Matchday 23 in the Bundesliga brought plenty of results with serious implications for the rest of the season. The shock of the weekend came on Friday night as Eintracht Frankfurt had their eleven game unbeaten run brought to an end by Werder Bremen, whilst the Topspiel itself was probably the most exciting contest as RB Leipzig came from behind to secure three points in the dying embers of the game against Borussia Mönchengladbach.
There was a lot going on, but what did we learn from all of this?
Trouble on the pitch is overshadowed by trouble off it
It was another dismal, but by now routine, drubbing for Schalke 04, this time at the hands of VfB Stuttgart. Still rooted to the bottom of the table and almost certainly resigned to the 2. Bundesliga, it seemed like things couldn't get much worse for Die Königsblauen. Somehow, though, they did.
There had been rumours in the week of a player's revolt in Gelsenkirchen, with players complaining that erstwhile head coach Christian Gross was leading boring training sessions, not understanding the opposition teams, and even forgetting some players' names. This all came to a head after Sunday's result as an unprecedented move by Schalke's advisory board saw the manager, assistant coach, squad manager, head of performance, and sporting director all removed from their stations.
This means Schalke will now move onto their fifth head coach of the season, something never done before in Bundesliga history. Current Paderborn 07 manager Steffen Baumgart and ex-Schalke player Dimitrios Grammozis, who last coached in Germany at SV Darmstaft, are being considered for the role.
It seems as if Schalke are planning for the future in a lower division, but such wholesale changes once again seems like no guarantee of future success, especially at this point in the season.
Bayer Leverkusen in crisis?
Upon the final Matchday before Christmas, Bayer Leverkusen were sitting atop of the tree in the Bundesliga. However, a painstaking loss in the final minutes to Bayern Munich in the last game before the break has proven to have had a far-reaching impact on Die Werkself, which they are yet to recover from.
In the 11 league matches since that loss, they have won only three , and they have also been knocked out of both the Europa League (to Swiss side Young Boys) and the DFB-Pokal (to fourth tier Rot Weiss Essen).
It was SC Freiburg's turn to jump on the bandwagon this weekend, as they triumphed 2-1 in the BayArena. Despite Peter Bosz noting that the performance was "much better than what we have been doing recently", it wasn't enough as they fell to yet another defeat. As a result, they now find themselves in 6th place and in danger of slipping out of the European spots completely.
Sporting director Rudi Völler said after the match that they are "absolutely convinced that Bosz is the right man to pull them out of this dip[...] there's still a lot of games, we all just need to relax a bit". Whether or not this is the 'dreaded vote of confidence' remains to be seen. What is clear is that Leverkusen need to get back on track quickly and regain their Hinrunde form to prevent their season from falling apart entirely.
The Bundesliga title race lives to see another day
With Bayern helping themselves to a routine victory against 1. FC Köln on Saturday afternoon, all eyes turned to Saxony and the Topspiel to see if RB Leipzig had it in them to keep up the fight with the Rekordmeister for the title.
It seemed as if just the title race may well have been over before it had even gotten started as Gladbach took an early two goal lead through Jonas Hoffman and Marcus Thuram, with Leipzig's defence looking as if it was feeling the pressure of needing a win. It really should have been 3-0 at halftime, all things considered, but Hoffman just misfired from close range.
However, two goals in relatively quick succession after the break saw Die Roten Bullen pull the game back and increasingly gain control, with Marco Rose's side showing signs of the fragility which has haunted them in recent fixtures. In the final few moments, substitute Alexander Sorloth headed home at the back-post for just his second league goal in 21 appearances this season, keeping his side hot on the heels of Bayern.
With Leipzig travelling to SC Freiburg in a match they will be expected to win, all the pressure will be on the reigning champions in Der Klassiker against a Borussia Dortmund side who have regained their swagger as of late and will be desperate to beat their bitter rivals. Despite a close scare, the race for the Bundesliga crown will go on for at least another week.