The Bundesliga resumed on Friday with a crucial game in the race for Champions League qualification as fifth placed Hertha Berlin welcomed fourth placed Hoffenheim and Julian Nagelsmann’s men left capital with a crucial 3-1 win. The hosts had the better of the game in the opening quarter but after Andrej Kramarić’s penalty cancelled Peter Pekarík’s opener, the visitors gradually gained control and could have won by a bigger margin. Niklas Süle’s superb strike after Hertha Berlin went down to 10 men and a second for Kramarić late on, gave Hoffenheim a well-deserved three points.
Another international break is over and it’s time to get back into the groove of domestic football. On Friday, we see the clash between second and third in the Bundesliga, while four of the top five face off in France.
Toulouse vs Monaco
Fourth hosts second in Ligue 1 as Toulouse welcome Monaco to the Stadium Municipal. While Monaco’s place in the upper reaches in the league is no surprise, this is rarified air for Toulouse. After saving them from relegation last season, Pascal Dupraz has gone from strength to strength, cementing the self-belief in the squad and encouraging his players to express themselves on the pitch. The visitors meanwhile are playing with greater fluency than last season. Rightly renowned for his defensive organization, Leonardo Jardim has found a way to get more goals from his men without compromising the shape of the side. The historic 7-0 win at Metz last time out means Monaco are well clear of anyone else in the goals scored chart. A repeat of that score is highly unlikely on this trip however, as Dupraz will want his men to replicate the form shown in Toulouse’s last home game when they beat champions PSG 3-1. This game has all the ingredients to be a very good match.
Borussia Dortmund vs Hertha Berlin
The match between second and third in Germany, with Dortmund surprisingly a place below the capital side. After losing their last game against Bayer Leverkusen, Thomas Tuchel’s men need to make a statement as the room for error is minimal if they are to seriously challenge Bayern Munich for the title. The challenge facing Tuchel is a mounting injury list. BVB’s squad depth is going to be challenged against Pal Dardai’s well-organized unit. Dortmund will expect to play on the front foot, but they always give their opponents some chances on the break. With the likes of Mitchell Weiser and Genki Haraguchi creating chances for an in form Vedad Ibisevic, an upset can’t be discounted. Expect goals and an intense tactical battle between Tuchel and Dardai.
Nice vs Lyon
There is a different vibe at the Allianz Riviera nowadays. After being in the shadows of rivals Monaco and Marseille for so long, Nice are currently leading the pack not only in Southern France, but ahead of every other club in Ligue 1. Last season saw the rebirth of Hatem Ben Arfa at Les Aiglons, but this season has seen an even more remarkable renaissance in the form of Mario Balotelli. The temperamental Italian’s goals have fired Nice to the top, but credit is also due for new manager Lucien Favre. The Swiss tactician has tightened things at the back and this discipline will be needed against Lyon’s crop of young attackers.
Bruno Genesio will be having a rueful look at the table. Lyon really should be the team to take advantage of PSG’s inconsistent start. In stead Les Gones find themselves seven points adrift of their hosts after some shambolic losses. Injuries have dogged the squad, but there is good news with Alexandre Lacazette’s return to training. Nabil Fekir and Corentin Tolisso have been the shining lights for Lyon, and it is upon this duo that Genesio will pin hopes of getting a point or three in the south of France.
Balotelli, Fekir, Ghezzal, Tolisso, Belhanda, Seri and other mercurial talents will be on display in this top of the table clash. Should be a barnburner!
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.