Bundesliga Wrap: Leverkusen, Dortmund hold steady; Schalke creeping up the table

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Germany are only in their second round after taking a month off for the winter break, but it’s already clear that there will be plenty of movement in the table in the second half of the season. Well, there’s the potential for movement in slots 3-16, anyway. It’s almost certain Bayern Munich will win the title, while it’s looking more and more unlikely that Bayer Leverkusen will be ousted from second. At the bottom, Braunschweig and Nurnberg look like they’ll get relegated – unless Nurnberg pull off their second win of the season on Sunday, that is.

Friday’s Results

Braunschweig 1-2 Borussia Dortmund
Dortmund managed to hang on to third place this week, but bottom side Braunschweig gave them a bit of a scare first. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang opened the scoring, heading on a ball from Robert Lewandowski. But Braunschweig, who’d scored just 10 goals thus far this season, by far the worst in the league, took advantage of Dortmund’s defensive weaknesses, with Benjamin Kessel scoring after a corner. Aubameyang came back to score another, but it was a sore reminder for Jürgen Klopp’s men of just how frail Dortmund are at the moment.

Saturday’s Results

Augsburg 3-1 Werder Bremen
Beating Werder Bremen gave Augsburg a big boost toward the European positions, putting them within two points of Wolfsburg in sixth. But the hosts very nearly made a hash of it right from the start, with Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker scoring an own goal within three minutes. Tobias Werner equalized for the hosts before the break, but the real turning point was likely when Santiago Garcia was sent off with a second yellow, forcing Bremen to play the second half down a man. Augsburg took advantage, with Halil Altintop and André Hahn scoring before the hour was out.

Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 Stuttgart
Leverkusen are back to within ten points of league leaders Bayern Munich, but that’s mostly because the Bavarian giants have yet to play this weekend. Moritz Leitner gave the visitors an early lead, but Stefan Kießling had equalized before thirty minutes were out. The hosts had a bit of trouble finding the winner, but finally Eren Derdiyok got on the end of a cross from Sidney Sam, heading in in the 84th minute.

Hoffenheim 3-0 Hamburg
Hamburg remain in the relegation places after barely putting up a fight against Hoffenheim. The hosts scored three within an hour, the goals coming from Roberto Firmino, Niklas Süle and Andreas Beck.

Mainz 2-0 Freiburg
Freiburg remain just one point clear of the relegation zone, quite a drop from their fifth placed finish of last season. The visitors managed just one shot on target, giving Mainz a rather easy time of it. Joo-Ho Park and Ja-Cheol Koo were the goalscorers for the hosts.

Schalke 2-1 Wolfsburg
Schalke have moved up into fourth thanks to a run of four unbeaten matches. Felipe Santana scored early on for the hosts, who must’ve thought the game was a lock when Daniel Caligiuri was sent off with a straight red in the 50th minute. But despite being down a man, Maximilian Arnold managed to score for the visitors, and it took an 81st minute goal from Kevin-Prince Boateng to secure all three points for Schalke.

Hannover 3-1 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Hannover may not be doing all that well this season, but their home remains a near-fortress, and they’ve proved it by defeating Gladbach, who were in fourth before they made the trip east. Artjoms Rudnevs broke the deadlock in the 57th minute, but it wasn’t until the final ten minutes that things got really exciting. Mame Biram Diouf added another in the 82nd, but Peniel Kokou Mlapa put Gladbach within one just two minutes later. Diouf put in his second in the 90th minute, sealing all three points for Hannover.

Sunday’s Fixtures

Hertha Berlin vs. Nurnberg
After a great start to the season, Hertha have now slipped into eighth. The Bundesliga newcomers show an interesting inconsistency, going unbeaten in December – even beating Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion – then losing to relegation-threatened Eintracht in their first game back after the break. If The Old Lady have issues with Nurnberg, second from bottom, we’ll know they’re really on the downward slide.

Bayern Munich vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
Bayern Munich play a rare Sunday match, usually reserved for teams inhabiting the bottom of the Bundesliga table, but it’s likely because they had a midweek fixture away at Stuttgart. But with Bayern still unbeaten this season, and having dropped points just twice thus far, this match’s outcome already seems preordained.

VIDEO: Sporting KC’s Medranda scores wonder goal in win over Vancouver

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Sporting KC showed again on Friday night why they’re the rightful leaders at the top of the Western Conference, pulling four points ahead of the LA Galaxy and the Vancouver Whitecaps with a dominating 6-0 win over the Whitecaps at home.

Scottish forward Johnny Russell bagged a hat-trick in the game, all by the 48th minute, but the highlight of the night came off the foot of 24-year-old Jimmy Medranda. The Colombian scored an absolute worldie from a ridiculous angle, taking the space given to him outside the top-left corner of the box and sailing it over the head of Vancouver goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic and into the back of the net.

It was, of course, massively beneficial to Sporting KC that Vancouver went two men down in the 40th minute after a huge skirmish that saw Yordy Reyna and Efrain Juarez both sent off. Reyna earned his marching orders for throwing Russell to the ground, while Juarez reportedly used unacceptable language.

Still, KC was already up 3-0 when the incident occurred, and credit must go to teams that take advantage of what has been handed to them. Sporting KC certainly did that as Russell becomes the first Scotsman to score an MLS hat-trick since Colorado’s John Spencer in 2001, and Medranda’s wonder goal sealed the deal past the half-hour mark.

Jurgen Klopp already wants a piece of Man City next season

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Manchester City may have run away with the Premier League title this year, but Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp can’t wait for a clean slate to try and challenge City’s title defense next season.

The Reds are into the Champions League semifinals and also looking to finish the Premier League season strong in a battle for positioning in the top four, but when asked about next year, Klopp was giddy.

“Of course I don’t fear the challenge,” Klopp said in his prematch press conference ahead of Liverpool’s Premier League visit to West Brom on Saturday morning.

The German made it clear he wants a piece of Manchester City next season. “This year, if City plays a normal season – which they didn’t do – then it would have been really close until the end because we are now all close together.”

“United is four points ahead [of Liverpool], Tottenham is two points behind. It’s a real fight for these positions. All big six pretty much delivered this year but City delivered the best. We will see. It’s difficult to deal with success as it is difficult to deal with other things in football but I’m pretty sure they will be strong again.”

Liverpool is one of only two teams to beat City in league play this year, with Manchester United being the other. Klopp and company torched the City back line in a wild 4-3 victory that ended City’s 22-match unbeaten run. Ultimately, though, Klopp knows they have to look at the entire season as a whole to best the defending champs next year, not just their matches against each other.

“It’s not important how good City will be, it’s about how we can get all the other points, plus the points we got so far again,” he said. “That’s the job to do. That is why it is always possible that it is closer. But are they able to dominate? They don’t have a limit to spending and all that stuff so I don’t know.”

VIDEO: Goalkeeper sends Memphis Depay flying with skillful touch

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Former Manchester United attacker Memphis Depay has one of the brightest spots for Lyon this season that sees them battling with Monaco and Marseille for 2nd place behind a dominant PSG. He has scored 15 goals and assisted 11 others this Ligue 1 campaign, adding to his tally just four minutes into Friday’s 5-2 win over Dijon, the sixth win in a row for the club that pulled them within a point of Monaco.

However, there was a moment to forget for Depay in the victory as well.

With the score still at 1-1 in the 19th minute, Depay was sent high up the pitch to press Dijon goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet, owner of the leakiest net of the Ligue 1 season. Nevertheless, sometimes the underdog prevails, and that’s what happened as Depay flung himself at the ball to put Reynet under pressure.

One silky touch by the netminder was all it took for Depay to end up on his backside.

The 24-year-old Dutch winger has had a fantastic season and one that could potentially propel him back to the biggest stage and a bigger paycheck, but for now, we can all poke fun at his misery in the moment.

Dortmund admits interest in signing Batshuayi permanently

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Michy Batshuayi might be out for the season with a serious ankle injury, but he may have already done enough to earn a permanent move to Borussia Dortmund.

The Chelsea striker moved on loan to the Bundesliga side in January and made an immediate impact, scoring two goals on his debut, and ultimately wound up with seven goals in 10 Bundesliga games before his ankle injury brought his season to a close. Now, the Dortmund front office is speaking very highly of the Belgian goalscorer, not so subtly hinting that they will take an aggressive approach this summer.

The interest to sign him is there,” said Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke. “But first we have to wait and see who will be Chelsea’s coach next season. Then we’ll start looking.”

Chelsea has Antonio Conte currently at the helm, but there are strong rumors that the Italian will depart at the end of the season as the Blues sit comfortably outside the Champions League places. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is known for his quick trigger, and despite Conte winning the Premier League just last season, this year’s disappointment will likely not be tolerated.

That yet-to-be-determined future has a significant impact on Batshuayi’s future, as Watzke mentions. The new Chelsea boss could take a liking to Batshuayi, which could complicate his permanent move. In addition, it’s possible that current players on the Blues roster could depart, like Alvaro Morata, Olivier Giroud, or Willian, making Batshuayi’s place at Chelsea more tenable.

There’s plenty to be sorted out in the coming months, but with Batshuayi’s 10-game performance at Westfalenstadion at the forefront of Watzke’s mind, it’s clear there will be potential here as the summer draws near.