Kai Havertz

Bundesliga Best XI
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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

Hello, Havertz: Phenom powers Bayer Leverkusen blowout of Werder Bremen

Werder Bremen v. Bayer Leverkusen recap and video highlights
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Kai Havertz used Monday to speak to the people in the back of the room.

The 6-foot-2 striker and transfer rumor mill mainstay scored Bayer Leverkusen’s first two goals in a merciless 4-1 win over inept-defending Werder Bremen at the Weserstadion on Monday.

Havertz, who turns 21 on June 11, became the youngest player in Bundesliga history to score 30 goals, a feat made more remarkable by the fact that he played center forward. Havertz is normally an attacking midfielder or second striker and, if not that, a winger.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Kerem Demirbay had a goal and an assist, Moussa Diaby had two assists, and Mitchell Weiser scored Bayer’s third.

The visitors keep their title hopes alive by keeping within eight points of leaders Bayern Munich. Perhaps more important, Bayer moves a point back of fourth-place RB Leipzig for the last UEFA Champions League spot.

Czech veteran Gebre Selassie scored an equalizer for relegation-threatened Bremen as part of a six-minute first-half stretch that featured three goals.

Bremen is five points back of the relegation playoff slot and nine back of 14th and 15th with a match-in-hand, and the 17th-placed side has all the markings of a first second-tier season since 1980-81, the club’s only season outside the top-flight in the Bundesliga era.

It was quite an introduction to the 20-year-old German for those who’d only heard the name Havertz in the transfer rumor mill. Havertz has been linked with Liverpool, Bayern Munich, and pretty much any big club with big money.

Bremen played its part in driving up Bayer’s asking price, as his well-placed headers were not challenged much by the home defense.

American forward Josh Sargent was Bremen’s third sub, entering in the 71st minute. The 20-year-old had eight touches and won both of his duels during the cameo.

Bundesliga return: 10 Premier League transfer targets to watch

Bundesliga return
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At least two of the most talked-about transfer targets in the world will be taking the pitch this weekend when the Bundesliga kickstarts its title race.

Jadon Sancho and Kai Havertz have been linked with Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, and pretty much every other big club in the world.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

We’ll still tell you a bit about them — the talent is massive — but they are far from the end of the list.

Here are 10 players to watch, their stats this season, and when they’ll be playing this weekend. We’ll add some more names, too.

We’ll also leave several Americans off the list, as Weston McKennie (Schalke), Giovanni Reyna (BVB), and Tyler Adams (Leipzig) are all desired inside and outside of Germany.

They get plenty of coverage in this space, as does Canadian export and thrill-a-minute wide man Alphonso Davies of Bayern Munich. Plus, only McKennie may move soon.

10. Denis Zakaria, Borussia Monchengladbach — A tidy passer with offensive skill, Zakaria is a monster in the middle of the park. The 23-year-old is averaging 2.1 tackles and 1.6 interceptions this season. Twenty-eight times capped by Switzerland, Zakaria has been connected to Liverpool, Arsenal, and Manchester United.

9. Amine Harit, Schalke — Harit started life at Schalke red hot after signing from Nantes in 2017, but dipped last season. He’s got a career-best seven goals this season and has matched a high with seven assists. The Morocco signed a new deal in December but has been linked with Barcelona for some time.

8. Christopher Nkunku, RB Leipzig — Only Jadon Sancho and Thomas Muller have more assists than Nkunku’s 12, which come with a league-best 2.8 key passes per game. Was linked to Arsenal in January.

7. Milot Rashica, Werder Bremen — The 23-year-old’s seven-goal, four-assist season has him on the radar of Liverpool and Southampton.

6. Marcus Thuram, Borussia Monchengladbach — The son of World Cup, EURO, and UEFA Cup winner Lilian, Marcus is a wildly-productive and electric forward who’s pitched in 10 goals and nine assists this season. Newcastle and Liverpool are whispered as possible new homes.

5. Achraf Hakimi, Borussia Dortmund (on loan from Real Madrid) — Where hasn’t Hakimi been linked? Hakimi can play right and left back as well as further up the pitch, and has seven goals and 10 assists this season. Arsenal and Chelsea are said to be PL clubs looking into his services.

4. Dayot Upamecano, RB Leipzig — Just 21 and beginning to discover his powers, the monstrous center back is averaging 2.1 tackles, 1.7 interceptions, and 3.3 clearances per Bundesliga outing this season. If you’re a top club in the PL, you’ve been linked with him.

3. Timo Werner, RB Leipzig — He seemingly wants to go to Liverpool, but there’s no shortage of suitors across the board. Only Robert Lewandowski (25) has scored more goals in league play than Werner’s 21, who’s 24.

2. Kai Havertz, Bayer Leverkusen — He hasn’t hit the heights of his 17-goal season in 2018-19, but the soon-to-be 21-year-old is a playmaker of the highest order in the No. 10 role.

1. Jadon Sancho, Borussia Dortmund — Unlike many English talents hyped up before their time, Sancho has delivered again and again. The 20-year-old Man City academy product is said to be Manchester United’s top target.

I mean, bags of technique on this cat, who has 26 goals and 33 assists in league play the past two seasons despite being a teenager until late March.

Much-chased Havertz reportedly prefers Bayern move

Kai Havertz
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The latest transfer gossip regarding rumor mill regular Kai Havertz pours a lot of cold water on the hopes of several Premier League giants.

Havertz, 20, has been linked with Liverpool, Manchester United, and Manchester City this season with his odds of leaving Bayer Leverkusen at an all-time high. He’s also been connected to Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham to cover most of the Top Six bases.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

But Sky Sports says the German playmaker is keen to stay in his home country and make a move to Bayern Munich, who has been linked with Havertz, Leroy Sane, and Timo Werner in a bid to revolutionize its UEFA Champions League credentials.

Havertz has 10 goals and eight assists in 34 matches this season after exploding for 20 and seven in 42 last year. He doesn’t turn 21 until June.

The youngster provides little defensively but averages 2.3 key passes and 2.3 dribbles per match in Bundesliga play while passing at a tidy 87 percent despite living in the danger areas.

Whoever gets Havertz has a gem on its hands, but perhaps the Premier League will amp up their interest and recruiting efforts after these reports (if they haven’t already).

Report: Barca to sell Coutinho with five Premier League clubs on alert

Philippe Coutinho
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Barcelona wants to give Quique Setien a huge war chest to rebuild the Blaugranas, and that means a yard sale.

A price tag of around $100 million is being put on Philippe Coutinho, as The Express says Bayern Munich will pass on their $132 option to buy him after this season’s loan.

Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, and Chelsea are being linked with the 27-year-old, according to The Express.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Which of those make sense?

Coutinho turns 28 this summer, and several of the sides mentioned angle for youth when they splash the big cash.

Liverpool sold Coutinho for $192 million in 2018 and would still count $92 million in profit if they met Barca’s asking price, but my goodness even that is a big expense.

He knows Jurgen Klopp‘s system, and has made more than 200 appearances for the Anfield set (54 goals, 45 assists). The Express report says Klopp would rather capture Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz which, of course, is true of every team with a lot of money.

Coutinho has seven goals and eight assists in 27 matches for Bayern after collecting 21 and 11 in two seasons with Barcelona.

Will he be able to reclaim the form that saw him dazzle the Premier League in producing 13 goals and seven assists during his last Premier League season?

Yeah, we think so. We argued at the time that Liverpool should sell to Barca due to his exaggerated status at Anfield not matching his impact on matches. He was very good, but not irreplaceable.

But is it worth the price?