Benjamin Pavard

Bundesliga Best XI
Photo by MARTIN MEISSNER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Bundesliga: Takeaways from soccer’s return to Germany for Week 26

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The Bundesliga returned to screens this weekend, kickstarting the race to stop Bayern Munich’s quest for a eighth-straight league title.

The leaders kept up their winning ways, but Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach each made statements of intent in the fight for first while Bayer Leverkusen kept their slim hopes alive and RB Leipzig took a step back.

It was a fun weekend, albeit with an eerieness befitting what they call “ghost games” in Germany.

[ JPW: What did we learn from Bundesliga restart? ]

There was lots of entertainment and not much to dislike aside from American teenager Giovanni Reyna picking up an injury in warming up for his first Bundesliga start.

Remember: If you’re new to Germany’s top-flight, here’s a guide to help you pick a club to support.

Also, you can check out the full schedulestandings and find out how to watch the action, while we will have you covered right here on ProSoccerTalk with analysis, reaction and more.

[ MORE: How USMNT stars fared in Bundesliga returns ]

Now onto the spin around the league.

Havertz shines, makes history in front of a focused audience

There was only one match Monday, and fans across the world were trained on the Weserstadion. Most will have wondered about 20-year-old Bayer Leverkusen striker Kai Havertz, who has been linked with seemingly every big club under the sun.

Despite playing out-of-position at center forward, Havertz did not disappoint in the least (though he was helped by Bremen’s porous back line). A pair of well-directed headed goals in a six-minute first-half span put Bayer en route to a 4-1 win, making him the youngest player in Bundesliga history to score 30 goals.

The 6-foot-2 attacking midfielder had a slow start to the season after scoring 17 times last year, but he’s humming along now.

He’s now scored 40 times with 30 assists in 140 senior appearances, including nine goals and seven assists since Germany returned from Winterpause to kick off calendar year 2020. Havertz may start the next calendar year in the Premier League (though he may prefer Bayern Munich).

Hertha Berlin rises up

Sitting 16th when the calendar hit December, Hertha is now eight points clear of the relegation picture and a point ahead of rivals Union Berlin ahead of this Friday’s Berlin Derby.

The visitors won 3-0 away to Hoffenheim in keeping what’s only their second clean sheet of 2020. Led by hard-charging forward Vedad Ibisevic, Hertha played the role of enforcers and kept Hoffenheim on edge. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t supposed to be as Hertha committed 17 fouls and unleashed 77 long balls.

If that’s what it’s going to take to get the ambitious capital club to another transfer window and a chance to reboot the club, well, Hertha may have to consider that. There are still a lot of tough fixtures on the schedule and it may take grit to keep it sound.

Hertha’s on its third manager of the season in Bruno Labbadia, who debuted with a win. He’s been around the block in German football, and the 54-year-old set his side up for success.

Great in defeat

Austrian busybody Florian Grillitsch was a monster in the middle of the park during Hoffenheim’s 3-0 loss to Hertha Berlin.

Grillitsch made six tackles, three interceptions, and won 13 of 17 duels while completing all three dribbles and passing at 93 percent. He also drew four fouls and registered a key pass. He won’t have loved coming up short on charging to fill space on Hertha’s third goal, but the match was out-of-hand at that point.

Player of the Week

Dominating a Revierderby while showing so little rust is impressive enough that Dortmund had a lot of candidates for the Best XI. One man stood out from the pack.

Julian Brandt had two assists and three key passes in Dortmund’s four-star win, playing his first match since turning 24 earlier this month. Five tackles and perfect in take-ons, Brandt and Thorgan Hazard were wonderful underneath Erling Haaland.

This flick for the hockey assist… come on! Amazing burst by Haaland to finish, too.

BEST XI

Schwolow (Freiburg)

 Mbabu (Wolfsburg) — Bensebaini (Gladbach) — Pavard (Bayern) — Guerreiro (Dortmund)

 Kimmich (Bayern)

Brandt (Dortmund)* — Havertz (Bayer) — Diaby (Bayer)

Haaland (Dortmund) — Ibisevic (Hertha)

Notes

  • Havertz, as mentioned, played center forward but he’s an attacking mid or No. 10 at his best and looking at a 4-2-2-2 above was playing tricks on the eyes.
  • Alexander Schwolow made seven saves as Freiburg took a point from a 1-1 draw at RB Leipzig.
  • Mbabu, Bensebaini, Pavard, and Guerreiro are all right-side, or were this week, but two have plenty of CB experience so we’re cool with it.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

SCORES

Borussia Dortmund 4-0 Schalke — RECAP, VIDEO
Union Berlin 0-2 Bayern Munich — RECAP, VIDEO
RB Leipzig 1-1 Freiburg — RECAP, VIDEO
Koln 2-2 Mainz — RECAP, VIDEO
Eintracht Frankfurt 1-3 Borussia Monchengladbach — RECAP, VIDEO
Hoffenheim 0-3 Hertha Berlin — RECAP, VIDEO
Augsburg 1-2 Wolfsburg — RECAP
Fortuna Dusseldorf 0-0 Paderborn — RECAP

NEXT WEEK

Hertha Berlin v. Union Berlin — 2:30 p.m. ET Friday
Freiburg v. Werder Bremen — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Paderborn v. Hoffenheim — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Wolfsburg v. Borussia Dortmund — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Bayer Leverkusen — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Bayern Munich v. Eintracht Frankfurt — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Schalke v. Augsburg — 7:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Mainz v. RB Leipzig — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Koln v. Fortuna Dusseldorf — Noon ET Sunday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Bayern Munich 26 18 4 4 75 26 49 9-2-2 9-2-2 58
 Borussia Dortmund 26 16 6 4 72 33 39 10-3-0 6-3-4 54
 Mönchengladbach 26 16 4 6 52 31 21 9-2-2 7-2-4 52
 RB Leipzig 26 14 9 3 63 27 36 7-5-1 7-4-2 51
 Bayer Leverkusen 26 15 5 6 49 31 18 7-4-2 8-1-4 50
 VfL Wolfsburg 26 10 9 7 36 31 5 4-6-3 6-3-4 39
 SC Freiburg 26 10 7 9 35 36 -1 6-2-4 4-5-5 37
 FC Schalke 04 26 9 10 7 33 40 -7 5-6-2 4-4-5 37
 1899 Hoffenheim 26 10 5 11 35 46 -11 5-1-8 5-4-3 35
 1. FC Köln 26 10 3 13 41 47 -6 6-2-5 4-1-8 33
 Hertha BSC Berlin 26 8 7 11 35 48 -13 3-3-7 5-4-4 31
 1. FC Union Berlin 26 9 3 14 32 43 -11 6-1-6 3-2-8 30
 Eintracht Frankfurt 25 8 4 13 39 44 -5 6-3-4 2-1-9 28
 FC Augsburg 26 7 6 13 37 54 -17 5-3-5 2-3-8 27
 FSV Mainz 05 26 8 3 15 36 55 -19 4-2-7 4-1-8 27
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 26 5 8 13 27 50 -23 3-4-6 2-4-7 23
 Werder Bremen 25 4 6 15 28 59 -31 1-2-9 3-4-6 18
 SC Paderborn 26 4 5 17 30 54 -24 2-1-10 2-4-7 17

Lewandowski scores 26th as Bayern Munich win at Union Berlin

Union Berlin v. Bayern Munich recap and video highlights
HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
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Robert Lewandowski and Benjamin Pavard scored on Sunday as Bayern Munich won its first-ever match at Union Berlin in a 2-0 return to the Bundesliga.

Bayern’s table lead returns to four points over chasers Borussia Dortmund, while Union sits 12th with 30 points.

Lewandowski’s 26th league goal gives him a five-goal advantage over closest Golden Boot chaser Timo Werner.

[ MORE: What did we learn from Bundesliga return? ]

Lewandowski has topped the Bundesliga over two-straight seasons and four times in six between Borussia Dortmund and his current club.

The goal is also his 40th in 34 matches across all competitions, his fifth-straight year scoring at least that amount.

[ MORE: How USMNT players, alums fared in returns ]

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

The finishing was rusty, but Bayern had most of the ball in completing the season-double over their newly-promoted hosts.

Union came out of the gates with vigor, slashing a long ball just past the frame in the seventh minute.

Bayern had hold of the match and had the ball in the goal in the 18th-minute, Leon Goretzka flicking to Serge Gnabry for headed assist to Muller.

The scorer appeared to have been just offside on Goretzka’s flick and perhaps even on the Gnabry pass. Razor-thin on both accounts, but no goal.

Goretzka won a penalty off an unaware Neven Subotic in the 39th, and Lewandowski doesn’t miss a ton of those.

[ LIVE: Bundesliga scores ] 

The eight-time reigning champs struggled to put away the pesky hosts, and Serge Gnabry couldn’t get on the end of a 76th-minute cross to the back post.

Gnabry was soon defied by Union goalkeeper Rafael Gikiewicz — Lewandowski’s Poland national teammate — but Pavard completed the score line off a Joshua Kimmich corner kick.

If you’re new to Germany’s top-flight, here’s a guide to help you pick a club to support.

You can check out the full schedulestandings and find out how to watch the action, while we will have you covered right here on ProSoccerTalk with analysis, reaction and more.

Niklas Sule tears ACL, will miss rest of season and likely Euros

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Bayern Munich defender Niklas Sule suffered an ACL tear that will cause him to miss the rest of the club season as well as Euro 2020, the club announced.

“Apparently, the season is over for him, he can forget about the Euros,” said Bayern club president Uli Hoeness.

Sule has become a critical player for both club and country over the past year. He had been on the pitch for every minute of Bayern’s league campaign until his injury in the 12th minute of the 2-2 draw with Augsburg, and Germany manager Joachim Low had tabbed Sule as a long-term solution at center-back after publicly moving on from Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng in the hopes of overhauling the national team squad.

Sule represents a massive loss for Germany, having started and played the full 90 minutes in each of the past 11 matches for the national side. He has been the lone constant in the national team defense while his center-back partnership is a rotating door of players such as Emre Can, Robin Koch, Mattias Ginter, Jonathan Tah, and Antonio Rudiger. It is unclear whether Low would re-consider his stance on Hummels and/or Boateng with his defensive situation thrown into disarray.

At the club level, Bayern has options to replace Sule but almost all of them represent a downgrade. Benjamin Pavard, who played full-back for the French national team during their 2018 World Cup run, has transitioned to center-back and seen significant playing time already this season. Lucas Hernandez is also a relative newcomer to the center-back role like Pavard, while Boateng could potentially find his way back into the starting lineup having made just four appearances so far this season.

Bayern Munich announce Benjamin Pavard signing

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich has signed France defender Benjamin Pavard from Bundesliga rival Stuttgart for next season.

The Bavarian team says the 22-year-old Pavard, who played six games at right back to help France win the World Cup, will join on July 1.

[ MORE: Bundesliga schedule  ] 

Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic says Pavard has singed “a five-year contract. He’s a young player and a world champion. We’re very glad and proud to have gained such a player for FC Bayern.”

Pavard helped Stuttgart to Bundesliga promotion in 2017 after joining from Lille the year before. He has played 69 league games, though he is currently out with a thigh injury.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Rudiger apologizes to Pavard for neck stomp

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German defender Antonio Rudiger has taken to social media to apologize to French defender Benjamin Pavard for stomping on his neck in the early stages of their 0-0 draw in the UEFA Nations League on Thursday. Rudiger was bombing down the left flank in just the third minute of the match, when Pavard slid in to successfully dispossess his opponent. After doing so, the two became tangled, and Rudiger’s boot landed straight on Pavard’s neck while he was prone on the ground.

The incident drew massive attention after Pavard came off the pitch with nasty cleat marks slashed across his neck. The Frenchman remained in the game for the rest of the match, while Rudiger mystifyingly came out of the incident without earning a yellow card.

[ MORE: USMNT on track to hire new coach soon ]

After the replay was shown, fans and analysts questioned whether the stamp was intentional, as Rudiger appeared relatively well-balanced throughout the play and quite uninhibited by the tackle, although it happened at such high speed and is certainly impossible to discern true intention. The German professed his innocence amid the apology.

Pavard came off the field and sported brutal slash marks clean across the right side of his neck, but was able to continue the match.

It’s unlikely that his immediate future with his club Stuttgart could be in jeopardy from the injury. France does not have another match scheduled this international break, while the German club doesn’t play next until September 16.