Defeats for Dortmund, Leverkusen and Leipzig opened up yet another clear path to the Bundesliga title
They did what they always do, and it was rarely in doubt. Schalke resisted as best they could, had their moments and were several steps forward from the meek strugglers who have filled the royal blue shirts for a large part of this season. Bayern Munich, however, were always going to get it done, and not just because this was their 10th successive win against the Gelsenkirchen club. Even if the late goals by Thomas Müller and David Alaba added a slightly unfair sheen to the scoreline for the champions, their total superiority couldn’t have been clearer.
Spare a thought for the Schalke mascot… pic.twitter.com/zhsxIQs9X0
Hoffenheim 3-0 Köln, Schalke 0-4 Bayern, Hertha Berlin 1-4 Werder Bremen, Arminia Bielefeld 1-5 Eintracht Frankfurt, Augsburg 2-1 Union Berlin, Freiburg 2-1 Stuttgart, Leverkusen 0-1 Wolfsburg, Mainz 3-2 RB Leipzig, Möngengladbach 4-2 Dortmund
This won’t be the news to buoy the spirits of neutrals but this was also the week in which Bayern publicly acknowledged their interest in Dayot Upamecano, with a clause in the Leipzig defender’s contract which will activate this summer making him available for €45m. Kicker’s Karlheinz Wild reports that the French defender has already spoken with Flick.
The only fly in the ointment for Gladbach, meanwhile, is the continuing saga of Breel Embolo, who returned to the group against Dortmund and played the last 20 minutes. The club have publicly backed him as he denies going to a party in Essen – the investigation of which continues to be a police matter – though internal punishment for an unauthorised sortie of any nature may well follow when sporting director Max Eberl returns from sabbatical at the end of the month.
Hertha’s latest home humiliation, a 4-1 defeat by Werder Bremen, ended with the not-at-all-surprising removal of coach Bruno Labbadia and long-serving general manager Michael Preetz on Sunday. The first phase of Lars Windhorst’s generous investment in the club is a failure thus far, with Hertha going from the promise of being “the Manchester City of the Bundesliga” to “a pile of broken glass”, in the words of Bild’s Walter M Straten. The former coach Pal Dardai, a reliable club man, is set to step up from the under-16s, assisted by Andreas Neuendorf (the under-23s coach and another fan favourite) to steer a talented but increasingly unruly team away from choppy waters. The club’s chief executive, Carsten Schmidt, fully in at the deep end after his recent arrival, “apologised to Bruno on behalf of the club” after Labbadia was confronted with a Bild headline of his imminent sacking in a live post-match interview with Sky.
Things are not happy behind the scenes at Stuttgart either, who suffered a second successive away defeat, this time in Freiburg, with the power struggle at board level being blamed by many for the dip in form. The chief executive, Thomas Hitzlsperger, who has incurred the wrath of many fans for his criticisms of the president Claus Vogt, gave a video statement on Sunday morning to try to heal the wounds, apologising for his “overreaction” in his criticisms of Vogt but defending his role in the investigation of the leak of members’ data. He has not yet withdrawn his pledge to oppose Vogt in the club’s presidential elections.
A good weekend for Florian Niederlechner, Augsburg’s main man who finally broke his goalscoring duck for the season after nearly 1,000 barren Bundesliga minutes, combining well with Ande Hahn and hitting not one but two to beat Union.