Top takeaways from Matchday 26 | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 13.03.2016
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Top takeaways from Matchday 26

What was up on Matchday 26? Hannover have one foot in the second division, Hertha are bidding for Europe, and sadly, an elderly fan died in Dortmund. Plus, a near-forgotten World Cup hero made a comeback.

More than a few Bayern fans probably rubbed their eyes on Saturday when the line-ups were released for Munich's match versus Bremen. Mario Götze may have scored the 2014 World Cup winner, but since then little has gone right for the 23-year-old ex-wunderkind. A series of injuries confined him to long stretches in the stands, and although he has been part of Bayern's squad since February 20, coach Pep Guardiola elected not to use him.

Germany's tabloids have speculated about personal antipathy between Guardiola and Götze. Whether it was to disprove those reports or not, the coach decided to field Götze from the opening whistle for the first time since Matchday 8.

So how did he do? On the ball he was excellent as always, completing no less than 97 percent of his passes. On the other hand, Götze won only 25 percent of his challenges, didn't play a direct role in any of Bayern's five goals and was substituted out in the 54th minute.

Despite his ball skills, Götze was never one of Guardiola's favorites, and he is unlikely to play a massive role for Munich this season. Still, he'll be relieved to have gotten back on the pitch. His primary aim will be to prepare for the next campaign, when he'll have a chance to impress incoming Bayern coach Carlo Ancelloti.

Football in perspective

Fans throughout Germany were reminded that football's importance is only relative, when an 80-year-old spectator died in his seat during Dortmund's match against Mainz on Sunday. Another fan collapsed at the match and needed to be revived - thankfully his condition was later reported as stable.

Television commentators were full of praise for Dortmund and Mainz fans' reaction to this sad event. After the final whistle of Dortmund's 2-0 win, supporters refrained from the usual celebrations, singing a somber version of "You'll Never Walk Alone" while the teams watched and applauded.

It wasn't the only melancholy moment from matchday 26. Before their match against Augsburg on Saturday, Darnstadt fans honored 26-year-old Jonathan "Johnny Heimes," a long-time supporter who succumbed to cancer earlier in the week. Scenes like these underscored the fact that some things are more significant than scorelines.

Schaaf heading down with Hannover

It ain't over til it's over, but cellar dwellers Hannover are pretty close to defying baseball great Yogi Berra's famous dictum with eight rounds left to play. The 96ers are on 17 points. It will likely take 35 points to qualify for the end-of-season playoff in May. That means Hannover will probably need to win six of their final eight - against opposition that includes Bayern, Hertha, Mönchengladbach and Schalke.

There is no - repeat: absolutely NO - reason to think that the worst team of 2016 can pull off that sort of miracle. Since coach Thomas Schaaf took over during the winter break, Hannover have won one and lost eight, scoring only four goals and posting an execrable minus-15 goal difference.

Club management seems to be willing to go down with Schaaf. After all, he's not the one responsible for assembling a squad that seems positively allergic to scoring goals. But will Schaaf, best known for repeatedly taking Bremen to the Champions League after the turn of the millennium, be willing to accept a demotion to division two?

Hertha continue playing against type

Ahead of the Friday match, fans in the capital were engaging in some of their characteristic fatalism. Surely the run of form that has seen Hertha rise up to the top three would come to a crashing halt on against Schalke, an opponent Berlin hadn't beaten in 10 years.

But Hertha have refused to follow the script this year, and against the Royal Blues they booked a relatively calm and collected 2-0 win. All of the team's strengths this year were on display. Veteran strikers Vedad Ibisevic and Salomon Kalou complemented one another, midfielders Vladimir Darida and Genki Haruguchi again outran their opponents, and the young central defense of John Anthony Brooks and Niklas Stark rendered Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and the rest of Schalke's attackers invisible.

It's hard to believe that this is the same team that only just avoided the relegation zone last May. But all of Hertha's new summer acquisitions (Ibisevic, Darida, Stark and Mitchell Weiser) have come up good, and it appears that not only does coach Pal Dardai hae a plan, it's a pretty good one at that.

Only eight matches remain for Hertha to execute their traditional late-season fade. If they fail to revert to character, the capital will be left with the unusual prospect of international football - perhaps even the Champions League - in 2016-17.

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