Thorgan Hazard

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Bundesliga is back: What to watch for

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The Winterpause ends Friday, as Bayern Munich visits Hoffenheim with a new feel for its first match of a calendar year: That of the title chaser.

The six-time defending Bundesliga champions enter the second half of the season six points back of Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: JPW’s PL picks ]

Still 2.5 months from the next Der Klassiker (April 6 at the Allianz Arena), Bayern has to navigate a title fight without the chance to directly affect its rivals. Both clubs face Premier League opposition in the Champions League — Bayern with Liverpool, BVB v. Spurs — and neither has a particularly easy start to 2019. Other storylines to watch:

How much will Christian Pulisic’s transfer further affect his playing time? Whether or not Pulisic leaves for Chelsea as a Bundesliga champion is one thing, but many American eyes will be trained upon how often he’s deployed by Lucien Favre at Borussia Dortmund.

Let’s be clear on one thing: Favre has rotated his forwards heavily between Champions League and the Bundesliga. Jadon Sancho has played 1025 minutes, Jacob Bruun Larsen 830, Maximilian Philipp 515, Paco Alcacer 503, and Pulisic 483. Numbers two through eight on the playing time scale are defenders or midfielders (Marco Reus is first with 1483).

Amongst BVB attackers in the Champions League, however, only Reus has played more than Pulisic’s 339 minutes. And while Pulisic played 1 and 2 minutes in consecutive Bundesliga matches, he went 90 against Monaco in the UCL match separating those sub spots.

In other words, this isn’t as much of a quagmire as some Americans would lead you to believe. Yes, ex-Man City man Jadon Sancho has stolen Pulisic’s wonder boy numbers and title, but the kid isn’t being left in the cold.

Is Weston McKennie heading for Liverpool? It seems more likely a new deal is coming at Schalke, but you could easily see Jurgen Klopp liking the versatility of the 20-year-old midfielder as its midfield gets a bit older.

Schalke’s American midfielder Weston McKennie (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

What about the rest of the Americans (and a Canadian)? Almost as many eyes will be on Tyler Adams as the New York Red Bulls product takes the next step at RB Leipzig. FC Dallas’ Chris Richards is also now with Bayern Munich, while Canadian phenom Alphonso Davies begins his much-anticipated time with Bayern.

John Brooks of Wolfsburg is the top-rated American player in the top flight this season via WhoScored.com, one of eight Yanks to take the field.

Here are the Americans abroad in Germany :

Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund — 11 apps, 483 mins, 1G-2A
Weston McKennie, Schalke — 13 apps, 778 mins, 1G-1A
Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen —
2 goals in 45 senior minutes
John Brooks, Wolfsburg — 16 apps, 1440 mins, 1G-1A
Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig  —  
Arrived in January
Haji Wright, Schalke  —  5 senior games, 1 goal
Bobby Wood, Hannover 96 — 14 apps, 913 mins, 3G-1A
Aron Johannsson, Werder Bremen — Hasn’t played
Fabian Johnson, ‘Gladbach — 11 apps, 543 mins, 1 goal
Timothy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt — Hasn’t played
Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf — 11 apps, 917 mins, 1 goal
Caleb Stanko, Freiburg — Hasn’t played
Timothy Tillman, Nurnberg — Hasn’t played

How low will Schalke finish? A dreadful start to the season has last season’s No. 2 team, Schalke, sitting four points above the relegation playoff spot, nine back of the last Europa League spot, and 13 behind the Top Four.

Schalke’s other route to Europe include the DFB-Pokal, where they next face Fortuna Dusseldorf in the Round of 16, and winning the Champions League (Manchester City is their next opponent).

Will Robert Lewandowski defend his Golden Boot? The Bayern Munich star is chasing his fourth time leading the league in goals since 2013-14, his final year at Dortmund. Here are the current leaders:

Race for the Golden Boot
Pos Name Total
1 Luka Jovic, Eintracht Frankfurt 12
1 Paco Alcácer, Borussia Dortmund 12
3 Marco Reus, Borussia Dortmund 11
3 Timo Werner, RB Leipzig 11
5 Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich 10
6 Sebastien Haller, Eintracht Frankfurt 9
6 Thorgan Hazard, Borussia Monchengladbach 9
6 Alessane Plea, Borussia Monchengladbach 9
9 Youssef Poulsen, RB Leipzig 8
10 Alfred Finnbogason, Augsburg 7

[ MORE: Emery on possible exit for Mesut Ozil, reason for his absence ]

Will any of the new boys survive? Two teams go down and a third goes to a playoff game against the third place team in 2.Bundesliga (currently FC St. Pauli).

This season, the four latest teams to earn promotion are all in danger of the drop. Here’s how bottom of the table looks:

14. Fortuna Dusseldorf(2018/19) – 18
15. Augsburg (2011/12) – 15
16. Stuttgart (2017/18) – 14
17. Hannover 96 (2017/18) – 11
18. Nurnberg (2018/19) -11

Dortmund tops Gladbach to move nine clear in Bundesliga

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Borussia Dortmund got back to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over Borussia Monchengladbach in the Borussen derby.

Marco Reus picked up the winner nine minutes after the halftime break on a beautiful counter-attack that the German finished off with a slide. Dortmund countered with just four attackers against seven defenders, and Mario Gotze unlocked the back line with a low curling cross that bent around the Gladbach defenders and right to the feet of a streaking Reus.

That earned the three points after Jadon Sancho and Cristoph Kramer had cancelled each other out just before halftime. The English kid scored the opener on 42 minutes thanks to a wonderful free-kick routine that featured some trickeration around the ball, leading to a Gotze delivery that found three Dortmund players free on net, with Sancho heading in past Yann Sommer.

Kramer equalized just three minutes later on a controversial tap-in that featured Thorgan Hazard barreling over two Dortmund defenders in an attempt to get his head to a cross from the right flank.

The win saw the hosts bounce back from the season’s first loss, a 2-1 defeat to 15th-placed Fortuna Dusseldorf on the road on Tuesday. American Christian Pulisic did not feature in the match on Friday after a full 90 minutes in the loss three days prior. The emergence of Sancho has seen Pulisic’s time on the field drop considerably, with just that one start since the end of September.

WATCH: USMNT’s Wood scores 20 seconds into Bundesliga match

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American striker Bobby Wood has given Hannover 96 a shock lead over Borussia Monchengladbach.

[ MORE: Arsenal beats Bournemouth ]

The 26-year-old Honululu-born striker ran onto a flicked through ball and held off a mark to blast the ball home after just 20 seconds on Sunday at Borussia-Park.

The goal is Wood’s third for Hannover in Bundesliga play, and comes in his sixth-straight start.

Hannover is bidding to climb out of the relegation places, but there’s some bad news: Thorgan Hazard equalized for the hosts within six minutes of Wood’s opener.

UEFA Nations League: England reach finals; Belgium capitulate

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in the UEFA Nations League…

[ MORE: USMNT injuries ahead of Italy friendly | Injuries for Italy, too ]

England 2-1 Croatia

The best rivalries in sports are the ones born out of contentious, high-stakes meetings on the field of play and the inevitable spill-over of words thereafter. Along those very lines, something of a rivalry is brewing between England and Croatia, and it’s all happened within a six-month period in 2018.

There was, of course, the two nations’ 2018 World Cup semifinal meeting in July, followed by the first of two rematches in the Nations League last month, and finally Sunday’s League A Group 4 finale. In between all of those on-field meetings, though, came the stoking of fires in the form of a verbal jab here and there.

Sunday’s clash at Wembley Stadium, which saw the Croats go ahead not long before the hour mark and appear destined for victory and the top spot in the group, only to watch their lead slip away in a late collapse, will only have added to the budding disdain between the two squads.

Andrej Kramaric put the visitors ahead int he 57th minute, but Jesse Lingard (78th) and Harry Kane (85th) brought the Three Lions back for a dramatic victory and pushed Gareth Southgate‘s to a first-place finish in the group. As such, England (7 points) joined Portugal in the final-four knockout stage.

Nearly as sweet for England, the result sends Croatia (4 points) bottom of the group, and they’ll be relegated to League B next time around.

Switzerland 5-2 Belgium

From 2-0 up, to an embarrassing 5-2 defeat, Sunday was certainly a day to forget — and an opportunity missed — for Belgium. A draw over victory against Switzerland would have seen the Red Devils finish top of League A Group 2, and they were in poll position for precisely that result after just 17 minutes, when they led 2-0 courtesy of Thorgan Hazard‘s early brace.

From that point forward, not a single thing went right for Roberto Martinez’s side as the home side score five unanswered goals from that point forward. It was 2-2 fewer than 15 minutes later — Ricardo Rodriguez and Haris Seferovic (penalty kick made it so — and Seferovic made it 3-2 just before halftime. There would be no galvanizing of the troops after the intermission, as Nico Elvedi scored his first international goal to make it 4-2 in the 62nd minute. Seferovic completed his hat trick, and the 5-2 scoreline, in the 84th.

In the end, it’s the Swiss who’ll join England and Portugal in the League A finals, by virtue of the second tiebreaker — goal differential in head-to-head matchups.

Elsewhere in UEFA Nations League

League B Group 3

Northern Ireland 1-2 Austria

League C Group 2

Hungary 2-0 Finland
Greece 0-1 Estonia

League D Group 2

San Marino 0-2 Belarus
Moldova 1-1 Luxembourg

Monday’s UEFA Nations League schedule

League A Group 1

Germany vs. Netherlands — 2:45 p.m. ET

League B Group 1

Czech Republic vs. Slovakia — 2:45 p.m. ET

League B Group 4

Denmark vs. Ireland — 2:45 p.m. ET

League C Group 3

Cyprus vs. Norway — 2:45 p.m. ET
Bulgaria vs. Slovakia — 2:45 p.m. ET

League D Group 1

Georgia vs. Kazakhstan — 12 p.m. ET
Andorra vs. Latvia — 12 p.m. ET

League D Group 4

Macedonia vs. Gibraltar — 2:45 p.m. ET
Liechtenstein vs. Armenia — 2:45 p.m. ET

Bundesliga wrap: BVB go 4-0 up, Schalke come back to 4-4

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s (wild) action in the Bundesliga, Germany’s (highly entertaining and enthralling) top flight…

[ PL ROUNDUP: Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool drop points; Manchester rejoices ]

Borussia Dortmund 4-0 Schalke (HT)

Peter Bosz’s side blew the doors of their Revierderby rivals, to the tune of 4-0 well before halftime. It could have easily been 5-0 or 6-0 at the intermission, in all honesty.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang opened the scoring after just eight minutes, followed four minutes later by an own goal from Benjamin Stambouli. Two minutes after that, Mario Gotze made it 3-0 after just 20 minutes. Game over, right? Right?!

For good measure, Raphael Guerreiro added a fourth goal in the 25th minute to complete one of the most dominant, lopsided routs of a derby in recent memory.

The second half would be a mere formality, with Dortmund needing only to remain with 11 men on the field — heck, even 10 should do the job — to see out the victory, unbeknownst to them at the time, move them three points closer to the league leaders, Bayern Munich.

Borussia Dortmund 4-4 Schalke (FT)

Well, that really escalated quickly, didn’t it? How, exactly, did we get here?

For the first 15 minutes of the second half, it all appeared to be going to plan for Dortmund. Sure, Schalke were in total control of possession, but again, it was all part of the plan for Dortmund.

Then came Guido Burgstaller’s goal to make it 4-1, followed by Amine Harit four minutes later and it was 4-2. Another 20 minutes would pass, during which period it was widely speculated that Bosz could very well find himself under further fire for failing to see the game out properly. Aubameyang made matters so much worse in the 72nd minute, having only just returned from a club-imposed suspension, by picking up his second yellow card on the day and making the long, lonely walk off the field and down the tunnel.

When Daniel Caligiuri scored Schalke’s third in the 86th minute, speculation became a firmly held belief.

Naldo’s 93rd-minute header presumably all but sealed Bosz’s fate, that he could very well be fired after fewer than six months on the job.

Borussia Monchengladbach 2-1 Bayern Munich

Bayern fell 2-0 behind to Gladbach before halftime, and Jupp Heynckes’ couldn’t claw their way back to rescue a point, even if for an incredibly lopsided set of full-time stats.

Thorgan Hazard converted from the penalty spot to put Gladbach ahead in the 39th minute, followed five minutes later by the second courtesy of Matthias Ginter. For another half-hour, the score remained 2-0, until Arturo Vidal pulled one back for Bayern in the 74th minute. Despite their best efforts — 16 second-half shots — a Bayern equalizer was never to be found.

RB Leipzig 2-0 Werder Bremen

One side did capitalize on Bayern’s slip-up and gain three points on the six-time defending champions, moving to within three in the league table: second-place RB Leipzig, with a 2-0 victory over Werder Bremen.

Future Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita opened the scoring in the 34th minute. The 1-0 scoreline held for nearly 45 minutes before Bernardo bagged a late insurance goal in the 87th minute to secure all three points and inch closer in the title race.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga

Freiburg 2-1 Mainz
Eintracht Frankfurt 0-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Augsburg 2-1 Wolfsburg

Sunday’s Bundesliga schedule

Hamburg vs. Hoffenheim — 9:30 a.m. ET
Cologne vs. Hertha Berlin — 12 p.m. ET