Stuttgart 3-1 Schalke

VEDAD Ibišević grabbed a hat-trick as Stuttgart put on a counter-attacking masterclass to beat Schalke and move level on points with Huub Stevens’ side in the table. The Bosnian’s eighth, ninth and tenth goals of the season mean Bruno Labbadia’s side have now made it three wins out of three in the league, and could even end the first half of the campaign in a Champions League qualification spot. Stuttgart deserved their win this afternoon, after putting in a solid shift defensively, being tactically disciplined and versatile in midfield, and lethal on the break. It helps, of course, when you have someone of Ibišević’s calibre leading the line – the 28-year-old has scored 50 per cent of his team’s league goals this season, and looks on course to be one of the contenders for the golden boot for the fifth consecutive year.

As for Schalke, perhaps they just didn’t fancy the cold? Today’s clash was one fought in a sub-zero temperature; but one that also often had the relaxed feel of a friendly. However, both sides did end proceedings at the Mercedes-Benz Arena with ten men, following straight red cards for Stuttgart right-back Gōtoku Sakai and Schalke midfielder Jermaine Jones. The visiting side’s latest failure to win means despite making their best-ever start to a season, Schalke – still fourth in the league, but only by virtue of goal difference – have picked up just two wins from their last ten games. Although 59-year-old Stevens’ side bossed possession for large spells and looked the much-more technically accomplished of the two teams this afternoon, they didn’t trouble Stuttgart goalkeeper Sven Ulreich at all, with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar starved of service. Yes, the visitors were level for a while, after Ciprian Marica scored against his former club, but with Stevens already under pressure, this was not a performance that will have convinced the pen-pushers that the Dutchman is the right man for the job.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Stuttgart (4-1-4-1, from right to left): Ulreich; Sakai, Maza Rodríguez, Georg Niedermeier, Arthur Boka; Zdravko Kuzmanović; Martin Harnik, Christian Gentner, Raphael Holzhauser, Ibrahima Traoré; Ibišević

Schalke (4-1-2-1-2, or 4-4-2 diamond; from right to left): Timo Hildebrand; Atsuto Uchida, Benedikt Höwedes, Joël Matip, Christian Fuchs; Roman Neustädter; Jones, Julian Draxler; Lewis Holtby; Marica, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar 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

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.
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Schalke 0-2 Bayern Munich

The first half formations.

Bayern Munich beat Schalke 2-0 to return to the top of the Bundesliga table. Manuel Neuer, booed throughout on his return to the Veltins-Arena, kept a clean sheet for the seventh game in a row, although Bayern were lucky that Klaas-Jan Huntelaar didn’t bring his shooting boots as the Dutchman and one or two other of his colleagues had enough chances to kill Bayern off in the first half. However, those moments weren’t capitalised on, and with the hosts tiring in the second half, a Franck Ribéry-inspired Bayern eventually cruised to victory despite the absence of both Arjen Robben and Mario Gómez.

Match preview here.

Bayern bossed possession from the off, spreading it about among the fluid foremost six players, as well as the centre-backs and full-backs. The hosts were playing something of a 4-3-3, with the narrowness of the midfield designed to help keep the string-pulling likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos quiet. It was a foul-laden opening ten minutes, with Kyriakos Papadopoulos & co. hacking and hounding to stop Bayern getting more comfortable than they already were.

Although Bayern – looking to expose Schalke’s lack of midfield width through a series of long-diagonals to and attacks down the channels – were in control, they had nothing to show for it bar Gómez’s stand-in Nils Petersen going close and a couple of corners. Continue reading

Schalke-Bayern Munich preview

Manuel Neuer makes his return to Gelsenkirchen tomorrow night as Bayern Munich travel to Schalke. The visitors are in great form coming into this game, and their summer signing from Schalke, Neuer, has now kept six consecutive clean sheets for the 2009/10 Bundesliga champions. Both Bayern Munich and Schalke played in European competition during the week, with Ralf Rangnick’s side drawing 0-0 at Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League, and Jupp Heynckes’ winning 2-0 at Villareal in the Champions League. Even right-back Rafinha scored in that game, and the Brazilian defender is another player making his return to the Veltins-Arena after leaving for Genoa two seasons back.

He and his defensive colleagues will have their work cut out keeping Raúl corked tomorrow, while Rafinha is going to be in for a tough afternoon in his one-on-one duel against the in-form Peruvian Jefferson Farfán too. Nevertheless, all eyes will mainly be at the other end of the pitch, with Franck Ribéry and Mario Gómez in scintillating form, the pair scoring goals and assisting them for fun so far this season. Continue reading

Mainz 2-4 Schalke

The first half formations. Ivanschitz took advantage of the space behind Raúl, with Papadopoulos often extremely isolated.

Schalke stormed back from 2-0 down to deny Mainz the chance to go back to the top of the table. The home side stopped the visitors from playing in the first half with their intense pressing and energetic attacking, but Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick rang the changes at the interval and reaped the benefits; his Jefferson Farfán-inspired side eventually proving too strong and clinical for Mainz.

Match preview here.

Mainz got things under way at their new Coface Arena, coach Thomas Tuchel starting with the same team that defeated Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 on the opening day of the new Bundesliga season. They put Schalke’s deep 4-1-4-1 under pressure early on, forcing the visitors into fouls, back-passes, and hurried sideways delegation-balls whenever Schalke did get possession or territory. Rangnick’s game-plan seemed to hinge on his side getting the chance to counter-attack, as illustrated in the fourth minute when his four banks sat in their own half, only pressing the pass-assessor when they were primed to cross halfway.

In that particular instance, Lewis Holtby won the ball, dribbled upfield, before stalling so as to wait for the sprinting widemen – the only place for the visitors to build was in the home side’s half, especially when Mainz’s players were darting back more concerned about getting into position. Holtby slid the ball one way, before it was disguised via another pass to go out to the opposite flank. The eventual cross, from Jan Morávek, was a few inches too high, however. Continue reading

Mainz-Schalke preview

Round three of the new Bundesliga season pits together two of the sides who succeeded last year in qualifying for the 2011/12 Europa League. However, whereas Schalke began their continental campaign on Thursday, albeit by losing 2-0 away to HJK Helsinki in a first leg result described as a “disaster” by sporting director Horst Heldt, Mainz were eliminated at the first hurdle, suffering a penalty shootout exit after failing to break down Romanian minnows Gaz Metan two weeks ago.

Nevertheless, Thomas Tuchel’s side have made the better start to the new Bundesliga campaign, taking six points from a possible six, and making fans dream of emulating their seven-wins-from-seven-games start to 2010/11. Following up their 2-0 and 2-1 victories over Bayer Leverkusen and Freiburg respectively with three points against Schalke will put them just under 50 percent of the way to achieving that goal, and the away side can expect a frenzied atmosphere at Mainz’s new Coface Arena as fans dream of eclipsing last season’s fifth-place finish. Continue reading

Duisburg 0-5 Schalke

The formations in the 30th minute, with Duisburg trailing their Bundesliga opponents and geographical near-neighbours (a 25-minute drive apart from one another) 2-0.

Schalke defeated Ruhr Valley rivals MSV Duisburg to win the DFB-Pokal in one of the most one-sided German cup finals in history. Schalke were in control from the word ‘go’, seeing off their soon-to-depart superstar goalkeeper Manuel Neuer in style.

Although this tie pitted a top flight side who had appeared in a Champions League semi-final earlier this month against a lower division outfit who had finished 22 points behind 2. Bundesliga winners Hertha BSC (whose Olympic Stadium ground was used to stage this final), a David against Goliath cliché would have been unfair.

Schalke, on the whole, have been in poor form all season domestically, and after finishing in 14th in the league, Duisburg, technically 12 places below them after an eighth-placed finish in the second tier, were actually closer to Schalke than Ralf Rangnick’s side were to their arch-rivals and top flight winners BVB in the German football ladder. Up against a side seemingly all-but on their holidays, Duisburg had the chance to claim their first piece of silverware since a German Amateur Championships win in 1987, not to mention qualifying for the Europa League in the process. Continue reading

Bayern Munich 4-1 Schalke

The first half formations.

Bayern Munich swept aside a naive and not particularly bothered Schalke side to all but guarantee their place in next season’s Champions League – aided greatly by the fact that their goal difference is now 30 goals superior to that of their nearest challengers, Hannover.

To many, this game had something of a dead rubber feel pre-match. Despite it still being mathematically possible for Schalke to go down, such an occurrence would be nigh-on impossible. As for the hosts, with Hannover losing to Gladbach earlier on in the afternoon, Bayern knew that a win here would lift them into the third and final Champions League spot – surely a position they wouldn’t relinquish with two games left to play after this one. Thus, they therefore knew that if they failed against Schalke, the likelihood of spending the 2011/12 season in the Europa League would be strong. That competition is one Schalke are destined for, so long as they win the German cup final against Duisburg on May 21. This season’s Champions League final takes place seven days after that, but Schalke won’t be there – a humiliating 2-0 home defeat to Manchester United in the first leg of one of the competition’s semi-finals in the week saw last season’s Bundesliga runners-up totally outclassed, and the upcoming second leg at Old Trafford four days after this tie against last season’s Bundesliga champions rendered somewhat meaningless. Continue reading

Werder Bremen 1-1 Schalke

The first half formations.

The sides who finished third and second respectively in last season’s Bundesliga played out a carefree and thrilling 1-1 draw on Saturday evening – a result that nigh-on confirms both sides’ places in the top division next season.

Life for Schalke fans is pretty sweet right now. They might have come into this game in tenth place – nine points from a Europa League qualification spot – having had to endure the season-long celebrations of nailed-on title winners and arch rivals Dortmund, but with Felix Magath gone, Ralf Rangnick stepping up to the managerial plate with ease, and their side in the last four of the Champions League, this league tie had something of a ‘who cares?’ about it for the Gelsenkirchen outfit’s fans. And this was reflected in their side’s starting line-up, with five changes made to the side which overcame Inter. Nevertheless, Schalke had won all four games which had been played under Rangnick to date  (including those two heroic quarter-final games against Inter), so there was no need to let that good form go to waste now. The hosts, sitting five points above the drop zone coming into this game, knew that another three or four points would be enough to secure their safety, and after two successive draws, a game against a side presumable exhausted after overcoming the reigning European champions was a better time than any to stop the rot. Schaaf stuck with the side that contested the game against Frankfurt last week (save for replacing Denni Avdić), but he had to make do without Sebastian Prödl, Avdić, Philipp Bargfrede and Naldo. Bremen’s guests, meanwhile, were without Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Tim Hoogland, Peer Kluge, Christoph Moritz, Christian Pander, Vasileios Pliatsikas and Mario Gavranović. Continue reading