Hamburg 2-0 Hoffenheim

The formations which started the game.

Hamburg hauled themselves out of the relegation zone for the first time this season by winning their first home match in eight months. They beat former St Pauli hero Holger Stanislawski’s Hoffenheim side 2-0, although if the visitors had been a bit more clinical in front of goal, the outcome of this match – which saw two 4-4-2 systems cancel one another out for large spells – might have been quite different. However, Hamburg were good value for their win, and remain unbeaten under new coach Thorsten Fink.

Match preview here.

It took a few minutes for both teams to settle, with the pressing hard and fast, and the midfield area congested. However, José Paolo Guerrero’s clever turn and powerful run drew a good save from Tom Starke in the second minute, and so began a spell which saw HSV on top. They bossed possession, and made it difficult for Hoffenheim to get out of their own half. Nevertheless, the visitors showed good off-ball discipline in the opening ten minutes – working in tandem so that when one player sprinted out with the man he was marking, a colleague would plug the gap. As a result, Hamburg, for all their control, could barely get out of the second-third area of the pitch.

The next time they did, it was another moment of magic from Guerrero. The Peruvian’s reverse through-pass fed the disguised dart of Dennis Aogo, but his cross was a bit too long for Marcus Berg to do anything with. Continue reading

Eintracht Frankfurt 4-3 Alemannia Aachen

The first half formations.

Friedhelm Funkel endured a miserable return to Eintracht Frankfurt as his Aachen side lost an incredible topsy-turvy game at the Commerzbank-Arena. The 57-year-old must take a big portion of the blame too, because, anachronistically, he decided to start the match in a 3-5-2 system: which, coupled with a Boy Waterman blunder, saw Aachen 2-0 down and totally outclassed in the first half. Despite changing to a 4-4-2 diamond shape after the break and netting three late goals (for which Funkel deserves some credit, even if his team were still too flat until the final 12 minutes), Aachen still managed to lose after Karim Matmour’s 89th minute header. The home side won’t play many easier first 77 minutes of football than they did here all season. However, their inability to put games to bed reared its ugly head again, and if they’re not careful, this failing could end up costing Frankfurt promotion. Nevertheless, today’s – deserved – three points lifts them to the top of the table on goal difference, and that, I guess, is all that matters.

Match preview here.

The home side wasted no time in attempting to put this tie to bed, attacking their guests with urgency from the word ‘go’. With Aachen instantly sitting deep and compact, ultimately, Frankfurt were forced to play their football along the ground. And that they did – passing from side-to-side, before upping the pace and taking the ball forward through a chink. However, although Veh’s side did create one or two half-chances in the opening ten minutes, the visitors – who had star man David Odonkor on the bench – were like a synchronised swimming squad early on; keeping their positions with impressive discipline, the midfield and defence banks – switching between 3-5-2 and 5-3-2 effortlessly – moving in tandem to ensure that the corridors in the hosts’ final-third were as narrow as could be, and that any balls put into the box were simple enough for goalkeeper Boy Waterman to deal with. Continue reading

Schalke 4-0 Nuremberg

The first half formations.

Well-organised and clinical Schalke caught an error-strewn and lethargic Nuremberg side cold on four occasions to take all three points and move up to third in the table. The visitors, admittedly injury-hit in the striking department, looked shorn of confidence and unsure as to what was required of them tactically for the majority of the match. These problems, coupled with several out-of-form defenders, meant that Huub Stevens’ counter-attacking style worked perfectly: His side’s performance really was a masterclass in how to capitalise on your opponent’s weaknesses. Selection wise, the Dutchman got it spot on too – picking the creative but often work-shy Alexander Baumjohann, for instance, was a bold move. But, it paid off, as the right-sided midfielder played a blinder and the home side took all three points; leaving Nuremberg – without a win in eight – looking over their collective shoulder.

Match preview here.

Both sides made bright starts to the match, with no nerves apparent, and several little give-and-go moves attempted. However, the two best chances in the opening stages were as a result of more direct tactics – first Mike Frantz chasing a long punt upfield but seeing his shot on the spin blocked, before Kyriakos Papadopoulos headed over at the other end after a hanging cross from the right. With both his first-choice strikers missing and Christian Eigler deployed on the right wing, several of Dieter Hecking’s attacking-midfielders seemed to be taking it in turns to lead the line in a 4-4-2 early on. With the hosts seeing more of the ball in the match’s first ten minutes, Nuremberg switched between lightening-quick carry-the-ball counter-attacks upfield, and some side-to-side-and-going-nowhere-but-forcing-the-opposition-back melina. Continue reading

Hamburg-Hoffenheim preview

Holger Stanislawski and his right-hand man André Trulsen return to the city of Hamburg for the first time since leaving St Pauli in the summer. They go back to take on HSV with a Hoffenheim side who are falling into mid-table obscurity a little earlier than normal. Professionalism aside, Stanislawski will not only be desperate to win in a bid to ensure his side keep up with the early-season European-spot pace-setters, but also because he has the chance to keep St Pauli’s arch-rivals mired in relegation trouble. Hamburg, who are now off the bottom of the table after a several-month stint, could feasibly end the weekend as high as 12th if they beat Hoffenheim. However, despite a decent 2-2 draw away at Bayer Leverkusen in the fixture played before the disruptive two-week international break, Hamburg, Augsburg and 2. Bundesliga side FSV Frankfurt are the only teams in Germany’s top three divisions yet to win a home game so far this season. Continue reading

Eintracht Frankfurt-Alemannia Aachen preview

As recently as 2005, Alemannia Aachen were playing in the last-32 stage of the UEFA Cup. One year later, Eintracht Frankfurt were taking part in the same continental competition, albeit one they exited at the group stage despite remaining unbeaten against the three teams who progressed at their expense – Newcastle United, Celta Vigo and Fenerbahçe. Half a decade later, however, the good times are over for both clubs, and they meet on Sunday afternoon in a 2. Bundesliga clash which sees Friedhelm Funkel return to the club he coached between 2004 and 2009. After embarking on a star-heavy recruit drive over the summer, Aachen looked as though they’d be up there with Frankfurt – who retained the majority of their Bundesliga squad post-relegation – challenging for promotion to the top-flight.  Yet, despite having one of the tightest defences in the league, goals have proved hard to come by (a mere eight in 14 games), meaning that Aachen come into this game second-bottom in the table. Continue reading

Schalke-Nuremberg preview

Slumping to second-bottom place in the Bundesliga could be the fate that awaits Nuremberg this weekend, as the Bavarian outfit travel to high-flying Schalke. Dieter Hecking’s side, sat in 15th place, are on a dire run of form at the moment, and if they lose in a round of fixtures where both Hamburg and Freiburg are victorious, Nuremberg will join state neighbours Augsburg at the bottom. Schalke, on the other hand, could end matchday 13 in second spot, as they currently sit one point behind runners-up elect Borussia Dortmund. On paper, Nuremberg – whose fans have a very good relationship with Schalke’s – shouldn’t present too much of a problem for the 2010/11 Champions League semi-finalists: Hecking’s side have scored a league-worst four goals on the road. In comparison, Schalke – who are also topping their group in the Europa League – are the third sharpest side in front of goal so far this season, and come into this game having lost just one of their last ten matches (a surprise home reverse to Kaiserslautern on October 15). Continue reading

Borussia Dortmund 5-1 Wolfsburg

The formations which started the game.

Borussia Dortmund capitalised on yet another mistake-ridden defensive performance by Wolfsburg to move up to second place in the Bundesliga. Felix Magath started the match with an extremely defensive line-up in a bid to crowd out Dortmund’s midfield-based passing game, and despite these tactics working perfectly in the opening ten minutes of the match, a mistake at the back allowed Dortmund to score, forcing Wolfsburg to come out and play, thereby leaving themselves open to the magic of Shinji Kagawa and Mario Götze – both of whom gave attacking-midfield masterclasses. The 5-1 defeat leaves Wolfsburg in 14th place with the second-worst goal difference in the Bundesliga, and you can’t help but feel that if it was anyone but title-winning coach Felix Magath at the helm, the board’s trigger finger would be getting twitchy.

Match preview here.

Wolfsburg tried to be too clever from kick-off, allowing Dortmund to press in numbers and win the ball just off the D. The sheer congestion in the area caused possession to be squandered, allowing Diego Benaglio to sweep up and release Patrick Ochs to run down the right. The former Eintracht Frankfurt man exposed the hosts’ sluggishness in getting into shape and reached the final-third, as Wolfsburg had the hosts briefly on the ropes. Two testing crosses and corner-kicks followed, but Dortmund got off scot-free. Continue reading

Borussia Dortmund-Wolfsburg preview

The 2009 Bundesliga champions travel to the title-holders tomorrow afternoon, with both sides in the midst of unsatisfactory starts to the 2011/12 campaign. This match is key for both Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg, with the former fully aware that they would – temporarily – move one point behind divisional-leaders Bayern Munich if they win at the Westfalenstadion, and the latter knowing that a defeat could see them go into the upcoming international break one point and two places above the drop-zone.  And, Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath used his pre-match press conference to confirm the challenge his side face tomorrow afternoon: “Dortmund are the reigning German champions and still a great team,” he said. “They impress with their determined attacking game, but also the way every individual works to get back. That was their greatest strength last year, and it hasn’t changed.” Continue reading