Last weekend saw the return of the Bundesliga, the first major European league to commence in amidst of the global pandemic.
It symbolised for football fans the escapism our beloved sport can bring in the darkest of times, whilst also serving as a poignant reminder of football without supporters present, with just one home victory in the entire round of fixtures.
Many of us have temporarily adopted German teams or indeed have started following the ones we already have a soft spot for more intensely.
1860 Munich, the German team of the author of the piece, are unfortunately in the third tier which has not yet resumed, so FC Koln have been adopted as a result.
This week will be giving you the lowdown on each Bundesliga team’s number one, so you are clued up ahead of this week’s round of fixtures.
Who will you be supporting this week? We would love to know in the comments.
Bayern Munich – Manuel Neuer
Starting with table-toppers Bayern, ‘keeper Manuel Neuer needs little introduction.
A clean sheet away to Union Berlin on Sunday was a good start to life back in the Bundesliga, and typical of Bayern’s defensive record this season.
Neuer has been unsurprisingly formidable this campaign on domestic and European fronts.
The thirty-four year-old has been part of the seven successive Bundesliga championships and next Tuesday’s showdown with challengers Dortmund will be an indicator of whether he will add an eighth to the list.
Bayern are sweating on the continuation of their Champions League campaign, but their domestic campaign continues on Saturday at the Allianz against a struggling Frankfurt side.
Borussia Dortmund - Roman Burki
Dortmund produced the best performance of the weekend in a 4-0 thrashing of Schalke in the ‘Reiverderby’.
Switzerland ‘keeper, Roman Burki kept his third clean sheet in four games, albeit largely untroubled by a lacklustre Schalke attack.
Burki faces competition for the number one spot with fellow countryman Marwin Hits, however he has played 23 of the 26 league fixtures this season and the majority of their Bundesliga games since joining from Freiburg in 2015.
Dortmund may well have the worst defence in the top six, reliant on their fearsome forward line that includes Jadon Sancho, but Burki will have to be on form to keep the likes of Robert Lewandowski at bay in the crunch match with Bayern next week, after another tough trip to Wolfsburg at the weekend.
Borussia Monchengladbach - Yann Sommer
The envy of two aforementioned Swiss Goalkeepers, the country’s first-choice is Gladbach’s Yan Sommer, who has been key to the club’s resurgence back to the summit of German football as well as being a prominent figure in the national team’s set up.
The thirty-two-year-old’s experience will be key as Gladbach look to hold onto their Champions League place, with RB Leipzig and Leverkusen hot on their tails.
Missing just one league game this season, Sommer will be hoping his side capitalise on Saturday’s comfortable win over Frankfurt, with a result in a huge game with Leverkusen this weekend.
RB Leipzig - Peter Gulacsi
Controversial as all of the Red Bull owned clubs are, Peter Gulacsi transferred from RB Salzburg in 2015 and has been a prominent figure in Die Roten Bullen’s rise since their promotion from the Bundesliga 2 in the 2015-16 season, much to the disdain of the rest of the nation.
The Hungarian was on Liverpool’s books for five years, but never appeared in a competitive fixture. Gulacsi did make his bout in English football in a loan spell with Hereford United, before two further moves to Tranmere and Hull.
Gulacsi could do nothing about Freiburg’s opener against Leipzig on Saturday as his side handed the initiative to Leverkusen and Monchengladbach in the race for Champions League places.
Leipzig travel to Mainz on Sunday, themselves buoyed by their comeback from 2-0 down at Koln.
Bayer Leverkusen - Lukas Hradecky
Another club, albeit less controversially, who’s sponsor is engrained in the club’s title, Bayer Leverkusen have so often been the ‘nearly-men’ of German football in recent history.
Champions League finalists in 2002, Die Werkself reinforced their credentials for a place in Europe’s elite competition, with a comprehensive 4-1 victory away to Werder Bremen on Monday evening. Lukas Hradecky was the man between the sticks as he looks to build on what has been a successful campaign, helping his native Finland qualify for the European Championships for the first time.
Hradecky was snapped up on a free by Peter Bosz ahead of the 2018-19 season and has proved a reliable presence in the Leverkusen goal ever since.
Borussia Monchengladbach will prove a real test in one of the stand-out fixtures of the coming weekend in a fascinating top four clash.
Wolfsburg - Koen Casteels
The Belgian who was part of his country’s 2018 World Cup squad (although still to make an appearance for the senior side), Koen Cateels has spent his entire career in Germany and with Wolfsburg since the 2015/16 campaign.
Casteels was side-lined by injury back in September but regained the number one spot instantly upon his return to full fitness and has started 18 Bundesliga games this season, as Wolfsburg have put themselves in poll position for a Europa League place.
Catsteels has Thibuat Courtois and Simon Mignolet for company in the national side, but is very much the main man at the Volkswagen Arena and pulled off another great performance in Wolfsburg’s win away at Augsburg on Saturday.
Wolfsburg face title-challenging Dortmund on Saturday and Casteels will have his workout against a devastating attacking line, who flexed their muscles in the weekend’s derby thrashing of Schalke.