Slumping to second-bottom place in the Bundesliga could be the fate that awaits Nuremberg this weekend, as the Bavarian outfit travel to high-flying Schalke. Dieter Hecking’s side, sat in 15th place, are on a dire run of form at the moment, and if they lose in a round of fixtures where both Hamburg and Freiburg are victorious, Nuremberg will join state neighbours Augsburg at the bottom. Schalke, on the other hand, could end matchday 13 in second spot, as they currently sit one point behind runners-up elect Borussia Dortmund. On paper, Nuremberg – whose fans have a very good relationship with Schalke’s – shouldn’t present too much of a problem for the 2010/11 Champions League semi-finalists: Hecking’s side have scored a league-worst four goals on the road. In comparison, Schalke – who are also topping their group in the Europa League – are the third sharpest side in front of goal so far this season, and come into this game having lost just one of their last ten matches (a surprise home reverse to Kaiserslautern on October 15). 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
Borussia Dortmund cruised to victory against a Freiburg side who should be made to refund the 4,000 or so travelling fans who took the four-and-a-half hour journey to North Rhine-Westphalia from Baden-Württemberg.
Dortmund came into this game experiencing something of a wobble, scoring just one win from the last four games. Their once colossal lead at the top of the table now stood at five points, and were it not for Jakub ‘Kuba’ Błaszczykowski’s late leveller at Hamburg last week, the distance between themselves and Bayer Leverkusen would have been even more slight. Fortunately, Leverkusen’s abysmal display and performance at Bayern Munich in the hours ahead of this game did little to suggest that Dortmund’s lead was truly under threat. Freiburg coach Robin Dutt has already signed a contract to take over at Dortmund’s immediate *title rivals* next season, and this game was a great chance to immediately make himself popular with Bayer fans. If he wanted to appease any Freiburg fans unhappy with his departure, a victory here would also be crucial – Dutt, his players and the fans knew that a loss at Signal-Iduna-Park would finally extinguish their Europa League aspirations. They won last time out, 3-2 against Hoffenheim, but that was their first taste of glory in six games. In Dortmund, Dutt had to make do without Pavel Krmaš, Yacine Abdessadki, Simon Pouplin, Felix Bastians and Jan Rosenthal. Continue reading