Bayern Munich 4-1 Schalke

The first half formations.

Bayern Munich swept aside a naive and not particularly bothered Schalke side to all but guarantee their place in next season’s Champions League – aided greatly by the fact that their goal difference is now 30 goals superior to that of their nearest challengers, Hannover.

To many, this game had something of a dead rubber feel pre-match. Despite it still being mathematically possible for Schalke to go down, such an occurrence would be nigh-on impossible. As for the hosts, with Hannover losing to Gladbach earlier on in the afternoon, Bayern knew that a win here would lift them into the third and final Champions League spot – surely a position they wouldn’t relinquish with two games left to play after this one. Thus, they therefore knew that if they failed against Schalke, the likelihood of spending the 2011/12 season in the Europa League would be strong. That competition is one Schalke are destined for, so long as they win the German cup final against Duisburg on May 21. This season’s Champions League final takes place seven days after that, but Schalke won’t be there – a humiliating 2-0 home defeat to Manchester United in the first leg of one of the competition’s semi-finals in the week saw last season’s Bundesliga runners-up totally outclassed, and the upcoming second leg at Old Trafford four days after this tie against last season’s Bundesliga champions rendered somewhat meaningless. Continue reading

Cologne 2-0 Bayer Leverkusen

The first half formations.

Bayer Leverkusen conceded the title to Dortmund but secured their spot in next season’s Champions League group stage – despite losing the Rhine derby to Cologne, who now move four points clear of the drop zone.

With Wolfsburg beating Werder Bremen the evening before this Saturday afternoon game, Cologne were once again in the thick of the relegation battle. A disastrous loss of form and the sudden departure of coach Frank Schaefer in the week meant that Leverkusen were the clear favourites for this tie. Dortmund were playing simultaneously, with both they and Leverkusen knowing that a loss for Dortmund and a win for Leverkusen would see the gap at the top reduced to two points. But for Jupp Heynckes’s side, the real goal was simply to win irrespective of how Dortmund got on, as three points here would guarantee the club’s place in the Champions League group stages for next season (even if Heynckes is Bayern Munich-bound). Continue reading

Werder Bremen 0-1 Wolfsburg

The first half formations.

Wolfsburg secured a vital win away at a relegation rival to haul themselves out of the drop zone and ensure Werder Bremen endure a nervy final two matches of the campaign.

The parapenultimate round in the Bundesliga’s 2010/11 season began with a double-header on the Friday night – Kaiserslautern against St Pauli, 12th against 18th, and Werder Bremen against Wolfsburg, 11th against 16th. When these fixtures were scheduled a few weeks back, these two games looked like they would be putting four teams fighting for their lives in action on the same night. However, although nothing but a win would have been considered good enough for both of the away sides coming into these games, the hosts’, five and six points respectively above the drop zone, could enter their respective fixtures in a more relaxed state. Continue reading

Borussia Dortmund 3-0 Freiburg

The first half formations.

Borussia Dortmund cruised to victory against a Freiburg side who should be made to refund the 4,000 or so travelling fans who took the four-and-a-half hour journey to North Rhine-Westphalia from Baden-Württemberg.

Dortmund came into this game experiencing something of a wobble, scoring just one win from the last four games. Their once colossal lead at the top of the table now stood at five points, and were it not for Jakub ‘Kuba’ Błaszczykowski’s late leveller at Hamburg last week, the distance between themselves and Bayer Leverkusen would have been even more slight. Fortunately, Leverkusen’s abysmal display and performance at Bayern Munich in the hours ahead of this game did little to suggest that Dortmund’s lead was truly under threat. Freiburg coach Robin Dutt has already signed a contract to take over at Dortmund’s immediate *title rivals* next season, and this game was a great chance to immediately make himself popular with Bayer fans. If he wanted to appease any Freiburg fans unhappy with his departure, a victory here would also be crucial – Dutt, his players and the fans knew that a loss at Signal-Iduna-Park would finally extinguish their Europa League aspirations. They won last time out, 3-2 against Hoffenheim, but that was their first taste of glory in six games. In Dortmund, Dutt had to make do without Pavel Krmaš, Yacine Abdessadki, Simon Pouplin, Felix Bastians and Jan Rosenthal. Continue reading

Werder Bremen 1-1 Schalke

The first half formations.

The sides who finished third and second respectively in last season’s Bundesliga played out a carefree and thrilling 1-1 draw on Saturday evening – a result that nigh-on confirms both sides’ places in the top division next season.

Life for Schalke fans is pretty sweet right now. They might have come into this game in tenth place – nine points from a Europa League qualification spot – having had to endure the season-long celebrations of nailed-on title winners and arch rivals Dortmund, but with Felix Magath gone, Ralf Rangnick stepping up to the managerial plate with ease, and their side in the last four of the Champions League, this league tie had something of a ‘who cares?’ about it for the Gelsenkirchen outfit’s fans. And this was reflected in their side’s starting line-up, with five changes made to the side which overcame Inter. Nevertheless, Schalke had won all four games which had been played under Rangnick to date  (including those two heroic quarter-final games against Inter), so there was no need to let that good form go to waste now. The hosts, sitting five points above the drop zone coming into this game, knew that another three or four points would be enough to secure their safety, and after two successive draws, a game against a side presumable exhausted after overcoming the reigning European champions was a better time than any to stop the rot. Schaaf stuck with the side that contested the game against Frankfurt last week (save for replacing Denni Avdić), but he had to make do without Sebastian Prödl, Avdić, Philipp Bargfrede and Naldo. Bremen’s guests, meanwhile, were without Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Tim Hoogland, Peer Kluge, Christoph Moritz, Christian Pander, Vasileios Pliatsikas and Mario Gavranović. Continue reading

Wolfsburg 2-2 St Pauli

The first half formations.

Wolfsburg scored a late equalizer to grab an undeserved point at home to fellow strugglers St Pauli. The draw now leaves both sides four points adrift from safety with just fives games to go.

With just six games of the season left, this battle between the sides in 16th and 17th was absolutely critical. Locked on points but separated by goal difference (Wolfsburg on minus ten, St Pauli on minus 21), a win for either of these sides here would elevate them to the heady heights of 15th place. Felix Magath’s return to Wolfsburg hadn’t eradicated the poor results and sloppy mistakes which marred the reigns of both Steve McClaren and Pierre Littbarski, but there had been a definite improvement in performances after the return of the arch disciplinarian. Nevertheless, a return of two wins from their last 20 games was an appalling run for a big-spending side who were champions of the country as recently as 2009. Continue reading

Mainz 1-0 Borussia Mönchengladbach

The first half formations.

Mainz took a huge step towards Europa League qualification after overcoming ten-man Borussia Mönchengladbach with a late goal from André Schürrle.

Round 30 began on Friday night with a game between two sides experiencing seasons beyond their wildest dreams. Hosts Mainz came into this match against Mönchengladbach in 5th spot – looking well set to secure a spot in next season’s Europa League, despite briefly flirting with qualification for the Champions League up until a few weeks ago. However, their last win in the league was nearly a month and a half ago. Their visitors, on the other hand, had ambitions of at least finishing in mid-table at the start of the season, but with five games to go, they came into this game bottom of the table. Nevertheless, they thrashed Köln 5-1 last week, giving their survival hopes a shot in the arm (Mainz lost 2-0 to Hannover, perhaps finally ending any lingering Champions League hopes). Thomas Tuchel had several key players missing for this game, including Bo Svensson, Nikolce Noveski, Jan Šimák, Zsolt Lőw, Ádám Szalai, and Heinz Müller. Visiting coach Lucien Favre was blessed in comparison – the only notable absentees being Paul Stalteri and Igor de Camargo. Intriguingly, both coaches seemed to ditch the status quo in naming their line-up’s, picking more offensive formations than was expected. Continue reading

Stuttgart 2-4 Kaiserslautern

The general first half formations.

A combination of Christian Tiffert’s passing range and vision, fantastically bold tactics from Marco Kurz, and tired, uninterested and invention-free play from Stuttgart allowed Kaiserslautern to haul themselves nearer to mid-table safety at the expense of their hosts.

This clash pitted 15th against 14th; two sides just one point and two points above the relegation zone respectively. Whereas the hosts seemed to have recovered from a poor start to the season under new boss Bruno Labbadia, Kaiserslautern had had more off-days than on ones, and seemed more at ease playing against the big teams at their Fritz-Walter-Stadion ground than facing lesser teams on the road. But there were no major personnel paucity worries to deal with in preparation for this game, save for the absence of defender Jan Šimůnek and Srđan Lakić’s form in front of goal. The hosts, on the other hand, had to make do without Philipp Degen, Ciprian Marica and Johan Audel for this Saturday teatime clash. Pre-match, there had also been fitness doubts over playmaker Tamás Hajnal, and it turned out these weren’t mind games from the Stuttgart camp – the Hungarian wasn’t passed fit to play against his former side, who hadn’t won at the Mercedes-Benz Arena since 1999. Continue reading

Eintracht Frankfurt 1-1 Werder Bremen

The general first half formations*. * = Silvestre was actually at left-back, and Pasanen at left-sided centre-back.

Two sides still too far away from mid-table security played out an entertaining, chance-heavy and yellow card-ridden 1-1 draw. Although Werder Bremen perhaps deserved the win on the balance of play, the fact they were held to a draw is unsurprising given that the last clean sheet they kept in the league was on December 4, 2010 against Wolfsburg.

This Friday night round 29 encounter pitted 13th against 12th – two sides four and five points above the relegation zone respectively. After a disastrous start to the season, Bremen had got back on track in recent rounds. Frankfurt, on the other hand, made a great start to the season, before flopping miserably after Christmas – prior to this game, they had scored only four goals and tallied no real number of points to speak of since Christmas, and thus last month, they fired coach Michael Skibbe. Their performance under new man Christoph Daum in last week’s 1-1 draw away to Wolfsburg still left s a lot to be desired, but scoring and holding onto the point perhaps indicated that a corner has been turned. Continue reading

Wolfsburg 1-1 Eintracht Frankfurt

The first half formations

Wolfsburg dominated a limited Frankfurt side but had to come from behind to scrape a draw after missing a host of second-half chances.

As well as being a tussle between two sides struggling to avoid the drop, this game was also intriguing as it saw Felix Magath take charge of his first home game in his second spell at Wolfsburg. Meanwhile, there was also another new face on the bench a few feet away from Magath’s: Christoph Daum, the former Fenerbahçe manager, was back in the Bundesliga after a two-year absence. The 57-year-old East German replaced Michael Skibbe last week: Skibbe oversaw a solid first half of the season (including a 3-1 win over Steve McClaren’s Wolfsburg in November), but then a terrible second half of the season which has seen Frankfurt fall from being credible Europa League challengers to 14th place in the table and a mere three points above the relegation zone. Wolfsburg, sat in 17th before this match, knew that a win would take them to within a point of their guests. Continue reading

Cologne 1-0 Nuremberg

The first half formations.

Cologne and Nuremberg looked all but certain to have played out an entertaining and fiery 0-0 draw until Slovenia international Milivoje Novakovič scored an injury-time winner for the hosts at the RheinEnergieStadion.

For the neutral football fan, a Bundesliga battle between the sides in 12th and sixth place respectively may not have forced all other afternoon plans to be cancelled, but there was a fair bit riding on this game, with the hosts knowing that if they lost here and Wolfsburg beat Eintracht Frankfurt in the day’s other game, they would be just two points above the drop zone. Frank Schaefer has turned Cologne’s fortunes around since replacing Zvonimir Soldo, but a 6-2 hammering at the hands of Hamburg in the last round emphasised that this is the same team which the Croatian struggled to push up the table. At least Schaefer had few injuries or suspensions to contend with when it came to selecting his side, although 12 members of the Cologne squad were returning from international duty. By way of comparison, Nuremberg came into this game in fantastic form, and knew they could move into the Europa League spots with a win. Continue reading

Hoffenheim 0-0 Hamburg

The first half formations

Two sides who’ve made the headlines for the wrong reasons several times this season played out a forgettable 0-0 draw that’ll keep the PR departments happy, if nobody else.

Admittedly, this wasn’t the most eye-catching fixture of round 28 given that it pitted the team in 9th against the team in 7th. Neither of these sides will be relegated, and only Hamburg have a slender hope of reaching the Europa League. Nevertheless, they’ve both been good sources of news on and off the pitch in 2011 – Hamburg have been beaten by six and won by six in recent weeks, Hoffenheim have been hammered by Bayern but beat Dortmund, and neither side has stuck with the manager they started the season with. If tiredness was to play its part in proceedings, it was always going to affect Hamburg more, who saw 12 of their players called up for service in the recent international break. Yet although Hoffe’s training ground *only* saw ten players absent, it still managed to play host to a scrap between midfielder Sejad Salihović and defender Marvin Compper. Nevertheless, the only notable absentees at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena were José Paolo Guerrero, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Salihović, who all failed to make the pitch or bench. Continue reading

Bayern Munich 1-0 Borussia Mönchengladbach

The first half formations.

Bayern Munich moved back into the Champions League spots after a narrow and unconvincing win against plucky Borussia Mönchengladbach.

At the start of the current campaign, it’s unlikely that the bigwigs at Bayern and Gladbach would have expected to see their sides struggling to reach the Champions League and avoid the drop respectively. If some people were putting Bayern’s topsy-turvy season down to tiredness, the recent batch of EURO 2012 qualifiers and friendlies could not have come at a worse time – 12 players were called up to represent their nation, compared to Gladbach’s eight (four of whom played for the Germany U19 side, and thus aren’t near Lucien Favre’s first team at club level).

There were few injury problems affecting either side at least, so this tussle between two teams with very different goals would ultimately be decided by events on the pitch only. For the visitors, Mo Idrissou was finally dropped from the starting XI and Logan Bailly kept his place after a howler in round 27. There were no surprises in the home side’s line-up, however.  Continue reading