The Bundesliga is back after a month-long winter break, with new coaches and fresh signings joining the familiar faces to kick off the 18th round of fixtures. One of the Saturday afternoon ties sees Hertha Berlin travel to Nuremberg, with new coach Michael Skibbe taking charge of the visitors for the first time in a league match. Nobody associated with either of these sides will be able to sleep soundly in their beds until more points are on the board, with Nuremberg sitting in 15th spot having accumulated just 18 points, and the capital city outfit a mere four places and two points ahead of them. Continue reading
Two sides locked on 13 points – five away from second-bottom HSV, six off second-placed BVB – meet at the Volkswagen Arena tomorrow afternoon. Wolfsburg’s away form may be poor, but at home, they’ve won three of the four games played in the 2011/12 Bundesliga campaign to date, and striker Mario Mandžukić is in world-class form. Hertha Berlin, meanwhile, look as though they have enough quality and spirit to stay in the top-flight, and even though they’ve lost their last two games on the road to Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich respectively, Markus Babbel’s side have won at Dortmund already this season, and until being defeated – with nine men – at the death by Bremen last month, they’d gone the whole of 2011 without suffering an away loss. Continue reading
Hannover returned to the top of the Bundesliga table after drawing 1-1 with Hertha Berlin, but the Lower Saxony side will feel aggrieved that they dropped two points after referee Robert Hartmann ruled out a late winner. Negative Hertha deserved to go in at the interval 1-0 down, although Hannover lacked the creative spark that would have seen them put more goals past their lacklustre opponents in the opening 45 minutes. The visitors changed systems three times during a rejuvenated second half performance, and despite still not looking overly convincing, they did start to create chances thanks to a more positive mentality against a home side who tired after Thursday night’s 2-1 win over Sevilla in the Europa League. Perhaps a draw wasn’t a fair result on the balance of play, but Hannover didn’t create enough chances of note in the second half to win the game, save for a late Christian Pander free-kick which did sail in, but was ruled out for what appeared to be shoving in the box (however, it could have been due to the fact that the free-kick was given as indirect).
Mirko Slomka started the game with the XI that defeated Sevilla on Thursday evening, while Markus Babbel deployed the same side which lost in round one to Nuremberg (save for Raffael being picked ahead of Pierre-Michel Lasogga, thereby giving the former Stuttgart coach the option of a 4-4-1-1). Continue reading
The final match of the Bundesliga’s third round of fixtures sees last season’s 2. Bundesliga champions travel to in-form Hannover. The last time these sides met,a top-flight clash in January 2010, Hertha Berlin came away from the AWD-Arena with a 3-0 victory. Given their patchy start to the new season, a repeat of that scoreline looks highly unlikely. However, you wouldn’t rule out Markus Babbel’s men taking all three points, as Hannover put in a heroic and draining shift on Thursday night to defeat Sevilla in the Europa League.
Mirko Slomka’s side were outstanding against their more illustrious Spanish opponents. Jan Schlaudraff, in particular, was unplayable; his energy, intelligence and determination was just too much for the Sevilla defence too handle. Left-winger Konstantin Rausch was equally imperious, although every man in maroon did his job that night against a technically more accomplished side with world class players such as Jesús Navas. Slomka might make changes from the team that defeated Sevilla for the game against Hertha today, however, although the coach insists that he has the squad to handle fighting on two fronts. “The lads will be able to cope with the double burden – this is why we expanded our squad during the summer,” said Slomka, adding: “This game means a lot to us as it enables us to build on our points tally.” Continue reading
Bundesliga newbies Hertha Berlin and last year’s surprise package Nuremberg contested a drab opening round game which the away side won courtesy of the game’s only real moment of magic from substitute Jens Hegeler. Both sides lacked a creative spark throughout the match, which Nuremberg just about edged due to their XIs inherent understanding of not only their wing-based game plan, but also of their colleagues’ movements.
Referee Peter Gagelmann got things under way at the Olympic Stadium, setting in motion a not particularly quick or unbalanced few minutes of play. There was space for both midfields to work in, although there was more cohesion about Nuremberg in the early stages, and, quicker of both thought and feet, they soon began to keep Hertha penned in their own half. 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