Energie Cottbus-St Pauli preview

Two of the pre-season promotion favourites will try and get their flagging 2. Bundesliga campaigns back on track on Saturday afternoon as St Pauli visit Energie Cottbus. Both teams lost last weekend, with Cottbus going down 4-2 to Fortuna Düsseldorf, and St Pauli suffering their first home defeat at the hands of Aue.

Saturday lunchtime’s visitors have looked a bit iffy on the road so far this season, having lost to Eintracht Braunschweig and Eintracht Trier (in the cup), and also sharing a draw with another Eintracht, Frankfurt. However, they comprehensively and professionally defeated Karlsruhe in their last away match, showcasing the effectiveness of new coach André Schubert’s floor-based and positionally-fluid football system. Cottbus, meanwhile, sat five points and five places behind Pauli in ninth, are certainly missing the presence of last season’s 2. Bundesliga golden boot Nils Petersen (who joined Bayern Munich over the summer). Continue reading

Hansa Rostock 1-1 Karlsruhe

The first half formations.

One lapse in concentration saw stalemate specialists Hansa Rostock denied their first win of the season at home to fellow strugglers Karlsruhe. Peter Vollmann’s East German outfit looked set to reap the rewards for changing to a two-striker system against a side who would have then replaced them in the relegation zone, but the away side’s experienced strike duo combined with 12 minutes to go to earn Karlsruhe a barely-deserved point.

Match preview here.

During an early spell of possession in the opposition half, Karlsruhe used their higher-division experience by knocking the ball about in the second-third with some long-diagonals, making the hosts chase fruitlessly. However, although one pass too many soon saw that bit of ball monopolization wasted, Karlsruhe continued to do most of the running in the opening five minutes. They made snappy exchanges followed by quickly-dispatched through-balls, drew fouls, and won their 50:50 duels and tackles. Klemen Lavrič had a particularly mobile start to the match, with he and Alexander Iashvili constantly involved, mainly via long balls over the high-standing home defence.

Peter Vollmann was determined to keep his 4-4-2 compact, yet although this should have assisted the team in their passing moves, the midfielders in particular seemed flustered when pressed. Karlsruhe were also deploying a compact 4-4-2 when out of possession, and despite this holding firm for most of the opening ten minutes, the movement of Tino Semmer did open up a few gaps for his colleagues to exploit. As we went beyond the ten-minute mark, Semmer and his Hansa Rostock teammates had actually forced themselves into a position of control, the origins of which were in a number of deep crosses they’d swung in that had had the visiting defence back-pedalling. Continue reading

Wolfsburg 1-0 Kaiserslautern

The first half formations.

An incredible second half performance by substitute Mario Mandžukić saw ten man Wolfsburg defeat Kaiserslautern. Sotirios Kyrgiakos’ sending off at the end of an invention-free, chance-light and dire first half made the visitors favourites to snatch all three points in the second half, especially as Marco Kurz’s strikers showed much better movement in the opening 45 minutes than their Wolfsburg counterparts. But, Felix Magath’s inspired decision to unleash the Croatian from the bench changed the game, although it was Ashkan Dejagah who bagged the goal which lifts Wolfsburg up to 12th in the Bundesliga.

Match preview here

An open start to the match saw some nice football being played, with both sides looking to spread the ball about among the outfield players at a good tempo, before releasing either a full-back or forward on a dart into the final-third. The visitors barely pressed Wolfsburg when the centre-backs had the ball, instead content to sit off in their high and compact 4-4-2. This tactic frustrated the hosts in their attempts to make attacks, and resulted in Patrick Helmes and Srđan Lakić playing too far apart from one another in the opening five minutes.

When the home side did manage to play a ball into the final-third and then keep it there with the next pass, they pushed as many outfield players into and around the Kaiserslautern box as was possible.  Continue reading

Fortuna Düsseldorf 4-2 Energie Cottbus

The first half formations.

Fortuna Düsseldorf crawled back to the top of the 2. Bundesliga table thanks to a disciplined and ruthless first half display that took full advantage of three key Energie Cottbus errors. However, despite being reduced to ten men straight into the second half, the visitors nigh-on instantly scored two goals to pull it back to 3-2! However, former BVB striker Dimitar Rangelov stupidly lost his head, and earned himself a red card with 16 minutes still to play. Down to nine men, Cottbus’ chances of taking even a point from the game were gone, but they deserve credit anyway for a much-improved second half showing where they had Düsseldorf on the ropes.

Match preview here.

The visitors got us under way amid a tremendous noise from a highly-populated crowd, and managed to launch the first ball into the box in the opening minute. This came from the long-throw weapon of right-back Christopher Schorch, but Dimitar Rangelov wasted the chance to make something of the invitation through his over-physicality. For the next five minutes, though, the ball belonged to the hosts. They went calmly from their own box to Cottbus’, spreading side to side with confidence and precision. It was becoming a backs-to-the-wall job for the visitors, and with the box blocked off by bodies, this was what perhaps encouraged Andreas Lambertz to try his luck from range in the fourth minute. Thorsten Kirschbaum dropped the tricky – but not particularly fierce – shot straight into the path of Max Beister, who had been allowed to wander freely into the path of a tap-in by the ball-watching Roger. The in-form attacker made no mistake, firing the 2. Bundesliga high-fliers into an early 1-0 lead! Continue reading

Hansa Rostock-Karlsruhe preview

Leaky Karlsruhe make the seven-and-a-half-hour drive to stalemate specialists Hansa Rostock tomorrow lunchtime for a clash between two of the second division’s strugglers. The visitors sit one point and place above their hosts in15th, but they’ve lost five games on the spin, conceding 15 goals in the process. Despite being a Karlsruhe native who represented the club in his playing career, coach Rainer Scharinger is under serious pressure, and has been told by general manager Oliver Kreuzer that losing this tie is “forbidden”. Hansa, on the other hand, come into this game without a single win to their name (unlike Karlsruhe, who won on the opening day of the season, and managed to win their DFB-Pokal match in regulation time). However, tomorrow’s hosts have drawn four of their last six games 0-0, and teams visiting the DKB-Arena find them extremely difficult to break down. Continue reading

Wolfsburg-Kaiserslautern preview

Srđan Lakić comes up against his former club tomorrow afternoon as two of the Bundesliga’s early-season strugglers face off. Wolfsburg currently sit one spot and point above their 15th-placed guests, although Felix Magath’s side boast a one goal worse goal difference of -5. When these sides last met back in May for the penultimate match of the 2010/11 season, a surprise 2-1 away win for Kaiserslautern secured their spot in the Bundesliga, leaving Wolfsburg needing something from their final game. Thus, revenge might be in the air for one or two players in green, although the squad has been altered a fair bit since then.

The most notable departures have been Diego (Atlético Madrid), Simon Kjær (Roma), Cicero (São Paulo), Sascha Riether (Cologne), Grafite (Al-Ahli Dubai), and, most recently, Arne Friedrich (released). To fill in the gaps in true Magath fashion, 12 players have been brought in from other clubs, and three promoted from the U23 squad. Continue reading

Fortuna Düsseldorf-Energie Cottbus preview

It’s third against seventh on Saturday afternoon in 2. Bundesliga as high-flying Fortuna Düsseldorf host Jekyll & Hyde side Energie Cottbus. The last time Cottbus travelled to the Esprit Arena (back in January for a league tie), a goal from Nils Petersen wasn’t enough to stop the East Germans falling to a 3-1 defeat. However, Claus-Dieter ‘Pele’ Wollitz’s side finished higher up the division come the end of the season, although neither of these clubs ever really posed a big challenge for promotion in 2010/11. This time round, though, Düsseldorf’s start indicates that they’ll be in or around the top three positions come the end of the season, while you can never rule out Cottbus (especially as even after an erratic start, they’re only five points off top spot).

Saturday’s hosts have had a fantastic start to the season, and are unbeaten in the nine games played coming into this clash. That run includes Düsseldorf knocking KSV Hessen Kassel out of the DFB-Pokal, while even draws away at the likes of Eintracht Frankfurt are not to be sniffed at. Continue reading

Schalke 0-2 Bayern Munich

The first half formations.

Bayern Munich beat Schalke 2-0 to return to the top of the Bundesliga table. Manuel Neuer, booed throughout on his return to the Veltins-Arena, kept a clean sheet for the seventh game in a row, although Bayern were lucky that Klaas-Jan Huntelaar didn’t bring his shooting boots as the Dutchman and one or two other of his colleagues had enough chances to kill Bayern off in the first half. However, those moments weren’t capitalised on, and with the hosts tiring in the second half, a Franck Ribéry-inspired Bayern eventually cruised to victory despite the absence of both Arjen Robben and Mario Gómez.

Match preview here.

Bayern bossed possession from the off, spreading it about among the fluid foremost six players, as well as the centre-backs and full-backs. The hosts were playing something of a 4-3-3, with the narrowness of the midfield designed to help keep the string-pulling likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos quiet. It was a foul-laden opening ten minutes, with Kyriakos Papadopoulos & co. hacking and hounding to stop Bayern getting more comfortable than they already were.

Although Bayern – looking to expose Schalke’s lack of midfield width through a series of long-diagonals to and attacks down the channels – were in control, they had nothing to show for it bar Gómez’s stand-in Nils Petersen going close and a couple of corners. Continue reading

Alemannia Aachen 0-0 SpVgg Greuther Fürth

The formations for the first quarter of the game, before the referee made it ten on ten.

Aachen stay in the relegation zone of the second division despite holding the league leaders to a draw in their first game under a new coach. The match was one of ten outfield players apiece for three-quarters of the 90 minutes, with both Aachen and Fürth seeing midfielders giving their marching orders for high feet. The league leaders looked the more technically accomplished and confident of the two sides throughout, but a defensively disciplined performance from Aachen – who don’t concede many goals these days – saw Fürth kept at bay, and on the balance of play, a draw was a fair result.

Match preview here.

The visitors looked settled straight away, as they knocked the ball from side to side and forwards and backwards with confidence, zip and a determination to toy with their beleaguered opponents. Out of possession, they looked the better side too, as when Aachen tried to push their guests back through a David Hohs punt, Fürth’s banks were better set to pick up the loose ball, and then hold onto it in the face of heavy pressing in their own half. The hosts did manage to create a chance in the third minute, though, after pouncing on some Fürth differing. But, the cross which followed a David Odonkor head-down-and-run dribble was cleared by the well-placed hoop-shirted centre-backs, and the subsequent corner and second ball crossed into the box saw the visitors equally intelligently positioned and unfussy when it came to clearing their lines. Continue reading

Schalke-Bayern Munich preview

Manuel Neuer makes his return to Gelsenkirchen tomorrow night as Bayern Munich travel to Schalke. The visitors are in great form coming into this game, and their summer signing from Schalke, Neuer, has now kept six consecutive clean sheets for the 2009/10 Bundesliga champions. Both Bayern Munich and Schalke played in European competition during the week, with Ralf Rangnick’s side drawing 0-0 at Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League, and Jupp Heynckes’ winning 2-0 at Villareal in the Champions League. Even right-back Rafinha scored in that game, and the Brazilian defender is another player making his return to the Veltins-Arena after leaving for Genoa two seasons back.

He and his defensive colleagues will have their work cut out keeping Raúl corked tomorrow, while Rafinha is going to be in for a tough afternoon in his one-on-one duel against the in-form Peruvian Jefferson Farfán too. Nevertheless, all eyes will mainly be at the other end of the pitch, with Franck Ribéry and Mario Gómez in scintillating form, the pair scoring goals and assisting them for fun so far this season. Continue reading

Kaiserslautern 3-1 Mainz

The first half formations.

Kaiserslautern bettered their 2011/12 goals for tally by 150 per cent as they won their first game of the season against Mainz in the Rheinland-Pfalz derby. Mainz can’t stop conceding goals at the moment, and despite some positive and slice attacking play, couldn’t score enough goals to render their weaknesses at the back irrelevant. Kaiserslautern, though, played with a real energy and determination throughout, and hadn’t looked this sharp tactically all season. The result lifts Marco Kurz’s side out of the relegation zone (meaning that the ‘-burg’ teams, Frei-, Augs- and Ham- now occupy those places), and two positions behind 13th-placed Mainz.

Match preview here.

Mainz, set up in a relatively flat-looking 4-4-2, instantly looked to get the ball down the channels, from where they could cross for their two box-bobbing strikers. As per usual, they pressed high and in numbers when out of possession, and even mixed things up with how they used the ball on the wings. For example, in the third minute, Zoltán Stieber halted his charge down the chalk, drew the Kaiserslautern midfield across and onto him, before slipping the ball in to Elkin Soto, who’d nipped into the gap left behind the hosts’ midfield and very deep defence.

Nevertheless, the visitors didn’t have it all their own way early on, as when Kaiserslautern got on the ball, they didn’t mess about, and either passed or ran it into or towards the final-third as hurriedly as possible. Continue reading

Alemannia Aachen-SpVgg Greuther Fürth preview

It’s a top against bottom clash in 2. Bundesliga tomorrow lunchtime, as SpVgg Greuther Fürth travel north to take on Alemannia Aachen. If Greuther Fürth hadn’t thrown away the 2-0 lead they held at home to Eintracht Frankfurt on the opening day of the 2011/12 campaign, they’d be sat on top of the league with 21 points from a possible 21 right now. Nevertheless, they have bounced back strongly after that agonizing round one setback, knocking lowly Eimsbütteler TV out of the cup with a 10-0 scoreline and winning every league game since the Frankfurt setback.

Aachen, on the other hand, are yet to win a game, and have scored just one goal all season – 16 less than their guests for this clash. Coach Peter Hyballa was sacked on Monday and replaced – temporarily – by the man in charge of the U23 team, Ralf Außem. The former had managed to stop the rot a little at Aachen, as the club have drawn the last three games played. However, for a side supposedly built around their attack, these games have all finished 0-0; which, despite keeping their relatively impressive goals conceded tally down to eight, hasn’t done much for their hopes of ejecting out of bottom spot. Continue reading

Kaiserslautern-Mainz preview

The German top-flight’s lowest scorers take on a side who have shipped nine goals in their last three games tomorrow teatime, as the 2011/12 Bundesliga’s sixth fixture sees Mainz travel to second-bottom Kaiserslautern. After a firesale of attackers over the summer, Kaiserslautern coach Marco Kurz is under pressure already after watching his side scrape two barely deserved draws and lose three league games, scoring a mere two goals in the process. The Red Devils have conceded eight goals at the other end; two less than 12th-placed Mainz, who’ve netted seven times so far in the league. However, the latest visitors to Kaiserslautern have conceded eight goals alone in two of their last three games, after losing 4-0 at home to Hoffenheim last weekend, and throwing away a 2-0 half time lead against Schalke to lose 4-2 in the fixture before a 1-1 draw with Hannover. Continue reading

Dynamo Dresden 2-1 Bochum

The first half formations.

Bosnia and Herzegovina left-back Muhamed Subašić scored two goals on a memorable début as Dynamo Dresden defeated Bochum in a battle between two of 2. Bundesliga’s early season strugglers. However, the game was changed during the closing stages of the first half when Bochum’s Japanese winger Takashi Inui received a harsh second yellow card. His side had looked the slicker of the two teams for the majority of the opening 45 minutes, and their quality might just have seen them over the line had they kept 11 men on the pitch. But, they didn’t, and roared on by a vociferous home crowd, Dresden took full advantage, and move up from 16th to 10th in the league. Bochum, meanwhile, remain second bottom.

Match preview here.

Bochum got comfy in the opening stages, and knocked the ball about on the floor from touchline to touchline. Dresden sat off in a compact 4-4-2, not pressing too fiercely, and seemingly content to let their guests have the ball so that they could play on the counter. The home side looked stodgy and nervous when in possession, and could barely string two passes together, let alone play something good enough to splice the banks in Bochum’s off-ball 4-1-4-1.

Some individual play provided the match’s first chance, however, as Jong Tae-Se’s head-down dribble at the hosts’ defence drew a dangerously positioned free-kick in the ninth minute. Continue reading

Dynamo Dresden-Bochum preview

The 2. Bundesliga sides sat third bottom and last but one respectively meet tomorrow evening knowing that at least one of them will at last claw their way out of the relegation zone by the end of the match. Although Dynamo Dresden’s season will forever be associated with that spectacular 4-3 cup victory over Bayer Leverkusen, their league form has been little short of disastrous. Bochum, meanwhile, who were so narrowly edged out of the promotion play-off by Borussia Mönchengladbach just a few months ago, are also conspiring to go from bad to worse in the second tier. Why? No one seems to know. Dresden, through, have brought in and released a number of players over the summer, and with the break between seasons shorter than ever before, it looks as though their players are now paying the price on the pitch for the lack of time they’ve had to get to know one another. Continue reading