The Bundesliga is back! After a short winter break, it’s business as usual – and this season, that means chasing Borussia Dortmund, who have built up a solid points lead at the top of the table. Will they be able to translate this into a victory, though, or are Mainz going to surprise everyone and become the national champions? Or will it be Leverkusen that manage to catch up? Or will Bayern München get out of the doldrums and keep the title? At the bottom of the table, meanwhile, will Mönchengladbach be relegated to the second league? And can Bruno Labbadia save Stuttgart? All these questions – and more – will have been answered before the last of the 17 remaining match days this season: by 14th May, we will know all.
Meanwhile, despite the lack of play in the winter break, there was plenty of action. Hoffenheim, for example, was a real hotbed of intrigue, with Dietmar Hopp, the wealthy patron behind the team, doing little to dispel long-held suspicions that this set-up is more about nice money than good football: he just went ahead and sold mid-fielder Gustavo to Bayern Munich without so much as a by-your-leave to the team’s coach, Ralf Rangnick, who was pretty riled of course. Nevertheless, Hopp’s money-grabbing ways were fine by him as long as he was transferring the billions coach Rangnick needed to turn Hoffenheim from a sleepy bunch of amateurs into Bundesliga staples, so I found it hard to sympathise with him as he quit.
His successor Marco Pezzaiuoli, previously co-coach, was then immediately confronted with a mutiny in the team, with striker Demba Ba taking Rangnick’s resignation as a reason to go on strike. Apparently, he could no longer “identify” with the team anymore and blackmailed them into selling him to Stoke City in the UK. Nothing to do with higher pay, of course. Absolutely nothing. Nevertheless, Stoke have suddenly gone cold on the idea, officially stating that Ba failed a medical. Unofficially, however, there is talk of dirty money changing hands. Whatever the case, Ba is now in a very awkward position in terms of his career and Hoffenheim are not doing well either. They were drawing at Bremen yesterday, but a last-minute goal from Torsten Frings saw them lose the point they really rather needed.
Bayern Munich and Schalke 04, meanwhile, did not live up to expectations either. Both of them were looking to kick-start their rise back to the top of the table in the second half of the season, and both failed, with Schalke losing 0:1 at home to HSV. Bayern just managed a 1:1 at Wolfsburg, despite the fact that the Wolves have sold their best striker Edin Dzeko to Manchester City. Furthermore, the team they are trying to catch, Dortmund, steamed on ahead with a 3:1 victory away at Bayer Leverkusen. Mainz, however, quite near the top, slipped back after a defeat in Stuttgart, allowing Hannover to take second place after a 3:0 victory in Frankfurt. This leaves Borussia twelve points – count ‘em! – ahead at the top of the table.
At the bottom of the table, St. Pauli, Hamburg’s second Bundesliga club, is fighting against relegation. They played to a rather poor 2:2 draw against Freiburg – and now have their own fans to play against too, with 1000 of them demonstrating on Saturday against the increasing commercialisation of this supposedly “alternative” team. If you want my opinion, however, they’re barking up the wrong tree: this is football, and it’s a game that has long been about the money. If the St. Pauli players didn’t get their paycheck, they wouldn’t even lace up their boots, let alone get on the field: and if that’s too “mercenary” or “capitalist” for the more far-out amongst the club’s predominantly left-wing supporters, then they should pack up their red flags and head for amateur games in the 7th league. After all, if there isn’t any money, that’s where St. Pauli will end up: that’s were Hoffenheim were before they got rich!
Results Matchday 17:
Bayer Leverkusen – Borussia Dortmund 1:3
Werder Bremen – 1899 Hoffenheim 2:1
VfB Stuttgart – 1. FSV Mainz 05 1:0
VfL Wolfsburg – Bayern München 1:1
1. FC Nürnberg – Borussia Mönchengladbach 0:1
FC St. Pauli – SC Freiburg 2:2
FC Schalke 04 – Hamburger SV 0:1
Eintracht Frankfurt – Hannover 96 0:3
1. FC Kaiserslautern – 1. FC Köln 1:1
1 Borussia Dortmund 46 P
2 Hannover 96 34 P
3 1. FSV Mainz 05 33 P
4 Bayer Leverkusen 33 P
5 Bayern München 30 P
6 SC Freiburg 29 P
7 Hamburger SV 27 P
8 Eintracht Frankfurt 26 P
9 1899 Hoffenheim 25 P
10 1. FC Kaiserslautern 22 P
11 FC Schalke 04 22 P
12 1. FC Nürnberg 22 P
13 Werder Bremen 22 P
14 VfL Wolfsburg 20 P
15 FC St. Pauli 18 P
16 1. FC Köln 16 P
17 VfB Stuttgart 15 P
18 Borussia Mönchengladbach 13 P