Hoffenheim 1-3 Wolfsburg

LORENZ Günther-Köstner’s temporary spell as Wolfsburg coach continues to get better and better, as his side registered their fourth win from the five games they’ve had under the 60-year-old’s control. Crucially, the result also lifted Wolfsburg out of the relegation zone and above Hoffenheim, who paid the price for their woeful first-half performance (and an improved, if not much better, second-half showing). Markus Babbel’s side, coming into this game with their spirits buoyed after learning on Friday that popular, talented midfielder Boris Vukčević – involved in a nasty car crash in September – had finally woken up from his coma, just never got going, and played like a side who have only won one of their last seven games.

But, credit where it’s due to Wolfsburg, who deserved all three points this afternoon. Defensively, they were mentally, tactically and physically solid, and in attack, were enterprising, creative, fluid and confident. If Günther-Köstner’s side can win against Werder Bremen at the Volkswagen Arena next weekend, it’s hard to see how the former Hoffenheim coach won’t be given the Wolfsburg job on a permanent basis. Today’s hosts, meanwhile, booed regularly by the home fans, welcome Bayer Leverkusen – coached by Sami Hyypiä, Babbel’s former Liverpool teammate – to the Rhein-Neckar-Arena. It’s hard to see how Babbel, once a coach of such promise, will be able to hold onto his job if his players fail to pick up even a point from that encounter.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Hoffenheim (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Tim Wiese; Andreas Beck, Pelle Jensen, Matthieu Delpierre, Fabian Johnson; Sebastian Rudy, Daniel Williams; Roberto Firmino, Sejad Salihović, Kevin Volland; Joselu

Wolfsburg (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Diego Benaglio; Fagner, Naldo, Simon Kjær, Marcel Schäfer; Josué, Jan Polák; Makoto Hasebe, Diego, Ivica Olić; Bas Dost Continue reading

1860 Munich-Eintracht Braunschweig preview

RUNAWAY 2. Bundesliga leaders Eintracht Braunschweig travel to fellow unbeaten side 1860 Munich this weekend looking to make it six wins out of six. The Lower Saxony minnows – who were in Germany’s 3. Liga as recently as last May – didn’t spend a cent on transfers over the summer, which makes their start to the 2012/13 season all the more impressive. Goals and assists have been spread out among the squad so far too, which bodes well for the rest of the campaign, because Braunschweig don’t have any star names in their squad, let alone a 20-goal-a-season striker.

Torsten Lieberknecht’s side will face their sternest test of the campaign to date in travelling to the 69,000-seater Allianz Arena on Sunday. Laying in wait are an 1860 Munich side who boast a number of ‘star’ names and have only conceded in one of their six games so far this season (ditto Braunschweig). The Bavarian side have also been more prolific in front of goal than the league-leaders, who have scored eight goals to 1860’s ten. However, although the visitors netted just 37 goals in 34 games last season, they conceded the third least amount of goals in 2. Bundesliga: therefore, this match promises to be tight, but also a real litmus test for both sides.

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Hoffenheim 0-4 Eintracht Frankfurt

HOFFENHEIM paid the price for missing a number of gilt-edged chances early on, as Eintracht Frankfurt struck twice towards the end of both the first and second half to make it two wins out of two in the new 1. Bundesliga season. The home side finished the match with nine men after right-back Stephan Schröck and substitute midfielder Sejad Salihović picked up red cards midway through the second half. However, Hoffenheim hadn’t looked like they were going to get back into the game even with a full complement of players on the pitch, with Frankfurt both mentally and tactically adroit after getting their two-goal cushion shortly before the break. In fairness to Hoffe coach Markus Babbel, whose side have now lost two league games and one cup tie in the 2012/13 campaign, he got his tactics spot on at the start of the match. Allowing the visitors to monopolize possession, the former Liverpool and Stuttgart defender utilised the counter-attacking talents of his foremost four players, as Hoffenheim created – but spurned – a number of one-on-one opportunities. But, once his team had fallen behind through an own goal and a spectacular Pirmin Schwegler strike, Babbel was unable to get his team back into the game, and could only watch on helplessly as his players lost their heads. Lose next week’s match at Freiburg, and the young tactician’s position might become untenable.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Hoffenheim (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Tim Wiese; Schröck, Matthieu Delpierre, Marvin Compper, Fabian Johnson; Tobias Weis, Sebastian Rudy; Boris Vukčević, Kevin Volland, Roberto Firmino; Erin Derdiyok

Eintracht Frankfurt (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Kevin Trapp; Sebastian Jung, Carlos Zambrano, Bamba Anderson, Bastian Oczipka; Schwegler, Sebastian Rode; Stefan Aigner, Alexander Meier, Takashi Inui; Olivier Occéan Continue reading

Hoffenheim-Eintracht Frankfurt preview

ONE of Germany’s more storied clubs take on the footballing epitome of the nouveau riche this weekend, as Eintracht Frankfurt travel to Hoffenheim. While Frankfurt may not be Germany’s most fashionable or celebrated club these days, they do have a UEFA Cup and several DFB-Pokal trophies in the cabinet. Hoffenheim, on the other hand, were playing in the fifth-tier as recently as 1999. Since then, though, software mogul Dietmar Hopp has ploughed a small fortune into Hoffe, building a 30,000-seater stadium – that is usually at least 90 per cent full – and turning the club into an established top-flight side: albeit one unpopular with football fans who deem them to be a soulless club, and an un-German-like rich man’s plaything.

Despite having history on their side, Armin Veh’s Frankfurt spent last season in the second-tier. They returned to 1. Bundesliga with a bang, defeating Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 at their Commerzbank Arena last Saturday evening. Markus Babbel’s Hoffenheim, meanwhile, slumped to a 2-1 defeat at Borussia Mönchengladbach. This will be the seventh time these two sides have met in the top-flight, with Hoffenheim winning the last encounter – in April 2011 – 1-0. A 19-year-old Roberto Firmino scored his first goal for Hoffenheim that day, and continued his new club’s streak of never having lost to Eintracht Frankfurt. Continue reading

Energie Cottbus 0-5 1860 Munich

The formations after right-back Konstantin Engel's early red card. Leonardo Bittencourt, the foremost centre-midfielder in a 4-2-3-1, was the man subbed off as the Cottbus system changed to 4-4-1.

A Benjamin Lauth-inspired 1860 Munich ruthlessly destroyed one of the 2. Bundesliga favourites for promotion, aided by the early sending off of Cottbus defender Konstantin Engel. But the hosts had looked ropey and were 1-0 down even before their right-back saw a straight red for hauling down the superb Lauth, and were always going to struggle to contain the likes of Lauth and intelligent livewire Kevin Volland anyway.

Match preview here.

Despite initially looking to sit off their guests and press only in their own half, a Gábor Király goal kick after a wasteful punt upfield by Roger resulted in the Brazilian centre-back giving away a free-kick after zooming out and into a shove on Kevin Volland. Benjamin Lauth curled the set-piece towards the back post, and waltzing in unattended was Stefan Aigner, who headed the away side into a first minute 1-0 lead!

Cottbus instantly rallied, putting a number of crosses into the box which exposed the fact that Reiner Mauerer’s side weren’t the quickest at taking up decent defensive positions when under the kosh. But 1860 survived the immediate post-goal onslaught, and despite being penned back in the first-third of the pitch, struck another crucial blow in the eighth minute. Despite Lauth being the only man up front, he charged at Konstantin Engel – the last line of the home side’s defence on halfway – with the ball bouncing under no one’s control, and forced the young defender into missing it. Thus, Lauth homed in on goal with the ball, and it was no surprise when the chasing Engel pulled the 30-year-old attacker to the ground just as he was about to finish. The referee showed the Cottbus man a red card, and although the subsequent free-kick was curled over by Daniel Halfar, Cottbus now faced having to play 82 minutes 1-0 down with ten men. Continue reading

Energie Cottbus-1860 Munich preview

The third round of the 2011/12 2. Bundesliga season continues tomorrow with two of the division’s bigger sides going head to head. Both Energie Cottbus and 1860Munich have spent time in the top tier during the latest millennium, but if you had to put your money on either of the two getting back there in the near future, it’d go on current table-toppers Cottbus.

With two league wins out of two under their belt, Claus-Dieter ‘Pele’ Wollitz’s side have made a strong start to the 2. Bundesliga campaign, ahead of every side bar Eintracht Braunschweig, who’ve also taken six points from a possible six. Continue reading

Eintracht Braunschweig 3-1 1860 Munich

The first half formations

Newly-promoted Eintracht Braunschweig fired a warning shot to the rest of the league as they tactically outwitted 2. Bundesliga stalwarts 1860 Munich with a potent display.

Match preview here.

A vociferous home crowd couldn’t prevent the visitors from jumping into the driving seat early on, bossing the ball, winning a corner, and having three blocked efforts on goal. With Collin Benjamin throwing himself into a mopping up job with relish, the former HSV man helped maintain 1860s pacy start, and ruined Braunschweig’s attempts to position their midfield bank of four as near to the lone striker Dominick Kumbela as possible. Nevertheless, the away side gradually became a bit too quick for their own good, and began to leave gaps. Braunschweig were beginning to acclimatise to the tempo by the fifth minute, and when Dennis Malura was robbed on a burst upfield, Mirko Boland robbed him, played a one-two with Kumbela, and his subsequent jinx drew a free-kick on the wing in a decent position. Continue reading

Eintracht Braunschweig-1860 Munich preview

The opening round of the 2011/12 2. Bundesliga season enters its third day today, with the club promoted as champions from 3. Liga hosting the perennially troubled capital city side. Little over ten years ago, 1860 Munich were playing Leeds United in a Champions League tie. But, in the years since, both clubs have suffered financial turmoil and prolonged spells in the lower leagues, although Leeds’ star shined a little longer than 1860’s before dimming. Nevertheless, the Bavarian club’s financial situation is getting better thanks to some mooted Jordanian investment, and a wage dispute dating back to November was resolved earlier this week. Continue reading