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

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

Bayern Munich 5-0 Hannover

MARIO Gómez netted his first goal of the 2012/13 campaign as Bayern Munich strolled to victory against a lacklustre Hannover side. Admittedly, Mirko Slomka’s team had finished a Europa League tie against Dutch outfit FC Twente just over 40 hours before this afternoon’s German league game kicked off, but, mentally as well as physically, his side were second-best and disinterested all over the pitch. Jupp Heynckes’ Champions League silver-medallists barely had to get out of second gear all game. Thanks to athletic goals from Toni Kroos and Javi Martínez, Bayern were comfortably 2-0 up with the points in the bag with just over a quarter of the match gone. Franck Ribéry added a third before half-time, Dante made it 4-0 in the 62nd minute, before Gómez made it 5-0 a mere 26 seconds after coming on as a substitute! Today’s result helped Bayern extend their lead at the top of the table to nine points; aided by Schalke and Eintracht Frankfurt playing out a draw.

Save for the odd flash of genius and incision from Lars Stindl, Hannover lacked any sort of cutting edge or creation at the Allianz Arena. Thus, some might deem Slomka’s decision to leave Jan Schlaudraff – a rabbit-out-of-the-hat type of midfielder-cum-attacker – on the bench throughout today’s match, let alone not starting the 29-year-old, a mystifying decision. One can only assume Slomka figured it wasn’t worth risking Schlaudraff in a game against his former employers, against whom he likely has a point to prove after a disappointing spell at the Allianz Arena several seasons back. With Greuther Fürth and Mainz to come in the next week, games from which Hannover should take six points, perhaps Slomka was just being canny and far-sighted. Bayern, meanwhile, who have won 22 of their last 24 games against Hannover in Munich, go to Freiburg on Tuesday, before hosting Borussia Dortmund next weekend. Jürgen Klopp’s reigning champions moved up to second spot in 1. Bundesliga today after winning at Mainz, and it is imperative that they get something from that showdown in Munich. If Dortmund play anything like Hannover did today, though, they won’t stand a chance.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Manuel Neuer; Philipp Lahm, Dante, Holger Badstuber, David Alaba; Martínez, Bastian Schweinsteiger; Thomas Müller, Kroos, Ribéry; Mario Mandžukić

Hannover (4-4-2, from right to left): Ron-Robert Zieler; Steve Cherundolo, Mario Eggimann, Karim Haggui, Konstantin Rausch; Lars Stindl, Manuel Schmiedebach, Sérgio Pinto, Szabolcs Huszti; Mame Biram Diouf, Artur Sobiech Continue reading

Bayern Munich-Hannover preview

JUST over 40 hours after finishing a Europa League match against Dutch side FC Twente, Hannover will begin their 13th match of the 2012/2013 1. Bundesliga season at runaway leaders Bayern Munich. Admittedly, Mirko Slomka’s side were already assured of their progress to the next round of Europe’s secondary competition before Tonight’s match, but at least nine players likely to be involved at the Allianz Arena – a six-and-a-half-hour drive from Hannover – featured in the 0-0 draw with Steve McClaren’s Eredivisie outfit. Bayern, on the other hand, had their midweek European game done and dusted by Tuesday evening, as their 1-1 draw with Valencia in Spain proved enough to secure both sides’ passage to the next round of the Champions League.

The Bavarian giants come into this game eight points clear at the top of the table, with a 1. Bundesliga record of ten wins, one draw – which came last weekend in a physical state derby at Nuremberg – and a single loss, with 33 goals scored, and a mere five conceded. One aberration at the hands of Bayer Leverkusen aside, the runners-up in last season’s Champions League have won every match they’ve played at home in the league, cup and Europe so far this season. Hannover, on the other hand, come into this game with an average domestic away record. Slomka’s side have won two and lost three of the 1. Bundesliga games they’ve played on the road in the 2012/13 campaign; one of the latter results being a noteworthy 4-2 win at Stuttgart a few weeks back, where Hannover came back from 2-0 down to win 4-2. Continue reading