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

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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

Wolfsburg 1-0 Stuttgart

The first half formations.

Stuttgart’s poor form at Wolfsburg continued as young Sebastian Polter’s goal handed the hosts a priceless 1-0 victory to end the first half of the season on a high. The striker came on as a sub to tap in a 74th minute winner, put on a plate for him by Wolfsburg’s scruff-of-the-neck-grabbing, swashbuckling and technically sound left-back Marcel Schäfer. Bruno Labbadia’s side actually enjoyed the best of the first half, and looked much the better team. However, even then it was Felix Magath’s team who were having most of the chances, with Stuttgart’s inability to test Diego Bengalio proving just as big a problem in the second half. Wolfsburg move up to 12th courtesy of this result, while Stuttgart stay in seventh sot (for now).

Match preview here. 

Wolfsburg went long a couple of times in the opening stages, as Magath looked to get his defensive line standing as high up the field as possible. However, due to the poor, bobbly state of the Volkswagen Arena pitch, neither side found themselves able to complete even the simplest of passes or hold onto the ball early on, making for some end to end stuff. Francisco Rodríguez, aka Maza, very nearly allowed Wolfsburg to create the game’s first real chance in the fourth minute. The Mexican centre-back dallied near to the edge of his own box – the visitors were indulging in some teasing, risky melina – when faced by three Wolfsburg players pressing furiously. They nicked the ball off him, but unfortunately, Mario Mandžukić’s quick cross sailed straight into the arms of Sven Ulreich. Continue reading

Wolfsburg-Stuttgart preview

Stuttgart travel to struggling Wolfsburg in the final round of Bundesliga fixtures before the winter break on Saturday afternoon. Despite an absolutely dreadful record away from home, Wolfsburg have actually won four and drawn one of their league home games so far this season. But, although Stuttgart have only won twice on the road in 2011/12, they’ll take hope from the fact that Felix Magath’s side have only kept one clean sheet at the Volkswagen Arena. Nevertheless, Stuttgart have scored twice and shipped 13 goals in their last five trips to Wolfsburg, where they have not won since 2005, when Mario Gómez secured a 1-0 win. Also playing that day for Stuttgart was current Wolfsburg midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, who’ll miss Saturday’s tie through injury. Other former Stuttgart players currently on Wolfsburg’s books include Alexander Hleb, Diego Benaglio, and, a man there more recently, Christian Träsch. Not only that, Magath himself is a former Stuttgart coach, enjoying a successful three-year stint there at the start of the new century. Continue reading

Borussia Dortmund-Wolfsburg preview

The 2009 Bundesliga champions travel to the title-holders tomorrow afternoon, with both sides in the midst of unsatisfactory starts to the 2011/12 campaign. This match is key for both Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg, with the former fully aware that they would – temporarily – move one point behind divisional-leaders Bayern Munich if they win at the Westfalenstadion, and the latter knowing that a defeat could see them go into the upcoming international break one point and two places above the drop-zone.  And, Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath used his pre-match press conference to confirm the challenge his side face tomorrow afternoon: “Dortmund are the reigning German champions and still a great team,” he said. “They impress with their determined attacking game, but also the way every individual works to get back. That was their greatest strength last year, and it hasn’t changed.” Continue reading

Wolfsburg 2-3 Hertha BSC

The first half formations.

Pierre-Michel Lasogga came back to haunt his old club with two assists and the result-settling goal in this exciting Bundesliga round 11 clash on Saturday afternoon. Felix Magath’s decision to play a high-line and a rookie centre-back backfired, as Hertha Berlin thrice exploited Wolfsburg’s dodgy defence to take all three points from the Volkswagen Arena. Bjarne Thölke was at fault for both the second and third of Hertha’s goals, although Markus Babbel’s side were impressively clinical on the break, displaying the cutting-edge in front of goal that was missing from Wolfsburg’s game. It was mainly left to Makoto Hasebe and Ashkan Dejagah to create the opportunities the anonymous duo of Thomas Hitzlsperger and Alexander Hleb were supposed to carve out; but, despite getting chances handed to them on a plate by the former pair on several occasions, neither Mario Mandžukić or Srđan Lakić displayed the sort of lethal, assured finishing that we saw from Lasogga – the one Wolfsburg let get away in 2009.

Match preview here. 

The opening exchanges passed by with little of note happening. Wolfsburg saw the majority of possession, and were content to knock it about at pace and give everyone a touch. Sotirios Kyrgiakos could already be seen barking instructions at Thölke, the veteran Greek international doing his best to help the young German in any way that he could. In the fifth minute, though, the game very nearly exploded into life courtesy of another German, Christian Träsch. Mandžukić had already spotted the lay-off opportunity before receiving the ball, and when the Croatian finally got the chance to play his desired pass, he set up the perfect shooting chance for the right-footed Träsch. However, former Bayern Munich goalkeeper Thomas Kraft pulled off an athletic super save to keep the score at 0-0. Continue reading