Mainz-Hannover preview

TWO 1. Bundesliga sides battling to qualify for next season’s Europa League go head-to-head on Saturday afternoon as sixth-placed Hannover visit seventh-placed Mainz. While Mirko Slomka’s side have had no trouble scoring goals this season (their tally of 27 makes them the joint-third most lethal top-tier side), Mainz have been more profligate, relying mainly on the goal-scoring prowess of Hungarian hotshot Ádám Szalai (who, admittedly, only has one goal in the six games he has played since bagging a hat-trick against the team with the division’s worst defence, Hoffenheim). Nevertheless, Thomas Tuchel’s energetic and resourceful Mainz team have a good home record so far this season, and in their last away game, Hannover were hammered 5-0 at Bayern Munich. Continue reading

Bayern Munich 5-0 Hannover

MARIO Gómez netted his first goal of the 2012/13 campaign as Bayern Munich strolled to victory against a lacklustre Hannover side. Admittedly, Mirko Slomka’s team had finished a Europa League tie against Dutch outfit FC Twente just over 40 hours before this afternoon’s German league game kicked off, but, mentally as well as physically, his side were second-best and disinterested all over the pitch. Jupp Heynckes’ Champions League silver-medallists barely had to get out of second gear all game. Thanks to athletic goals from Toni Kroos and Javi Martínez, Bayern were comfortably 2-0 up with the points in the bag with just over a quarter of the match gone. Franck Ribéry added a third before half-time, Dante made it 4-0 in the 62nd minute, before Gómez made it 5-0 a mere 26 seconds after coming on as a substitute! Today’s result helped Bayern extend their lead at the top of the table to nine points; aided by Schalke and Eintracht Frankfurt playing out a draw.

Save for the odd flash of genius and incision from Lars Stindl, Hannover lacked any sort of cutting edge or creation at the Allianz Arena. Thus, some might deem Slomka’s decision to leave Jan Schlaudraff – a rabbit-out-of-the-hat type of midfielder-cum-attacker – on the bench throughout today’s match, let alone not starting the 29-year-old, a mystifying decision. One can only assume Slomka figured it wasn’t worth risking Schlaudraff in a game against his former employers, against whom he likely has a point to prove after a disappointing spell at the Allianz Arena several seasons back. With Greuther Fürth and Mainz to come in the next week, games from which Hannover should take six points, perhaps Slomka was just being canny and far-sighted. Bayern, meanwhile, who have won 22 of their last 24 games against Hannover in Munich, go to Freiburg on Tuesday, before hosting Borussia Dortmund next weekend. Jürgen Klopp’s reigning champions moved up to second spot in 1. Bundesliga today after winning at Mainz, and it is imperative that they get something from that showdown in Munich. If Dortmund play anything like Hannover did today, though, they won’t stand a chance.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Manuel Neuer; Philipp Lahm, Dante, Holger Badstuber, David Alaba; Martínez, Bastian Schweinsteiger; Thomas Müller, Kroos, Ribéry; Mario Mandžukić

Hannover (4-4-2, from right to left): Ron-Robert Zieler; Steve Cherundolo, Mario Eggimann, Karim Haggui, Konstantin Rausch; Lars Stindl, Manuel Schmiedebach, Sérgio Pinto, Szabolcs Huszti; Mame Biram Diouf, Artur Sobiech Continue reading

Bayern Munich-Hannover preview

JUST over 40 hours after finishing a Europa League match against Dutch side FC Twente, Hannover will begin their 13th match of the 2012/2013 1. Bundesliga season at runaway leaders Bayern Munich. Admittedly, Mirko Slomka’s side were already assured of their progress to the next round of Europe’s secondary competition before Tonight’s match, but at least nine players likely to be involved at the Allianz Arena – a six-and-a-half-hour drive from Hannover – featured in the 0-0 draw with Steve McClaren’s Eredivisie outfit. Bayern, on the other hand, had their midweek European game done and dusted by Tuesday evening, as their 1-1 draw with Valencia in Spain proved enough to secure both sides’ passage to the next round of the Champions League.

The Bavarian giants come into this game eight points clear at the top of the table, with a 1. Bundesliga record of ten wins, one draw – which came last weekend in a physical state derby at Nuremberg – and a single loss, with 33 goals scored, and a mere five conceded. One aberration at the hands of Bayer Leverkusen aside, the runners-up in last season’s Champions League have won every match they’ve played at home in the league, cup and Europe so far this season. Hannover, on the other hand, come into this game with an average domestic away record. Slomka’s side have won two and lost three of the 1. Bundesliga games they’ve played on the road in the 2012/13 campaign; one of the latter results being a noteworthy 4-2 win at Stuttgart a few weeks back, where Hannover came back from 2-0 down to win 4-2. Continue reading

Hoffenheim 1-3 Wolfsburg

LORENZ Günther-Köstner’s temporary spell as Wolfsburg coach continues to get better and better, as his side registered their fourth win from the five games they’ve had under the 60-year-old’s control. Crucially, the result also lifted Wolfsburg out of the relegation zone and above Hoffenheim, who paid the price for their woeful first-half performance (and an improved, if not much better, second-half showing). Markus Babbel’s side, coming into this game with their spirits buoyed after learning on Friday that popular, talented midfielder Boris Vukčević – involved in a nasty car crash in September – had finally woken up from his coma, just never got going, and played like a side who have only won one of their last seven games.

But, credit where it’s due to Wolfsburg, who deserved all three points this afternoon. Defensively, they were mentally, tactically and physically solid, and in attack, were enterprising, creative, fluid and confident. If Günther-Köstner’s side can win against Werder Bremen at the Volkswagen Arena next weekend, it’s hard to see how the former Hoffenheim coach won’t be given the Wolfsburg job on a permanent basis. Today’s hosts, meanwhile, booed regularly by the home fans, welcome Bayer Leverkusen – coached by Sami Hyypiä, Babbel’s former Liverpool teammate – to the Rhein-Neckar-Arena. It’s hard to see how Babbel, once a coach of such promise, will be able to hold onto his job if his players fail to pick up even a point from that encounter.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Hoffenheim (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Tim Wiese; Andreas Beck, Pelle Jensen, Matthieu Delpierre, Fabian Johnson; Sebastian Rudy, Daniel Williams; Roberto Firmino, Sejad Salihović, Kevin Volland; Joselu

Wolfsburg (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Diego Benaglio; Fagner, Naldo, Simon Kjær, Marcel Schäfer; Josué, Jan Polák; Makoto Hasebe, Diego, Ivica Olić; Bas Dost Continue reading

Hoffenheim-Wolfsburg preview

TWO 1. Bundesliga clubs who have been making headlines for positive reasons this week come face to face tomorrow afternoon. On Friday, Hoffenheim attacker Boris Vukčević awoke from the coma he had been in since a car crash on September 28, giving the club and its squad a timely boost. Wolfsburg, meanwhile, travel to the Rhein-Neckar-Arena buoyed by last weekend’s Diego-inspired win over Bayer Leverkusen, and the news that sporting director Klaus Allofs has left northern rivals Werder Bremen after 13 years to join Germany’s 2009 champions.

Wolfsburg have been in fantastic form in recent weeks, winning three of the last four matches. That run, unsurprisingly, has coincided with the aftermath of coach/manager Felix Magath’s departure, with the players verbally expressing and physically playing like a weight has been lifted off their shoulders. The popular Lorenz Günther-Köstner – who was head coach at Hoffenheim in the third-tier for several months in 2006 – is now in temporary charge, and most fans seem to want the 60-year-old to stay on. What Allofs has in mind, though, remains to be seen. Continue reading

Schalke 2-1 Werder Bremen

Schalke fought back after a lacklustre first half performance to beat Werder Bremen 2-1 and keep pace with 1. Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich. An Aaron Hunt-inspired Bremen deserved the 1-0 lead they took into the break after executing an effective gameplan and capitalising on some lethargic play by the home side (with Hunt himself putting the ball in the net). But after being allowed to equalize a little too easily shortly after the hour mark (Roman Neustädter’s headed goal was pretty defendable, and came at a time when Bremen were still exerting a degree of control), Schalke took charge, with 18-year-old substitute Julian Draxler showing great composure – amid erratic defending by the visitors – to score the winner with just under 20 minutes to play.

Thomas Schaaf will feel his side didn’t get what they deserved after one of their best performances on the road this season, yet Bremen only have themselves to blame. Huub Stevens, meanwhile, will be relieved his side came away with all three points from this game, as during the first 45 minutes, Schalke looked tired after their heroic efforts against English Premier League side Arsenal in the Champions League on Wednesday. Although Schalke remain seven points behind Bayern Munich, who also won this afternoon, beating Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 at the Allianz Arena, Stevens’ side remain four points clear of fierce rivals Borussia Dortmund (who won 3-1 at Augsburg), and three ahead of third-placed Frankfurt, with a much better goal difference. So, in a nutshell, a forgettable match but an important result – one that could be the difference between tears of joy and jubilation come the conclusion of matchday 34 for both these sides.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Schalke (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Lars Unnerstall; Benedikt Höwedes, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Joël Matip, Christian Fuchs; Jermaine Jones, Neustädter; Jefferson Farfán, Lewis Holtby, Ibrahim Afellay; Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

Werder Bremen (4-1-4-1, from right to left): Sebastian Mielitz; Theodor Gebre Selassie, Assani Lukimya-Mulongoti, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Lukas Schmitz; Zlatko Junuzović; Marko Arnautović, Hunt, Kevin De Bruyne, Eljero Elia; Nils Petersen Continue reading

Schalke-Werder Bremen preview

Schalke will be looking to bounce back from the disappointment of losing to lowly Hoffenheim last weekend as poor-on-the-road Werder Bremen visit the Veltins-Arena. Last Saturday’s 3-2 loss at the Rhein-Neckar Arena was actually Schalke’s first defeat in all competitions on the road this season, with Hoffe denying second-placed Schalke the chance to stay within four points of league leaders Bayern Munich (who beat Hamburg 3-0 to make the gap seven points). Bayern Munich are the only other side to have beaten Schalke this season, with Schalke otherwise proving to be imperious at home so far this campaign (a run they maintained by fighting back to draw 2-2 with Arsenal in the Champions League during the week).

On paper, Bremen should pose no problems on Saturday afternoon, as Thomas Schaaf’s side have lost to Münster (cup), Borussia Dortmund, Hannover, and Augsburg away from home this season, and were also held at struggling minnows Fürth a fortnight back. However, at home, the story is a little different, with Sunday’s 2-1 home win over Mainz helping Bremen move up to seventh place in the 1. Bundesliga table (six points behind their hosts this weekend). Continue reading