It looks like Bayern Munich have the title wrapped up, but there are plenty of teams scrapping for fourth place
The biggest surprise of the week was Bayern Munich winning only 1-0 at Hoffenheim, with Mario Gómez bundling in the winner. That's how bad it has become. Even the Bavarians don't look entirely happy being so superior to the opposition this year; if things continue in that vein, no one will bother to turn up at the Allianz Arena to witness the next cakewalk. Surely no one – Bill Clinton in the Oval Office excluded, possibly – enjoys such one-sided affairs.
Dortmund are nailed on for second spot and Leverkusen (2-1 winners over Stuttgart) are seven points clear in third. The DFB Cup? Won't offer any respite. Not now that Dortmund have been beaten. Who will earn the right to get slaughtered by Bayern at the final in Berlin seems the last remaining question up for debate.
Granted, the relegation battle could still provide some thrills. Thomas Schaaf may yet manage to get Werder Bremen relegated, thanks to his unique brand of cavalier football: his is an army of well-armoured knights, sent into battle with nothing on below the waist. They lost 1-0 at home to 16th-placed Augsburg, the team of the moment. Düsseldorf and Nürnberg are not of out of the woods yet, either, and in VfL Wolfsburg and TSG Hoffenheim, two traditional, much-loved powerhouses of the league are in acute danger as well.
But let's be honest: the race to the bottom will always appeal more to freshly hatched tapeworms than your average German football fan. So desperate is the Bundesliga for a modicum of suspense that they have turned to the Premier League for advice. Thankfully, the experts from Gloucester Place have a panacea for exactly that kind of ill. It won't be officially announced for a few more days but sources at the DFL have privately confirmed that Hessian blacksmiths have started work on a brand-new trophy. From now on, coming fourth – or "a ticket to a play-off defeat in Ukraine" as it's also known – will be a wonderful new, shiny title, all by itself. You know it makes perfect sense: a whopping seven teams, more than a third of the league are still in this one.
The contenders are already busy jostling for position. Eintracht Frankfurt (38 points), who have enjoyed the lead for so long, look like they may have peaked too early. "We have lost our virginity, a little bit," said the manager, Armin Veh, last week. Talk about a very mixed metaphor: he actually tried to explain why his team have stopped scoring since the winter break. His side have been found out somewhat, he was intimating. The barren spell continued with a 1-0 defeat at home to Borussia Mönchengladbach (in ninth place on 34 points). And off the pitch, trouble looms, too: Veh has a reported offer to switch to Schalke at the end of the season.
Surprise challengers Freiburg (fifth place, 36 points) and Mainz (eighth, 34 points) could only draw their matches (1-1 against Nürnberg and Düsseldorf, respectively) after killing each other in the cup in midweek. Christian Streich's SC had the upper hand after extra-time but neither team could recover in time to bring their high-tempo pressing game to bear at the weekend. Frankly, neither side looked like they would be able to significantly enhance Germany's Uefa coefficient next season.
Schalke (sixth place, 36 points), on the other hand, have started playing again, just in time for the Revierderby against Dortmund next week. Julian Draxler scored two fine goals in the Royal Blues' 4-1 victory at Wolfsburg. Manchester United and Chelsea are reportedly keen on the 19-year-old midfielder but their calls have fallen on deaf ears, according to Schalke's sporting director, Horst Heldt. "Whenever someone from Italy or England calls, I don't pick up," he said. It's too early to say whether his gamble on the interim coach, Jens Keller, will bear fruit but at least the season no longer looks like veering towards total disaster. Telling the players that Keller will not be fired, irrespective of how badly they may play, probably did the trick.
This column's money is on Schalke scraping fourth spot, incidentally, since the others can't quite get their act together. Hamburger SV (seventh place, 35 points), for example, only drew 1-1 at home to the bottom side Greuther Fürth. Their latest "Euro crisis" (Bild) was indicative of their uncanny ability to lose the plot unnecessarily. At least Germany's keeper, René Adler, knows how to maximise an opportunity: he's been selling VIP tickets and signed shirts via Facebook. Or maybe he hasn't. "Somebody hacked into my account, I had no idea," claimed the 28-year-old. "I only noticed when people were complaining that they didn't receive their goods." The police are investigating.
With so much inconsistency above them, even Hannover (10th place, 33 points) may yet make it. They were roundly beaten by Dortmund (3-1) at the weekend but are very strong at home. No more Europa League action will also help their cause but the overall set-up is far from ideal. The sporting director, Jörg Schmadtke, and the manager, Mirko Slomka, who were never best buddies to begin with, reportedly don't talk to each other at all anymore, only communicating by email. "This is dangerous," said the club president, Martin Kind. "It can have an effect on the team". In fact, it's not an exaggeration to say his whole business could be threatened if that kind of silence permeates further. Kind makes his money producing hearing aids.
• Jupp Heynckes's rotation policy has kept everyone so happy that Bayern have shown no signs of living up to their old FC Hollywood moniker. The lack of off-pitch drama in Munich has added to the frustration of their rivals. But Dortmund's Jürgen Klopp had a good idea for a new nickname after his side's 1-0 defeat in the cup. Bayern should from now on be known as FC Beijing, he felt: "They do it like the Chinese, they look at what others are doing and then they copy it."
• It is true that the league leaders have taken some inspiration from Dortmund's pressing game, but Heynckes was naturally not best pleased to be accused of plagiarism. "Bayern have been around much longer than Klopp, it's important to show class in defeat," said Heynckes. The Dortmund CEO, Hans-Joachim Watzke, replied, not unreasonably, that Bayern weren't exactly "monopolists in showing class in defeat" but the ding-dong between the old and new champions ended when Klopp apologised for "going a bit too far".
Results: Dortmund 3-1 Hannover, Leverkusen 2-1 Stuttgart, Nürnberg 1-1 Freiburg, Hamburg 1-1 Greuther Fürth, Wolfsburg 1-4 Schalke, Frankfurt 0-1 Gladbach, Bremen 0-1 Augsburg, Hoffenheim 0-1 Bayern Munich, Düsseldorf 1-1 Mainz.