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 1-1 Eintracht Braunschweig

EINTRACHT Braunschweig’s 100 per cent start to the season came to an end at a packed Allianz Arena this afternoon, as the 2. Bundesliga leaders were held to a 1-1 draw by 1860 Munich. Both sides missed a number of chances, with Braunschweig guilty of not putting the game to bed in the first half following Domi Kumbela’s opener, and 1860 Munich guilty of not making the most of their improved penetration and attempts on goal in the second period. By the end of the game, a nervy, bitty and generally uninspiring affair, Braunschweig coach Torsten Lieberknecht looked to hold onto the draw – a result that gives his side a two-point lead over second-placed Energie Cottbus in the table. As for 1860 coach Reiner Maurer, although he will be pleased that his side maintained their own unbeaten start to the 2012/13 campaign, he will be disappointed his side did not go on and win today, as come the end of the season, it is far likelier they – rather than Braunschweig – will be challenging for promotion.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

1860 Munich (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Gábor Király; Grzegorz Wojtkowiak, Necat Aygün, Guillermo Vallori, Moritz Volz; Dominik Stahl, Kai Bülow; Marin Tomasov, Daniel Bierofka, Daniel Halfar; Benjamin Lauth

Eintracht Braunschweig (4-4-2, from right to left): Daniel Davari; Marcel Correia, Ermin Bičakčić, Deniz Doğan, Ken Reichel; Dennis Kruppke, Kevin Kratz, Norman Theuerkauf, Mirko Boland; Kumbela, Orhan Ademi 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.

Continue reading

Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-3 Nuremberg

HIROSHI Kiyotake scored one and set up two others as Nuremberg continued their fine start to the season by winning in Mönchengladbach for the first time since 2005. Dieter Hecking’s side deserved their win, as Gladbach put in a hit and miss performance, despite at one point clawing the score back to 2-2. Although Nuremberg looked accomplished tactically and showed good spirit, the visitors were indebted to summer signing Kiyotake for his technical brilliance and goalkeeper Raphael Schäfer – who pulled off one of the saves of the season – for their 3-2 win, which lifts them up to joint second in the table. Next weekend, Nuremberg host 1. Bundesliga’s other surprise quick-out-of-the-block side, Eintracht Frankfurt, while Gladbach will look to pick themselves up as they visit Bayer Leverkusen for a Rhine derby clash.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Borussia Mönchengladbach (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Marc-André ter Stegen; Tony Jantschke, Martin Stranzl, Álvaro Domínguez, Filip Daems; Håvard Nordtveit, Granit Xhaka; Patrick Herrmann, Tolga Ciğerci, Juan Arango; Luuk de Jong

Nuremberg (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Schäfer; Timmy Chandler, Per Nilsson, Timm Klose, Javier Pinola; Hanno Balitsch, Timmy Simons; Róbert Mak, Kiyotake, Alexander Esswein; Tomáš Pekhart Continue reading

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 0-4 Eintracht Frankfurt

HOFFENHEIM paid the price for missing a number of gilt-edged chances early on, as Eintracht Frankfurt struck twice towards the end of both the first and second half to make it two wins out of two in the new 1. Bundesliga season. The home side finished the match with nine men after right-back Stephan Schröck and substitute midfielder Sejad Salihović picked up red cards midway through the second half. However, Hoffenheim hadn’t looked like they were going to get back into the game even with a full complement of players on the pitch, with Frankfurt both mentally and tactically adroit after getting their two-goal cushion shortly before the break. In fairness to Hoffe coach Markus Babbel, whose side have now lost two league games and one cup tie in the 2012/13 campaign, he got his tactics spot on at the start of the match. Allowing the visitors to monopolize possession, the former Liverpool and Stuttgart defender utilised the counter-attacking talents of his foremost four players, as Hoffenheim created – but spurned – a number of one-on-one opportunities. But, once his team had fallen behind through an own goal and a spectacular Pirmin Schwegler strike, Babbel was unable to get his team back into the game, and could only watch on helplessly as his players lost their heads. Lose next week’s match at Freiburg, and the young tactician’s position might become untenable.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Hoffenheim (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Tim Wiese; Schröck, Matthieu Delpierre, Marvin Compper, Fabian Johnson; Tobias Weis, Sebastian Rudy; Boris Vukčević, Kevin Volland, Roberto Firmino; Erin Derdiyok

Eintracht Frankfurt (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Kevin Trapp; Sebastian Jung, Carlos Zambrano, Bamba Anderson, Bastian Oczipka; Schwegler, Sebastian Rode; Stefan Aigner, Alexander Meier, Takashi Inui; Olivier Occéan 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 0-2 Fortuna Düsseldorf

TWO moments of class from Bundesliga and Düsseldorf debutant Dani Schahin allowed Norbert Meier’s side to win their first 1. Bundesliga game in 15 years. Augsburg had looked much the better team until the 23-year-old grabbed his first goal midway through the second half, before the same player sealed the win with another memorable strike with 12 minutes left to play. One might argue the Lebanese-German striker’s brace merely papered over the cracks of a shaky performance by the side promoted from 2. Bundesliga in May, but Meier included seven summer signings in this afternoon’s game – the first of the 2012/13 league season – at the SGL-Arena, highlighting the fact Düsseldorf are still a work in progress.

Augsburg, meanwhile, only have themselves to blame for failing to get anything from this match. They could have been 2-0 up themselves before Schahin – signed for free from fellow promoted club Greuther Fürth over the summer – grabbed his side’s first, and ultimately paid for their profligacy in front of goal. Nevertheless, new coach Markus Weinzierl will take some positives from defeat: on the whole, his defence – unchanged from last season, when the club confounded critics to stay in the top-flight with some ease – looked reasonably solid, some of his side’s passing was crisp and fluid, and Augsburg were able to get in behind a team looking to sit back and not concede. The Bavarian outfit travel to Schalke next weekend looking to make amends, while North Rhine-Westphalian side Fortuna host Mönchengladbach in a half empty stadium (restrictions being put on attendance at the Esprit Arena due to the trouble which occurred during the victorious play-off match against Hertha Berlin in May).

Match preview here.

Starting line-ups

Augsburg (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Simon Jentzsch; Paul Verhaegh, Gibril Sankoh, Sebastian Langkamp, Matthias Ostrzolek; Daniel Baier, Andreas Ottl; Knowledge Musona, Ja-Cheol Koo, Jan Morávek; Aristide Bancé

Fortuna Düsseldorf (4-4-1-1, from right to left): Fabian Giefer; Tobias Levels, Stelios Malezas, Jens Langeneke, Johannes van den Bergh; Robbie Kruse, Adam Bodzek, Oliver Fink, Axel Bellinghausen; Andriy Voronin; Nando Rafael  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 1-1 Ingolstadt

TWO goals in the space of a minute shortly after the start of the second half allowed this quality-lacking 2. Bundesliga contest between St Pauli and Ingolstadt to finish level. While the home side did most of the attacking, with Ingolstadt looking to play on the break, consistently terrible finishing and woeful passing in the final-third cost St Pauli any hope of winning this game. They fell behind in the 55th minute when the lively Caiuby crossed for Christian Eigler to score at the near post. A minute later, though, Ingolstadt ruined all the good work they had done defensively up to that point by allowing home debutant Florian Moht a free header to make it 1-1. Coach Tomas Oral seemingly played for a point at the Millerntor-Stadion, so will probably be happier than his opposite number André Schubert, who has already stated his intention to bring more quality players to St Pauli before the transfer window closes. His side and Oral’s have now drawn both of their 2012/13 2. Bundesliga games, and the two coaches will be hoping ties against regional sides in the cup next weekend will give their respective players a chance to sample what winning feels like.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

St Pauli (4-4-2, from right to left, brown shirts): Philipp Tschauner; Jan-Philipp Kalla, Florian Mohr, Markus Thorandt, Florian Kringe; Florian Bruns, Dennis Daube, Fabian Boll, Fin Bartels; Marius Ebbers, Lennart Thy

Ingolstadt (4-4-2, from right to left, white shirts): Ramazan Özcan; Danny da Costa, Marino Biliškov, Ralph Gunesch, Andreas Schäfer; Stefan Leitl, Marvin Matip, Pascal Groβ, Ümit Korkmaz; Caiuby, Christian Eigler 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 2-1 Dynamo Dresden

BOCHUM made a dream start to the 2012/13 2. Bundesliga season as the club’s midfield master and his apprentice got on the scoresheet to lead the team to a 2-1 win against Dynamo Dresden. Club stalwart Paul Freier bagged the winner three minutes from time, after 17-year-old debutant midfielder Leon Goretzka headed home in the 53rd minute to cancel out Mickaël Poté’s 27th-minute opener for Dresden. Bochum were by far the better of the two sides over the course of the match, and looked more adroit tactically, technically cleverer and sharper fitness-wise. Although Poté and experienced midfielder Filip Trojan showed occasional moments of their class, Dresden did little to inspire, even if they were ultimately let down by their inability to defend set-pieces. The day, though, will be forever remembered for yet another Freier winner, and a first ever senior goal for Goretzka – a player openly courted by Bayern Munich. As if Germany needs another precociously-talented teenage attacking-midfielder…

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Bochum (4-4-2, from right to left): Andreas Luthe; Carsten Rothenbach, Marcel Maltritz, Lukas Sinkiewicz, Florian Brügmann; Goretzka, Christoph Dabrowski, Christoph Kramer, Yusuke Tasaka; Alexander Iashvili, Zlatko Dedič

Dynamo Dresden (4-4-2 from right to left): Benjamin Kirsten; Cheikh Gueye, Romain Brégerie, Vujadin Savić, Sebastian Schuppan; Robert Koch, Anthony Losilla, Yiannis Papadopoulos, Trojan; Pavel Fořt, Poté 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 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