Werder Bremen 1-1 Bayer Leverkusen

Qualifying for next season’s Champions League remains a tall order for both Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen after they shared the spoils this afternoon following an evenly-contested match. Claudio Pizarro’s goal midway through the first-half didn’t quite come against the run of play, but Robin Dutt’s Leverkusen had been by far the better side in the game’s opening quarter. A half-time substitution and formational change revitalized Leverkusen, putting them back in the driving seat, and the visitors deservedly grabbed an early equalizer from a corner after a Tim Wiese mistake. Erin Derdiyok and Lars Bender looked particularly dangerous for the visitors thereafter, but neither side could grab a winner, despite having a plethora of chances in the closing stages. The result keeps the sides in fifth and sixth places respectively, and five points behind the side currently sitting ‘last’ in the top-four, Borussia Mönchengladbach (who are yet to play this weekend).

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Werder Bremen (4-4-2 diamond, from right to left): Wiese; Clemens Fritz, François Affolter, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Florian Hartherz; Phillipp Bargfrede; Aleksandr Ignjovski, Tom Trybull; Mehmet Ekici; Markus Rosenborg, Pizarro

Bayer Leverkusen (4-4-2 diamond, from right to left): Bernd Leno; Danny da Costa, Daniel Schwaab, Manuel Friedrich, Michal Kadlec; Stefan Reinartz; Gonzalo Castro, Simon Rolfes; Bender; Stefan Kießling, André Schürrle Continue reading

Werder Bremen-Bayer Leverkusen preview

Two of Germany’s most successful sides in the 21st Century face one another tomorrow afternoon in the Bundesliga. Between them, Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen have notched up 12 top-four finishes this millennium, although as it stands, neither side looks good enough to take that total up to 13 or 14 come May. Winning here, however, is probably the only way to change that.

Some of the main narratives from both sides’ season to date have involved former Chelsea players. While Claudio Pizarro can’t stop scoring for Bremen, Michael Ballack has been one of the more disappointing of a plethora of disappointing performers for beleaguered coach Robin Dutt at Bayer Leverkusen. However, the club’s fans – eagerly awaiting the upcoming Champions League tie against Barcelona – seemingly sided with the 35-year-old midfielder as he was taken off during last weekend’s 3-2 victory over Mainz. Boos reverberated around the BayArena, and such noises were not entirely unexpected – since joining from Freiburg in the summer, Dutt is yet to convince both fans of the club and the players in his squad that he is the right man for the job. 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

Bayer Leverkusen-Werder Bremen preview

The second round of the new Bundesliga season concludes this afternoon with a game between two of Germany’s bigger clubs. Yet, whereas Bayer Leverkusen would seemingly be the one currently on the up, Champions League campaign and all to look forward to, they’ve made a poor start to the season: losing 2-0 to Mainz last weekend on the opening day, and 4-3 to Dynamo Dresden in the cup a fortnight ago. Werder Bremen, on the other hand, avenged their 3-2 loss to Kaiserslautern on the final day of a forgettable 2010/11 campaign by beating them 2-0 last weekend, although the Saturday before that, they too exited the cup to lower-league opponents, going down 2-1 to Heidenheimer.

Marko Marin, the top assist-maker at the club last season (nine) despite never really convincing or being certain of a starting berth, missed a penalty in that match, although a new hero is now ostensibly stepping up to the plate in the form of Markus Rosenberg. The 28-year-old Swedish striker, on loan with Racing Santander last season where he scored nine times, bagged a brace against Kaiserslautern, and eight more goals in the green of Bremen before May and he’ll surpass Claudio Pizarro’s 2010/11 club-best tally of nine goals. Continue reading

Mainz-Bayer Leverkusen preview

They might not yet have even played their first Bundesliga game of the 2011/12 season, but Mainz have already played in two cup competitions. Although coach Thomas Tuchel’s side squeezed past SV Niederauerbach in the DFB-Pokal last weekend, they suffered an early Europa League exit at the hands of Romanian side Gaz Metan on Thursday, however. But, Tuchel has called on his heartbroken players to put aside the disappointment of that elimination as they prepare to kick off their league campaign against Bayer Leverkusen, a side they spent a large chunk of last season battling for Champions League qualification with. The young miracle worker has told his players that defeats are just a part of football that they have to learn to accept, and that they couldn’t have wished to meet a better opponent at this moment in time than Bayer. Given that this will be the first ever Bundesliga game staged at Mainz’s new Coface Arena stadium, there’s no danger that the home fans will be suffering an emotional hangover, and Bayer Leverkusen and the Mainz representatives on the pitch themselves can expect a wall of noise. Continue reading

Augsburg-Freiburg preview

The 2011/12 Bundesliga season is up and running at last, Dortmund comfortably beating Hamburg by three goals to one last night. Twelve more of the division’s sides get their campaigns under way today, including two lesser lights who could find themselves embroiled in a relegation battle as the season progresses.

Augsburg may have been knocking on the promotion door for the last few second division seasons, but this is the first time they’ve ever actually graced Germany’s top-flight, and the side who finished as runners-up to Hertha BSC last season have barely strengthened their squad since achieving Bundesliga status in May. Players like Axel Bellinghausen and Gibril Sankoh were solid enough in the 2. Bundesliga, the latter in particular putting in an heroic season-long effort to give Jos Luhukay’s Augsburg a league-best defensive record, but the players brought in to top up the squad include the likes of Sascha Mölders and Lorenzo Davids – decent players, a duo I’ve seen on a few occasions, but hardly the kind of signings needed to shake off the favourites for the drop tag. Continue reading

Dynamo Dresden 4-3 Bayer Leverkusen

The first half formations

Champions League-bound Bayer Leverkusen squandered a 3-0 lead with 22 minutes of the regulation 90 to play to lose an incredible DFB-Pokal tie 4-3 to their until then overwhelmed 2. Bundesliga hosts.

Match preview here

Dresden sat off their guests initially, inviting them into the attacking half. Although this worked in halting Leverkusen’s early stroll forwards, the hosts soon got sucked further up the pitch, leaving their deep defence exposed to an early André Schürrle dribble towards the D and a shot that wasn’t too far wide. Dresden looked ill at ease in their 4-2-3-1 system, and this was exploited in the third minute; Hanno Balitsch fed with time and space to reach the byline. His subsequent pull-back only just evaded Erin Derdiyok, with the yellow-shirted defenders around him running about like headless chickens. Continue reading

Dynamo Dresden-Bayer Leverkusen preview

The 2011/12 2. Bundesliga season is being interrupted after just two matches to accommodate the opening round of the DFB-Pokal – Germany’s equivalent to England’s League Cup in terms of structure, albeit the equivalent of England’s FA Cup in terms of stature. Spread over three days and numerous time slots, the 64-team tournament sees all the top division sides and those in the league below who haven’t just been promoted there given away games to start with – hence why last season’s 3. Liga bronze-medallists Dresden have been given home advantage against last season’s Bundesliga runners-up, Leverkusen. Continue reading

Borussia Dortmund 3-0 Freiburg

The first half formations.

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

Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich

The first half formations.

A poor showing from Bayern Munich ultimately didn’t matter as they won their second consecutive game in the Bundesliga to keep the pressure on the sides above them in the Champions League places.

Looking at the history of this fixture, the odds looked pretty stacked in Bayern’s favour – no defeats in the last 17 Bundesliga clashes between the sides, and a 4-2 win at the Allianz Arena in October. But with ‘lame duck’ manager Louis van Gaal overseeing a disastrous exit at home to Inter in the Champions League on Tuesday, one which confirmed that Bayern would end the season without a trophy, Freiburg had a great chance to rub salt in the dethroned champions’ wounds. However, Robin Dutt’s side have been tailing off after a great start to the season (four defeats from the last five games), but luckily for the health of their supporters, they’ve established enough of a cushion to dismiss any notion of going down. Fans of goalscorers were more than adequately catered for here – the clash pitted two of the league’s finest against one another, Mario Gómez and Papiss Cissé. Continue reading

Freiburg 3-0 Borussia Mönchengladbach

The starting systems.

Papiss Cissé continued to show why Wolfsburg are intent on buying him to replace Edin Džeko, as his brace and fantastic performance helped Freiburg defeat Mönchengladbach. Gladbach remain rooted in relegation trouble, but had they taken some of the numerous chances that came their way in the first half, the result would have been so much different here.

Both sides went into the game affected by injuries to their backline – goalkeeper Simon Pouplin, Pavel Krmaš and Ömer Toprak were missing for the home side, along with attackers Tommy Bechmann and Kisho Yano. Nevertheless, Freiburg knew a win would lift them above Bayern Munich into fifth spot. Gladbach were also shorn of their first-choice custodian (Logan Bailly), along with Brazilian centre-backs Dante and Anderson. Even more significant for a side looking to prevent it being four defeats on the spin was the absence of the super-talented 21-year-old Marco Reus, and Raúl Bobadilla – fined and banned after a stupid red card against Hannover in round 15.

Borussia Mönchengladbach started at a great pace, taking the game to their hosts, and getting their full-backs up the pitch. But this urgency was soon exposed when Freiburg used a restart to draw three Gladbach pressers towards the box, before going long and allowing Cedric Makiadi to carry the ball at the away side’s defence (he was fouled, the subsequent free-kick squandered). Robin Dutt, as is his way, ensured that his side always started short from the ‘keeper, trying to draw their guests on, or enacting patience and looking for the best pass.  Continue reading