Freiburg 4-1 Cologne

Two assists and a goal from the outstanding Daniel Caligiuri helped in-form Freiburg defeat relegation-fearing Cologne 4-1, meaning that if the visitors lose to or draw with Bayern Munich next weekend and Hertha BSC defeat Hoffenheim, Lukas Podolski & co. will be relegated to 2. Bundesliga. The Germany international striker started up front on his own against Freiburg, and not only did he lack support, the midfield behind Podolski weren’t good enough to create chances against a well-drilled and heavy-pressing home side who deserved their win. Freiburg – who made sure of their place in the 2012/13 Bundesliga last weekend – were in control for most of the match, and looked slice, assured, energetic and penetrative. Christian Streich’s side could even finish the season in the top half of the table if they beat Borussia Dortmund next weekend – not bad for a side who were bottom of the division with a mere 13 points on the board at Christmas.

Meanwhile, as a result of this loss, Frank Schaefer’s Cologne now only have two outcomes from the 34-game season – either they go down automatically (they are currently two points clear of 17th-placed Hertha BSC, who lost at Schalke, though), or they stay in 16th and contest the relegation play-off against whichever team finishes third in 2. Bundesliga (either Paderborn, St Pauli or Fortuna Düsseldorf). It has been an absolute shambles of a season for Cologne, and one fears that things will only get worse, especially with the talismanic Podolski – who scored a fine individual goal this afternoon to briefly draw his side level – set  to leave. As for Freiburg, if they take this confidence, tactical discipline and momentum into next season, and manage to hold onto players such as Caligiuri, they surely won’t find themselves in a situation where they’re securing their place in the top-flight in April again.

Match preview here. 

Starting formations

Freiburg (4-4-1-1, from right to left): Oliver Baumann; Mensur Mujdža, Matthias Ginter, Fallou Diagné, Oliver Sorg; Jonathan Schmid, Karim Guédé, Cédric Makiadi, Caligiuri; Jan Rosenthal; Sebastian Freis

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

Freiburg-Cologne preview

The penultimate round of the 2011/12 Bundesliga season sees a desperate relegation-battling Cologne travel to Rückrunde heroes Freiburg on Saturday afternoon. Cologne, four points behind Augsburg in the relegation play-off place, have to win at Freiburg – and hope Borussia Mönchengladbach defeat or draw with Augsburg – in order to keep up their hopes of avoiding the drop. A draw at the MAGE SOLAR Stadion simply won’t be good enough, as Cologne are 16 goals worse off than Jos Luhukay’s Bavarian side. Despite being bottom of the league at the conclusion of the first half of the season (Hinrunde), Freiburg have been the fifth best team in Germany’s top-flight since the winter break, and last week’s 0-0 draw away at Hannover secured their place in the 2012/13 Bundesliga. Continue reading

Hamburg 1-0 Hannover

Hamburg took a huge step towards securing their Bundesliga status after defeating a disappointing Hannover side 1-0. To be fair to the seventh-placed visitors, who still look good for a place in next season’s Europa League because Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg and Werder Bremen all dropped points this weekend, they were missing a number of key strikers, but it was a lack of creativity and urgency in midfield that really hampered them. Hamburg, on the other hand, had the talismanic Son Heung-Min leading the line, and it was fitting that he nabbed the game’s only goal because he was by far the best player on the pitch. The home side were good value for their win, as they created the most chances, worked harder and were tactically smarter. Thorsten Fink’s side now move five points above the relegation zone with three games of the 2011/12 season left to play, although that gap will be reduced to two points if Cologne beat Borussia Mönchengladbach tomorrow afternoon.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Hamburg (4-4-2, from right to left): Jaroslav Drobný; Jeffrey Bruma, Michael Mancienne, Heiko Westermann, Dennis Aogo;  Ivo Iličević, Tomás Rincón, David Jarolím, Marcell Jansen; Marcus Berg, Son Heung-Min

Hannover (4-4-2 from right to left): Ron-Robert Zieler; Steve Cherundolo, Karim Haggui, Emmanuel Pogatetz, Christian Pander; Manuel Schmiedebach, Sérgio Pinto, Christian Schulz, Konstantin Rausch; Jan Schlaudraff, Didier Ya Konan Continue reading

Hamburg-Hannover preview

Hamburg host one of the best counter-attacking sides in the Bundesliga tomorrow afternoon as Hannover come to town. After yet another abject defeat during the week, the 1983 Bundesliga champions are in dire need of three points against a Hannover side who are arguably north Germany’s finest at this moment in time. Coach Thorsten Fink will be relying on Mladen Petrić and Marcua Berg to break down one of the division’s toughest centre-back pairings in Karim Haggui and Mario Eggimann, not to mention hotshot goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler, with time running out for Hamburg to ensure they remain in 1. Bundesliga for the 50th successive season. Continue reading