Hamburg 1-0 Hannover

Hamburg took a huge step towards securing their Bundesliga status after defeating a disappointing Hannover side 1-0. To be fair to the seventh-placed visitors, who still look good for a place in next season’s Europa League because Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg and Werder Bremen all dropped points this weekend, they were missing a number of key strikers, but it was a lack of creativity and urgency in midfield that really hampered them. Hamburg, on the other hand, had the talismanic Son Heung-Min leading the line, and it was fitting that he nabbed the game’s only goal because he was by far the best player on the pitch. The home side were good value for their win, as they created the most chances, worked harder and were tactically smarter. Thorsten Fink’s side now move five points above the relegation zone with three games of the 2011/12 season left to play, although that gap will be reduced to two points if Cologne beat Borussia Mönchengladbach tomorrow afternoon.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Hamburg (4-4-2, from right to left): Jaroslav Drobný; Jeffrey Bruma, Michael Mancienne, Heiko Westermann, Dennis Aogo;  Ivo Iličević, Tomás Rincón, David Jarolím, Marcell Jansen; Marcus Berg, Son Heung-Min

Hannover (4-4-2 from right to left): Ron-Robert Zieler; Steve Cherundolo, Karim Haggui, Emmanuel Pogatetz, Christian Pander; Manuel Schmiedebach, Sérgio Pinto, Christian Schulz, Konstantin Rausch; Jan Schlaudraff, Didier Ya Konan Continue reading

Hamburg-Hannover preview

Hamburg host one of the best counter-attacking sides in the Bundesliga tomorrow afternoon as Hannover come to town. After yet another abject defeat during the week, the 1983 Bundesliga champions are in dire need of three points against a Hannover side who are arguably north Germany’s finest at this moment in time. Coach Thorsten Fink will be relying on Mladen Petrić and Marcua Berg to break down one of the division’s toughest centre-back pairings in Karim Haggui and Mario Eggimann, not to mention hotshot goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler, with time running out for Hamburg to ensure they remain in 1. Bundesliga for the 50th successive season. Continue reading

Erzgebirge Aue 1-1 Greuther Fürth

Greuther Fürth suffered a setback in their bid to win promotion to 1. Bundesliga after they were held 1-1 at Aue. Although Mike Büskens’ side looked good in spells, too often there was energy, urgency and invention missing to their game against a hard-working and direct Aue side. As a result of Fürth dropping two points, they’ll end round 27 of the 2011/12 2. Bundesliga season in second-place, because Eintracht Frankfurt leapfrogged them in the table by beating Bochum 3-0 last night. Meanwhile, if Fortuna Düsseldorf win on Monday at home to St Pauli, Büskens’ Franconian side will only be four points ahead of the North-Rhine Westphalian outfit in the second-division’s final automatic promotion spot.

As for Aue, their coach Karsten Baumann will be delighted with this point, which moves them closer to safety and continues their fine run of form. Although the players at the coach’s disposal are limited, their clearly is belief underpinning a game-plan that the players understand, meaning that the recipe for success is there at FCE. If anything, Baumann might actually be disappointed that his players didn’t take all three points here this afternoon, as the visitors only scored after some calamitous defending.

Match preview here. 

Starting formations

Erzgebirge Aue (4-4-2, from right to left): Martin Männel; Pierre le Beau, René Klingbeil, Dominic Rau, Kevin Schlitte; Fabian Müller, Nicolas Höfler, Jan Hochscheidt, Guido Kocer; Ronny König, Halil Savran

Greuther Fürth (4-4-2, from right to left): Max Grün; Bernd Nehrig, Thomas Kleine, Mergim Mavraj, Heinrich Schmidtgal; Felix Klaus, Stephan Fürstner, Edgar Prib, Sercan Sararer; Olivier Occean, Christopher Nöthe Continue reading

Erzgebirge Aue-Greuther Fürth preview

This Saturday afternoon, 2. Bundesliga-leaders Greuther Fürth visit an Aue side who still need a few points to make certain of their place in Germany’s second division for the 2012/13 campaign. With seven games of this season remaining, Mike Büskens’ side are sitting pretty at the top of the league, six points ahead of third-placed Fortuna Düsseldorf (note: only the top two go up automatically). Spurred on by the acquisition of free-agent Gerald Asamoah in January, Fürth have won seven of their last eight 2. Bundesliga games, including key victories over fellow promotion challengers 1860 Munich and Paderborn. The only time the Franconians have suffered defeat since February 3 was against Borussia Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal semi-finals (and even the 1. Bundesliga-leaders needed 120 minutes to put Büskens’ side to the sword). 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

Borussia Mönchengladbach 1-2 Hoffenheim

Borussia Mönchengladbach turned in an awful performance to suffer a second defeat in the space of four days, although Hoffenheim were worthy winners. From the first minute, Lucien Favre’s side showed signs of fatigue from their penalty shootout exit – to Bayern Munich – at the semi-final stage of the German Cup, and were lazy in their passing and movement for the majority of the match thereafter. Markus Babbel’s side, on the other hand, looked sharp and hungry throughout, and didn’t lose belief despite falling behind – very undeservedly – in the first half. Gladbach’s performance did improve in the second half – primarily because they put everything they had into sitting in their own half. But, Hoffenheim kept coming and coming, and struck twice in the final quarter of the match to take all three points. Favre’s side never looked like equalizing thereafter, and will now have to spend the next few days mentally and physically getting over their worst week of the 2011/12 season. The mood on the Hoffenheim bus, meanwhile, will be jubilant, as this win means they are now six points above the final relegation spot, which is currently occupied by Hamburg.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Borussia Mönchengladbach (4-4-2, from right to left): Marc-André ter Stegen; Tony Jantschke, Roel Brouwers, Dante, Filip Daems; Patrick Herrmann, Thorben Marx, Roman Neustädter, Juan Arango; Igor de Camargo, Marco Reus

Hoffenheim (4-4-1-1, from right to left): Tom Starke; Andreas Beck, Isaac Vorsah, Marvin Compper, Fabian Johnson; Boris Vukčević, Daniel Williams, Tobias Weis, Sebastian Rudy; Sejad Salihović; Ryan Babel 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

Borussia Mönchengladbach-Hoffenheim preview

Champions League qualification hopefuls Borussia Mönchengladbach will be looking to forget their midweek German cup heartache as they host a Hoffenheim side who remain too close to the relegation zone for comfort. Gladbach suffered a penalty shootout defeat to Bayern Munich – a side they have beaten twice this season – on Wednesday at the semi-final stage of the DFB-Pokal, thereby ensuring that the club’s dream-like campaign will end without silverware. Hoffenheim can only fantasise about being where Lucien Favre’s side are, however, as even since Markus Babbel took over as coach at the Sinsheim side a few weeks ago, results haven’t exactly improved.

Like Holger Stanislawski, his predecessor on the Hoffenheim bench, Babbel is struggling to get the team going after club patron Dietmar Hopp commissioned the sales of several star players in the January transfer window (in a move that suggests the board have now perhaps realised their folly, sporting director Ernst Tanner left the club this week). One of those players was creative-midfielder Gylfi Sigurðsson, who is currently in fantastic form for Wales’ second-biggest club, Swansea City, in the English Premier League. Another, Vedad Ibišević, scored twice last weekend as Stuttgart – the side Babbel played for and then coached between 2004 to 2009  comfortably defeated an invention and confidence-lacking Hoffenheim team by two goals to one. It’s not just players who have been sold this season giving Babbel headaches either – Ryan Babel has intimated that he is ready for a new challenge, Roberto Firmino has been out of form for months now after a scintillating start to the current Bundesliga campaign, and Sejad Salihović was recently handed a two-week suspension for a breach of club discipline by Babbel, who is not yet even a quadragenarian. Continue reading

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

Bayern Munich 2-0 Schalke

A Franck Ribéry-inspired Bayern Munich bounced back from their midweek Champions League humiliation in Switzerland by comfortably defeating a feeble Schalke side. The visitors offered next to nothing from first to last, with all their big name players struggling to get involved. Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, on the other hand, will be absolutely delighted by the performance of his players, who showed some of the urgency they have lacked over the last few weeks. His one regret, though, will be the fact that the 2010 Bundesliga champions missed the chance to make their goal difference advantage over league-leaders Dortmund even greater than it currently is (plus four). With Borussia Mönchengladbach drawing against Hamburg on Friday night, this win moves Bayern back up to second spot: one point behind Jürgen Klopp’s side, who face Hannover later this afternoon. Schalke, meanwhile, will just be thankful that Werder Bremen lost at home to Nuremberg yesterday afternoon – thereby ensuring that the Gelsenkirchen outfit remain seven points clear in the fourth and final Champions League qualification spot.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Manuel Neuer; Rafinha, Jérôme Boateng, Holger Badstuber, Philipp Lahm; Luis Gustavo, David Alaba; Arjen Robben, Thomas Müller, Ribéry; Mario Gómez

Schalke (4-4-2 from right to left): Timo Hildebrand; Benedikt Höwedes, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Christoph Metzelder, Christian Fuchs; Jefferson Farfán, Joël Matip, Marco Höger, Julian Draxler; Raúl, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar Continue reading

Stuttgart 4-1 Freiburg

Stuttgart comfortably defeated near-ish neighbours Freiburg in the Bundesliga’s Baden-Württemberg derby by four goals to one, with Martin Harnik bagging his tenth and 11th goals of the season. Although question marks over the Swabian outfit’s ability to defend set-pieces remain, with Stuttgart having conceded a needless goal from a corner in the first half, thereby allowing Freiburg to temporarily enjoy a spell on top, Bruno Labbadia’s side simply had far too much attacking quality for the visiting defence here, whose inexperience was plain for all to see. Added to that, Christian Streich’s side showed at the Mercedes-Benz Arena this afternoon that they are severely lacking in quality and invention in the final-third, although the coach may point to last weekend’s 0-0 draw against Bayern Munich, which might conceivably have taken a lot out of his young side both mentally and physically.

Stuttgart still have some way to go if they are to claim a place in next season’s Europa League (because, if Werder Bremen defeat Nuremberg this evening, the 2007 Bundesliga champions will remain ten points adrift of the north German side with 11 games of the 2011/12 Bundesliga season left to play), but this derby win was a real test of character for Bruno Labbadia’s out-of-form squad, and one which they passed with flying colours, a single corner-kick aside. Freiburg, on the other hand, remain bottom of the league, and with Augsburg beating Hertha Berlin 3-0 today, are now three points from safety (four if you count their extremely poor goal difference).

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Stuttgart (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Sven Ulreich; Khalid Boulahrouz, Serdar Tasci, Georg Niedermeier, Gotoku Sakai; William Kvist, Zdravko Kuzmanović; Harnik, Tamás Hajnal, Shinji Okazaki; Vedad Ibišević

Freiburg (4-4-2 from right to left): Oliver Baumann; Oliver Sorg, Fallou Diagné, Immanuel Höhn, Jonathan Schmid; Jan Rosenthal, Johannes Flum, Cédric Makiadi, Daniel Caligiuri; Ivan Santini, Erik Jendrišek Continue reading

Bayern Munich-Schalke preview

It’s a battle between two of the four sides still in the hunt for the title this Sunday, as Schalke travel to the Allianz Arena to take on Bayern Munich. Both sides were in action during the week, with Schalke overcoming Viktoria Plzeň after extra-time to reach the next round of the Europa League, and Bayern continuing their poor run of recent form by losing 1-0 away at Basel in the Champions League.

Compounded by a run of two wins in their last five league games, the Bavarian side have looked bereft of drive and determination in recent weeks, with last Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Freiburg being a particularly listless showing. Question marks remain over the form and best use of Arjen Robben and Thomas Müller, among others, while players such as Rafinha – who, like Manuel Neuer, is a former Schalke player – have looked out of their depth in recent weeks. Having said that, Schalke remain the underdogs for this clash, as Bayern still arguably boast the best first XI in the Bundesliga, and Mario Gómez is joint top goalscorer in the league – the number one spot being shared with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who will be hoping to fire Schalke to their first Bundesliga victory in Munich since the 2008/09 season.
Continue reading

Stuttgart-Freiburg preview

It’s a battle of the Baden-Württemberg sides this weekend in the Bundesliga, as Freiburg take on Stuttgart on Saturday afternoon. As Uli Hesse noted in his column on ESPN last week, it may be surprising to football fans outside of Germany that this match is a derby, let alone a heated one, considering the two cities are more than 80 miles apart. But, wrote Hesse, “the thing about this game is that it pits a club from Swabia (Stuttgart) against one from Baden (Freiburg), and to say there is no love lost between these two regions and ethnic groups is an understatement.” 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