Despite decided title race, the Bundesliga remains amusing | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 14.04.2013
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Despite decided title race, the Bundesliga remains amusing

Bayern may have wrapped up top honors in record time, but the Bundesliga continues to be entertaining. As last round showed, we can look forward to anything and (almost) everything in the coming weeks.

When the starting line-ups were announced for Bayern's match against Nuremberg on Saturday, many fans probably rubbed their eyes in disbelief. Replacing stars like Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger were no-names Diego Contento and Emre Can. Seventeen-year-old Danish midfielder Pierre-Emil Höjbjerg even got a late run-out as a sub. The message Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes was sending was that this match was just for fun.

And fun it was - at least for Bayern fans. The hosts jumped ahead early when Jerome Boateng tried one of those shots which a reserve central defender usually only attempts in practice. The result was a beautiful flying left-footer that sailed past the keeper.

Later, second-string keeper Tom Starke pulled off the nearly impossible trick of saving a penalty with his head. The game was about as entertaining as a one-sided 4-0 shellacking with little-to-nothing at stake can possibly be.

And in a sense, it set the tone for the remaining five weeks of the season. With the title race history, and the top four very likely to be Bayern-Dortmund-Leverkusen-Schalke in that order, fans are going to have to do without the customary crunch-time excitement. But with the pressure off at the top, there's likely to be plenty of entertainment left in a campaign that's been anything but business as usual.

Xherdan Shaqiri

Players like "Little Shaq" could get their chance now

Setting standards

Depending upon how they feel about Germany's biggest team, fans are going to watch with either horror or glee, as Bayern rewrite the record books. The win against Nuremberg was a single-season best-ever 25th, and further marks are sure to fall as well.

In round 31, Munich are a good bet to better the record for most points in a season, set last year by Dortmund at 81. That's in addition to marks for best goal differential and fewest goals conceded in a season, which are almost certain to be officially broken once the 2012-13 is completely over.

The record for most goals scored in a season (101 by the 71-72 Bayern squad) will be a taller order since Bayern would need to average just under four goals a game for the rest of the season. Nevertheless, anyone who watched Bayern's B-team (or was it their C-team?) stroll to victory against Nuremberg would be loathe to bet against them in any context.

And Bayern fans can look forward to getting a closer a look at Xherdan Shaqiri. “Little Shaq,” as some call the gifted 22-year-old Swiss midfielder has mostly been used as a substitute, but he was the dominant figure in Munich on Saturday and will surely get a few more starts as the Bundesliga season winds down. Expect some highlights from him.

At the other end of the table, Greuther Fürth - who were crushed at home by Dortmund 6-1 - are threatening to become the first Bundesliga team ever to play a whole season without winning a home game.

Julian Draxler (2nd R) of Schalke scores against three Wolfsburg defenders

At home, Wolfsburg just can't seem to find their feet

They have only two attempts left to avoid this particular ignominy. Their best chance is probably against Hannover on April 26. Otherwise, they have to do it against hard-to-beat Freiburg in round 35.

Comic Frustrations

Fürth are by no means the only team battling strange demons. Despite often jumping out to an early lead, as they did against Hoffenheim on Saturday, Wolfsburg have also forgotten how to win at home. Their last victory in front of their own fans came all the way back in round 18.

Hoffenheim meanwhile will continue to tease fans with the prospect that a team with so much money could go straight down to the second division. After conceding a late goal to the Wolves that turned what looked like a win into a draw, Hoffenheim remain locked with Augsburg in a duel for sixteenth and a chance to avoid relegation in the end-of-season playoff with the number three from division two.

Bremen don't have to worry about relegation, but coach Thomas Schaaf's brow has gained a couple of extra furrows from the tendency the team has developed to ship farcical goals mere seconds after play commences or resumes.

It happened to them twice against Düsseldorf on Saturday, and shockingly serial bumbler Assani Lukimya wasn't directly at fault for either of them. Instead it was his fellow central defender Sebastian Prödl escorting opponents into scoring position this time round.

Unless there are some drastic turnarounds at the top or bottom, there isn't a massive amount of edge-of-your-seat moments left in this season. But if the 2012-13 campaign maintains its once-in-a-lifetime form, fans may occasionally find themselves admiring the unusual - or laughing so hard they fall to the floor.

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