Stuttgart 1-1 Wolfsburg

The formations on the half-hour, with the score at 0-0.

An improved performance from Wolfsburg wasn’t enough to help them take three priceless points on the road as they conceded an unlikely injury time equalizer.

Both sides came into this game in desperate need of the points. Wolfsburg, second bottom on 26 points with a goal difference of minus nine, had a great opportunity to leapfrog Stuttgart, one place above the drop zone (St Pauli being the sandwich filling), but with two points more than their guests and a goal difference of minus three. The away side were onto their third coach of the season, as Felix Magath made his (second) début on the Wolfsburg bench after leaving Schalke on bitter terms in the week. He had to make do without goalkeeper Diego Benaglio, a key part of the Magath side which won the title in 2009, as well as the recent expensive but stuttering striking acquisition, Patrick Helmes. Tolga Ciğerci, Wolfsburg’s promising young midfielder, was also still sidelined with injury. Continue reading

Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Schalke

The first half formations.

Leverkusen strolled to a win against a disinterested and focus-lacking Schalke side to put pressure on Dortmund at the top of the table.

Both sides came into this fixture on the back of significant happenings in continental competitions. Schalke, having overcome Valencia in the last 16 of the Champions League, found out that they’d be facing Inter for a place in the semi-finals. Even more newsworthy for them was the fact that coach Felix Magath had been shown the door, and Ralf Rangnick was back at the club for a second spell. With a vastly contrasting personality to Magath, not to mention a different approach to the game, it’ll be interesting to see how Schalke take to their new manager. However, this game came too early to make such assessments, as Seppo Eichkorn took charge as caretaker for the first and final time. Leverkusen, meanwhile, were dumped out of the Europa League in the week by Villareal. With both Hannover and Bayern Munich winning yesterday, the pressure was on them to grab all three points here in order to keep their grip on a Champions League place. Intriguingly, a win would also take them closer to Dortmund – seven points closer, anyway. Continue reading

Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Mainz

The first half formations.

Dortmund dropped points for the second week in succession as a spirited performance from Mainz in the final-quarter of the game and a last-gasp equalizer proved enough to hold the runaway league leaders to a draw.

Both sides came into this game on the back of disappointing 1-0 defeats – Dortmund to Hoffenheim, and Mainz to Leverkusen. They were the success stories of the first half of the campaign, but whereas Dortmund have stayed in good form after the winter break, Mainz have been up and down. There were a number of notable injured absentees – Shinji Kagawa and Patrick Owomoyela for the hosts, and Jan Šimák, Zsolt Lőw, Ádám Szalai and Marco Caligiuri for the guests. Continue reading

Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich

The first half formations.

A poor showing from Bayern Munich ultimately didn’t matter as they won their second consecutive game in the Bundesliga to keep the pressure on the sides above them in the Champions League places.

Looking at the history of this fixture, the odds looked pretty stacked in Bayern’s favour – no defeats in the last 17 Bundesliga clashes between the sides, and a 4-2 win at the Allianz Arena in October. But with ‘lame duck’ manager Louis van Gaal overseeing a disastrous exit at home to Inter in the Champions League on Tuesday, one which confirmed that Bayern would end the season without a trophy, Freiburg had a great chance to rub salt in the dethroned champions’ wounds. However, Robin Dutt’s side have been tailing off after a great start to the season (four defeats from the last five games), but luckily for the health of their supporters, they’ve established enough of a cushion to dismiss any notion of going down. Fans of goalscorers were more than adequately catered for here – the clash pitted two of the league’s finest against one another, Mario Gómez and Papiss Cissé. Continue reading

Borussia Mönchengladbach 0-1 Kaiserslautern

The first half formations.

Kaiserslautern took a huge step to securing their Bundesliga place for next season at the expense of doomed-looking Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Both sides came into this game in precarious Bundesliga positions – the hosts placed bottom, but knowing a win would lift them up to 17th; while the visitors, level on points with three other sides, were only out of the drop zone on goal difference.  Among the goalscorers when Lautern beat Gladbach 3-0 in October was Srđan Lakić, the Croatian striker who had a phenomenal opening half to the season, but a player who has failed to score since securing a summer transfer to Wolfsburg in January – a convenient dry patch some Kaiserslautern fans argue, with the Wolves in just as much relegation trouble as Lakić’s current employers. Lakić was on the bench for this one, Marco Kurz sticking with the side which beat Freiburg 2-1 last weekend. Gladbach coach Lucien Favre persisted with his own goal-shy striker Mo Idrissou, looking to maintain momentum after snatching a draw at Werder Bremen last weekend. Continue reading

St Pauli 1-2 Stuttgart

The first half formations.

Defensive naivety cost St Pauli dearly in this relegation six-pointer against a resurgent Stuttgart side.

The stakes couldn’t have been much higher going into this game, as 17th placed Suttgart knew a win at the Millerntor would take them out of the relegation zone at the expense of St Pauli. The home side were hammered 5-0 by in-form Nuremberg last weekend, whereas Stuttgart beat Champions League quarter-finalists Schalke. There was no Carlos Zambrano at the back or Matthias Lehmann in midfield for St Pauli, and no Khalid Boulahrouz or Cacau for Stuttgart. Continue reading

Mainz 0-1 Bayer Leverkusen

The first half formations.

Bayer Leverkusen gave themselves a four-point cushion in the Champions League spots after capitalising on a Mainz mistake to win a game that looked certain to end goalless.

Both sides were in decent runs of form coming into this game, and won emphatically in the last round of fixtures: Mainz 4-2 at Hamburg, Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 at home to lowly Wolfsburg. The table made happy reading for fans of either side, with the hosts sat in fifth spot, knowing a win would see them leapfrog Bayern into fourth, and the visitors sat two points clear in second, knowing a win would take them to within nine points of league leaders Dortmund. Thomas Tuchel, linked this week with a move to Leverkusen should Jupp Heynckes depart for Bayern Munich, made three changes to his side, bringing in goalkeeper Christian Wetklo, and new full-backs. He retained the diamond midfield and wide forwards system that worked superbly in the second half against Hamburg last weekend. As for Bayer, who lost 3-2 at home to Villareal in the Europa League midweek, there was finally room for Michael Ballack in the starting XI. Arturo Vidal also returned, and with Ballack and Lars Bender behind him, started in a more advanced midfield role behind Stefan Kieβling. Against Hannover (2-0) & Nuremberg (1-0) on matchdays 20 & 21, Ballack & Rolfes were used behind Vidal to superb effect, but this was the first time this particular trio had started a game together. The talismanic Rolfes (and his Mainz counterpart Lewis Holtby) was on the bench. Continue reading

Werder Bremen 1-1 Borussia Mönchengladbach

The first half formations.

Borussia Mönchengladbach broke Bremen hearts with a surprise late equalizer after the home side failed to put the game to bed.

Both sides came into this game locked in a relegation battle. Werder, sat in 15th because Kaiserslautern had scored a 92nd minute earlier in the afternoon, were just two points above the drop zone, and six points ahead of bottom side Gladbach. There was a degree of confidence in both camps pre-match, with Gladbach on a high after last weekend’s triumph against Hoffenheim, and Bremen likewise following their 3-1 success at Freiburg. The visitors arrived at the Weserstadion without Igor de Camargo, but were at near enough full-strength. Werder, meanwhile, had to make do without Aaron Hunt and Naldo – Marko Marin and Wesley were on the bench, as Florian Trinks, who turned 19 the day before this game, was handed a rare start. Continue reading

Hoffenheim 1-0 Borussia Dortmund

The formations with half-hour played.

Hard-working Hoffenheim punished a surprisingly unimaginative Dortmund side to deny the league leaders what would have been a record-setting 12th away win of the season.

These two teams came into this game on largely differing runs of form. In-form Dortmund, top of the table by 12 points, having racked up 11 away wins in the league so far this season. Hoffenheim, on the other hand, had fallen from credible Champions League contenders to the mid-table positions they’ve made their home these last few seasons. They sat in ninth place haven taken just seven points from the last 18 available. Both sides had only failed to score on three occasions this season, so goals seemed certain. Definitely absent from the scoresheet by virtue of being absent from the teamsheet for Marco Pezzaiuoli’s hosts were Andreas Ibertsberger, Tobias Weis, Chinedu Obasi and Peniel Mlapa. For the visitors, Mats Hummels, Shinji Kagawa, Patrick Owomoyela, and Damien Le Tallec were all out. Continue reading

Cologne 4-0 Hannover

The first half formations.

A commanding second half performance from Cologne saw them overcome a Hannover side who offered surprisingly little after going a goal behind.

This Friday night round 26 fight saw the teams placed fifth and fourth in the form table come up against one another. With Geromel still absent through injury, Frank Schaefer was forced to use Kevin Pezzoni as an emergency centre-back again. The inconvenience of having to do this was shown when the gangly midfielder was at fault for Dortmund’s only goal in last Friday night’s 1-0 win – failing to respond quickly or intelligently enough to the assisting pass. Hannover, fresh from last weekend’s heroic win against Bayern Munich, were again without top scorer Didier Ya Konan, as well as talismanic midfielder Sérgio Pinto. They knew a win would temporarily lift them above Leverkusen into second spot, and eight points clear of Bayern – with international fixtures allocated to the last weekend in March, three points would even have ensured they remained above the holding champions going into the penultimate month of the season. Cologne, still just four points above the relegation places coming into this game, knew a win would lift them above Schalke into tenth spot: and, more crucially, a win would give them some much-needed breathing space from those sides in the relegation zone. Continue reading

Hamburg 2-4 Mainz

The first half formations.

A decisive second half performance from Mainz saw them defeat inconsistent Hamburg after the home side had taken a controversial lead via a goal that didn’t actually cross the line.

Mainz came into this game knowing a win would lift them above Bayern Munich and into fourth spot. Hamburg knew a win by two clear goals would lift them above Mainz into fifth. As if to spice things up even further, it was the home side who ended Mainz’s spectacular start to the season, winning at the Bruchweg stadium with a late Jose Paolo Guerrero goal back in October. For the visitors, there was no Miroslav Karhan, Ádám Szalai or Sami Allagui – all three ruled out through injury. As difficult to second guess as ever, Thomas Tuchel left Lewis Holtby and Christian Fuchs on the bench. Hamburg, on the other hand, were at full strength (with Ruud van Nistelrooy on the bench), and looking to bounce back after drawing last weekend at struggling Kaiserslautern. Continue reading

Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 Wolfsburg

The first-half formations.

Leverkusen showed quality in front of goal and put in an accomplished second half defensive performance to keep Wolfsburg’s very plausible relegation nightmare going.

In spite of a much-needed win against Borussia Mönchengladbach last time out, Wolfsburg simply had to take something from this game. A tea-time kick-off, relegation rivals Gladbach and Stuttgart had won the early afternoon games which preceded the tie, and Kaiserslautern drew. Thus, Wolfsburg were merely a point above the relegation zone (with second-bottom Bremen, also a point behind the Wolves, due to play the following day).

The game was also crucial for Leverkusen, who’d seen Hannover leapfrog them into second spot in the hours before this home tie. Last weekend, they threw away a two-goal lead late-on to draw 2-2 against Werder Bremen. The most interesting news personnel-wise was that Patrick Helmes started for Wolfsburg – the 26-year-old netted 28 goals in 57 Bundesliga appearances for Bayer between summer 2008 and the recent winter transfer window, which saw him join the Wolves for £8million. Absence-wise, there was no Thomas Kahlenberg, Josué, Alexander Madlung, or Tolga Ciğerci for the visitors. Grafite, meanwhile, was only fit enough for the bench. For Leverkusen coach Jupp Heynckes, there was no Tranquilo Barnetta, Michael Ballack, Sami Hyypiä, Arturo Vidal, or Hanno Balitsch. Continue reading

Hannover 3-1 Bayern Munich

The first-half formations.

High-flying Hannover stunned an again off-colour Bayern Munich side and moved into second place in the Bundesliga table.

Both sides came into this game in nigh-on full strength condition. There were three key absentees, however – Bastian Schweinsteiger, who’d accumulated five yellow cards (although given his sketchy recent performances, some might argue he and the team needed a brief break from one another), Luis Gustavo, who had the sniffles, and for the hosts, top scorer Didier Ya Konan, sidelined with a knee injury.

Although Hannover started the game one place ahead of Bayern, you could argue the psychological advantage was with the Bavarians going on the last four results between the two sides: 5-1, 3-0, 7-0, and most recently, in October 2010, 3-0. The victories – 18-1 on aggregate – were all in Bayern’s favour. And, ominously, the 5-1 win that came in the March of 2009 was on the back of a midweek cup elimination for FC Hollywood – something Louis van Gaal’s side experienced on Wednesday when humiliated by Schalke at the Allianz Arena. Continue reading