The Blog

A Mix of Emotions for the Bundesliga in Vital Champions League Week

For a competition the Bundesliga comprehensively dominated just six months ago, this week's Champions League action threw a few curve balls towards the best that Germany could offer with a combination of unlikely results.

For a competition the Bundesliga comprehensively dominated just six months ago, this week's Champions League action threw a few curve balls towards the best that Germany could offer with a combination of unlikely results.

The most notable of these was when David Moyes' Manchester United made the trip to Leverkusen for what had been perceived as a tough away tie in the depths of Germany's industrial north-west, yet turned out as something else entirely.

Although the home side started brightly, with make-shift number 10, Heung Min Son, finding space behind the labouring Ryan Giggs, and pulling off two threatening shots at David De Gea's goal mouth, it was the Premier League side who stole the first goal - in a similar fashion to the first game at Old Trafford - and subsequently dominated the game from there on in.

Yet such a demoralizing defeat will go down as so much more than a simple knock-out blow on the night. For the side that currently reside a step behind Bayern Munich in the German top division, this result hits a blow to the Bundesliga in general, and its claim as one of Europe's most premier competitions.

Similarly, the Royal Blues of Schalke - a side who were topping Arsenal's group this time last year - struggled to take advantage of their chances in Bucharest as the horrendous domestic form that has brought this once top four side to its knees and just two points from dropping out of the Europa League spots, finally began to seep in to their European campaign with a bore 0-0 draw.

A win at home to Chelsea-conquering Basel is all it would take to take Jens Keller's side through to the knock-out stages, but as Jose Mourinho will no doubt suggest; that's easier said than done.

Yet it wasn't all bad for German teams in Europe.

Borussia Dortmund perhaps pulled off the result of the week with a revitalising 3-1 win over Napoli in Dortmund, which has subsequently turned their knock-out fears on its head.

Of course the side's victory on Tuesday was so much more than just three points won. It turned the tide, stopped the rot, and ultimately instilled some much needed hope back into the ever-passionate machine that is the Westfalenstadion.

Such desire was best illustrated through the players that combined to make the win possible. Marco Reus, the true boy-wonder of this side who turned down Bayern to join Dortmund, alongside the two new stars, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, offered a vehicle for Klopp's ambition amongst the wreckage of an injury-struck defence and a sole striker who may already have one eye on his impeding move to Bavaria.

Equally, Bayern Munich were able to make the strenuous trip to Moscow a fortuitous exercise with a limited squad - albeit still packed to the brim with World class stars - in which Mario Gotze continued to spread his wings and fly ever further from the nest whilst.

Before our very eyes, the young German prodigy has begun his transformation from the shy, new signing in to the formidable talent that will one day lead this side for Pep Guardiola in the same manner as Philipp Lahm or Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Yet it's the current Bundesliga champions that stand alone as the only side to have qualified to the next round while Spain and England both sit comfortable with two sides already signed up for the last 16 knock-out round.

There are of course a number of reasons for any perception about the demise of the German top division. The most obvious is of course the fact that the league actually has one more side in the competition this year - with Leverkusen qualifying this year as opposed to Gladbach's failing's last summer - which takes some of the shine off what was a small, efficient band of sides in Bayern, Dortmund and Schalke last season.

Yet this in itself doesn't take away from the fact that both Dortmund and Schalke are nowhere near the form that they portrayed at this stage in the competition last season.

The Dortmund side we saw and subsequently fell in love with in May would have rolled over Arsenal in Dortmund, wouldn't have self-destructed in Napoli, and possibly could have had this group wrapped up before a tricky final match away to Marseille.

Whether this is down to the departure of Mario Gotze or simply through the absence of injured Ilkay Gundogan is a question we could only speculate on at this point, but even if Jurgen Klopp's side do go on to win in France and continue their European quest, it would take some amount of imagination to consider the German side anywhere near as dangerous as they were last year.

The Bundesliga may not be out of it yet, but a lot of hard work is needed if they want to retain this illustrious impression on Europe's premier competition.