1. Another one-horse race ends.
Clinching their third straight Bundesliga crown this weekend courtesy of a 1-0 home victory over a surprisingly resilient Hertha Berlin and second-placed Wolfsburg’s identical scoreline defeat at Gladbach, Bayern Munich now have no fewer than 25 domestic championships in the strong room and looking at the season’s tale of the tape – just two defeats, 24 wins out of 30, 77 goals scored and only 13 conceded – the competitive deficit in today’s top-flight is there for all to see.
Because of international player fatigue, a post-World Cup season can be tricky one for big clubs to negotiate, yet even with injuries a plenty, Bayern’s multi-layered depth chart of all the talents was still more than enough to take the strain.
Not only are the Bavarians in a league of their own in terms of financial resources, world-class individuals and the tactical acumen of coach Pep Guardiola; they also have the most switched-on and hungry squad, one that’s looking for the next challenge, the next conquest. Any cracks in their hegemony ? Not to the naked eye.
2. Bayern Munich’s forgotten man returns to the shadows.
In a week when Guardiola’s all-stars demolished FC Porto to reach the last-four of the Champions League and sealed yet another Bundesliga title, the Bayern Nation undeniably is full of the joys of spring.
However for one player, centre-back Holger Badstuber, it very much remains bleak midwinter. Only recently back in the first-team after two-and-half-years of cruel injury blows (two episodes of snapped cruciate ligaments in his right-knee and a torn left-hamstring), the German international seriously damaged the same hamstring during the Porto romp and now faces at least three months on the sidelines.
Badstuber’s loop of lament leaves Pep Guardiola with a major central defensive conundrum: just who to pair with the ever-impressive Jerome Boateng? Mehdi Benatia and Dante both have a frustrating capacity to blow a fuse from time to time and though the Basque, Javi Martinez is back in the squad following knee reconstruction, it would be something of a gamble to go with him.
3. Dortmund: falling short and loving it.
With Dortmund out of the Champions League qualifying picture for the first time in five years, the revelation on the Bloomberg business media platform that the Ruhr giants had insured themselves against missing out on elite European action – and would thus be recouping much of their lost income – did not particularly startle the Bundesliga community.
Despite negative-outcome’ policies being outlawed in the English game on the grounds that it could lead to match-fixing, it is estimated that around ten German clubs have such such ‘Prize Indemnity’ cover and according to Köln director of sport, Jörg Schmadtke there is nothing untoward in the practice:
“It’s about protecting the business for the next year,” he said. “It’s a legitimate move you can make and I don’t find it objectionable.”
Former Dortmund pro turned financial expert, Oliver Roth agrees: ” The club have pulled off a fantastic coup. Very farsighted of them. ”
4. Lasogga strikes twice to break the Hamburg log-jam
The only team in the bottom-six to win this weekend, Hamburg’s morale-boosting 3-2 victory at home to Augsburg effectively was the rainstorm at the end of the long, dry season, a day for fans of the northerners to celebrate their first win in ten games, their first goal in almost 600 minutes of Bundesliga play and a sudden change in fortunes for long-moribund front-man Pierre Michel Lasogga.
Off the score-sheet since October, the Rocky-like target man has proved the prizefighter without a punch for most of this term, beset by hamstring trouble and generally meandering in low gear, but when fully operational and in the mood, he can bully any defence with his power and all-action style. Just keep him fit, scream HSV fans.
5. Leverkusen. The times they are a-changin’.
Often accused in the past of doing a disappearing act when the going gets tough, the Leverkusen Class of 2014-15 seem to be made of much sterner stuff. In his first season in charge at the BayArena, coach Roger Schmidt has turned a team with certain choirboy characteristics into a unit of feisty warriors and this intensity is well and truly driving their push for Champions League qualification.
Victorious in seven consecutive games prior to Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Köln in the Rhineland derby, the ‘Werkself’ have successfully substituted the reckless and scattergun high pressing game they used early in the season for co-ordinated dominance in all areas, more pragmatic, more alert to the threat of being hit on the break and thoroughly more resolute defensively. Fourteen clean sheets this term speak for themselves.