Freiburg 4-1 Cologne

Two assists and a goal from the outstanding Daniel Caligiuri helped in-form Freiburg defeat relegation-fearing Cologne 4-1, meaning that if the visitors lose to or draw with Bayern Munich next weekend and Hertha BSC defeat Hoffenheim, Lukas Podolski & co. will be relegated to 2. Bundesliga. The Germany international striker started up front on his own against Freiburg, and not only did he lack support, the midfield behind Podolski weren’t good enough to create chances against a well-drilled and heavy-pressing home side who deserved their win. Freiburg – who made sure of their place in the 2012/13 Bundesliga last weekend – were in control for most of the match, and looked slice, assured, energetic and penetrative. Christian Streich’s side could even finish the season in the top half of the table if they beat Borussia Dortmund next weekend – not bad for a side who were bottom of the division with a mere 13 points on the board at Christmas.

Meanwhile, as a result of this loss, Frank Schaefer’s Cologne now only have two outcomes from the 34-game season – either they go down automatically (they are currently two points clear of 17th-placed Hertha BSC, who lost at Schalke, though), or they stay in 16th and contest the relegation play-off against whichever team finishes third in 2. Bundesliga (either Paderborn, St Pauli or Fortuna Düsseldorf). It has been an absolute shambles of a season for Cologne, and one fears that things will only get worse, especially with the talismanic Podolski – who scored a fine individual goal this afternoon to briefly draw his side level – set  to leave. As for Freiburg, if they take this confidence, tactical discipline and momentum into next season, and manage to hold onto players such as Caligiuri, they surely won’t find themselves in a situation where they’re securing their place in the top-flight in April again.

Match preview here. 

Starting formations

Freiburg (4-4-1-1, from right to left): Oliver Baumann; Mensur Mujdža, Matthias Ginter, Fallou Diagné, Oliver Sorg; Jonathan Schmid, Karim Guédé, Cédric Makiadi, Caligiuri; Jan Rosenthal; Sebastian Freis

Cologne (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Michael Rensing; Mišo Brečko, Kevin McKenna, Pedro Geromel, Christian Eichner; Martin Lanig, Sascha Riether; Sławomir Peszko, Mato Jajalo, Christian Clemens; Podolski Continue reading

Cologne 1-6 Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund capped a memorable week by hammering Cologne 6-1 to restore their five-point cushion over Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga table. Coming on the back of reaching the German Cup final after defeating Greuther Fürth on Tuesday, Jürgen Klopp’s side were simply too good for Ståle Solbakken’s relegation battlers, who end the weekend just one point above the drop-zone. This result is also the joint-worst in Cologne’s history of home games: the other side to have ever beaten them 6-1 in the cathedral city? Borussia Dortmund, this time in 1994.

But, here and now, the technically limited 2012 crop of players were unable to get star man Lukas Podolski into today’s game, and as a result, Cologne rarely troubled their guests, who look inspired in attack thanks to the efforts of the magnificent and effervescent Shinji Kagawa. Solbakken’s side now face an absolutely crucial game away at a rejuvenated Augsburg next weekend, while Klopp’s champions-elect face a trickier tie than the one they breezed through at the RheinEnergieStadion this afternoon as they host in-form Stuttgart at the Westfalenstadion.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Cologne (4-4-2, from right to left): Michael Rensing; Mišo Brečko, Henrique Sereno, Pedro Geromel, Christian Eichner; Christian Clemens, Martin Lanig, Sascha Riether, Sławomir Peszko; Podolski, Milivoje Novakovič

Borussia Dortmund (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Roman Weidenfeller; Łukasz Piszczek, Neven Subotić, Mats Hummels, Marcel Schmelzer; Sven Bender, İlkay Gündoğan; Jakub ‘Kuba’ Błaszczykowski, Kagawa, Kevin Großkreutz; Robert Lewandowski Continue reading

Cologne-Hamburg preview

Two Bundesliga sides who played out one of the 2011/12 season’s most entertaining games meet in the reverse fixture tomorrow afternoon. Going into their original clash back in August, Hamburg and Cologne were joint bottom of the table with a just single point each to their names. Despite Cologne winning 4-3 that day, new coach Ståle Solbakken has not been able to guide his side on a consistent winning run since then. Nevertheless, last weekend’s Lukas Podolski-less 1-0 victory over Kaiserslautern – courtesy of a goal by substitute Odise Roshi – lifted Cologne into the top-half of the table for the first time in years.

Likewise, Hamburg seemed to have turned a corner of late, although it took Thorsten Fink arriving as coach in October for calm to be restored and results achieved in the north German city. Under the former Bayern Munich midfielder, HSV have lost just won one game (a 5-1 home thrashing at the hands of Borussia Dortmund in the first game played after the winter break), and last time out, put in a superb performance to hold Fink’s former club to a 1-1 draw. Neither they or Cologne are out of danger just yet, however, with 13 matches of the season still to play after this Sunday’s clash. Continue reading

Kaiserslautern-Cologne preview

Two of the sides mired in the 2011/12 Bundesliga relegation battle meet tomorrow teatime at the Fritz-Walter-Stadion. Kaiserslautern have only won twice at home all season, while Cologne have registered just two wins on the road, meaning that both teams have a great opportunity to improve on those stats in tomorrow’s game – the final fixture of round 20. The visitors come into the game in 13th spot with 21 points, while Kaiserslautern sit in 16th place with 18 points (but a better goal difference than Cologne’s).

Owing to the fact that his side are languishing in the relegation zone, Kaiserslautern coach Marco Kurz had a number of new attackers brought in for his use during the winter break, with one of them, Jakub Świerczok, partnering Dorge Kouemaha up front in last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Augsburg (in which a defender, Florian Dick, got both of Kaiserslautern’s goals). Joining the young Pole at the club in the break were Sandro Wagner (Werder Bremen), and Nicolai Jørgensen (Bayer Leverkusen). This trio will have their work cut out in the remaining 15 games of the 2011/12 season, with Kaiserslautern’s tally of 15 Bundesliga goals – including a mere seven at the Fritz-Walter-Stadion – far and away the lowest number of goals scored by a side in the division. Continue reading

Cologne 3-0 Augsburg

The first half formations.

A Lukas Podolski brace helped Cologne comfortably defeat last season’s second-division runners-up Augsburg 3-0 on Sunday afternoon. The win moves Cologne eight points away from the relegation zone, ensuring that they can now start looking up the table rather than down it. But, the hosts had it easy here really, as a confidence-lacking and mistake-laden performance from the visitors encapsulated the gulf in class between the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga. Tactically, technically and clinically, Cologne operated on an entirely different level to Augsburg, and in truth, they barely even got or needed to get out of third gear to win this game.

Match preview here.

Augsburg started at pace and with purpose, making direct passes and having an attempt in the first minute through Axel Bellinghausen. However, the hosts used the restart from that wasted effort to get Mato Jajalo on the ball, and he slipped it out to Sławomir Peszko, who jinxed at Hajime Hosogai and won a corner. Played short, a chance was eventually set up for Lukas Podolski, who had time to do a semi-circle run from the byline to the right-sided joint of the box edge, before firing a left-footed shot into the side-netting.

The key man for Augsburg in the opening five minutes was centre-forward Sascha Mölders. His hold-up play not only drew defenders across, but also exposed them on one or two occasions with his canny lay-offs. Of course, this meant that Augsburg’s only striker was left outside of the box with a ball about to be put in there. Continue reading

Cologne 1-1 Kaiserslautern

The formations during the first half, which ended 1-1. Cologne were playing in the white shirts.

Cologne picked up their first point of the new season, but should have taken all three after missing a lorry-load of chances against a mistake-ridden Kaiserslautern side. The hosts looked particularly threatening and creative down the channels throughout the game, whereas Kaiserslautern struggled to even shift the ball into the other half. Yet several players missed some gilt-edged chances for Cologne, thereby ensuring that Ståle Solbakken has to wait at least another week before claiming his first victory as a coach in the Bundesliga.

Match preview here. 

Kaiserslautern instantly barged their way into the hosts’ half, trapping Cologne there and making them press side to side as they spread the ball about sharply. But, after one passing move was broken down, Sławomir Peszko carried the counter through the centre and over halfway, drawing an inevitable tug. One free-kick led to another in a better position (and a yellow card for centre-back Martin Amedick), but Mato Jajalo curled right-footed into Kevin Trapp’s hands. The goalkeeper then immediately punted the ball upfield for Kostas Fortounis, who clashed heads with Christian Eichner; an ugly accidental bump that saw the pair leaving a trail of blood behind them. Brazilian full-back Andrézinho was therefore called into action far sooner than he or anyone else expected, replacing the bloodied and dazed Eichner after just five minutes. Continue reading

Cologne 2-0 Bayer Leverkusen

The first half formations.

Bayer Leverkusen conceded the title to Dortmund but secured their spot in next season’s Champions League group stage – despite losing the Rhine derby to Cologne, who now move four points clear of the drop zone.

With Wolfsburg beating Werder Bremen the evening before this Saturday afternoon game, Cologne were once again in the thick of the relegation battle. A disastrous loss of form and the sudden departure of coach Frank Schaefer in the week meant that Leverkusen were the clear favourites for this tie. Dortmund were playing simultaneously, with both they and Leverkusen knowing that a loss for Dortmund and a win for Leverkusen would see the gap at the top reduced to two points. But for Jupp Heynckes’s side, the real goal was simply to win irrespective of how Dortmund got on, as three points here would guarantee the club’s place in the Champions League group stages for next season (even if Heynckes is Bayern Munich-bound). Continue reading