Bundesliga Team of the Week: Reus returns after BVB heroics

Goal salutes the best performers from the penultimate weekend of action in Germany’s top flight

With just one game remaining in the Bundesliga, the race for the fourth and final Champions League place looks to be ever-more interesting. Schalke slipped up at home to Stuttgart, meaning that two points separate them, Freiburg and Eintracht Frankfurt as they compete for one spot. And there were noteworthy performances from across Germany which we salute in Goal‘s Team of the Week.

Oliver Baumann of Freiburg retains his place in goal, having made a number of saves as Christian Streich’s side came from behind to beat Greuther Furth and keep alive their European hopes.

Dani Carvajal returns at the back after putting an accomplished performance for Bayer Leverkusen in their 3-1 home win over Hannover; Naldo found the net for Wolfsburg in their dramatic 3-3 draw with Borussia Dortmund, while Marvin Plattenhardt made the fight for survival all the more interesting with an accomplished performance for Nurnberg during their win against Fortuna Dusseldorf.

Three of the midfield four scored twice. Marco Reus drew BVB level at the Volkswagen Arena with two goals in the dying minutes, Jens Hegeler steered B04 to victory and Ivan Perisic came back to haunt old club Dortmund with two quickfire strikes. They are joined by Franck Ribery, who put in another fine showing for Bayern Munich against Augsburg.

Son Heung-Min has been Hamburg’s star throughout the season and found the net once more in the 4-1 demolition of relegation-doomed Hoffenheim, while Branimir Hrgota was the star of the weekend, scoring a hat-trick for Gladbach against Mainz. Vedad Ibisevic completes the XI after his showing against Schalke.

Rode cannot join Bayern until 2014, says Frankfurt president

The highly-rated midfielder has long been linked with a move to the Allianz Arena but his current club are prepared to make him see out his contract

Eintracht Frankfurt chairman Heribert Bruchhagen has insisted that Bayern Munich target Sebastian Rode will stay at the Commerzbank Arena until his contract expires in 2014.

The 22-year-old is rumoured to be a target of the newly-crowned German champions, with Bruchhagen confirming last month the midfielder wanted a move to the Allianz Arena due to the wage the Bavarians can offer.

However, while the official has conceded Bayern is a probable destination for the midfielder, he says his side will not cash in on Rode because he is “irreplaceable”.

The evidence speaks for a 2014 transfer to Munich, but he will stay with us until then, and we still hope that he will stay even longer. I hope he sees that he can do better with us than at Bayern,” he told Sport 1 Doppelpass.

“[Rode] has made it clear to me that he does not want to renew his contract and intends to join Bayern. Sebastian’s quality cannot be replaced, as it is with [Borussia Dortmund forward Robert] Lewandowski.”

Hamann fears for Bayern's Champions League 'scars'

The retired Germany midfielder questions the mental strength of the players at his former club, concerned that the team might have a complex after their recent final defeats

Dietmar Hamann has admitted that he is concerned about the self-doubt Bayern Munich players might encounter ahead of the Champions League final.

Die Roten face Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund at Wembley on May 25 after losing against Inter in 2010 and falling to defeat to Chelsea on penalties last season at the same stage in their home ground.

Hamann revealed that he was worried that recent experience of being runners-up might weigh heavy on the minds of the team.

“In the past three years Bayern have lost two Champions League finals against Inter and Chelsea,” the 39-year-old German is quoted as saying by tz-online.de.

“Those two sides were were nowhere near as good as Dortmund are now. Therefore, I wonder how deep the scars will be.”

Hamann, a Champions League winner with Liverpool in 2005, is convinced that the Bavarians will struggle to ignore their previous failures and might once again falter as a result.

“If as a tennis player you have won at Wimbledon, you know next year what you need to do,” he continued.

“Bayern know that they’ve played for the title twice. You have doubts. Now they’ve got an excellent team, and the pressure is on to finally deliver.”

Only Messi & Ronaldo can rival finishing of Di Natale

The Udinese front man has bagged 100 goals in four years to put to shame stars such as Falcao, Cavani, Ibrahimovic and Van Persie

Good things come in small packages, while many get better with age. Antonio Di Natale has been likened to a fine wine, but the Udinese centre-forward hardly needs superlatives. Such is his goalscoring record in recent times, he can simply be described as one of the best strikers in football.

Despite earning his wage at a provincial club whose attacking phases come at less frequent intervals than some of the sport’s bigger-name outfits, Di Natale has racked up a phenomenal 100 goals in the last four league seasons to leave some of football’s most talked-about front men in his shadow. After netting 29 goals in 2009-10, he earned a second successive Capocannoniere crown with 28 more the following year. Last season’s 23 and this term’s 20 have ensured that his consistency in front of goal has helped Udinese to punch above their weight a while longer.

The numbers are extraordinary. Only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – with 161 and 145 goals respectively – can boast better goal tallies over the same period. The Argentine has bagged totals of 34, 31, 50 and 46 in the last four seasons with Barcelona, while Real Madrid’s Ronaldo has picked up 26, 40, 46 and 33 in the corresponding campaigns. The pair’s records are frankly untouchable, especially given the relative power of their two clubs compared to the rest of La Liga, and Di Natale’s relative handicap given his playing surroundings make his chalking up four consecutive 20-goal campaigns even more noteworthy. Alongside Messi and Ronaldo, he is the only player in a top European league with such a record.

In Serie A, that feat had not been achieved in 51 years since Jose Altafini last recorded the same number of 20-goal seasons. Before him, Istvan Nyers, Gunnar Nordahl (with seven successive seasons) and Giuseppe Meazza (five seasons) had also reached the same mark. But not only is Di Natale only the fifth player to score so consistently in Italy, he is also outscoring the current game’s big names at an alarming rate.

Radamel Falcao, who cost Atletico Madrid €47 million is not incredibly far behind, but he does trail Di Natale. Over his spells with Porto and Atleti he has chalked up 91 goals in the league. Even Edinson Cavani, who has been on fire in his three seasons with Napoli, sees his average drop thanks to his final season with Palermo when he scored 13 times. Zlatan Ibrahimovic – between Barcelona, Milan and Paris Saint-Germain – has scored 15 fewer goals than Di Natale, while Robin van Persie has netted 82, thanks in part to an injury-hit 2009-10 season at Arsenal during which he struck just nine times

The Dutchman’s ratio for that season is still impressive given he only played 16 times, but even then it doesn’t match that of Udinese’s finest. Further down the list are star names such as Wayne Rooney (76), Mario Gomez (75) and Robert Lewandowski (71). Bigger gaps still can be found between the Italy striker’s record and those of Sergio Aguero (66), Carlos Tevez (58) and Francesco Totti (49).

It would be harsh, however, to try to compare full European records with that of Raul, with the one-time Real Madrid captain having shared his recent goalscoring feats between Schalke and Al Sadd. The Spaniard has scored 42 in four years, including just nine in Qatar. The 2009-10 season was when things started to tail off for the great number seven, but the opposite can be said of Di Natale. At 35, he shows no sign of slowing down. We can only hope he keeps it up for some time yet.

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Buffon: Bayern two steps ahead of the rest

The legendary Italian goalkeeper saw first hard just how good the Bavarians are during his side’s 4-0 aggregate loss to Jupp Heynckes’ men last month

Juventus may have lifted their second successive Serie A title on Saturday, but captain Gianluigi Buffon freely admits that the Bianconeri still have much to do if they are challenge for the Champions League, arguing that Bayern Munich are currently “two steps ahead of the rest”.

The Italian champions were dumped out of Europe’s premier cup competition by their German counterparts, losing 4-0 on aggregate in the quarter-finals, with the Bavarians going on to reach the final by routing Barcelona 7-0 over two surprisingly one-sided legs.

Consequently, while Buffon is enthused by the progress that Juve have made over the past two years, he knows that there is still much work to be done if they are to win the Champions League.

“To do that, both us and other European sides need to improve in order to catch up with Bayern Munich, who are currently two steps ahead of the rest,” the veteran goalkeeper is quoted as saying by his club’s official website.

“What’s more, if they win the Champions League this season, they’ll strengthen the team even further, so it will be a difficult task.

“Having said that, winning competitions like the Champions League can depend on luck: one fewer mistake, an extra save or a more favourable draw.”

Buffon has played a key role in the Bianconeri‘s recent resurgence but he insists that their back-to-back title triumphs have been a real team effort.

“I’m happy, because it takes a long time to become captain of a team, but winning two years in a row means the squad has many leaders,” he reasoned.

“I’m referring to [Giorgio] Chiellini, [Claudio] Marchisio, [Andrea] Pirlo, [Arturo] Vidal and [Leonardo] Bonucci.”

Buffon lifted the title after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Cagliari in Turin.