Kaiserslautern 0-0 Wolfsburg

Kaiserslautern slipped to the bottom of the Bundesliga table and remain without a win since October after failing to beat the worst away team in the division. A nervy and foul-riddled match which Wolfsburg had the better of in the first half, and Kaiserslautern the second, it was easy to tell why both these teams are struggling against the drop this season, with the quality in the final-third conspicuous mostly by its absence. Although Kaiserslautern’s fans stuck with their players – including unfamiliar faces such as Andrew Wooten and Julian Derstroff – throughout the 90 minutes, jeers accompanied the final whistle at the Betzenberg. With Kaiserslautern’s immediate relegation rivals Freiburg and Hertha Berlin both picking up three points this afternoon, beating top-six teams Schalke and Werder Bremen respectively, and Augsburg picking up a point at high-flying Hannover, this draw could be the final straw for Stefan Kuntz and the Lautern board when it comes to coach Marco Kurz, with the team now four points from safety. Wolfsburg, meanwhile, do end the day six points rather than seven clear of the bottom three, but the very fact that they avoided defeat in a tricky away tie will please coach Felix Magath, and give his players some much-needed confidence.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Kaiserslautern (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Tobias Sippel; Florian Dick, Jan Šimůnek, Mathias Abel, Leon Jessen; Ariel Borysiuk, Pierre de Wit; Richard Sukuta-Pasu, Christian Tiffert, Derstroff; Sandro Wagner

Wolfsburg (4-4-2, from right to left): Diego Benaglio; Christian Träsch, Marco Russ, Felipe Lopes, Ricardo Rodríguez; Ashkan Dejagah, Chris, Josué, Marcel Schäfer; Patrick Helmes, Mario Mandžukić Continue reading

Kaiserslautern-Wolfsburg preview

It’s the stadium where Australian football fans experienced a heartbreaking injustice at the 2006 World Cup, and this Saturday afternoon, the Betzenberg’s primary users, Kaiserslautern, will be hoping for some Italy-esque luck in their battle to avoid the drop. Marco Kurz’s side, firmly planted in the Bundesliga relegation zone and without a win since October, host Wolfsburg – several spaces above Kaiserslautern in the league, but by no means certain themselves of avoiding the drop to 2. Bundesliga just yet. Both these sides have been Bundesliga champions since the German men’s senior side last won a trophy (the 1996 European Championships), and although Wolfsburg’s title-winning coach Felix Magath is still at the club, the only truly notable thing about his side’s 2011/12 campaign is the fact that the 58-year-old has set a new record for the highest number of players used by a coach in a German football season (36 – a figure bolstered significantly after the winter break, because Magath signed nine players in January, the majority of whom he is now using in the first-team). 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

Wolfsburg 1-0 Kaiserslautern

The first half formations.

An incredible second half performance by substitute Mario Mandžukić saw ten man Wolfsburg defeat Kaiserslautern. Sotirios Kyrgiakos’ sending off at the end of an invention-free, chance-light and dire first half made the visitors favourites to snatch all three points in the second half, especially as Marco Kurz’s strikers showed much better movement in the opening 45 minutes than their Wolfsburg counterparts. But, Felix Magath’s inspired decision to unleash the Croatian from the bench changed the game, although it was Ashkan Dejagah who bagged the goal which lifts Wolfsburg up to 12th in the Bundesliga.

Match preview here

An open start to the match saw some nice football being played, with both sides looking to spread the ball about among the outfield players at a good tempo, before releasing either a full-back or forward on a dart into the final-third. The visitors barely pressed Wolfsburg when the centre-backs had the ball, instead content to sit off in their high and compact 4-4-2. This tactic frustrated the hosts in their attempts to make attacks, and resulted in Patrick Helmes and Srđan Lakić playing too far apart from one another in the opening five minutes.

When the home side did manage to play a ball into the final-third and then keep it there with the next pass, they pushed as many outfield players into and around the Kaiserslautern box as was possible.  Continue reading

Wolfsburg-Kaiserslautern preview

Srđan Lakić comes up against his former club tomorrow afternoon as two of the Bundesliga’s early-season strugglers face off. Wolfsburg currently sit one spot and point above their 15th-placed guests, although Felix Magath’s side boast a one goal worse goal difference of -5. When these sides last met back in May for the penultimate match of the 2010/11 season, a surprise 2-1 away win for Kaiserslautern secured their spot in the Bundesliga, leaving Wolfsburg needing something from their final game. Thus, revenge might be in the air for one or two players in green, although the squad has been altered a fair bit since then.

The most notable departures have been Diego (Atlético Madrid), Simon Kjær (Roma), Cicero (São Paulo), Sascha Riether (Cologne), Grafite (Al-Ahli Dubai), and, most recently, Arne Friedrich (released). To fill in the gaps in true Magath fashion, 12 players have been brought in from other clubs, and three promoted from the U23 squad. Continue reading

Kaiserslautern 3-1 Mainz

The first half formations.

Kaiserslautern bettered their 2011/12 goals for tally by 150 per cent as they won their first game of the season against Mainz in the Rheinland-Pfalz derby. Mainz can’t stop conceding goals at the moment, and despite some positive and slice attacking play, couldn’t score enough goals to render their weaknesses at the back irrelevant. Kaiserslautern, though, played with a real energy and determination throughout, and hadn’t looked this sharp tactically all season. The result lifts Marco Kurz’s side out of the relegation zone (meaning that the ‘-burg’ teams, Frei-, Augs- and Ham- now occupy those places), and two positions behind 13th-placed Mainz.

Match preview here.

Mainz, set up in a relatively flat-looking 4-4-2, instantly looked to get the ball down the channels, from where they could cross for their two box-bobbing strikers. As per usual, they pressed high and in numbers when out of possession, and even mixed things up with how they used the ball on the wings. For example, in the third minute, Zoltán Stieber halted his charge down the chalk, drew the Kaiserslautern midfield across and onto him, before slipping the ball in to Elkin Soto, who’d nipped into the gap left behind the hosts’ midfield and very deep defence.

Nevertheless, the visitors didn’t have it all their own way early on, as when Kaiserslautern got on the ball, they didn’t mess about, and either passed or ran it into or towards the final-third as hurriedly as possible. Continue reading

Kaiserslautern-Mainz preview

The German top-flight’s lowest scorers take on a side who have shipped nine goals in their last three games tomorrow teatime, as the 2011/12 Bundesliga’s sixth fixture sees Mainz travel to second-bottom Kaiserslautern. After a firesale of attackers over the summer, Kaiserslautern coach Marco Kurz is under pressure already after watching his side scrape two barely deserved draws and lose three league games, scoring a mere two goals in the process. The Red Devils have conceded eight goals at the other end; two less than 12th-placed Mainz, who’ve netted seven times so far in the league. However, the latest visitors to Kaiserslautern have conceded eight goals alone in two of their last three games, after losing 4-0 at home to Hoffenheim last weekend, and throwing away a 2-0 half time lead against Schalke to lose 4-2 in the fixture before a 1-1 draw with Hannover. 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

Stuttgart 2-4 Kaiserslautern

The general first half formations.

A combination of Christian Tiffert’s passing range and vision, fantastically bold tactics from Marco Kurz, and tired, uninterested and invention-free play from Stuttgart allowed Kaiserslautern to haul themselves nearer to mid-table safety at the expense of their hosts.

This clash pitted 15th against 14th; two sides just one point and two points above the relegation zone respectively. Whereas the hosts seemed to have recovered from a poor start to the season under new boss Bruno Labbadia, Kaiserslautern had had more off-days than on ones, and seemed more at ease playing against the big teams at their Fritz-Walter-Stadion ground than facing lesser teams on the road. But there were no major personnel paucity worries to deal with in preparation for this game, save for the absence of defender Jan Šimůnek and Srđan Lakić’s form in front of goal. The hosts, on the other hand, had to make do without Philipp Degen, Ciprian Marica and Johan Audel for this Saturday teatime clash. Pre-match, there had also been fitness doubts over playmaker Tamás Hajnal, and it turned out these weren’t mind games from the Stuttgart camp – the Hungarian wasn’t passed fit to play against his former side, who hadn’t won at the Mercedes-Benz Arena since 1999. Continue reading

Borussia Mönchengladbach 0-1 Kaiserslautern

The first half formations.

Kaiserslautern took a huge step to securing their Bundesliga place for next season at the expense of doomed-looking Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Both sides came into this game in precarious Bundesliga positions – the hosts placed bottom, but knowing a win would lift them up to 17th; while the visitors, level on points with three other sides, were only out of the drop zone on goal difference.  Among the goalscorers when Lautern beat Gladbach 3-0 in October was Srđan Lakić, the Croatian striker who had a phenomenal opening half to the season, but a player who has failed to score since securing a summer transfer to Wolfsburg in January – a convenient dry patch some Kaiserslautern fans argue, with the Wolves in just as much relegation trouble as Lakić’s current employers. Lakić was on the bench for this one, Marco Kurz sticking with the side which beat Freiburg 2-1 last weekend. Gladbach coach Lucien Favre persisted with his own goal-shy striker Mo Idrissou, looking to maintain momentum after snatching a draw at Werder Bremen last weekend. Continue reading

MSV Duisburg 2-0 Kaiserslautern

The first-half formations.

Duisburg beat Kaiserslautern in the quarter-finals of the DFB-Pokal as Milan Šašić got one over his former employers. Goals from Branimir Bajić and Goran Šukalo in either half saw the second division side beat their top-flight visitors comfortably at the noisy Schauinsland-Reisen-Arena. They’ll now join fellow 2. Bundesliga side Energie Cottbus in the last-four of Germany’s premier cup competition.

Kaiserslautern came into the game on the back of a 5-1 defeat at the hands of an Arjen Robben-inspired Bayern. Duisburg were also eager to eliminate an iffy result out of their system – they drew 1-1 away at lowly Ingolstadt on the weekend.

Kaiserslautern took a while to line-up their back-four, all of whom seemed incapable of communicating to one another, making simple forward passes under minimal pressure, or gauging how close they were to their colleagues on either side, and goalkeeper Tobias Sippel. However, they were let off by the fact that The Zebras only managed to carve out one chance from Lautern’s blunders, and Stefan Maierhofer’s woeful finish illustrated why he failed to make the grade at either Wolves, Bristol City or Bayern. Continue reading

Tactical titbits

Borussia Dortmund 2-0 Wolfsburg, 11/09/10. Starting XIs.

Another pulsating weekend of football action in EU member states has been and gone, and all we can do is reflect and hope next Saturday and Sunday are just as action-packed.

I began my weekend with two successive 2-0 triumphs – Hoffenheim’s conquest of Schalke on Friday evening, followed by Zenit’s cruise to victory over the downwardly-hurtling Tom Tomsk.

Subsequent to that interjection of Russian action, I found myself back in the realms of the Bundesliga as Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund sought to inflict a third successive defeat on Wolfsburg.

After an embarrassingly lacklustre first-half against Bayern Munich on the season’s opening day (during which Wolfsburg were allergic to the ball or their opponent’s half), positive tactics in the second half at last gave Wolfsburg some identity. Continue reading

Bundesliga round three preview

Tobias Weis - an inspiration and whirlwind from RCM this season.

Hoffenheim vs Schalke

The league leaders host a side whose bid for the title is already looking splintered. Hoffenheim‘s 4-1-4-1, complete with rampaging right back Andreas Beck, blends defensive muscle, imagination, clever movement, and powerful dribblers. Decisive then narrow wins against Werder Bremen and St. Pauli respectively mark Hoffe as a team capable of clinching three points regardless of circumstance and adversary.

A Friday evening kick-off benefits Schalke as they begin their Champions League campaign against Lyon the following Tuesday. Nevertheless, recent form suggests they needn’t bother turning up to either game. The purchase of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar – he and Raul making a Real Madrid benchwarming Old Boys Club – won’t solve the creative paucity in midfield, or deficiencies in defence. Continue reading