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

Mainz 2-4 Schalke

The first half formations. Ivanschitz took advantage of the space behind Raúl, with Papadopoulos often extremely isolated.

Schalke stormed back from 2-0 down to deny Mainz the chance to go back to the top of the table. The home side stopped the visitors from playing in the first half with their intense pressing and energetic attacking, but Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick rang the changes at the interval and reaped the benefits; his Jefferson Farfán-inspired side eventually proving too strong and clinical for Mainz.

Match preview here.

Mainz got things under way at their new Coface Arena, coach Thomas Tuchel starting with the same team that defeated Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 on the opening day of the new Bundesliga season. They put Schalke’s deep 4-1-4-1 under pressure early on, forcing the visitors into fouls, back-passes, and hurried sideways delegation-balls whenever Schalke did get possession or territory. Rangnick’s game-plan seemed to hinge on his side getting the chance to counter-attack, as illustrated in the fourth minute when his four banks sat in their own half, only pressing the pass-assessor when they were primed to cross halfway.

In that particular instance, Lewis Holtby won the ball, dribbled upfield, before stalling so as to wait for the sprinting widemen – the only place for the visitors to build was in the home side’s half, especially when Mainz’s players were darting back more concerned about getting into position. Holtby slid the ball one way, before it was disguised via another pass to go out to the opposite flank. The eventual cross, from Jan Morávek, was a few inches too high, however. Continue reading

Eintracht Frankfurt 1-1 Werder Bremen

The general first half formations*. * = Silvestre was actually at left-back, and Pasanen at left-sided centre-back.

Two sides still too far away from mid-table security played out an entertaining, chance-heavy and yellow card-ridden 1-1 draw. Although Werder Bremen perhaps deserved the win on the balance of play, the fact they were held to a draw is unsurprising given that the last clean sheet they kept in the league was on December 4, 2010 against Wolfsburg.

This Friday night round 29 encounter pitted 13th against 12th – two sides four and five points above the relegation zone respectively. After a disastrous start to the season, Bremen had got back on track in recent rounds. Frankfurt, on the other hand, made a great start to the season, before flopping miserably after Christmas – prior to this game, they had scored only four goals and tallied no real number of points to speak of since Christmas, and thus last month, they fired coach Michael Skibbe. Their performance under new man Christoph Daum in last week’s 1-1 draw away to Wolfsburg still left s a lot to be desired, but scoring and holding onto the point perhaps indicated that a corner has been turned. Continue reading