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

Freiburg-Cologne preview

The penultimate round of the 2011/12 Bundesliga season sees a desperate relegation-battling Cologne travel to Rückrunde heroes Freiburg on Saturday afternoon. Cologne, four points behind Augsburg in the relegation play-off place, have to win at Freiburg – and hope Borussia Mönchengladbach defeat or draw with Augsburg – in order to keep up their hopes of avoiding the drop. A draw at the MAGE SOLAR Stadion simply won’t be good enough, as Cologne are 16 goals worse off than Jos Luhukay’s Bavarian side. Despite being bottom of the league at the conclusion of the first half of the season (Hinrunde), Freiburg have been the fifth best team in Germany’s top-flight since the winter break, and last week’s 0-0 draw away at Hannover secured their place in the 2012/13 Bundesliga. 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-Kaiserslautern preview

Round three of the Bundesliga season sees two of the sides yet to register a win square up Saturday teatime. However, Kaiserslautern did at least manage to salvage a draw last weekend at home to unbeaten newbies Augsburg (following an opening day 2-0 defeat to Werder Bremen), whereas Ståle Solbakken has made a disastrous start to Bundesliga life as Cologne coach, losing 3-0 and 5-1 to Wolfsburg and Schalke respectively, and falling out with Lukas Podolski after stripping the temperamental talisman of the captain’s armband.

Despite constantly blaming himself for Cologne’s horror start to the 2011/12 campaign, the 43-year-old Norwegian will be hoping Saturday is the day when the squad finally clicks playing in his new system, and beat Kaiserslautern for the first time since December 2007’s 2. Bundesliga victory (as an aside, on the final day of that same season, Lautern beat Cologne 3-0 to save themselves from relegation to the third tier). Continue reading

Hoffenheim 1-3 Wolfsburg

The table before the round 34 fixtures kicked off simultaneously. Hoffenheim could finish the season no higher than seventh, but for Wolfsburg, staying in 15th place was the aim. A win would see them achieve that goal, regardless of what Borussia Mönchengladbach, away at Hamburg, and Eintracht Frankfurt, away at Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund, did.

A Mario Mandžukić-inspired Wolfsburg preserved their Bundesliga status after coming from behind to beat Hoffenheim on the last day of the 2010/11 season.

Unlike Hoffenheim, dozing in mid-table obscurity, Wolfsburg came into this game sitting just one place above the drop zone. St Pauli had already guaranteed themselves second division football next season, but the other automatic relegation spot was still up for grabs, along with the relegation play-off spot – a tie likely to be played against Bochum, who look favourites for third place in 2. Bundesliga. As the table on the left-hand side indicates, we had a three-team league towards the bottom going into the final day, with the team topping that table ensuring themselves first division football in 2011/12. Continue reading

Werder Bremen 0-1 Wolfsburg

The first half formations.

Wolfsburg secured a vital win away at a relegation rival to haul themselves out of the drop zone and ensure Werder Bremen endure a nervy final two matches of the campaign.

The parapenultimate round in the Bundesliga’s 2010/11 season began with a double-header on the Friday night – Kaiserslautern against St Pauli, 12th against 18th, and Werder Bremen against Wolfsburg, 11th against 16th. When these fixtures were scheduled a few weeks back, these two games looked like they would be putting four teams fighting for their lives in action on the same night. However, although nothing but a win would have been considered good enough for both of the away sides coming into these games, the hosts’, five and six points respectively above the drop zone, could enter their respective fixtures in a more relaxed state. Continue reading