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
TWO teams who underwent vastly contrasting summer transfer campaigns go head to head in the third round of the 2012/13 1. Bundesliga season this weekend. Whereas Borussia Mönchengladbach lost three of their best players, Nuremberg had a relatively quiet summer, keeping the squad pretty much intact. Both sides have made decent starts to the latest league season, with Gladbach beating Hoffenheim and drawing away at local rivals Fortuna Düsseldorf, and Nuremberg winning away at Hamburg before holding reigning champions Borussia Dortmund to a draw at home last weekend (a game in which Dieter Hecking’s side had more than enough chances to win).
An international break has seen the German top-flight campaign have a two-week break since then, but you imagine both Hecking and Gladbach coach Lucien Favre will have appreciated the time this has given them to work with their players on the training ground; particularly the latter, whose side had played two Champions League games, a DFB-Pokal tie and two 1. Bundesliga matches in the space of 14 days. Continue reading
Nuremberg defeated Hertha Berlin to ruin Michael Skibbe’s first game in charge of the capital city club. Alexander Esswein and Dominic Maroh were the match-winners for the struggling Franconian side in a game low on quality and chances: a situation caused primarily by the Frankenstadion’s terrible pitch. With his side not only losing, but also failing to impress with their new negative tactics and showing little in the way of creativity or goal threat, this really was a poor start to life for Skibbe at Hertha. Dieter Hecking’s team, who played the better football, leapfrog the capital city side as a result of this win, leaving Hertha just four points clear of the drop-zone (with Kaiserslautern and Mainz, two of the sides below them, still to play this weekend).
Nuremberg (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Raphael Schäfer; Jens Hegeler, Maroh, Philipp Wollscheid, Adam Hloušek; Almog Cohen, Timmy Simons; Daniel Didavi, Christian Eigler, Esswein; Tomáš Pekhart
Hertha Berlin (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Thomas Kraft; Christian Lell, Roman Hubník, Christoph Janker, Levan Kobiashvili; Andreas Ottl, Peter Niemeyer; Patrick Ebert, Adrián Ramos, Ronny; Pierre-Michel Lasogga Continue reading
Well-organised and clinical Schalke caught an error-strewn and lethargic Nuremberg side cold on four occasions to take all three points and move up to third in the table. The visitors, admittedly injury-hit in the striking department, looked shorn of confidence and unsure as to what was required of them tactically for the majority of the match. These problems, coupled with several out-of-form defenders, meant that Huub Stevens’ counter-attacking style worked perfectly: His side’s performance really was a masterclass in how to capitalise on your opponent’s weaknesses. Selection wise, the Dutchman got it spot on too – picking the creative but often work-shy Alexander Baumjohann, for instance, was a bold move. But, it paid off, as the right-sided midfielder played a blinder and the home side took all three points; leaving Nuremberg – without a win in eight – looking over their collective shoulder.
Both sides made bright starts to the match, with no nerves apparent, and several little give-and-go moves attempted. However, the two best chances in the opening stages were as a result of more direct tactics – first Mike Frantz chasing a long punt upfield but seeing his shot on the spin blocked, before Kyriakos Papadopoulos headed over at the other end after a hanging cross from the right. With both his first-choice strikers missing and Christian Eigler deployed on the right wing, several of Dieter Hecking’s attacking-midfielders seemed to be taking it in turns to lead the line in a 4-4-2 early on. With the hosts seeing more of the ball in the match’s first ten minutes, Nuremberg switched between lightening-quick carry-the-ball counter-attacks upfield, and some side-to-side-and-going-nowhere-but-forcing-the-opposition-back melina. Continue reading
The final game scheduled for Saturday’s batch of Bundesliga 2011/12 opening round fixtures sees newly-promoted Hertha BSC take on a side who just missed out on Europa League qualification last season. Nuremberg, however, have lost a few key players after their 2010/11 heroics, which halted two consecutive seasons that concluded with relegation play-off fixtures. Chief among those who coach Dieter Hecking can no longer count upon is İlkay Gündoğan, the young midfielder rewarded for his own fine season by Borussia Dortmund bringing him in.
But the young German midfielder isn’t the only key player to have left the Bavarian side, with Mehmet Ekici going back to Bayern – then Bremen – after a loan spell, Julian Schieber returning to Stuttgart after an impressive campaign leading the line in Hecking’s well-drilled 4-1-4-1, and Andreas Wolf moving to Werder Bremen to help shore up Thomas Schaaf’s defence. Continue reading