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With the 2011-12 campaign halfway through, selects the best of the best from the German top flight in the first half of the season


Team Of The Season So Far:




The goalkeeper position is always one of heated debate, and in this case, there were several qualified candidates. Manuel Neuer went 770 minutes without conceding earlier in the season, and Bernd Leno and Sven Ulreich have both given exceptional performances, even if their goals against have tallied a bit higher. But Marc-Andre ter Stegen takes honours for leading Gladbach to the league's second-best defensive record, and to a league position just four points behind Bundesliga leaders Bayern. Having shipped just 11 goals, he is one behind Neuer, but has come under far more pressure than the Bayern man, who though brilliant, has perhaps been the victim of his team's success.




Dortmund's goals against tally may not be quite as stellar as it was at this point last year, but having conceded just 12 times, the title holders remain on pace for one of the best defensive records in Bundesliga history. At the heart of it all is Mats Hummels, who has absolutely shut out the league's best strikers. Indeed, none of the top 14 scorers in Germany have found the net under his watch, and BVB have conceded just once in matches against teams in the top six.

Arguably the surprise of the season, Daniel van Buyten has had a personal renaissance since Jupp Heynckes' arrival at Bayern Munich. After Neuer's streak without conceding it was clear that the Bavarians had improved in defence. And while they have conceded a league-best of just 10 goals, that tally does little justice for the Belgian: when he has played, the Bavarians have leaked just six.

Alongside Van Buyten, Holger Badstuber has been a consistent performer for the Bavarians, at least in domestic competition. His partner has been switched back and forth between the Belgian and Jerome Boateng, but in any circumstance, the 22-year-old has been quietly effective, helping Bayern set the pace for a potential new Bundesliga record for fewest goals conceded. Gladbach's Dante was a close fourth, but his accumulated bookings and not-quite-as-consistent record made the difference.


Bayern Munich

He only played 11 games due to injury, but during his time, Bastian Schweinsteiger was the best footballer in the Bundesliga. His leadership and versatility had Bayern playing on a level at which they were compared to Barcelona and Real Madrid. Since he was injured n November 2, his leadership and class have been sorely missed: the Bavarians have often had trouble containing their opponents, and kept a clean sheet just once. The events of this season have proven that Schweinsteiger is absolutely integral to Bayern's title hopes: die Roten have the potential to win a treble, but only with the vice-captain fit and in form.

Marco REUS



This season's surprise package has been Gladbach, and their success has been largely the product of brilliant coaching, Ter Stegen, and Marco Reus. Always a top talent before the 2011-12 campaign, Reus has taken massive strides, scoring 10 goals in the first half, one behind his personal best for a full season. There are other valid candidates, but the 22-year-old exceeds them. No other attacking midfielder has had such an impact on his team's success: take him out of Gladbach, and they plummet in the table.

His best performances have come in the Champions League, and there have not been many individually stunning Bundesliga displays from Toni Kroos, but the Bayern man makes team of the season so far for his consistent and versatile play. He has yet to be used in his true position: that of a box-to-box midfielder in a flat 4-4-2. But even so, his work as either a No. 10 or a No. 6 has been exemplary. He gets all the little things right: the short-range passing, the ball control in tight areas. Heynckes recently said he has unlimited potential. If Kroos can develop further, he might one day be remembered as a legend.

Kroos' left-hand man all season has been Franck Ribery, who with the 21-year-old and left-back Philipp Lahm, has formed somewhat of a vortex of punishment for opposing defences. The creative inspiration is the Frenchman, who has arguably had his best half-season yet since moving to Munich. With eight goals and six assists, he has more often than not been the man to break down opposing defences and start the scoring torrent that has come to characterise many Bayern games.



Bayern Munich


The most prolific marksman in the league has to be included in Team of the Season, and for the first half of 2011-12, that is Mario Gomez. The Germany international has found the net 16 times thus far, putting him on course to eclipse his previous best of 28 goals in a domestic season. He has grown in confidence and become far more resilient than ever before: no longer is he expected to experience a drought of form as he has in the past.

Not far behind Gomez in the goals tally is Lukas Podolski, who has found the net 14 times and suplied four assists. He was not long ago widely regarded as the type of player who could only perform at international level, but his performances this season have silenced all doubters. Even in the absence of strike partner Milivoje Novakovic, Podolski has been prolific in the centre of attack, attracting no shortage of interest from clubs both in Germany and abroad. One thing is quite clear: without him, Koln would surely be battling relegation.

The final striker position was a dead heat between Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Claudio Pizarro, but the Dutch hitman edges the Bremen man. The difference is that Pizarro's side lost all their matches against top four opposition, by a combined 16-1, with the Peruvian having been shut out in each game. Huntelaar has fewer assists, but more goals than his counterpart, and in their head-to-head in round 17, scored and gave an assist in a 5-0 rout. Just a goal behind Gomez, Huntelaar could pip the Bayern man to the Bundesliga's top scorer award.