Bayern Munich 1-0 Borussia Mönchengladbach

The first half formations.

Bayern Munich moved back into the Champions League spots after a narrow and unconvincing win against plucky Borussia Mönchengladbach.

At the start of the current campaign, it’s unlikely that the bigwigs at Bayern and Gladbach would have expected to see their sides struggling to reach the Champions League and avoid the drop respectively. If some people were putting Bayern’s topsy-turvy season down to tiredness, the recent batch of EURO 2012 qualifiers and friendlies could not have come at a worse time – 12 players were called up to represent their nation, compared to Gladbach’s eight (four of whom played for the Germany U19 side, and thus aren’t near Lucien Favre’s first team at club level).

There were few injury problems affecting either side at least, so this tussle between two teams with very different goals would ultimately be decided by events on the pitch only. For the visitors, Mo Idrissou was finally dropped from the starting XI and Logan Bailly kept his place after a howler in round 27. There were no surprises in the home side’s line-up, however.  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

Wolfsburg 2-1 Borussia Mönchengladbach

The first half formations.

Wolfsburg defeated relegation rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach to move into 13th place, and more importantly, three points above the drop-zone.

The stakes couldn’t have been higher before this one. Fifteenth-placed Wolfsburg, who knew a loss would set a new club record of five straight defeats, faced bottom-placed Gladbach, who won against Schalke last time out with a new coach in charge. And although that was his first game at the helm, this encounter was no doubt just as important to him – it was the first time Dieter Hoeneß and Lucien Favre (current VfL Wolfsburg sporting director and Borussia Mönchengladbach coach respectively) had come face to face professionally since their very public power struggle at Hertha BSC 20 months ago.

The Wolves came into the tie without several key players: goalkeeper Diego Benaglio (back), midfielder Josué (thigh) and striker Grafite (illness) were all out. Gladbach, meanwhile, were looking much better fitness-wise, and were relieved to hear that Marco Reus was fit to start following a knock to his heel. Continue reading

Turkey 3-2 Belgium

Turkey 3-2 Belgium, 07/09/10. Belgium's 4-2-3-1 was a very negative take on the system. Facing inside-out wingers, both Vertonghen and Simons could do little bar support the full-backs when Altintop or Turan stepped inside. Lukaku gave Belgium some presence on the right, and Fellaini flitted between centre-forward and centre-back.

A fiery, frenetic affair saw the Turkish national team prevail from yet another of the epic matches they habitually partake in. With two wins from two games, Turkey will push Germany all the way in the EURO 2012 qualification race.

Initially, I was left stunned by the Belgium line-up, as Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Daniel van Buyten and Thomas Vermaelen – all of whom play centre-back at club level – started.

Add to that list Timmy Simons, who can also play in defence, Anderlecht right-back Guillaume Gillet, plus Everton’s defensive screen Marouane Fellaini, and I was convinced coach Georges Leekens had lost his marbles.

However, his players amalgamated into a hybrid of 4-2-3-1 – one winger, a very high-standing forward, a stupendously mobile central attacker, a right-sided midfielder who acted as a third defensive-midfielder, and a deep and flat back-four.

Guus Hiddink was taking charge of his first competitive game on Turkish soil, and rightfully appeased a vociferous crowd by sending his team out to attack with infectious gusto. Continue reading