By Michael Kryschak@michaelkryschak

"Ones to watch" for Bundesliga Matchday 31

Good form, lucky match-up or just a special situation - here are five players you need to look out for on Matchday 31 of the Bundesliga!

1. Robin Hack (Borussia Mönchengladbach)

Traditionally, Gladbach are a team who want to fight for the top places in the Bundesliga. Unfortunately for them, they find themselves in a difficult spot on matchday 31 - they could even get dragged into the relegation fight!

Even though Gladbach have had many uninspiring results in the recent weeks, they were lucky enough to have some stand-out performances: for example from last season's signing Robin Hack, who almost won Gladbach the game against Hoffenheim on matchday 30.

Gladbach are playing an evenly struggling Union Berlin this weekend; here are three reasons why Robin Hack could be the player to watch for this game:

  1. In one of Gladbach's weakest seasons (performance wise) in recent memory, Robin Hack stands out as their top goalscorer with 11 goals to his name - without him, they would be even further down the Bundesliga table.
  2. Hack's hattrick against youth club Hoffenheim wasn't enough to win his team the game, but it certainly showed that he is in great form going into the last matchdays of the season.
  3. With eight goals in the calendar year 2024, Hack is the third best goalscorer in the Bundesliga (behind Kane and Openda). If Gladbach want to find a way to win against Union Berlin, it has to go through Robin Hack.
     


2. Benjamin Sesko (RB Leipzig)

Leipzig are playing a really good second half of the season - they've been unbeaten in their last eight games. While star striker Lois Openda is certainly the man upfront, another striker has shown his class in recent weeks: Benjamin Sesko.

Sekso's partnership with Openda is finally working as it was intended! Both strikers were able to contribute goals in Leipzig's last three games - and both strikers were the ones to start the game next to each other.

Leipzig have had the upper hand against Dortmund in their last two clashes - they won 3-2 in the first half of the season and beat Dortmund 2-0 in the quarterfinals of the DFB-Pokal (last season). Here are three reasons, why Benjamin Sesko will be the deciding factor against Borussia Dortmund:

  1. While Dortmund is also a team in great form recently, their only three losses in this calendar year came against teams with specifically two strikers upfront: 1-2 loss against Atletico Madrid, 0-1 loss against Stuttgart and a 2-3 loss against Hoffenheim. Leipzig will want to capitalize on that fact, having two in-form strikers themselves.
  2. Sesko scored in every of his last three games for Leipzig - he's on a roll!
  3. The Slovenian international is Leipzig's second best goalscorer this season, scoring 14 times in 38 games - and since he fought his way into the starting eleven, these numbers will only go up!

 

3. Fabian Nürnberger (SV Darmstadt 98)

It's not looking too good for newly promoted side Darmstadt: three wins and eight draws in 30 games make up for last place in the Bundesliga. On top of that, Darmstadt are ten points away from safety - but there are only twelve more points to get in this season.

If Darmstadt were somehow able to achieve this miracle of staying in the Bundesliga, they will not only need a lot of luck, but also the best possible service from all their players in the remaining four games.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel: after not having won once in 22 games in a row, Darmstadt finally broke the streak by defeating Köln 2-0 on matchday 30. They might just use this momentum to try and turn things around - and midfielder Fabian Nürnberger could be the key player to help them succeed against Heidenheim on Sunday:

  1. Nürnberger has been injured for many games this season. With him in the team, Darmstadt have only lost half their games (10 out of 19), winning three and drawing six times in the process. That means, that Nürnberger has been in nine out of eleven games, in which Darmstadt didn't lose → important presence!
  2. Nürnberger made his comeback for Darmstadt last week against Köln - and helped them end their winless streak! It was his first game in two months.
  3. While players like Tim Skarke (who also could've made this week's list) are necessary for Darmstadt to score goals, Nürnberger is necessary for Darmstadt to even get to dangerous areas: he's the player with the most passes per game into the final third (1.4 pG). Nürnberger is extremely important for Darmstadt's stability and mobility in midfield!

 

4. Jonathan Burkardt (FSV Mainz 05)

Mainz are flying high! After looking like they were heading into the 2. Bundesliga, Mainz have been unbeaten in the last five games, while also scoring a remarkable eleven goals! With these results, Mainz have been able to finally get out of a relegation place in the Bundesliga table.

Under coach Bo Henriksen, Mainz only lost two games so far: against Leverkusen and Bayern. He improved the whole squad and turned Mainz into a dangerous threat for all other teams in the relegation zone.

While there are many players to pick out currently, here are three reasons, why Jonathan Burkardt is the player to watch in Mainz's game against Köln on matchday 31:

  1. Burkardt has been involved in seven goals in his last seven games for Mainz. He alone has gotten Mainz five of their last 13 points! He's in great form.
  2. Henriksen described Burkardt as his “signal player” in a recent press conference. Burkardt is Mainz's topscorer this season with six goals and two assists. 
  3. As much as Mainz are in form, opponent Köln are very much out of form. The recent losses against Darmstadt and Bayern have shown: Köln are easily caught off guard in counter attacks - and that has been one of the specialties of Mainz under Bo Henriksen - with quick strikers like Burkardt and Gruda up top.

 

5. Leon Goretzka (FC Bayern München) 

It has been a crazy rollercoaster in form for Leon Goretzka this season. In some phases, he had been looking like a rotation player, struggling to find his feet in the team. Right now, however, he looks like an irreplaceable part of Bayern Munich's first team.

While Bayern will certainly have one eye on their match against Real Madrid on Tuesday, they can not afford to drop more points, if they want to secure second place in the Bundesliga - Stuttgart have just proven to be too good to let such mistakes slide.

Bayern's game on Saturday against Frankfurt is a special one for many reasons: Frankfurt have beaten Bayern 5-1 in their first encounter this season - a result that furthered the criticism of Thomas Tuchel a lot. But with Bayern being in good and Frankfurt being in bad form recently, here are three reasons for Leon Goretzka to make this game his own and help Bayern get their revenge:

  1. Goretzka was Bayern's best player in last week's match against Union Berlin. In the 5-1 victory, Goretzka dictated the game defensively and offensively, while also adding a goal and an assist. A star-making performance.
  2. There are not many opportunities left for Goretzka to prove to DFB coach Julian Nagelsmann, that he deserves to be at the Euros in the summer - which would be his dream. He needs to keep his good form alive and will therefore have to perform against Frankfurt.
  3. Coach Thomas Tuchel often sees the game before a Champions League match as the biggest stage for a player to show themselves. With Pavlovic and Guerreiro, Tuchel has great options for the center of midfield - Goretzka has to fight for his place in the team week in, week out.
  4. Extra point: This season has shown that you can see Bayern's current form through Leon Goretzka: whenever he was in bad form, Bayern performed badly. Right now, as written in the introduction, Goretzka might just be in the form of his season…

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