Moussa Diaby

Saarbrucken v. Bayer Leverkusen recap
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Demirbay shines as Bayer beats 4th-tier Saarbrucken, reaches cup final

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Kerim Demirbay set up a pair of goals as Bayer Leverkusen ended Saarbrucken’s Cinderella story to advance to the German Cup Final with a 3-0 win at the Hermann-Neuberger-Stadion on Tuesday.

Moussa Diaby, Karim Bellarabi, and Lucas Alario scored for Bayer, who will meet either Bayern Munich of Eintracht Frankfurt at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on July 4.

Saarbrucken hadn’t played in 94 days and is the first fourth-tier side to reach the German Cup semifinal. They knocked off Bundesliga sides Koln and Fortuna Dusseldorf en route to the semifinal, also dismissing Jahn Regensberg and Karlsruher SC.

[ MORE: New PL schedule ]

Bayer had early chances and the ball, with Saarbrucken a lone set piece off a counter attack.

The 11th minute saw the opener as Demirbay popped a terrific ball over the defense for Diaby to finish well inside the near post.

Alario made it 2-0 in the 19th when a mistake in the box allowed the Brazilian to fire into an empty goal from just off the back post.

Demirbay made an unbelievable play to set up the third goal, popping the ball over his defender and sweeping it off the end line for Bellarabi to send home.

[ MORE: The story of Saarbrucken’s amazing cup run ]

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

Bundesliga Best XI
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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.

PSG sells French teen Moussa Diaby to Bayer Leverkusen

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Paris Saint-Germain confirmed Friday the departure of 19-year-old Moussa Diaby on a permanent transfer to German side Bayer Leverkusen.

According to a report by German publication Kicker, the sale price is in the range of $16 million, with Diaby heading into the final year of his contract at the French club. He signs a five-year deal at the German side, Bayer confirmed.

Despite his young age, Diaby racked up 25 league appearances for the PSG senior side, mostly off the bench as he collected just over 1,100 minutes. The winger scored two goals and assisted six in the 2018/19 league campaign.

The teenager will look to help replace 23-year-old Julian Brandt who departed for Borussia Dortmund this summer after a seven-goal and 14-assist Bundesliga campaign. “It’s an impressive quota at a top international club like PSG,” said Leverkusen sporting director Simon Rolfes of Diaby’s resume. “He’s one of the biggest French prospects who has the best conditions here in Leverkusen to develop further into an absolute top player.”

Diaby was in the starting lineup for the French side in the Round of 16 loss to the United States in the 2019 U-20 World Cup, tabbing an assist during the match. He is one of a few young players set to leave PSG this summer, with United States international Timothy Weah also reportedly being shopped by the French club. Weah was on the opposite end of the field in that U-20 game, playing for the U.S. side.

Neymar-less PSG needs extra time to beat third-tier side (video)

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Paris Saint-Germain, like a lot of good teams, seems to be unbeatable for long stretches before hitting vulnerable patches.

Most of those patches, though, don’t involve losing to a team two leagues beneath you.

[ MORE: Man City favored by oddsmakers ]

PSG needed extra time to get past FC Villefranche-Beaujolais in the Championnat National, France’s third-tier, posting a 3-0 win Wednesday in the Coupe de France Round of 16 at the Stade Armand Chouffet.

Julian Draxler broke Villefranche’s resolve with a 102nd minute goal, with Moussa Diaby and Edinson Cavani adding markers before the final whistle.

Villefranche did not record a shot on target and was out-attempted 23-6, while Cavani and Kylian Mbappe started the match on the bench.

PSG is also without Neymar for the next two months and lost its unbeaten Ligue 1 mark at the weekend with a 2-1 loss at Lyon. It has a 10-point lead on second-place Lille and two matches-in-hand.