1. Dortmund: forget the eulogy
Over the years a certain number of famous individuals (Mark Twain, Alfred Nobel, Ernest Hemingway) have lived to read their own obituaries. Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp and his players certainly know the feeling. They were declared dead and buried after losing no fewer than ten games before Christmas, but are now roaring back up the table.
Their comfortable 3-0 home victory over Schalke in the Ruhr derby on Saturday was the Westfalen outfit’s fourth consecutive win and with confidence and hunger restored, key players such as centre-back Mats Hummels and midfield regulator Ilkay Gundogan rediscovering their best form and Marco Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang running riot in attack, they conceivably could still qualify for the Champions League.
Only eight points adrift of fourth-placed Leverkusen, the Dortmunder clearly believe they can make up the deficit and so should we.
2. Stefan Reuter fails the Dynamic Duo humour test.
Although a former Dortmund star, Augsburg general manager, Stefan Reuter plainly did not get the joke when ‘Schwarzgelben’ pranksters, Reus and Aubameyang donned Batman and Robin masks to celebrate the side’s first goal against Schalke, a gag which resulted in a yellow card for the Gabon international.
“As someone in charge, I’d have been going crazy,“ exclaimed Reuter on the German football talk show ‘Doppelpass’. “You would have to issue a fine.“
3. Wounded Leverkusen boss Roger Schmidt comes out fighting.
On the receiving end of much criticism for his side’s sloppy start to the New Year – only managing one win in the first five domestic league games of 2015 and conceding goals a plenty – the ‘Werkself’ coach Roger Schmidt is breathing much more easily in the wake of a morale-boosting 1-0 Champions League victory at home to Atletico Madrid and the same scoreline in the Bundesliga encounter with Freiburg at the BayArena, the Rhinelanders’ first domestic league win since November.
Schmidt does need to calm down, though. He was sent to the stands last month for insulting the fourth official during the defeat to Bremen and last week he clashed with Atletico’s notoriously fiery coaching staff.
4. Wolfsburg refuse to lie down at Werder Bremen.
In a spectacular clash of two of the most in-form teams in the country, high-flying Wolfsburg once again demonstrated their free-flowing flair and fortitude, coming from behind on three occasions to finally secure a precious 5-3 win at the Weserstadion.
Sealing the deal with three goals in five minutes early in the second-half, the Wolves must thank their lucky stars that Dutch striker Bas Dost rarely seems to miss the target these days. Since the start of the ‘Spring Championship’, he already has netted 11 and thanks to two more on Sunday, he currently has 13 goals for the season.
5. Rafael van der Vaart trudges to the Hamburg exit.
For all his sumptuous ball-skills and vast experience (109 full caps for Holland, World Cup and European Championship action and starring roles in the past for Ajax, Hamburg, Real Madrid and Tottenham), the 32-year-old Dutch attacking midfielder cannot fight Father Time and lately has become a Hamburg spare part.
Considered by HSV coach Joe Zinnbauer to be too delicate for a Bundesliga relegation scrap, Van der Vaart only came off the bench for the final 11 minutes of his side’s 2-1 loss to Frankfurt on Saturday and ostensibly will be shown the door when his contract expires in June.
A sad end for someone who in his first spell at Hamburg (2005-08) was a guaranteed showstopper.