Bayern Munich 2-0 Schalke

A Franck Ribéry-inspired Bayern Munich bounced back from their midweek Champions League humiliation in Switzerland by comfortably defeating a feeble Schalke side. The visitors offered next to nothing from first to last, with all their big name players struggling to get involved. Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, on the other hand, will be absolutely delighted by the performance of his players, who showed some of the urgency they have lacked over the last few weeks. His one regret, though, will be the fact that the 2010 Bundesliga champions missed the chance to make their goal difference advantage over league-leaders Dortmund even greater than it currently is (plus four). With Borussia Mönchengladbach drawing against Hamburg on Friday night, this win moves Bayern back up to second spot: one point behind Jürgen Klopp’s side, who face Hannover later this afternoon. Schalke, meanwhile, will just be thankful that Werder Bremen lost at home to Nuremberg yesterday afternoon – thereby ensuring that the Gelsenkirchen outfit remain seven points clear in the fourth and final Champions League qualification spot.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Manuel Neuer; Rafinha, Jérôme Boateng, Holger Badstuber, Philipp Lahm; Luis Gustavo, David Alaba; Arjen Robben, Thomas Müller, Ribéry; Mario Gómez

Schalke (4-4-2 from right to left): Timo Hildebrand; Benedikt Höwedes, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Christoph Metzelder, Christian Fuchs; Jefferson Farfán, Joël Matip, Marco Höger, Julian Draxler; Raúl, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar Continue reading

Stuttgart 4-1 Freiburg

Stuttgart comfortably defeated near-ish neighbours Freiburg in the Bundesliga’s Baden-Württemberg derby by four goals to one, with Martin Harnik bagging his tenth and 11th goals of the season. Although question marks over the Swabian outfit’s ability to defend set-pieces remain, with Stuttgart having conceded a needless goal from a corner in the first half, thereby allowing Freiburg to temporarily enjoy a spell on top, Bruno Labbadia’s side simply had far too much attacking quality for the visiting defence here, whose inexperience was plain for all to see. Added to that, Christian Streich’s side showed at the Mercedes-Benz Arena this afternoon that they are severely lacking in quality and invention in the final-third, although the coach may point to last weekend’s 0-0 draw against Bayern Munich, which might conceivably have taken a lot out of his young side both mentally and physically.

Stuttgart still have some way to go if they are to claim a place in next season’s Europa League (because, if Werder Bremen defeat Nuremberg this evening, the 2007 Bundesliga champions will remain ten points adrift of the north German side with 11 games of the 2011/12 Bundesliga season left to play), but this derby win was a real test of character for Bruno Labbadia’s out-of-form squad, and one which they passed with flying colours, a single corner-kick aside. Freiburg, on the other hand, remain bottom of the league, and with Augsburg beating Hertha Berlin 3-0 today, are now three points from safety (four if you count their extremely poor goal difference).

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Stuttgart (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Sven Ulreich; Khalid Boulahrouz, Serdar Tasci, Georg Niedermeier, Gotoku Sakai; William Kvist, Zdravko Kuzmanović; Harnik, Tamás Hajnal, Shinji Okazaki; Vedad Ibišević

Freiburg (4-4-2 from right to left): Oliver Baumann; Oliver Sorg, Fallou Diagné, Immanuel Höhn, Jonathan Schmid; Jan Rosenthal, Johannes Flum, Cédric Makiadi, Daniel Caligiuri; Ivan Santini, Erik Jendrišek Continue reading

Bayern Munich-Schalke preview

It’s a battle between two of the four sides still in the hunt for the title this Sunday, as Schalke travel to the Allianz Arena to take on Bayern Munich. Both sides were in action during the week, with Schalke overcoming Viktoria Plzeň after extra-time to reach the next round of the Europa League, and Bayern continuing their poor run of recent form by losing 1-0 away at Basel in the Champions League.

Compounded by a run of two wins in their last five league games, the Bavarian side have looked bereft of drive and determination in recent weeks, with last Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Freiburg being a particularly listless showing. Question marks remain over the form and best use of Arjen Robben and Thomas Müller, among others, while players such as Rafinha – who, like Manuel Neuer, is a former Schalke player – have looked out of their depth in recent weeks. Having said that, Schalke remain the underdogs for this clash, as Bayern still arguably boast the best first XI in the Bundesliga, and Mario Gómez is joint top goalscorer in the league – the number one spot being shared with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who will be hoping to fire Schalke to their first Bundesliga victory in Munich since the 2008/09 season.
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Stuttgart-Freiburg preview

It’s a battle of the Baden-Württemberg sides this weekend in the Bundesliga, as Freiburg take on Stuttgart on Saturday afternoon. As Uli Hesse noted in his column on ESPN last week, it may be surprising to football fans outside of Germany that this match is a derby, let alone a heated one, considering the two cities are more than 80 miles apart. But, wrote Hesse, “the thing about this game is that it pits a club from Swabia (Stuttgart) against one from Baden (Freiburg), and to say there is no love lost between these two regions and ethnic groups is an understatement.” Continue reading

Cologne 0-1 Hamburg

José Paolo Guerrero struck three minutes from time to secure another vital win for resurgent Hamburg. The result leaves Thorsten Fink’s side eight points above the relegation zone and five points behind the Europa League qualification zone: ensuring that everybody associated with the club can now at last start looking up rather than down the table. The Swiss coach set his side out in a bold 3-3-2-2 system, and this ensured that Hamburg dominated possession for nearly the entire match. However, Cologne, who seemed content and tactically geared towards sitting off their guests, defended resolutely, rendering the game a chance-free and not particularly memorable spectacle. Hamburg fans, though, won’t be forgetting their Peruvian hero’s RheinEnergieStadion-silencing strike in the 87th minute in a hurry; the 28-year-old nabbing his sixth goal of the 2011/12 Bundesliga campaign. Hamburg end the weekend in tenth spot, with Cologne two places and two points behind them.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Cologne (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Michael Rensing; Henrique Sereno Fonseca, Pedro Geromel, Ammar Jemal, Christian Eichner; Martin Lanig, Sascha Riether; Christian Clemens, Mato Jajalo, Sławomir Peszko; Milivoje Novakovič

Hamburg (3-3-2-2, from right to left): Jaroslav Drobný; Heiko Westermann, Gojko Kačar, Slobodan Rajković; Dennis Diekmeier, David Jarolím, Dennis Aogo; Jacopo Sala, Marcell Jansen; José Paolo Guerrero, Mladen Petrić Continue reading

Mainz 1-1 Hannover

Polish striker Artur Sobiech came off the bench to salvage an 89th minute equalizer for Hannover away at Mainz. It was no less than the visitors deserved after an even, positive and entertaining game between two of the sides bidding to qualify for next season’s Europa League. Mainz had taken an early lead through Mohamed Zidan, and had at least half-a-dozen chances to put the game to bed before the 21-year-old Hannover substitute struck. Although Mainz coach Thomas Tuchel will no doubt leave the Coface Arena tonight lamenting the fact that his side were seconds away from a win that would have put them level on points with tenth-placed Hoffenheim, deep down he’ll be pleased at his side’s performance, and realise that a share of the spoils was a more accurate reflection of the game.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Mainz (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Christian Wetklo; Radoslav Zabavník, Niko Bungert, Nikolče Noveski, Zdeněk Pospěch; Elkin Soto, Eugen Polanski; Marco Caligiuri, Zidan, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting; Ádám Szalai

Hannover (4-4-2, from right to left): Ron-Robert Zieler; Steve Cherundolo, Mario Eggimann, Karim Haggui, Christian Pander; Jan Schlaudraff, Lars Stindl, Sérgio Pinto, Konstantin Rausch; Mohammed Abdellaoue, Mame Biram Diouf Continue reading

Cologne-Hamburg preview

Two Bundesliga sides who played out one of the 2011/12 season’s most entertaining games meet in the reverse fixture tomorrow afternoon. Going into their original clash back in August, Hamburg and Cologne were joint bottom of the table with a just single point each to their names. Despite Cologne winning 4-3 that day, new coach Ståle Solbakken has not been able to guide his side on a consistent winning run since then. Nevertheless, last weekend’s Lukas Podolski-less 1-0 victory over Kaiserslautern – courtesy of a goal by substitute Odise Roshi – lifted Cologne into the top-half of the table for the first time in years.

Likewise, Hamburg seemed to have turned a corner of late, although it took Thorsten Fink arriving as coach in October for calm to be restored and results achieved in the north German city. Under the former Bayern Munich midfielder, HSV have lost just won one game (a 5-1 home thrashing at the hands of Borussia Dortmund in the first game played after the winter break), and last time out, put in a superb performance to hold Fink’s former club to a 1-1 draw. Neither they or Cologne are out of danger just yet, however, with 13 matches of the season still to play after this Sunday’s clash. Continue reading

Mainz-Hannover preview

Europa League hopefuls Hannover visit a Mainz side still looking over their shoulder on Saturday afternoon. However, only Nuremberg have scored as few goals on the road this season as Hannover (seven), with Mirko Slomka’s side recording just two victories away from home. They’ll be comforted, though, by the fact that 13th-placed Mainz’s form at the new-for-2011 Coface Arena has been up and down – the club registering four wins, one draw and five losses from the Bundesliga games they’ve played there this season. At present, Thomas Tuchel’s side are just four points above the relegation zone, and fans of the club have had very little to be happy about this season – a Europa League exit to Romanian minnows Gaz Metan Mediaș and German Cup humiliation at the hands of fourth-tier side Holstein Kiel being particular lowlights. Continue reading

Kaiserslautern 0-1 Cologne

Odise Roshi settled a drab relegation six-pointer after coming off the bench to score with one of his first touches. At a frosty Fritz-Walter-Stadion, Kaiserslautern did most of the attacking in the first half, with Cologne more concerned about keepings things tight. But, several moments of stupidity by Ariel Borysiuk’s earned the young Pole a red card on his début shortly before half-time – a game-changing occurrence, as Cologne were firmly in the driving seat from then on. Although the visitors struggled to open up the ten-men of Kaiserslautern, who were content to sit back and play for a stalemate, the young Albanian speed-merchant made the crucial difference from a corner – which he won – in the 70th minute. This result lifts Cologne up to ninth in the table, six points above the relegation zone – the ‘highest’ team in which remain Kaiserslautern.

Match preview here

Starting formations

Kaiserslautern (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Kevin Trapp; Florian Dick, Antar Yahia, Rodnei, Alexander Bugera; Borysiuk, Christian Tiffert; Sandro Wagner, Olcay Şahan, Nicolai Jørgensen; Itay Shechter

Cologne (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Michael Rensing; Henrique Sereno Fonseca, Kevin McKenna, Pedro Geromel, Christian Eichner; Martin Lanig, Sascha Riether; Christian Clemens, Mato Jajalo, Sławomir Peszko; Milivoje Novakovič Continue reading

Kaiserslautern-Cologne preview

Two of the sides mired in the 2011/12 Bundesliga relegation battle meet tomorrow teatime at the Fritz-Walter-Stadion. Kaiserslautern have only won twice at home all season, while Cologne have registered just two wins on the road, meaning that both teams have a great opportunity to improve on those stats in tomorrow’s game – the final fixture of round 20. The visitors come into the game in 13th spot with 21 points, while Kaiserslautern sit in 16th place with 18 points (but a better goal difference than Cologne’s).

Owing to the fact that his side are languishing in the relegation zone, Kaiserslautern coach Marco Kurz had a number of new attackers brought in for his use during the winter break, with one of them, Jakub Świerczok, partnering Dorge Kouemaha up front in last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Augsburg (in which a defender, Florian Dick, got both of Kaiserslautern’s goals). Joining the young Pole at the club in the break were Sandro Wagner (Werder Bremen), and Nicolai Jørgensen (Bayer Leverkusen). This trio will have their work cut out in the remaining 15 games of the 2011/12 season, with Kaiserslautern’s tally of 15 Bundesliga goals – including a mere seven at the Fritz-Walter-Stadion – far and away the lowest number of goals scored by a side in the division. Continue reading

Hoffenheim 2-2 Augsburg

Augsburg remain rooted in the relegation zone after failing to overcome an alarmingly poor Hoffenheim side. Although the hosts played some good stuff to get their noses in front for about 20 minutes at the start of the second-half, they were lucky to go in with the score at 1-1 at the break after putting in a 45-minute performance that lacked concentration, creativity, movement and fight. Augsburg deservedly took the lead shortly after the 30-minute mark, before a mistake allowed Hoffenheim to grab an equalizer just under ten minutes later. After then falling behind early in the second half, Augsburg again grew into a position of command, but could only manage one more goal, albeit an equalizer.

The Bavarian side’s coach Jos Luhukay will be annoyed at his side’s inability to take their chances at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena (following on from last weekend’s 2-2 draw at home to Kaiserslautern, in which they also missed some glorious opportunities), although his mirth will be nothing compared to Hoffenheim coach Holger Stanislawski’s. Despite dominating, Augsburg showed here that they are a limited side – one that makes mistakes at the back, takes a while to form their off-ball shape, and lacks the ability to make the most of possession in the final-third. Thus, the fact that Hoffenheim grabbed a barely deserved draw certainly won’t be enough to satisfy the St Pauli legend. His side do stay in eighth place, but they are yet to win in 2012, and could still end the weekend four points clear of the drop-zone.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Hoffenheim (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Tom Starke; Andreas Beck, Jannik Vestergaard, Marvin Compper, Fabian Johnson; Daniel Williams, Sejad Salihović; Peniel Mlapa, Roberto Firmino, Ryan Babel; Knowledge Musona

Augsburg (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Simon Jentzsch; Paul Verhaegh, Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker, Sebastian Langkamp, Marcel de Jong; Hajime Hosogai, Daniel Baier; Marcel Ndjeng, Torsten Oehrl, Tobias Werner; Sascha Mölders Continue reading

Hoffenheim-Augsburg preview

With the Bundesliga table being so tight 19 games in, joint-bottom Augsburg travel to eighth-placed Hoffenheim tomorrow afternoon knowing that a win at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena could put them a mere four points behind the Sinsheim side. However, taking all three points back to Bavaria is easier said than done for Jos Luhukay’s side, as they have only won once in ten Bundesliga away games this season, scoring the second least amount of goals – behind Hannover – in the process. Added to that, Hoffenheim have conceded the second-least amount of goals at home in the league this season – the impressive Tom Starke letting only six strikes evade him (unsurprisingly, Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer leads the way having let in just three Bundesliga goals at the Allianz Arena so far in the 2011/12 campaign). Continue reading