent off after two yellow cards.
With a red-hot Javier Hernandez, one would have expected Leverkusen to cause Bayern serious problems. However, the home side looked liked they didn’t really believe they could win. While Ömer Toprak was excellent in defence, Roger Schmidt’s much-vaunted attacking quartet of Hernandez, Stefan Kießling, Hakan Calhanoglu and Karim Bellarabi simply failed to sparkle on the big night.
All said and done, a point for each side isn’t the worst result. Yes, Bayern are expected to win every game in the league, but a point away to a Champions League side is still an acceptable result. Conversely, Leverkusen will look at any point taken from Bayern as a bonus. They are still alive in the race for the top four and a draw keeps their recent momentum in tact.
A true confidence-boosting win for André Breitenreiter and Schalke 04. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar finally got on the scoresheet again, the defence kept a clean sheet and the Royal Blues are now in the all-important fourth spot, just two points behind Hertha Berlin in third.
In my opinion however, the bigger story here is Wolfsburg. Dieter Hecking and Wolfsburg have problems. Since beating Manchester United to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League, the Wolves seemed to have lost all momentum. Exactly why this has happened is hard to pinpoint. A squad that contains the attacking talents of Julian Draxler, Daniel Caligiuri, Max Kruse and Andre Schürrle should not be eighth in the table behind Mainz 05. In mitigation, Wolfsburg are not a team that are used to competing on two fronts. Dealing with the greater exposure they have this season requires experience.
Following up on last season’s excellent second place was always going to be difficult. However, the fans would have expected to be in the fight for the top four, not cut off six points adrift in eighth. Hecking has to find a solution that utilizes his attacking talents in the best possible way. Perhaps, the return of the Champions League will get the team more focused. A winnable last-16 tie against Ghent could give the club the shot in the arm it needs to get their domestic campaign back on track.
A game pitting third against second that simply failed to ignite. Pal Dardai’s Hertha Berlin have been one of the most amazing stories in European football this season. Coming into the game with only defeat in their last nine matches, Hertha were in unchartered waters at third in the table. However, there are signs that their momentum is stalling since the resumption of the Bundesliga, as they have drawn all three league games in 2016.
Considering the fact that Bayern had a tough away game against Leverkusen, Thomas Tuchel would have hoped for three points to cut the deficit against the league leaders. In stead, a point was all BVB got. Despite having 62 % of the possession, Dortmund failed to ignite against a resolute home defence.
The only gain that both managers could take from the game was that their defences were superb. After a few shaky performances, Sokratis and Mats Hummels were outstanding against Salomon Kalou and Vedad Ibisevic. On the other side, John Brooks and Sebastian Langkamp kept Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Marco Reus quite, with the able support of defensive midfielder Fabian Lustenberger. All in all, Hertha will be the happier side with the point as it keeps them in third, while Dortmund remain eight points behind Bayern Munich.