As we head into the final third of the 2022/23 Bundesliga season, we are fast approaching the point in the season where every single game feels like it is make or break for teams with something to play for. Take Union Berlin and RB Leipzig, for example. It was only a couple weeks ago that the two East German clubs looked like they were in the thick of a developing title race, but after losing to their fellow title contenders Union and Leipzig both look like they’re too far behind BVB and Bayern to have a shot at the Meisterschale.
At the other end of the table, it’s not the losses that change things fast. Everyone at the bottom of the table is losing, so while each loss for a relegation-threatened team is one step closer to oblivion, it doesn’t really change the nature of the threat in any significant way. But with everyone losing, anyone that can put together a good run of form can potentially save themselves. One win at the bottom of the table can change everything.
Unfortunately, for the likes of Hoffenheim, one win is one win more than they can manage right now. It’s now 12 Bundesliga games since Hoffenheim recorded a win. They look like they’re in real trouble! In contrast, Stuttgart fans can take some heart from their performances in recent weeks. They may have lost against Bayern Munich, but they put up a decent fight, and after beating Köln 3-0 the week before, they might have what it takes to survive.
Here’s how Matchday 23 played out in the Bundesliga:
Borussia Dortmund 2-1 RB Leipzig
Mainz 1-0 Hoffenheim
VfL Bochum 0-2 Schalke
Borussia Monchengladbach 0-0 Freiburg
Augsburg 2-1 Werder Bremen
Union Berlin 0-0 FC Köln
VfB Stuttgart 1-2 Bayern Munich
Bayer Leverkusen 4-1 Hertha Berlin
Wolfsburg 2-2 Frankfurt
Schalke Give Themselves Hope in Massive Local Derby
While games between anyone in the Ruhr not named Borussia Dortmund or Schalke are generally referred to as the Kleine (Small) Revierderby, this weekend’s scrap between Bochum and Schalke was anything but small, with both sides fighting for their lives at the bottom of the Bundesliga table. Plenty of Schalke fans made the 8-mile journey south to the Ruhrstadion, and they were in full voice in the away end, as they roared their side on to a massive, massive three points in the relegation dogfight.
Schalke were abysmal in the first half of the season, but they have really turned things round in 2023 (save for the nine goals they conceded in the first two games after the winter break). They have now gone six games without losing, and while four of those six games were 0-0 draws, their victories over Stuttgart and now Bochum have breathed life into their season. Two wins against teams that are also in and around the relegation zone does not suggest that Schalke are good now, but the four draws that preceded them came against some genuinely good teams. Picking up 10 points from a possible 18, when everyone else around you is struggling to pick up anything, is also a huge boost for a team that was rooted at the bottom of the table not long ago.
I’m not sure how far Schalke can take this good run of form, but when you look at the torrid stretch that teams around them are suffering, they don’t look like a terrible bet to claw their way to safety. Of course, if they are looking to keep this unbeaten streak going, they will have to do something that no one has done in 2023 so far, and that’s beat Borussia Dortmund, in their very next game. We should definitely beat Schalke, but we also couldn’t have picked a worse point in the season to play them...
What happens when an unstoppable force (Borussia Dortmund) meets an immovable object (Schalke)? Who would have thought that the Revierderby would feature the two teams on the longest unbeaten runs in the Bundesliga?