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

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Stuttgart-Schalke preview

TOMORROW afternoon, inconsistent Stuttgart host a Schalke side who have seen their title challenge disintegrate in the last few weeks. Both sides come into this game on a high, though, with Schalke securing top-spot in their Champions League group on Tuesday, and Stuttgart making it six 1. Bundesliga teams out of six to reach the next round of Europe’s continental cup competitions, albeit after losing at home last night. Continue reading

Schalke 2-1 Werder Bremen

Schalke fought back after a lacklustre first half performance to beat Werder Bremen 2-1 and keep pace with 1. Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich. An Aaron Hunt-inspired Bremen deserved the 1-0 lead they took into the break after executing an effective gameplan and capitalising on some lethargic play by the home side (with Hunt himself putting the ball in the net). But after being allowed to equalize a little too easily shortly after the hour mark (Roman Neustädter’s headed goal was pretty defendable, and came at a time when Bremen were still exerting a degree of control), Schalke took charge, with 18-year-old substitute Julian Draxler showing great composure – amid erratic defending by the visitors – to score the winner with just under 20 minutes to play.

Thomas Schaaf will feel his side didn’t get what they deserved after one of their best performances on the road this season, yet Bremen only have themselves to blame. Huub Stevens, meanwhile, will be relieved his side came away with all three points from this game, as during the first 45 minutes, Schalke looked tired after their heroic efforts against English Premier League side Arsenal in the Champions League on Wednesday. Although Schalke remain seven points behind Bayern Munich, who also won this afternoon, beating Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 at the Allianz Arena, Stevens’ side remain four points clear of fierce rivals Borussia Dortmund (who won 3-1 at Augsburg), and three ahead of third-placed Frankfurt, with a much better goal difference. So, in a nutshell, a forgettable match but an important result – one that could be the difference between tears of joy and jubilation come the conclusion of matchday 34 for both these sides.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Schalke (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Lars Unnerstall; Benedikt Höwedes, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Joël Matip, Christian Fuchs; Jermaine Jones, Neustädter; Jefferson Farfán, Lewis Holtby, Ibrahim Afellay; Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

Werder Bremen (4-1-4-1, from right to left): Sebastian Mielitz; Theodor Gebre Selassie, Assani Lukimya-Mulongoti, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Lukas Schmitz; Zlatko Junuzović; Marko Arnautović, Hunt, Kevin De Bruyne, Eljero Elia; Nils Petersen Continue reading

Schalke-Werder Bremen preview

Schalke will be looking to bounce back from the disappointment of losing to lowly Hoffenheim last weekend as poor-on-the-road Werder Bremen visit the Veltins-Arena. Last Saturday’s 3-2 loss at the Rhein-Neckar Arena was actually Schalke’s first defeat in all competitions on the road this season, with Hoffe denying second-placed Schalke the chance to stay within four points of league leaders Bayern Munich (who beat Hamburg 3-0 to make the gap seven points). Bayern Munich are the only other side to have beaten Schalke this season, with Schalke otherwise proving to be imperious at home so far this campaign (a run they maintained by fighting back to draw 2-2 with Arsenal in the Champions League during the week).

On paper, Bremen should pose no problems on Saturday afternoon, as Thomas Schaaf’s side have lost to Münster (cup), Borussia Dortmund, Hannover, and Augsburg away from home this season, and were also held at struggling minnows Fürth a fortnight back. However, at home, the story is a little different, with Sunday’s 2-1 home win over Mainz helping Bremen move up to seventh place in the 1. Bundesliga table (six points behind their hosts this weekend). 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

Mainz-Bayer Leverkusen preview

They might not yet have even played their first Bundesliga game of the 2011/12 season, but Mainz have already played in two cup competitions. Although coach Thomas Tuchel’s side squeezed past SV Niederauerbach in the DFB-Pokal last weekend, they suffered an early Europa League exit at the hands of Romanian side Gaz Metan on Thursday, however. But, Tuchel has called on his heartbroken players to put aside the disappointment of that elimination as they prepare to kick off their league campaign against Bayer Leverkusen, a side they spent a large chunk of last season battling for Champions League qualification with. The young miracle worker has told his players that defeats are just a part of football that they have to learn to accept, and that they couldn’t have wished to meet a better opponent at this moment in time than Bayer. Given that this will be the first ever Bundesliga game staged at Mainz’s new Coface Arena stadium, there’s no danger that the home fans will be suffering an emotional hangover, and Bayer Leverkusen and the Mainz representatives on the pitch themselves can expect a wall of noise. Continue reading