Bayer Leverkusen-Hamburg preview

IT’S second against seventh this weekend in 1. Bundesliga, as two teams who’ve enjoyed winter campaigns to be proud of square off in the last round of league matches before the winter break. Although Bayer Leverkusen’s hopes of winning the title probably disintegrated with last weekend’s 3-2 loss at Hannover, both they and Hamburg have a very good chance this season of making the 2012/13 Champions League given the erratic form of every team in Germany’s top-flight bar Bayern Munich.

All eyes will be on the away side’s goalkeeper René Adler this weekend, who has been one of the top-performing players in the first half of the 2012/13 1. Bundesliga season. He left Bayer Leverkusen over the summer to join Hamburg, and will be keen to show his former employers just what they’re missing at the BayArena. Adler will have a tough time keeping in-form Leverkusen striker Stefan Kieβling at bay, though – the 28-year-old has been in outstanding form this season, with ten goals and some fantastic line-leading performances to his name. Continue reading

Stuttgart-Schalke preview

TOMORROW afternoon, inconsistent Stuttgart host a Schalke side who have seen their title challenge disintegrate in the last few weeks. Both sides come into this game on a high, though, with Schalke securing top-spot in their Champions League group on Tuesday, and Stuttgart making it six 1. Bundesliga teams out of six to reach the next round of Europe’s continental cup competitions, albeit after losing at home last night. Continue reading

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-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-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-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

Freiburg-Borussia Dortmund preview

They may have beaten Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday night, but Borussia Dortmund travel to a Freiburg side who sit just one point behind them in the table this weekend. Jürgen Klopp’s reigning 1. Bundesliga champions currently trail league-leading Bavarian giants Bayern Munich by 12 points after just eight games, with inconsistent away form being Dortmund’s major problem.

However, last weekend’s home loss in the Revierderby against Schalke emphasised just what a difficult period Dortmund are currently enduring domestically, with Klopp’s decision to play a three-man defence in that game backfiring. The return to his usual 4-2-3-1 in the 2-1 victory over Real Madrid means that such an experiment is extremely unlikely to be risked again tomorrow.

Freiburg, meanwhile, are floating along nicely, although given the limited resources at coach Christian Streich’s disposal, he’ll be thinking the sooner his side can reach the 35-point mark, the better. After last weekend’s 2-0 win over woeful Wolfsburg, Freiburg only need another 24 points from the 26 matchdays left to play to achieve that target, and who would bet against them at this stage to earn a fifth successive season in 1. Bundesliga? Continue reading

Bayer Leverkusen-Greuther Fürth preview

1. BUNDESLIGA strugglers Greuther Fürth continue their top-flight adventure this weekend as they travel to North Rhine-Westphalian big-guns Bayer Leverkusen. Mike Büskens’ side lost their third home game of the season during the week at the hands of Fortuna Düsseldorf, but have been in good form on the road, if you exclude their cup exit at the hands of Kickers Offenbach on August 18. Although Leverkusen – under joint coaches Sami Hyypiä and Sascha Lewandowski – have looked decent enough at the BayArena in 1. Bundesliga so far, they haven’t exactly made a flawless start to the season overall; losing two away games, and being held at home in the Europa League by Ukrainian outfit Metalist Kharkiv. Continue reading

1860 Munich-Eintracht Braunschweig preview

RUNAWAY 2. Bundesliga leaders Eintracht Braunschweig travel to fellow unbeaten side 1860 Munich this weekend looking to make it six wins out of six. The Lower Saxony minnows – who were in Germany’s 3. Liga as recently as last May – didn’t spend a cent on transfers over the summer, which makes their start to the 2012/13 season all the more impressive. Goals and assists have been spread out among the squad so far too, which bodes well for the rest of the campaign, because Braunschweig don’t have any star names in their squad, let alone a 20-goal-a-season striker.

Torsten Lieberknecht’s side will face their sternest test of the campaign to date in travelling to the 69,000-seater Allianz Arena on Sunday. Laying in wait are an 1860 Munich side who boast a number of ‘star’ names and have only conceded in one of their six games so far this season (ditto Braunschweig). The Bavarian side have also been more prolific in front of goal than the league-leaders, who have scored eight goals to 1860’s ten. However, although the visitors netted just 37 goals in 34 games last season, they conceded the third least amount of goals in 2. Bundesliga: therefore, this match promises to be tight, but also a real litmus test for both sides.

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Borussia Mönchengladbach-Nuremberg preview

TWO teams who underwent vastly contrasting summer transfer campaigns go head to head in the third round of the 2012/13 1. Bundesliga season this weekend. Whereas Borussia Mönchengladbach lost three of their best players, Nuremberg had a relatively quiet summer, keeping the squad pretty much intact. Both sides have made decent starts to the latest league season, with Gladbach beating Hoffenheim and drawing away at local rivals Fortuna Düsseldorf, and Nuremberg winning away at Hamburg before holding reigning champions Borussia Dortmund to a draw at home last weekend (a game in which Dieter Hecking’s side had more than enough chances to win).

An international break has seen the German top-flight campaign have a two-week break since then, but you imagine both Hecking and Gladbach coach Lucien Favre will have appreciated the time this has given them to work with their players on the training ground; particularly the latter, whose side had played two Champions League games, a DFB-Pokal tie and two 1. Bundesliga matches in the space of 14 days. Continue reading

Hoffenheim-Eintracht Frankfurt preview

ONE of Germany’s more storied clubs take on the footballing epitome of the nouveau riche this weekend, as Eintracht Frankfurt travel to Hoffenheim. While Frankfurt may not be Germany’s most fashionable or celebrated club these days, they do have a UEFA Cup and several DFB-Pokal trophies in the cabinet. Hoffenheim, on the other hand, were playing in the fifth-tier as recently as 1999. Since then, though, software mogul Dietmar Hopp has ploughed a small fortune into Hoffe, building a 30,000-seater stadium – that is usually at least 90 per cent full – and turning the club into an established top-flight side: albeit one unpopular with football fans who deem them to be a soulless club, and an un-German-like rich man’s plaything.

Despite having history on their side, Armin Veh’s Frankfurt spent last season in the second-tier. They returned to 1. Bundesliga with a bang, defeating Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 at their Commerzbank Arena last Saturday evening. Markus Babbel’s Hoffenheim, meanwhile, slumped to a 2-1 defeat at Borussia Mönchengladbach. This will be the seventh time these two sides have met in the top-flight, with Hoffenheim winning the last encounter – in April 2011 – 1-0. A 19-year-old Roberto Firmino scored his first goal for Hoffenheim that day, and continued his new club’s streak of never having lost to Eintracht Frankfurt. Continue reading

Augsburg-Fortuna Düsseldorf preview

CONTROVERSIALLY-promoted Fortuna Düsseldorf travel to last season’s surprise package Augsburg on the opening day of the 2012/13 1. Bundesliga season. Düsseldorf needed a play-off against Hertha Berlin to secure their position in the top-flight after a poor second half to the 2. Bundesliga campaign, and despite winning that tie over two legs, a pitch invasion before the match had finished led to the capital city side protesting the result.

However, it was allowed to stand, and Fortuna now have the chance to show that they merit their place in 1. Bundesliga. Coach Norbert Meier has seen his squad transformed over the summer by sporting director Wolf Werner, who has given the former West Germany international the kind of players needed to help the club stave off the threat of relegation. Augsburg, meanwhile, start the new league season with a new coach, Markus Weinzierl. The 37-year-old – who has impressed in recent seasons with Jahn Regensburg – has replaced the popular Dutchman Jos Luhukay, who surprisingly left at the end of the 2011/12 campaign, and is now at the helm of Hertha Berlin. Continue reading

St Pauli-Ingolstadt preview

INGOLSTADT will attempt to bounce back from throwing away a two-goal lead on the opening day of the 2012/13 2. Bundesliga season as they travel to St Pauli this weekend. Both teams have made significant changes to their squads over the summer, meaning that the scouts from either club will have had their work cut out preparing dossiers for their respective team’s coaches this weekend. Only four of the players who started in St Pauli’s final game of the 2011/12 season featured in last Friday’s 0-0 draw at Aue, for instance.

It was a familiar face, though, who fired Ingolstadt into a 2-0 lead against Energie Cottbus last weekend, as club stalwart Stefan Leitl’s brace gave his side what appeared to be an insurmountable cushion going into the final ten minutes. However, Boubacar Sanogo pounced twice in the closing stages to earn a point for Cottbus, amid some questionable defending from the home side. Continue reading

Bochum-Dynamo Dresden preview

They’ve beaten West Ham United 3-0 and held English Premier League champions Manchester City to a 0-0 draw this summer, but such morale-boosting results will count for nothing if Dynamo Dresden don’t produce the goods on the pitch against Bochum this weekend. This is the first match of the 2012/13 2. Bundesliga season for these two sides, both of whom harbour promotion aspirations, and have the history to back such claims up: Bochum have spent seven of the last ten seasons in the top-flight, while Dresden are moving in the right direction after a decade and a half of difficulties following their relegation from the Bundesliga in 1995.

After an unbeaten pre-season, and with a victory at the RewirPower-Stadion already under their belts this calendar year (2-0 in March… preceded by a 2-1 home victory in September), Dresden will be the more confident of the two sides coming into this game (even if club captain Cristian Fiél did take the decision to step down from the role during the week for personal reasons, and promising young attacker Hasan Pepic was sentenced to seven days in a youth detention centre for fare-dodging on Wednesday). Bochum, meanwhile, have not been in the greatest form this summer (culminating in a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Borussia Mönchengladbach last Saturday), and star player Takashi Inui has left for pastures new (Eintracht Frankfurt). 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