Hannover 1-1 Hertha BSC

The first half formations.

Hannover returned to the top of the Bundesliga table after drawing 1-1 with Hertha Berlin, but the Lower Saxony side will feel aggrieved that they dropped two points after referee Robert Hartmann ruled out a late winner. Negative Hertha deserved to go in at the interval 1-0 down, although Hannover lacked the creative spark that would have seen them put more goals past their lacklustre opponents in the opening 45 minutes. The visitors changed systems three times during a rejuvenated second half performance, and despite still not looking overly convincing, they did start to create chances thanks to a more positive mentality against a home side who tired after Thursday night’s 2-1 win over Sevilla in the Europa League. Perhaps a draw wasn’t a fair result on the balance of play, but Hannover didn’t create enough chances of note in the second half to win the game, save for a late Christian Pander free-kick which did sail in, but was ruled out for what appeared to be shoving in the box (however, it could have been due to the fact that the free-kick was given as indirect).

Match preview here.

Mirko Slomka started the game with the XI that defeated Sevilla on Thursday evening, while Markus Babbel deployed the same side which lost in round one to Nuremberg (save for Raffael being picked ahead of Pierre-Michel Lasogga, thereby giving the former Stuttgart coach the option of a 4-4-1-1). Continue reading

Mainz 2-4 Schalke

The first half formations. Ivanschitz took advantage of the space behind Raúl, with Papadopoulos often extremely isolated.

Schalke stormed back from 2-0 down to deny Mainz the chance to go back to the top of the table. The home side stopped the visitors from playing in the first half with their intense pressing and energetic attacking, but Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick rang the changes at the interval and reaped the benefits; his Jefferson Farfán-inspired side eventually proving too strong and clinical for Mainz.

Match preview here.

Mainz got things under way at their new Coface Arena, coach Thomas Tuchel starting with the same team that defeated Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 on the opening day of the new Bundesliga season. They put Schalke’s deep 4-1-4-1 under pressure early on, forcing the visitors into fouls, back-passes, and hurried sideways delegation-balls whenever Schalke did get possession or territory. Rangnick’s game-plan seemed to hinge on his side getting the chance to counter-attack, as illustrated in the fourth minute when his four banks sat in their own half, only pressing the pass-assessor when they were primed to cross halfway.

In that particular instance, Lewis Holtby won the ball, dribbled upfield, before stalling so as to wait for the sprinting widemen – the only place for the visitors to build was in the home side’s half, especially when Mainz’s players were darting back more concerned about getting into position. Holtby slid the ball one way, before it was disguised via another pass to go out to the opposite flank. The eventual cross, from Jan Morávek, was a few inches too high, however. Continue reading

Hannover-Hertha BSC preview

The final match of the Bundesliga’s third round of fixtures sees last season’s 2. Bundesliga champions travel to in-form Hannover. The last time these sides met,a top-flight clash in January 2010, Hertha Berlin came away from the AWD-Arena with a 3-0 victory. Given their patchy start to the new season, a repeat of that scoreline looks highly unlikely. However, you wouldn’t rule out Markus Babbel’s men taking all three points, as Hannover put in a heroic and draining shift on Thursday night to defeat Sevilla in the Europa League.

Mirko Slomka’s side were outstanding against their more illustrious Spanish opponents. Jan Schlaudraff, in particular, was unplayable; his energy, intelligence and determination was just too much for the Sevilla defence too handle. Left-winger Konstantin Rausch was equally imperious, although every man in maroon did his job that night against a technically more accomplished side with world class players such as Jesús Navas. Slomka might make changes from the team that defeated Sevilla for the game against Hertha today, however, although the coach insists that he has the squad to handle fighting on two fronts. “The lads will be able to cope with the double burden – this is why we expanded our squad during the summer,” said Slomka, adding: “This game means a lot to us as it enables us to build on our points tally.” Continue reading

Cologne 1-1 Kaiserslautern

The formations during the first half, which ended 1-1. Cologne were playing in the white shirts.

Cologne picked up their first point of the new season, but should have taken all three after missing a lorry-load of chances against a mistake-ridden Kaiserslautern side. The hosts looked particularly threatening and creative down the channels throughout the game, whereas Kaiserslautern struggled to even shift the ball into the other half. Yet several players missed some gilt-edged chances for Cologne, thereby ensuring that Ståle Solbakken has to wait at least another week before claiming his first victory as a coach in the Bundesliga.

Match preview here. 

Kaiserslautern instantly barged their way into the hosts’ half, trapping Cologne there and making them press side to side as they spread the ball about sharply. But, after one passing move was broken down, Sławomir Peszko carried the counter through the centre and over halfway, drawing an inevitable tug. One free-kick led to another in a better position (and a yellow card for centre-back Martin Amedick), but Mato Jajalo curled right-footed into Kevin Trapp’s hands. The goalkeeper then immediately punted the ball upfield for Kostas Fortounis, who clashed heads with Christian Eichner; an ugly accidental bump that saw the pair leaving a trail of blood behind them. Brazilian full-back Andrézinho was therefore called into action far sooner than he or anyone else expected, replacing the bloodied and dazed Eichner after just five minutes. Continue reading

Mainz-Schalke preview

Round three of the new Bundesliga season pits together two of the sides who succeeded last year in qualifying for the 2011/12 Europa League. However, whereas Schalke began their continental campaign on Thursday, albeit by losing 2-0 away to HJK Helsinki in a first leg result described as a “disaster” by sporting director Horst Heldt, Mainz were eliminated at the first hurdle, suffering a penalty shootout exit after failing to break down Romanian minnows Gaz Metan two weeks ago.

Nevertheless, Thomas Tuchel’s side have made the better start to the new Bundesliga campaign, taking six points from a possible six, and making fans dream of emulating their seven-wins-from-seven-games start to 2010/11. Following up their 2-0 and 2-1 victories over Bayer Leverkusen and Freiburg respectively with three points against Schalke will put them just under 50 percent of the way to achieving that goal, and the away side can expect a frenzied atmosphere at Mainz’s new Coface Arena as fans dream of eclipsing last season’s fifth-place finish. Continue reading

Cologne-Kaiserslautern preview

Round three of the Bundesliga season sees two of the sides yet to register a win square up Saturday teatime. However, Kaiserslautern did at least manage to salvage a draw last weekend at home to unbeaten newbies Augsburg (following an opening day 2-0 defeat to Werder Bremen), whereas Ståle Solbakken has made a disastrous start to Bundesliga life as Cologne coach, losing 3-0 and 5-1 to Wolfsburg and Schalke respectively, and falling out with Lukas Podolski after stripping the temperamental talisman of the captain’s armband.

Despite constantly blaming himself for Cologne’s horror start to the 2011/12 campaign, the 43-year-old Norwegian will be hoping Saturday is the day when the squad finally clicks playing in his new system, and beat Kaiserslautern for the first time since December 2007’s 2. Bundesliga victory (as an aside, on the final day of that same season, Lautern beat Cologne 3-0 to save themselves from relegation to the third tier). Continue reading

Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 Werder Bremen

The general first half formations.

Robin Dutt finally won his first game as Bayer Leverkusen manager as the home side scored a late winner in what had been an even and entertaining game. These two attack-minded sides dominated one another in separate spells throughout the 90 minutes, with both goalkeepers on top form to keep the game scoreless. But a moment of brilliant athleticism by Simon Rolfes in the 86th minute saw the Bremen defence caught off-guard and a deserved point cruelly snatched from their grasp.

Match preview here.

Bremen, lining up with near enough the same 4-4-2 midfield diamond and players that contested the victory over Kaiserslautern last week, got us under way at the BayArena, where the hosts had made changes in goal, defence, midfield and up front. The opening stages were keenly and evenly contested, Stefan Kießling in particular embodying the home side’s fight; a quality lacking in recent weeks.

Chances at both ends were dictated by Bremen’s tactics in the opening ten minutes, as two examples from the eighth and ninth minutes respectively illustrated. During the former, Bremen started short, and Sebastian Prödl looked about as he brought the ball forward, eyeing up the six or so Bremen attackers bobbing centrally. Continue reading

Duisburg 0-0 Hansa Rostock

The first half formations.

Pre-season promotion favourites Duisburg put in another shambolic performance as Rostock missed the chance to grab all three points by spurning a number of first half opportunities. The visitors were well organised and hungry, but Duisburg’s first half performance was devoid of invention, effort and quality. They improved in the second half, but still couldn’t break down Hansa, who have now drawn their last four games.

Match preview here.

Both sides were unchanged from their respective league games last week, as Rostock got things under way at the Schauinsland-Reisen-Arena; reverberating with the fantastic noise of the passionate home fans. Duisburg pressed high and hard immediately, putting their guests under pressure and inducing nervousness. But the visitors soon began to give as good as they got out of possession, meaning that the ball went back and fore and nowhere in particular in the opening stages, with the sideways-passing deep centre-backs on either side being the only players with any room.

Peter Vollmann, setting his side out in a 4-2-3-1 which became a 4-4-2 when Duisburg had the ball (Tino Semmer and Mohammed Lartey only pressed the defence when they were about ten feet before the halfway line), was seemingly intent on using his ‘lone striker’ as a space-finder rather than a target man. The Rostock wingers looked to get on the ball as often as possible, and this allowed Lartey to make some runs in behind the defence too – the best coming in the fifth minute, when he burst between and behind the unaware Duisburg left-back and left-sided centre-back, only to drag his right-footed effort across goal. Continue reading

Bayer Leverkusen-Werder Bremen preview

The second round of the new Bundesliga season concludes this afternoon with a game between two of Germany’s bigger clubs. Yet, whereas Bayer Leverkusen would seemingly be the one currently on the up, Champions League campaign and all to look forward to, they’ve made a poor start to the season: losing 2-0 to Mainz last weekend on the opening day, and 4-3 to Dynamo Dresden in the cup a fortnight ago. Werder Bremen, on the other hand, avenged their 3-2 loss to Kaiserslautern on the final day of a forgettable 2010/11 campaign by beating them 2-0 last weekend, although the Saturday before that, they too exited the cup to lower-league opponents, going down 2-1 to Heidenheimer.

Marko Marin, the top assist-maker at the club last season (nine) despite never really convincing or being certain of a starting berth, missed a penalty in that match, although a new hero is now ostensibly stepping up to the plate in the form of Markus Rosenberg. The 28-year-old Swedish striker, on loan with Racing Santander last season where he scored nine times, bagged a brace against Kaiserslautern, and eight more goals in the green of Bremen before May and he’ll surpass Claudio Pizarro’s 2010/11 club-best tally of nine goals. Continue reading

Duisburg-Hansa Rostock preview

Two of the early season strugglers meet tomorrow lunchtime in the 2. Bundesliga, as newly-promoted Hansa Rostock travel to Duisburg. After a surprise defeat to Paderborn on the opening day of the new league season, Rostock have gone on to draw three successive games – 1-1 against Dynamo Dresden and 0-0 with Bochum in 2. Bundesliga, and a 2-2 draw and penalties exit to Bochum, again, in the cup. Therefore, Peter Vollmann’s East German outfit boast one more point than last season’s cup-finalists Duisburg, who stopped a losing streak of two games by beating Babelsberg in the cup, before drawing 0-0 away at FSV Frankfurt last weekend (despite putting in a lifeless performance).

I noted before Duisburg’s game against FSV that it’s surely only a matter of time before Duisburg bounce back; not just because of the size of the club, but also because of the players they’ve managed to bring in this summer. Continue reading

Borussia Mönchengladbach 1-1 Stuttgart

The first half formations.

Borussia Mönchengladbach and Stuttgart played out an entertaining draw on day two of the Bundesliga, as both sides made it four points out of a possible six. Although the attack-minded Stuttgart pressed brilliantly and played some nice first-time and full-back led football, 19-year-old ‘keeper Marc-André ter Stegen was on top form. Although his Gladbach outfield colleagues were second-best for large periods of the game, they did show occasional signs of being a decent footballing side capable of splicing an opposition defence with some first-time triangle-based football of their own. And out of possession, they sat off in an impressively disciplined 4-4-1-1, limiting the amount of space wanted by Stuttgart’s marquee summer signing, William Kvist, in the quarterback position.

Match preview here. 

The home side immediately took charge of the game, opening the visitors’ defence up within 90 seconds. The recipient of that bouncing pass, Marco Reus, attempted to lob the onrushing Sven Ulreich, but the midfielder’s effort landed just over the left stanchion. With Stuttgart standing relatively high early on, Gladbach continued to ping passes over the top of their defence, Raúl Bobadilla the primary chaser and target. Continue reading

Hoffenheim 1-0 Borussia Dortmund

The formations in the first half, which Hoffenheim won 1-0.

Tactically adventurous Hoffenheim deservedly beat champions Borussia Dortmund, who put in a performance bereft of energy, imagination, confidence and precision. Jürgen Klopp’s side have now lost 1-0 at the Rhein-Neckar Arena twice in the space of six months, but the credit must go to the seemingly staunch-4-4-2 man Holger Stanislawski and his players, who showed discipline, zip and tremendous spirit to decisively earn their first three points of the new season.

Match preview here.

If you were being cruel/brutally honest, you would suggest that Hoffenheim coach Stanislawski sent out a side consisting of one goalkeeper, five defenders and five midfielders. Continue reading

Paderborn 0-1 Greuther Fürth

The first half formations.

Greuther Fürth maintained their great start to the new campaign by deservedly beating a limited Paderborn side on matchday four of the 2011/12 2. Bundesliga season. In a match short on chances, the away side showed why they are one of this season’s promotion favourites by seeing the game out after taking an early-ish second half lead. Mike Büskens’ side move up to second place as a result of this win, while Paderborn slip nearer a relegation zone they know they’ll likely spend the season battling to stay out of.

Match preview here.

The game began with Paderborn immediately surging high and hard to press the ball: despite this, their guests looked sharp and comfortable in possession. Whenever the home side did get the chance to attack early on, they showed their lack of quality by going at it a bit too hammer and tongs – crossing early to no one in particular, or trying to make too incisive a pass too hastily, for example. Continue reading

Borussia Mönchengladbach-Stuttgart preview

The second round of the new Bundesliga season continues this evening with a clash between two of the opening day’s biggest expectation-exceeders. Whereas disciplined Borussia Mönchengladbach – who, lest we forget, only just edged out Bochum three months back to preserve their top-flight status – won 1-0 away to Bayern Munich after riding the storm, Stuttgart put in a commanding performance to beat Schalke 3-0. Those results last weekend ensured that both Lucien Favre and Bruno Labbadia – tonight’s home and away side coaches respectively – boast 100 percent records in 2011/12 so far; the former’s side knocking Jahn Regensburg out of the cup and the latter’s overcoming SV Wehen in the same competition two weeks back.

No one would be surprised if Stuttgart managed to keep up their early season form until Christmas, but it’s how they fare after the winter break that counts. Both the club and coach Bruno Labbadia himself have a reputation for producing spectacular half-season showings, but they always follow or precede 17 games of relegation form. Continue reading

Hoffenheim-Borussia Dortmund preview

The Bundesliga season continues today with last season’s champions Borussia Dortmund visiting perennial mid-table finishers Hoffenheim. However, when the sides last met at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena back in March, Hoffe surprisingly won 1-0. Fatigue might well have played a factor in that result, so as this is a round two fixture, both teams should be fresh enough to battle it out fair and square.

Several players set to be involved in this game also featured and starred in midweek friendly internationals, including the German national team’s 3-2 win against Brazil (BVB pair Mario Götze and Mats Hummels), and the Germany U21 side’s victory against Cyprus (Hoffe duo Peniel Mlapa and Sebastian Rudy). After yet another superhuman performance against the 2002 world champions, following on from being at the heart of everything during last weekend’s highly impressive 3-1 victory at home to a shellshocked Hamburg, it’ll be interesting to see whether 18-year-old Götze is a marked man in this game. Continue reading