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

Cologne 1-6 Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund capped a memorable week by hammering Cologne 6-1 to restore their five-point cushion over Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga table. Coming on the back of reaching the German Cup final after defeating Greuther Fürth on Tuesday, Jürgen Klopp’s side were simply too good for Ståle Solbakken’s relegation battlers, who end the weekend just one point above the drop-zone. This result is also the joint-worst in Cologne’s history of home games: the other side to have ever beaten them 6-1 in the cathedral city? Borussia Dortmund, this time in 1994.

But, here and now, the technically limited 2012 crop of players were unable to get star man Lukas Podolski into today’s game, and as a result, Cologne rarely troubled their guests, who look inspired in attack thanks to the efforts of the magnificent and effervescent Shinji Kagawa. Solbakken’s side now face an absolutely crucial game away at a rejuvenated Augsburg next weekend, while Klopp’s champions-elect face a trickier tie than the one they breezed through at the RheinEnergieStadion this afternoon as they host in-form Stuttgart at the Westfalenstadion.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Cologne (4-4-2, from right to left): Michael Rensing; Mišo Brečko, Henrique Sereno, Pedro Geromel, Christian Eichner; Christian Clemens, Martin Lanig, Sascha Riether, Sławomir Peszko; Podolski, Milivoje Novakovič

Borussia Dortmund (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Roman Weidenfeller; Łukasz Piszczek, Neven Subotić, Mats Hummels, Marcel Schmelzer; Sven Bender, İlkay Gündoğan; Jakub ‘Kuba’ Błaszczykowski, Kagawa, Kevin Großkreutz; Robert Lewandowski Continue reading

Cologne-Borussia Dortmund preview

After securing a record 20th game without defeat last weekend, and then reaching the DFB-Pokal final in the week, Borussia Dortmund travel to Cologne this Sunday looking to continue a run of form that bears all the hallmarks of a Championship-winning side. In defeating Werder Bremen 1-0 at the Westfalenstadion thanks to an early goal from the in-form Shinji Kagawa, Jürgen Klopp’s side ensured that they entered the 27th round of the 34-game season with a five-point cushion over second-placed Bayern Munich. The Bavarian side, who have a far superior goal difference to Dortmund thanks primarily to their recent thrashings of Hoffenheim and Hertha BSC, will meet Dortmund later on this season in the German Cup final, after they defeated Borussia Mönchengladbach on Wednesday – one day after Klopp’s side put plucky 2. Bundesliga-leaders Greuther Fürth to the sword. 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

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

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

Cologne 3-0 Augsburg

The first half formations.

A Lukas Podolski brace helped Cologne comfortably defeat last season’s second-division runners-up Augsburg 3-0 on Sunday afternoon. The win moves Cologne eight points away from the relegation zone, ensuring that they can now start looking up the table rather than down it. But, the hosts had it easy here really, as a confidence-lacking and mistake-laden performance from the visitors encapsulated the gulf in class between the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga. Tactically, technically and clinically, Cologne operated on an entirely different level to Augsburg, and in truth, they barely even got or needed to get out of third gear to win this game.

Match preview here.

Augsburg started at pace and with purpose, making direct passes and having an attempt in the first minute through Axel Bellinghausen. However, the hosts used the restart from that wasted effort to get Mato Jajalo on the ball, and he slipped it out to Sławomir Peszko, who jinxed at Hajime Hosogai and won a corner. Played short, a chance was eventually set up for Lukas Podolski, who had time to do a semi-circle run from the byline to the right-sided joint of the box edge, before firing a left-footed shot into the side-netting.

The key man for Augsburg in the opening five minutes was centre-forward Sascha Mölders. His hold-up play not only drew defenders across, but also exposed them on one or two occasions with his canny lay-offs. Of course, this meant that Augsburg’s only striker was left outside of the box with a ball about to be put in there. Continue reading

Cologne-Augsburg preview

Augsburg travel to Jekyll & Hyde club Cologne tomorrow afternoon knowing that a win will lift them out of the relegation zone. Last season’s 2. Bundesliga runners-up are in something resembling a purple patch at the moment, having lost just one of their last six fixtures. That solitary loss came on their October 1 trip to Borussia Dortmund (4-0), but in the past nine days, Augsburg have held Bremen to a 1-1 draw in the league, and knocked Leipzig out of the DFB-Pokal on Tuesday (1-0). Cologne, meanwhile, have lost three of their last four games, including a 5-0 hammering at the hands of Borussia Dortmund last weekend, and a 2-1 loss to Hoffenheim in the cup on Wednesday. While Ståle Solbakken’s side sit four places and five points above tomorrow’s visitors to the 50,000-seater RheinEnergieStadion, Cologne are far and away the most inconsistent team in the top-flight. Their home record might be decent-ish (seven points from a possible 15), and Augsburg have only won once on their travels; but, the Bavarian side can be difficult to break down, and Cologne will need Lukas Podolski on top form to achieve just that. Augsburg coach Jos Luhukay could also do with his main man, Sascha Mölders, rediscovering his form in front of goal; and, what better time to do so than tomorrow, with Cologne’s relatively unfamiliar back-four still getting used to one another. Continue reading

Cologne 1-1 Kaiserslautern

The formations during the first half, which ended 1-1. Cologne were playing in the white shirts.

Cologne picked up their first point of the new season, but should have taken all three after missing a lorry-load of chances against a mistake-ridden Kaiserslautern side. The hosts looked particularly threatening and creative down the channels throughout the game, whereas Kaiserslautern struggled to even shift the ball into the other half. Yet several players missed some gilt-edged chances for Cologne, thereby ensuring that Ståle Solbakken has to wait at least another week before claiming his first victory as a coach in the Bundesliga.

Match preview here. 

Kaiserslautern instantly barged their way into the hosts’ half, trapping Cologne there and making them press side to side as they spread the ball about sharply. But, after one passing move was broken down, Sławomir Peszko carried the counter through the centre and over halfway, drawing an inevitable tug. One free-kick led to another in a better position (and a yellow card for centre-back Martin Amedick), but Mato Jajalo curled right-footed into Kevin Trapp’s hands. The goalkeeper then immediately punted the ball upfield for Kostas Fortounis, who clashed heads with Christian Eichner; an ugly accidental bump that saw the pair leaving a trail of blood behind them. Brazilian full-back Andrézinho was therefore called into action far sooner than he or anyone else expected, replacing the bloodied and dazed Eichner after just five minutes. Continue reading

Cologne-Kaiserslautern preview

Round three of the Bundesliga season sees two of the sides yet to register a win square up Saturday teatime. However, Kaiserslautern did at least manage to salvage a draw last weekend at home to unbeaten newbies Augsburg (following an opening day 2-0 defeat to Werder Bremen), whereas Ståle Solbakken has made a disastrous start to Bundesliga life as Cologne coach, losing 3-0 and 5-1 to Wolfsburg and Schalke respectively, and falling out with Lukas Podolski after stripping the temperamental talisman of the captain’s armband.

Despite constantly blaming himself for Cologne’s horror start to the 2011/12 campaign, the 43-year-old Norwegian will be hoping Saturday is the day when the squad finally clicks playing in his new system, and beat Kaiserslautern for the first time since December 2007’s 2. Bundesliga victory (as an aside, on the final day of that same season, Lautern beat Cologne 3-0 to save themselves from relegation to the third tier). Continue reading

Cologne 2-0 Bayer Leverkusen

The first half formations.

Bayer Leverkusen conceded the title to Dortmund but secured their spot in next season’s Champions League group stage – despite losing the Rhine derby to Cologne, who now move four points clear of the drop zone.

With Wolfsburg beating Werder Bremen the evening before this Saturday afternoon game, Cologne were once again in the thick of the relegation battle. A disastrous loss of form and the sudden departure of coach Frank Schaefer in the week meant that Leverkusen were the clear favourites for this tie. Dortmund were playing simultaneously, with both they and Leverkusen knowing that a loss for Dortmund and a win for Leverkusen would see the gap at the top reduced to two points. But for Jupp Heynckes’s side, the real goal was simply to win irrespective of how Dortmund got on, as three points here would guarantee the club’s place in the Champions League group stages for next season (even if Heynckes is Bayern Munich-bound). Continue reading

Cologne 1-0 Nuremberg

The first half formations.

Cologne and Nuremberg looked all but certain to have played out an entertaining and fiery 0-0 draw until Slovenia international Milivoje Novakovič scored an injury-time winner for the hosts at the RheinEnergieStadion.

For the neutral football fan, a Bundesliga battle between the sides in 12th and sixth place respectively may not have forced all other afternoon plans to be cancelled, but there was a fair bit riding on this game, with the hosts knowing that if they lost here and Wolfsburg beat Eintracht Frankfurt in the day’s other game, they would be just two points above the drop zone. Frank Schaefer has turned Cologne’s fortunes around since replacing Zvonimir Soldo, but a 6-2 hammering at the hands of Hamburg in the last round emphasised that this is the same team which the Croatian struggled to push up the table. At least Schaefer had few injuries or suspensions to contend with when it came to selecting his side, although 12 members of the Cologne squad were returning from international duty. By way of comparison, Nuremberg came into this game in fantastic form, and knew they could move into the Europa League spots with a win. Continue reading

Cologne 4-0 Hannover

The first half formations.

A commanding second half performance from Cologne saw them overcome a Hannover side who offered surprisingly little after going a goal behind.

This Friday night round 26 fight saw the teams placed fifth and fourth in the form table come up against one another. With Geromel still absent through injury, Frank Schaefer was forced to use Kevin Pezzoni as an emergency centre-back again. The inconvenience of having to do this was shown when the gangly midfielder was at fault for Dortmund’s only goal in last Friday night’s 1-0 win – failing to respond quickly or intelligently enough to the assisting pass. Hannover, fresh from last weekend’s heroic win against Bayern Munich, were again without top scorer Didier Ya Konan, as well as talismanic midfielder Sérgio Pinto. They knew a win would temporarily lift them above Leverkusen into second spot, and eight points clear of Bayern – with international fixtures allocated to the last weekend in March, three points would even have ensured they remained above the holding champions going into the penultimate month of the season. Cologne, still just four points above the relegation places coming into this game, knew a win would lift them above Schalke into tenth spot: and, more crucially, a win would give them some much-needed breathing space from those sides in the relegation zone. Continue reading