Schalke-Werder Bremen preview

Schalke will be looking to bounce back from the disappointment of losing to lowly Hoffenheim last weekend as poor-on-the-road Werder Bremen visit the Veltins-Arena. Last Saturday’s 3-2 loss at the Rhein-Neckar Arena was actually Schalke’s first defeat in all competitions on the road this season, with Hoffe denying second-placed Schalke the chance to stay within four points of league leaders Bayern Munich (who beat Hamburg 3-0 to make the gap seven points). Bayern Munich are the only other side to have beaten Schalke this season, with Schalke otherwise proving to be imperious at home so far this campaign (a run they maintained by fighting back to draw 2-2 with Arsenal in the Champions League during the week).

On paper, Bremen should pose no problems on Saturday afternoon, as Thomas Schaaf’s side have lost to Münster (cup), Borussia Dortmund, Hannover, and Augsburg away from home this season, and were also held at struggling minnows Fürth a fortnight back. However, at home, the story is a little different, with Sunday’s 2-1 home win over Mainz helping Bremen move up to seventh place in the 1. Bundesliga table (six points behind their hosts this weekend). Continue reading

Fortuna Düsseldorf-Energie Cottbus preview

It’s third against seventh on Saturday afternoon in 2. Bundesliga as high-flying Fortuna Düsseldorf host Jekyll & Hyde side Energie Cottbus. The last time Cottbus travelled to the Esprit Arena (back in January for a league tie), a goal from Nils Petersen wasn’t enough to stop the East Germans falling to a 3-1 defeat. However, Claus-Dieter ‘Pele’ Wollitz’s side finished higher up the division come the end of the season, although neither of these clubs ever really posed a big challenge for promotion in 2010/11. This time round, though, Düsseldorf’s start indicates that they’ll be in or around the top three positions come the end of the season, while you can never rule out Cottbus (especially as even after an erratic start, they’re only five points off top spot).

Saturday’s hosts have had a fantastic start to the season, and are unbeaten in the nine games played coming into this clash. That run includes Düsseldorf knocking KSV Hessen Kassel out of the DFB-Pokal, while even draws away at the likes of Eintracht Frankfurt are not to be sniffed at. Continue reading

Schalke 0-2 Bayern Munich

The first half formations.

Bayern Munich beat Schalke 2-0 to return to the top of the Bundesliga table. Manuel Neuer, booed throughout on his return to the Veltins-Arena, kept a clean sheet for the seventh game in a row, although Bayern were lucky that Klaas-Jan Huntelaar didn’t bring his shooting boots as the Dutchman and one or two other of his colleagues had enough chances to kill Bayern off in the first half. However, those moments weren’t capitalised on, and with the hosts tiring in the second half, a Franck Ribéry-inspired Bayern eventually cruised to victory despite the absence of both Arjen Robben and Mario Gómez.

Match preview here.

Bayern bossed possession from the off, spreading it about among the fluid foremost six players, as well as the centre-backs and full-backs. The hosts were playing something of a 4-3-3, with the narrowness of the midfield designed to help keep the string-pulling likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos quiet. It was a foul-laden opening ten minutes, with Kyriakos Papadopoulos & co. hacking and hounding to stop Bayern getting more comfortable than they already were.

Although Bayern – looking to expose Schalke’s lack of midfield width through a series of long-diagonals to and attacks down the channels – were in control, they had nothing to show for it bar Gómez’s stand-in Nils Petersen going close and a couple of corners. Continue reading

Schalke-Bayern Munich preview

Manuel Neuer makes his return to Gelsenkirchen tomorrow night as Bayern Munich travel to Schalke. The visitors are in great form coming into this game, and their summer signing from Schalke, Neuer, has now kept six consecutive clean sheets for the 2009/10 Bundesliga champions. Both Bayern Munich and Schalke played in European competition during the week, with Ralf Rangnick’s side drawing 0-0 at Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League, and Jupp Heynckes’ winning 2-0 at Villareal in the Champions League. Even right-back Rafinha scored in that game, and the Brazilian defender is another player making his return to the Veltins-Arena after leaving for Genoa two seasons back.

He and his defensive colleagues will have their work cut out keeping Raúl corked tomorrow, while Rafinha is going to be in for a tough afternoon in his one-on-one duel against the in-form Peruvian Jefferson Farfán too. Nevertheless, all eyes will mainly be at the other end of the pitch, with Franck Ribéry and Mario Gómez in scintillating form, the pair scoring goals and assisting them for fun so far this season. Continue reading

Bayern Munich 7-0 Freiburg

The formations adopted as the first half drew to a close.

Bayern Munich stormed back to the top of the Bundesliga with a professional performance against an alarmingly weak and lacklustre Freiburg side. Mario Gómez and Franck Ribéry were the goal-getting stars of the show, but not one man in red had a bad game – something that can’t be said for their white-shirted opponents, who look set for a season-long relegation battle.

Match preview here. 

The home side took hold of possession immediately, their initial tactic being to get Franck Ribéry on the ball; either by him coming deep to collect it, or through being fed on the overlap. The Frenchman had the trickery, pace and guile to truly trouble Stefan Reisinger and Maximilian Nicu early on, but Freiburg took advantage of their energy tanks still being full by flooding back in droves and covering the balls which entered Oliver Baumann’s box.

Bayern, who didn’t have to press that hard to force turnovers whenever deep and panicky Freiburg got their hands on a loose ball, took just seven minutes to go 1-0 up. Leaving a huge gap outside the box for Bastian Schweinsteiger to take the ball in and have a look, no pressure was applied on the German international who picked out Thomas Müller on the box edge – surrounded by bodies, but taking possession as if he had all the space in the world. He slipped in Toni Kroos through the left-hand side of the box, and the youngster squared for a  Mario Gómez tap in! Continue reading

Bayern Munich-Freiburg preview

One of the Bundesliga’s oldest coaches comes face to face with one of the newest on Saturday afternoon as Bayern Munich take on Freiburg. Jupp Heynckes’ Bayern side cemented their position at the top of the Bundesliga table before most of the squad jetted off across the world to represent their respective countries during the international break; Marcus Sorg’s Freiburg side, meanwhile, have dropped eight points from the four games played so far in the 2011/12 Bundesliga season.

Despite starting the campaign with a 1-0 home defeat to Borussia Mönchengladbach and a scrappy injury-time victory against Wolfsburg, Bayern have hammered eight goals past Hamburg and Kaiserslautern in the two domestic games since, and also convincingly put FC Zurich to the sword to cement their place in the Champions League group stage. 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

Energie Cottbus 1-1 Augsburg

The first half formations.

Energie Cottbus’s hopes of promotion to the Bundesliga were ended for another season, but Augsburg now need just one win from their final two games to secure a place in the top flight.

The final game of 2. Bundesliga’s round 32 pitted sixth-placed Energie Cottbus against second-placed FC Augsburg. These sides, third and second highest scorers in the division respectively, both had promotion on their minds coming into this tie, with Cottbus knowing that only a win would keep their admittedly slim hopes of making the promotion play-off alive, and Augsburg fully aware that a win would all but seal their place in next season’s Bundesliga – giving them a five-point gap and colossal goal difference advantage over third-placed Bochum with two games to go. Continue reading