The Bundesliga is back after a month-long winter break, with new coaches and fresh signings joining the familiar faces to kick off the 18th round of fixtures. One of the Saturday afternoon ties sees Hertha Berlin travel to Nuremberg, with new coach Michael Skibbe taking charge of the visitors for the first time in a league match. Nobody associated with either of these sides will be able to sleep soundly in their beds until more points are on the board, with Nuremberg sitting in 15th spot having accumulated just 18 points, and the capital city outfit a mere four places and two points ahead of them. Continue reading
Two sides locked on 13 points – five away from second-bottom HSV, six off second-placed BVB – meet at the Volkswagen Arena tomorrow afternoon. Wolfsburg’s away form may be poor, but at home, they’ve won three of the four games played in the 2011/12 Bundesliga campaign to date, and striker Mario Mandžukić is in world-class form. Hertha Berlin, meanwhile, look as though they have enough quality and spirit to stay in the top-flight, and even though they’ve lost their last two games on the road to Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich respectively, Markus Babbel’s side have won at Dortmund already this season, and until being defeated – with nine men – at the death by Bremen last month, they’d gone the whole of 2011 without suffering an away loss. Continue reading
Admittedly, this wasn’t the most eye-catching fixture of round 28 given that it pitted the team in 9th against the team in 7th. Neither of these sides will be relegated, and only Hamburg have a slender hope of reaching the Europa League. Nevertheless, they’ve both been good sources of news on and off the pitch in 2011 – Hamburg have been beaten by six and won by six in recent weeks, Hoffenheim have been hammered by Bayern but beat Dortmund, and neither side has stuck with the manager they started the season with. If tiredness was to play its part in proceedings, it was always going to affect Hamburg more, who saw 12 of their players called up for service in the recent international break. Yet although Hoffe’s training ground *only* saw ten players absent, it still managed to play host to a scrap between midfielder Sejad Salihović and defender Marvin Compper. Nevertheless, the only notable absentees at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena were José Paolo Guerrero, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Salihović, who all failed to make the pitch or bench. Continue reading
Armin Veh’s Hamburg tore woeful Werder Bremen apart in the north German derby. The hosts had a point to prove after a humiliating midweek defeat to city rivals St Pauli, and couldn’t have wished for better opponents than confidence-deprived, injury-hit Bremen. Hamburg, who left Ruud van Nistelrooy on the bench throughout, came into this game knowing they could move up to sixth spot with a win. Bremen, however, knew a loss could see them end the weekend in the relegation zone.
Thus, Bremen adopted the role of the stereotypical struggling away side from the off – content to let their hosts have the ball, and more concerned with keeping their formation tight (pushing high in a compact 4-1-4-1). Faced with an extremely flat rearguard, Mladen Petrić lingered on the last shoulder, making teasing runs designed to pull someone out of the shape. His side were patient in possession, showing only occasional flashes of penetration through Gojko Kačar’s long and searching balls from the back, or Heung-Min Son’s slipping in of some canny passes. Continue reading