Author Archives: Archie

The Pundesliga presents: #BundesligaMusic

  1. When it comes to Streiching the right chord, there has been no better time to let the bass Klopp than with #BundesligaMusic. Taking its inspiration from Niklas Wildhagen’s piece on Bundesliga stars singing…

  2. #BundesligaMusic: Hits better forgotten – Bundesliga stars singing | Bundesliga Fanatic bundesligafanatic.com/hits-better-fo… via @bundesliga4u
  3. Friday afternoon fast became a challenge to devise musical references related to the Bundesliga. After chugging along contently for an hour or two, it reached fever pitch when Ingolstadt right back, Ralph Gunesch started chipping in with his suggestions, such as…

  4. Such is the high standard, Gunesch hasn’t made the list of #BundesligaMusic’s greatest hits (though the cruel among you may point out that this will be a familiar feeling seeing as he plays for a side in the 2. Bundesliga.)

    But enough – leave your suspicious Mainz behind. Heck, even stick this on if it gets you in the mood…

    It’s time to go through 40 of #BundesligaMusic’s Greatest Hits. Points were awarded for innovation, not just going for the likes of Jürgen Klopp and Joachim Löw…oh go on then – here’s a few of those..

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Bundesliga Review – Gripping finale aside from Klassiker pair by Archie Rhind-Tutt

Oh have you not heard? I was under the impression that everyone had heard. Well, no – in this case the bird isn’t the word but the Bundesliga certainly is. The semi finals of the Champions League produced nights to treasure for Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund as der Klassiker outclassed El Clásico.

Things were closer back in Germany at the weekend for both, though that’s not too surprising with Jupp Heynckes and Jürgen Klopp making a combined 20 changes. Still, narrow victories were achieved over Freiburg and Fortuna Düsseldorf respectively. But with the title race over and three games left, Bayern and Borussia are not the main points of interest in the Bundesliga – that’s to be found in another pair: the race for the fourth Champions League place, and the struggle to avoid relegation.

The former has been characterised with just as much mediocrity as you might expect with the latter. Prior to this weekend, four points separated the five sides between 4th and 8th. Schalke though had Klaas-Jan Huntelaar back from injury and the man nicknamed “the Hunter” displayed his predatory instinct by netting a hat-trick against Hamburg. If you allow Huntelaar, the Torjӓgerkanone winner last season, nine shots on goal as HSV did, then a hat-trick is perhaps the least damage you can expect. That win for Schalke put some distance between them and the chasing pack of four – none of whom won at the weekend.

With Eintracht Frankfurt drawing with Mainz, Freiburg coming away with what is now considered a credible result at the Allianz Arena (a 1-0 loss) and Gladbach being comfortably beaten at a quietly resurgent Wolfsburg, Schalke would appear to be favourites for fourth. Yet with away games to come at Gladbach and Freiburg, it’s far from a certainty.

That applies too when it comes to survival where the likes of Werder Bremen and Fortuna Düsseldorf have been drawn into the mire. The reason for that is, in the main, Augsburg. Markus Weinzierl’s side only won 1 Bundesliga game in the Hinrunde. Such has been their form in the second half of the season, coupled with the demise of sides above, Augsburg have accrued more points in the Rückrunde than Werder and Fortuna put together. Their resurgence continued at the weekend as they equalled their biggest Bundesliga win, turning over Stuttgart 3-0 with Marcel De Jong scoring a 30-yard chip just 73 seconds after coming on.

The result drew them level with Fortuna (defeated by Borussia Dortmund) and within two points of Werder Bremen (lost at Bayer Leverkusen). Augsburg must still be wary with Hoffenheim showing signs of life. They overcame Nürnberg but with an inferior goal difference to those above them, two wins out of their final three still might not be enough to secure even the “relative” safety of the relegation/play off place.

The only side at the bottom to have been relegated is Greuther Fürth. It’s alarming that it’s taken until this weekend for that to become official. That said, they dominated Hannover for long spells on Friday night but somehow Frank Kramer’s side fell to defeat, meaning they’re in danger of becoming the first Bundesliga team ever to go a whole season without winning a home game.

Still with three games to go, the focus of where the remaining meaningful fixtures in the Bundesliga lie appears to be away from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund – though you do know that they’re playing this weekend for the fourth time this season, right?

Matchday 31 Results:

Greuther Fürth 2-3 Hannover

Augsburg 3-0 Stuttgart

Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 Werder Bremen

Bayern Munich 1-0 Freiburg

Fortuna Düsseldorf 1-2 Borussia Dortmund

Hoffenheim 2-1 Nürnberg

Wolfsburg 3-1 Gladbach

Mainz 0-0 Eintracht Frankfurt

Schalke 4-1 Hamburg

Table:

Rank Club Matches W* D* L* G* GD* Pts.*
1 FC Bayern Munich 31 27 3 1 90:14 +76 84 CL*
2 Borussia Dortmund 31 19 7 5 76:36 +40 64 CL*
3 Bayer 04 Leverkusen 31 16 8 7 59:38 +21 56 CL*
4 FC Schalke 04 31 14 7 10 54:47 +7 49 CL* Qual.
5 Eintracht Frankfurt 31 13 7 11 43:42 +1 46 EL* Qual.
6 SC Freiburg 31 12 9 10 40:37 +3 45 EL* Qual.
7 Borussia Mönchengladbach 31 11 11 9 38:42 -4 44
8 Hamburger SV 31 13 5 13 37:50 -13 44
9 Hannover 96 31 12 5 14 54:57 -3 41
10 1. FSV Mainz 05 31 10 10 11 36:36 0 40
11 VfL Wolfsburg 31 10 10 11 41:46 -5 40
12 VfB Stuttgart 31 11 6 14 33:50 -17 39
13 1. FC Nuremberg 31 9 11 11 34:42 -8 38
14 SV Werder Bremen 31 8 8 15 45:60 -15 32
15 Fortuna Düsseldorf 31 7 9 15 37:49 -12 30
16 FC Augsburg 31 7 9 15 30:45 -15 30 Play-offs
17 1899 Hoffenheim 31 7 6 18 37:60 -23 27 Relegation
18 Greuther Fürth 31 3 9 19 22:55 -33 18 Relegation

Table thanks to Official Bundesliga Website

Article originally written at Football Fan Cast

Bundesliga Review – Same old Bayern, taking the Piz by Archie Rhind-Tutt

Dinosaurs may now be extinct but when they did roam the planet they were said to be fearsome creatures. Now, by definition of the fact Hamburg have been in the Bundesliga for all 50 seasons, they are renowned for being the division’s dinosaur. Sadly for Thorsten Fink, they were more like Barney the Dinosaur at a time when they could least afford it; because any team who puts in a weak performance against this Bayern Munich side risks a thrashing.

The Bundesliga record champions displayed on Saturday why they’re on course to become the greatest team in the competition’s 50 year history. After a series of poor performances by the high standards they’ve set themselves this season, Bayern responded by annihilating Hamburg. The away side have had eyes on a Champions League place of late but their 9-2 thrashing at the league leaders should end those dreams.

Four of those goals came from third choice front man Claudio Pizarro. He has been something of a “Cash and Carry” striker this season as when he’s scored, he’s done so in bulk. The Peruvian played a part in six goals on Saturday, a Bundesliga record for a single game and he also moved into the list of the top ten Bundesliga scorers of all time. His performance alone showed how this season even players who warm the bench at Bayern do not disappoint when they’re let loose in the red shirt.

Pizarro’s return to Bavaria in the summer seemed strange though. He was never going to be the first choice striker, yet he had been one of the top scorers in the division last season, netting 18 for Werder Bremen. His quadruple on Saturday makes it harder to pick holes in his logic of moving back to Bayern. Whilst he could have played regularly for another club in the Bundesliga, it takes a very strong character to turn down Bayern Munich. When you’re averaging a goal every 72 minutes or so, as Pizarro has done this season, it’s unlikely he’ll have any regrets, especially after Saturday evening.

Both the Peruvian and die Roten were majestic, in contrast to visitors Hamburg who equalled their worst ever defeat in the Bundesliga, 49 years after they were beaten by the same scoreline at Bayern’s neighbours, 1860 Munich. Saturday’s apocalyptic performance also came 49 days after Hamburg thrashed Borussia Dortmund 4-1 at Signal Iduna Park. After Bayern’s nine though, you have to question whether a 4-1 score line even qualifies as a thrashing.

If it had a been a bout, the blue corner would have thrown in the towel at half time, though Thorsten Fink’s side effectively did, conceding another four after the league leaders had planted five past them in the first half. Still, there were a few positives for HSV. At least they scored (not many have done so against this Bayern side), at least their opponents didn’t get into double figures and at least Hamburg won’t have to travel to the Allianz Arena until August at the very earliest – in their last three visits, they’ve conceded 20.

As for Bayern, they will bounce into their Champions League quarter final with Juventus on Tuesday. The team that started on Saturday was lacking a few first choice members such as Alaba, Ribery and Mandzukic but they comprehensively outplayed a team challenging for a European place in the Bundesliga. A win next week at Eintracht Frankfurt will seal their 23rd Bundesliga title and never has it been more deserved for Bayern Munich.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga:

  • Despite being constantly linked to Bayern Munich, Robert Lewandowski ensured his potential employers would have to wait until next week to seal the title. He scored the winner as Borussia Dortmund overcame Stuttgart. The side behind BVB, Bayer Leverkusen, were much more comfortable in Düsseldorf, as they swept past Fortuna thanks to two from Stefan Kiessling and two from André Schürrle.
  • Speaking of doubles, Max Kruse also netted a pair against Borussia Mönchengladbach ensuring Freiburg kept in the hunt for a Champions League place. And wouldn’t you just know it, he’s been linked with a move recently to… Borussia Mönchengladbach! Another fine pair could be found in Augsburg as Konstantin Rausch got both goals in a rare away triumph for Hannover.
  • However, it is Schalke who now lead the race for that final Champions League place after a 12 minute treble salvo saw them past lowly Hoffenheim. Level on points with the Royal Blues though are Eintracht Frankfurt. The Eagles won their first game in six and more poignantly, since Armin Veh signed a new contract during the week. They snuck past Greuther Fürth in an entertaining encounter on Sunday afternoon.
  • Mainz scored the quickest goal in their history when Adam Szalai scored after 12 seconds. Coincidentally, it was the fastest goal Werder Bremen have ever conceded too but Thomas Schaaf’s side recovered to grab a share of the points. As fate would have it, Sokratis and Marko Arnautovic, fresh from scuffling on the training ground, combined well to set up Aaron Hunt for the equaliser.
  • And finally, in what should have been labelled as the Dieter Hecking derby, Wolfsburg and Nürnberg played out a draw on Sunday. Hecking’s current side took a two goal lead before generously letting it slip as his former charges fought back to secure a draw. It included what can only be described as a “Thundercracker” from Belgian defender Timmy Simons.

Matchday 27 Results:

Augsburg 0-2 Hannover

Fortuna Düsseldorf 1-4 Bayer Leverkusen

Freiburg 2-0 Gladbach

Mainz 1-1 Werder Bremen

Schalke 3-0 Hoffenheim

Stuttgart 1-2 Borussia Dortmund

Bayern Munich 9-2 Hamburg

Wolfsburg 2-2 Nürnberg

Greuther Fürth 2-3 Eintracht Frankfurt

Table

Rank Club Matches W* D* L* G* GD* Pts.*
1 FC Bayern Munich 27 23 3 1 78:13 +65 72 CL*
2 Borussia Dortmund 27 15 7 5 62:32 +30 52 CL*
3 Bayer 04 Leverkusen 27 14 6 7 50:35 +15 48 CL*
4 FC Schalke 04 27 12 6 9 46:43 +3 42 CL* Qual.
5 Eintracht Frankfurt 27 12 6 9 42:39 +3 42 EL* Qual.
6 1. FSV Mainz 05 27 10 9 8 34:30 +4 39 EL* Qual.
7 SC Freiburg 27 10 9 8 35:33 +2 39
8 Borussia Mönchengladbach 27 9 11 7 35:37 -2 38
9 Hamburger SV 27 11 5 11 32:43 -11 38
10 Hannover 96 27 11 4 12 49:46 +3 37
11 1. FC Nuremberg 27 8 11 8 31:34 -3 35
12 VfL Wolfsburg 27 8 8 11 32:42 -10 32
13 VfB Stuttgart 27 9 5 13 29:46 -17 32
14 SV Werder Bremen 27 8 7 12 43:52 -9 31
15 Fortuna Düsseldorf 27 7 8 12 33:40 -7 29
16 FC Augsburg 27 5 9 13 23:40 -17 24 Play-offs
17 1899 Hoffenheim 27 5 5 17 30:52 -22 20 Relegation
18 Greuther Fürth 27 2 9 16 18:45 -27 15 Relegation

Table thanks to official Bundesliga website

Originally written at Football Fan Cast

Bundesliga Review – Buoyant Bayern all set for Arsenal by Archie Rhind-Tutt

Arsène Wenger may claim his side have a chance of qualifying for the Champions League quarter finals. The truth is, they don’t. The Gunners first leg against Bayern Munich proved just how much stronger the Bavarians are. And even if the Bundesliga leaders may have stuttered ever so slightly at the weekend, Bayern still look the strongest side in Europe.

Now for this season’s Bayern, a stutter qualifies as a win – just not in the swashbuckling style that we have come to expect of the champions-elect. Their opponents on Saturday could count themselves unfortunate too. In the last two seasons, scoring twice against Bayern usually guarantees victory. So, poor old Fortuna Düsseldorf, who became the first away team to score two and not win a Bundesliga game at the Allianz Arena since Freiburg in October 2010. They can take solace in the fact they played a side on course to become the greatest team in Bundesliga history.

Coach Jupp Heynckes didn’t put out much of a weakened team on Saturday either. Even when you include injuries, Heynckes played a side which was just three players off what has become the acknowledged full strength team for Bayern this season – those missing being Holger Badstuber, Javi Martinez and perhaps the signing of the season, Dante.

Saturday was the first Bundesliga game the Brazilian centre back has not started this season as he was rested for Wednesday’s game against Arsenal. That there was a certain fragility to the Bayern defence against Fortuna  was testament to the impact Dante has had since signing from Borussia Mönchengladbach in the summer.

Twice Fortuna Düsseldorf took the lead (sparking wild, yet understandable celebrations in the away end of the stadium ) and, when they did so for a second time through Andreas Lambertz’s strike, just 18 minutes remained in the game. Still, it was naïve to think there wasn’t enough time for Bayern to turn round the deficit. Within minutes Franck Ribery had equalised and with just a few to spare, Jerome Boateng made sure that the team’s dinner was on Jupp Heynckes by nodding in his first ever Bundesliga goal.

More importantly, it was the winner, taking Bayern 20 points clear at the top of the division. Forget the title race (if you haven’t already) because Bayern Munich are now up against history – and they’re even on course to thrash that too. Jupp Heynckes’s team have five more points than any other side has had at this stage of a Bundesliga season.

Win their next three games and they’ll clinch their first league title since 2010 at Eintracht Frankfurt on April 6th. Yet, perhaps the sweetest domestic prospect for Bayern lies in early May. Because, should they take 16 points from their next six games, they will go to Borussia Dortmund, not just as Champions but having broken the record points total set just last season by BVB. And if they could even win at Signal Iduna Park, having already surpassed 81 points, it would further legitimise their status as Deutscher Meister once more.

They may have looked weaker defensively without Dante at the weekend but, that aside, the quality in Bayern’s squad has been shown to be so interchangeable, that it will be surprising if Jupp Heynckes’s side do anything but breeze through to the quarter finals of the Champions League on Wednesday evening.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga:

  • Whilst Jupp Heynckes got away with leaving out his summer signing from Gladbach, Jürgen Klopp wasn’t so fortunate. Marco Reus was on the bench for the Revierderby as Schalke raced into a first half lead thanks to goals from Julian Draxler and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. The emergence of Reus in the second half wasn’t enough to spark a revival as Schalke held on for their second derby win of the season, despite Robert Lewandowski’s goal just before the hour.
  • However, there was concerning injury news for both Dortmund and Schalke after the game. Mats Hummels tore an ankle ligament which will put him out for four weeks whilst Klaas-Jan Huntelaar will miss Tuesday’s Champions League game with Galatasaray. He’s out for eight weeks having torn a ligament in his knee after an innocuous collision with his own goalkeeper, Timo Hildebrand.
  • That result for Schalke pushed them back into the top four for the first time since the beginning of December. But, there are quite a few sides behind them. Take Mainz who won for the first time in 2013 by overcoming Bayer Leverkusen. Eintracht Frankfurt are level on points with Schalke but their run of games without scoring was extended to five in their goalless draw at Hannover.
  • Goals were not a problem for Wolfsburg though as they scored five in a surprise victory at Freiburg which included a pair of superb strikes. First came Vieirinha’s thumping volley from 25 yards before Ivica Olic tried to top that with an overhead kick. Alternatively there was a powerful volley by Hamburg’s Artjoms Rudnevs on Sunday. That earned his side the win against Stuttgart, putting HSV within two points of fourth place. Their local rivals, Werder Bremen, had to settle for a draw at Borussia Mönchengladbach.
  • And, in the scrap to avoid relegation, Augsburg’s recent good form came to an end as they were beaten by Nuremberg -that allowed Hoffenheim to gain some ground on the Bavarians as they overcame bottom club Greuther Fürth.

Matchday 25 Results:

Augsburg 1-2 Nuremberg

Bayern Munich 3-2 Fortuna Düsseldorf

Freiburg 2-5 Wolfsburg

Greuther Fürth 0-3 Hoffenheim

Mainz 1-0 Bayer Leverkusen

Schalke 2-1 Borussia Dortmund

Gladbach 1-1 Werder Bremen

Hannover 0-0 Eintracht Frankfurt

Stuttgart 0-1 Hamburg

Table:

Rank Club Matches W* D* L* G* GD* Pts.*
1 FC Bayern Munich 25 21 3 1 67:10 +57 66 CL*
2 Borussia Dortmund 25 13 7 5 55:30 +25 46 CL*
3 Bayer 04 Leverkusen 25 13 6 6 45:32 +13 45 CL*
4 FC Schalke 04 25 11 6 8 43:40 +3 39 CL* Qual.
5 Eintracht Frankfurt 25 11 6 8 38:35 +3 39 EL* Qual.
6 Hamburger SV 25 11 5 9 30:33 -3 38 EL* Qual.
7 1. FSV Mainz 05 25 10 7 8 33:29 +4 37
8 SC Freiburg 25 9 9 7 32:28 +4 36
9 Borussia Mönchengladbach 25 8 11 6 34:35 -1 35
10 Hannover 96 25 10 4 11 47:45 +2 34
11 1. FC Nuremberg 25 7 10 8 26:32 -6 31
12 VfL Wolfsburg 25 8 6 11 29:39 -10 30
13 SV Werder Bremen 25 8 5 12 40:49 -9 29
14 VfB Stuttgart 25 8 5 12 26:43 -17 29
15 Fortuna Düsseldorf 25 7 7 11 31:35 -4 28
16 FC Augsburg 25 4 9 12 22:38 -16 21 Play-offs
17 1899 Hoffenheim 25 5 4 16 30:49 -19 19 Relegation
18 Greuther Fürth 25 2 8 15 14:40 -26 14 Relegation

Table thanks to official Bundesliga website

Article originally written at Football Fan Cast

Bundesliga Review – The Augsburg escape is on once more by Archie Rhind-Tutt

Barack Obama’s famous 2008 election slogan “Yes We Can” was meant to inspire. Yet did the President realise it would influence one Augsburg fan’s choice of lettering on their replica shirt. The words “Jos We Can” are adorned on the back of one supporter’s top in honour of now former coach Jos Luhukay.

Alas, as this particular fan trudged away into the night after a 3-1 loss to Bayer Leverkusen earlier this season, he might have had his doubts about whether Augsburg could compete in their second year in the Bundesliga without the man who’d made the club’s dreams come true.

Not only did Luhukay take Augsburg into the Bundesliga for the first time; the Dutchman kept the club in the division too, on what was the smallest budget in the Bundesliga. This was all the more remarkable given the fact the club were in the relegation zone at Christmas. An improbable run in the Rückrunde,  combined with the downfall of Cologne and Hertha Berlin, saw Augsburg survive. Jos Luhukay was seen as the mastermind of this triumph but at the end of the season, feeling he could take the team no further, he left for relegated Hertha Berlin.

If Augsburg thought it had been difficult surviving with Luhukay, they’d now have to do it without their hero. In stepped Markus Weinzierl, a relatively unknown coach in Germany but nevertheless fresh from getting SSV Jahn Regensburg promoted to the second division.

And for a second season running, the first half of a Bundesliga season proved tricky for Augsburg. Weinzierl’s squad was not too different to Luhukay’s. Still, the newcomer was failing to produce the same results with injuries to key players such as skipper Paul Verhaegh not helping his cause. Just nine points were gained in the Hinrunde including a solitary win against Werder Bremen.

But crucially, things looked to have changed for the better at half way for a second consecutive year. In fact, after Saturday’s victory at Werder Bremen, Augsburg would be fourth, based solely on their performance in the second half of the season. And whilst every win for Augsburg could be described as significant, success at Werder really was a fillip for the Bavarians. Tobias Werner, who scored in the reverse fixture earlier this season, was the hero for Augsburg, heading in the game’s only goal just before the half hour mark.

Even more remarkably, Augsburg played out the remaining hour without conceding thanks to a mixture of astute defending, toothless finishing from Werder and goalkeeping heroics from Mohammed Amsif. This performance though formed just another part of the spring recovery by Augsburg.

And like their win on Saturday, this recovery has come about for a couple of reasons. Since the winter break, Markus Weinzierl has played a 4-1-4-1 formation in all but one game, which interestingly enough brought about their only loss in 2013 so far (against Bayer Leverkusen). By chance, that man Jos Luhukay had some success using the formation in the second half of last season too.

On a technical note though, as Cristian Nyari said in January: “The formation adds greater variety to Augsburg’s attacks and puts them in a better position to play a proactive game as opposed to reacting to opponents” – something that cannot be underestimated, considering only Greuther Fürth had scored less goals than Augsburg at Christmas.

Add to this the appointment of Stefan Reuter as Sporting Director in December; which has been followed by a few shrewd signings in January such as forward Ji Dong-Won on a loan deal from Sunderland and American defender Michael Parkhurst from Danish Champions Nordsjaelland and you have the crux of Augsburg’s ascent in 2013.

The club are still some way from complete safety with the Bavarians currently occupying the relegation/promotion playoff spot. Were Augsburg to survive, it would be arguably be an even bigger achievement for the club than last season and indeed a great endorsement for the coaching ability of Markus Weinzierl.

This weekend’s win over Werder Bremen meant Weinzierl did something Luhukay never did in winning back-to-back Bundesliga games. With Nuremberg visiting the SGL-Arena on Friday night, you wouldn’t bet against Augsburg extending that run either.

But the question is, even without Jos Luhukay as coach, can Augsburg achieve survival?

Well, Jos they can.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga:

  • Staying with the battle for survival, bottom club Greuther Fürth gained another unlikely point, this time at Hamburg on Saturday. It means they’re undefeated in the two games they’ve had without sacked coach Mike Büskens. One of Büskens former clubs, Schalke look to have regained some form of late, with Julian Draxler particularly influential in their thrashing of Wolfsburg at the weekend.
  • Now, for those who like a good bit of word play, this weekend was momentous in the Bundesliga. Bas Dost faced Bastos for the first time in German football – the winner being Bastos with Schalke beating the Wolves. But there was more on Sunday when Hoffenheim’s game against Bayern saw Gomes take on Gomez. And as destiny would have it, they came face-to-face for the defining moment of the match as Gomez of the Mario variety slipped it past Heurelho to seal a surprisingly slender win for the league leaders. And as is dictated now when Mario Gomez scores a goal, you just have to push the button
  • But enough frivolity and back to the weekend’s action where Borussia Dortmund prepared for their Champions League game with a relatively comfortable win over Hannover. The team just behind BVB, Bayer Leverkusen, recorded an impressive victory against Stuttgart, scoring twice in the last eight minutes to overturn a one goal deficit.
  • And in the race for that final Champions League spot, Gladbach shocked 4th placed Eintracht on Friday night, Freiburg recovered to draw at Nuremberg whilst former Bolton striker Ivan Klasnic netted the equaliser as Mainz were held at Fortuna Düsseldorf.

Matchday 24 Results

Eintracht Frankfurt 0-1 Gladbach

Borussia Dortmund 3-1 Hannover

Hamburg 1-1 Fürth

Nuremberg 1-1 Freiburg

Werder Bremen 0-1 Augsburg

Wolfsburg 1-4 Schalke

Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 Stuttgart

Hoffenheim 0-1 Bayern Munich

Fortuna Düsseldorf 1-1 Mainz

Table:

Rank Club Matches W* D* L* G* GD* Pts.*
1 FC Bayern Munich 24 20 3 1 64:8 +56 63 CL*
2 Borussia Dortmund 24 13 7 4 54:28 +26 46 CL*
3 Bayer 04 Leverkusen 24 13 6 5 45:31 +14 45 CL*
4 Eintracht Frankfurt 24 11 5 8 38:35 +3 38 CL* Qual.
5 SC Freiburg 24 9 9 6 30:23 +7 36 EL* Qual.
6 FC Schalke 04 24 10 6 8 41:39 +2 36 EL* Qual.
7 Hamburger SV 24 10 5 9 29:33 -4 35
8 1. FSV Mainz 05 24 9 7 8 32:29 +3 34
9 Borussia Mönchengladbach 24 8 10 6 33:34 -1 34
10 Hannover 96 24 10 3 11 47:45 +2 33
11 VfB Stuttgart 24 8 5 11 26:42 -16 29
12 Fortuna Düsseldorf 24 7 7 10 29:32 -3 28
13 1. FC Nuremberg 24 6 10 8 24:31 -7 28
14 SV Werder Bremen 24 8 4 12 39:48 -9 28
15 VfL Wolfsburg 24 7 6 11 24:37 -13 27
16 FC Augsburg 24 4 9 11 21:36 -15 21 Play-offs
17 1899 Hoffenheim 24 4 4 16 27:49 -22 16 Relegation
18 Greuther Fürth 24 2 8 14 14:37 -23 14 Relegation

Table thanks to official Bundesliga website

Article originally published on Football Fan Cast

Bundesliga Review – 4th place race to provide exciting finale by Archie Rhind-Tutt

As you probably know by now, the Bundesliga’s great. In fact, such is the extensive coverage it has recently received, you can probably recite off by heart all of the reasons for it being so. But, from a competitive point of view, the end of this season could be an anti-climax. The title race is over (unless Bayern Munich appoint Michael Skibbe) and at the bottom, it’s just a case of Hoffenheim, Augsburg and Greuther Fürth sorting out who plays in the promotion/relegation play off.

Fortunately, the battle for the final Champions League spot, known more dourly as fourth place, looks intriguing as we enter the final 12 games of the season. Seven points separate seven teams, though there’s a few who are unlikely to make it such as Gladbach, Hannover and Schalke.

Borussia Mönchengladbach may have done it last season but Lucien Favre’s team haven’t quite recovered from losing players like Marco Reus and Dante, who have been brilliant since moving on to Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich respectively. Losing to Hamburg this weekend leaves them seven adrift of fourth but playing in the Europa League has been a bit of a hindrance as Hannover can perhaps testify too.

The 96’s main problems though are away from home. Mirko Slomka’s side only won twice on the road last season and whilst they’ve matched the total this time around, Hannover had lost their previous four away games before drawing at lowly Nuremberg. That result may sound encouraging but Slomka saw his team lose the lead twice on Sunday, including a 91st minute equaliser from the home side’s Sebastian Polter. Still, Hannover are 8th meaning they’re above Schalke.

And when it comes to surprises, the Royal Blues’s capitulation ranks alongside the resignation of a certain German holy figure in the last week. Because much like the Pope, thousands gather to watch Schalke each week but in contrast, those decked in blue have been leaving bitterly disappointed. They’ve witnessed just one win in their last 11 games, yet new signing Michel Bastos seems to be on a solo crusade to drag Schalke forward. He scored twice in the weekend’s draw against Mainz, however, after little impact from new coach Jens Keller, fourth place looks very unlikely given their recent form.

Their opponents on Saturday, seventh placed Mainz, aren’t exactly front runners either but they are not a team to be underestimated. In Thomas Tuchel, they have one of the best, if not the best, young coaches in the country. He’s had relative success on a small budget and the fact that they are even close to a Champions League place is testament to Tuchel and Mainz as a club. Even so, the lack of a clinical touch at the weekend, against a weak Schalke side, showed why fourth may be beyond them for now.

For Hamburg, Freiburg and Eintracht Frankfurt though, the Champions League spot is a realistic possibility – and that’s surprising in each case. Hamburg finished fourth from bottom last season and have recovered from a nightmarish start this time around. Freiburg, like Mainz, are the provincial low budget outsiders who are overachieving spectacularly under Christian Streich. A year ago, they were bottom of the Bundesliga but Streich guided them to safety and even greater heights this season. Meanwhile, the current occupants of fourth place, Eintracht Frankfurt weren’t even in the Bundesliga last season. Since their promotion from the second tier though, they’ve looked very comfortable in the higher echelons of the top flight.

And from an unbiased viewpoint, what’s not to like about seeing three teams who would have been considered unlikely candidates at the start of the season all with genuine chances of reaching at least the qualification stage of the Champions League. Which team that will be is difficult to judge especially due to the lack of consistency each has shown. Still,  it was unsurprising to see Eintracht Frankfurt defeated comprehensively at Borussia Dortmund this weekend (and more specifically, by the magnificent Marco Reus who netted a hat-trick). That allowed Hamburg and Freiburg to close in on the Eagles.

Rafael van der Vaart, a player who has been a significant catalyst in Hamburg’s charge up the table, swerved a spectacular effort into the top corner to defeat Borussia Mönchengladbach in an otherwise dull affair. In contrast, Freiburg won an entertaining five goal thriller away at Werder Bremen in a game characterised by suspect defending. That’s not been typical of Freiburg this season, with only Bayern Munich conceding less goals. However, Streich’s team showed their character, having been pegged back twice after taking the lead, by scoring a third and decisive goal through Mathias Ginter. With Freiburg taking on Eintracht Frankfurt this Friday night, the race for that final Champions League spot could be even tighter come next Saturday.

But who will make it to fourth? Well, where’s the excitement in football when you know what’s going to happen. The fact each team has its flaws is part of what will make the race for fourth the most exciting aspect of the final games of the Bundesliga’s 50th season.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga:

  • Bayern shaped up for their Champions League trip to London with a win at Wolfsburg on Friday night. The leaders weren’t as free flowing as they have been for most of the season, but the discipline they displayed showed why the Bavarians will be Bundesliga Champions come May. There were flashes of brilliance from Jupp Heynckes’s side too with Mario Mandzukic’s overhead kick the undoubted highlight of his return to former club Wolfsburg.
  • At the bottom of the table, Augsburg suffered their first defeat of 2013 at the BayArena with Bayer Leverkusen inspired by Stefan Kiessling. The joint top-scorer in the division headed in the first before setting up the second. Augsburg scored a late consolation through Sascha Mölders. The result didn’t affect Augsburg’s predicament at the bottom though as the side below them, Greuther Fürth, lost away at Fortuna Düsseldorf and the team above them, Hoffenheim, were beaten at home by Stuttgart.

Matchday 22 Results:

Wolfsburg 0-2 Bayern Munich

Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 Augsburg

Fortuna Düsseldorf 1-0 Fürth

Hamburg 1-0 Gladbach

Mainz 2-2 Schalke

Werder Bremen 2-3 Freiburg

Borussia Dortmund 3-0 Eintracht Frankfurt

Nuremberg 2-2 Hannover

Hoffenheim 0-1 Stuttgart

Table:

Rank Club Matches W* D* L* G* GD* Pts.*
1 FC Bayern Munich 22 18 3 1 57:7 +50 57 CL*
2 Borussia Dortmund 22 12 6 4 50:26 +24 42 CL*
3 Bayer 04 Leverkusen 22 12 5 5 43:30 +13 41 CL*
4 Eintracht Frankfurt 22 11 4 7 38:34 +4 37 CL* Qual.
5 SC Freiburg 22 9 7 6 29:22 +7 34 EL* Qual.
6 Hamburger SV 22 10 4 8 27:27 0 34 EL* Qual.
7 1. FSV Mainz 05 22 9 5 8 30:27 +3 32
8 Hannover 96 22 9 3 10 41:41 0 30
9 FC Schalke 04 22 8 6 8 35:37 -2 30
10 Borussia Mönchengladbach 22 7 9 6 31:33 -2 30
11 SV Werder Bremen 22 8 4 10 38:41 -3 28
12 VfB Stuttgart 22 8 4 10 24:39 -15 28
13 Fortuna Düsseldorf 22 7 6 9 27:29 -2 27
14 1. FC Nuremberg 22 6 8 8 22:29 -7 26
15 VfL Wolfsburg 22 7 5 10 22:32 -10 26
16 1899 Hoffenheim 22 4 4 14 26:46 -20 16 Play-offs
17 FC Augsburg 22 2 9 11 18:35 -17 15 Relegation
18 Greuther Fürth 22 2 6 14 13:36 -23 12 Relegation

Table thanks to official Bundesliga website

Article originally written at Football Fan Cast

Bundesliga Review – Hamburg shock Borussia Dortmund, again by Archie Rhind-Tutt

bvb_scoreboard

According to Hamburg’s official website: “Nobody in his right mind would have predicted HSV’s superb 4-1 win away to double winners Borussia Dortmund.” As you’d expect from a club publication commenting on their own fortunes, this description could be accused of glorifying their achievements. On this occasion though, it was justified.

Earlier this season, Hamburg prevented history by bringing Borussia Dortmund’s 31-match unbeaten run to an end but on Saturday, die Rothosen (“the red shorts”) made history by becoming the first side to beat Borussia Dortmund home and away since February 2010.

Saturday’s encounter was just as nonsensical and surprising as September’s 3-2 win, providing controversy and another five goals too. This time, it started as expected with the Champions scoring first. Heiko Westermann thought it would be a good idea to let a high ball bounce as it travelled back towards his own goal. Sadly for Westermann, Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski agreed as he punished the defender by finishing neatly past Rene Adler.

Lewandowski has been subject to much transfer speculation in the press and intriguingly he has been linked to Bayern Munich. The chatter about the Polish striker was to continue after the game too but it would be for another contribution that would come later. Lewandowski’s finish was impressive, yet neither he nor the Dortmund defence were prepared for Hamburg to strike back 93 seconds later.

The visitors moved the ball forward with the speed and precision you’d usually associate with the Champions. Marcell Jansen’s one touch pass down the left hand side found Dennis Aogo. He immediately squared it into the box where Artjoms Rudnevs finished first time past Roman Weidenfeller, completing a slick response from the visitors. That goal demonstrated the coherence lacking in last week’s defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt. Eight minutes later, it was time for Hamburg to show the individual talent they possess.

Step forward Son Heung-Min, the 20-year-old South Korean who has been in great form for Hamburg, netting a series of wonder goals for the Northerners this season. One of those came against Borussia Dortmund back in Hamburg and on Saturday he scored a very similar effort. As he did in September, Son stormed down the right hand side before cutting inside on the edge of the penalty area and shooting. The ball found its intended target on both occasions – September’s effort curled into the net without any woodwork assistance but Saturday’s strike swerved inwards before smacking off the post and bouncing into the goal.

Away at the Champions, Hamburg were a goal up, and soon they were a man up too thanks to Robert Lewandowski and their very own Rafael van der Vaart. Whilst attempting to win the ball, the Polish striker caught HSV midfielder Per Ciljan Skelbred as he carelessly swung his right foot. Enter van der Vaart stage right.

Not being involved in the incident didn’t stop the Dutchman from falling to the floor dramatically in the resulting melee. His comments after the game confirmed his intentions to get Lewandowski sent off. He admitted: ‘I had the feeling that he would not otherwise have been sent off. It was a clear red card.’ Still, at the same time he sounded like a bad sitcom actor discussing his performance as he said: “In the scene with Lewandowski I had to do a bit of theatre.”

Either way, the Polish striker was off with van der Vaart settling for a yellow card (having missed out on an Oscar). However, Hamburg’s one man advantage was gone 15 minutes into the second half after Jeffrey Bruma brought down Marco Reus as he went through on goal.

Perhaps that gave Borussia Dortmund a false sense of security as within minutes, Hamburg had extended their lead with Rudnevs heading in van der Vaart’s brilliant cross. Three became four just minutes before the end of the game when Son Heung-Min slid in from a couple of yards, rounding off a magnificent victory for the visitors.

The 1-4 score line condemned Dortmund to their worst home defeat since a 5-1 drubbing to Bayern in September 2009. The result was all the more confusing given the assured start they’d made to 2013 and it certainly ended any dreams of BVB becoming Champions for a third year in a row. Saturday’s result will have added some unnecessary anxiety prior to this week’s Champions League game in Donetsk.

Talk of the Champions League has become relevant to Hamburg, even if some of their performances this season haven’t been worthy of a side challenging for Europe. They’re six points behind Eintracht Frankfurt who currently occupy the fourth and final Champions League spot. Greater consistency is needed in their performances for that to happen but on what was his return to his hometown club Saturday’s result is definitely the high point of Thorsten Fink’s time as coach.

Hamburg’s result against Dortmund in September changed their season, though Thorsten Fink will be hoping the score line at Signal Iduna Park will help define their season as HSV push for an unlikely place in the Champions League.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga:

  • With Dortmund losing, it gave Bayer Leverkusen the chance to overtake them if they could win at Borussia Mönchengladbach but they ended up drawing 3-3 in another entertaining encounter. Even 4th placed Eintracht Frankfurt couldn’t win as they were held to a goalless draw by Nuremberg.
  • That gave Bayern Munich the chance to extend their lead to 15 points at the top of the Bundesliga, which they did as they thrashed sinking Schalke. It’s the first time the Royal Blues have entered the bottom half since the first match day of last season as they continue their poor start under interim coach Jens Keller.
  • The only side in worse form than Schalke are Stuttgart. They were thumped at home by Werder Bremen meaning they’ve now lost five consecutive games in the Bundesliga – something they hadn’t done for nearly 26 years. Still, Stuttgart can take solace in the fact that none of the sides below them won at the weekend.
  • Hoffenheim were edged out by Hannover thanks to Heurelho Gomes’s first Bundesliga blunder, picking up from where Tim Wiese left off. Augsburg fought back to earn a draw against 10-man Mainz. Greuther Fürth were unable to follow up last week’s historic win at Schalke as they lost at home to Wolfsburg whilst Fortuna Düsseldorf lost late on at high-flying Freiburg.

Matchday 21 Results:

Borussia Dortmund 1-4 Hamburg

Eintracht Frankfurt 0-0 Nuremberg

Gladbach 3-3 Bayer Leverkusen

Hannover 1-0 Hoffenheim

Fürth 0-1 Wolfsburg

Stuttgart 1-4 Werder Bremen

Bayern Munich 4-0 Schalke

Augsburg 1-1 Mainz

Freiburg 1-0 Fortuna Düsseldorf

Table:

Rank Club Matches W* D* L* G* GD* Pts.*
1 FC Bayern Munich 21 17 3 1 55:7 +48 54 CL*
2 Borussia Dortmund 21 11 6 4 47:26 +21 39 CL*
3 Bayer 04 Leverkusen 21 11 5 5 41:29 +12 38 CL*
4 Eintracht Frankfurt 21 11 4 6 38:31 +7 37 CL* Qual.
5 SC Freiburg 21 8 7 6 26:20 +6 31 EL* Qual.
6 1. FSV Mainz 05 21 9 4 8 28:25 +3 31 EL* Qual.
7 Hamburger SV 21 9 4 8 26:27 -1 31
8 Borussia Mönchengladbach 21 7 9 5 31:32 -1 30
9 Hannover 96 21 9 2 10 39:39 0 29
10 FC Schalke 04 21 8 5 8 33:35 -2 29
11 SV Werder Bremen 21 8 4 9 36:38 -2 28
12 VfL Wolfsburg 21 7 5 9 22:30 -8 26
13 1. FC Nuremberg 21 6 7 8 20:27 -7 25
14 VfB Stuttgart 21 7 4 10 23:39 -16 25
15 Fortuna Düsseldorf 21 6 6 9 26:29 -3 24
16 1899 Hoffenheim 21 4 4 13 26:45 -19 16 Play-offs
17 FC Augsburg 21 2 9 10 17:33 -16 15 Relegation
18 Greuther Fürth 21 2 6 13 13:35 -22 12 Relegation

Table thanks to official Bundesliga website

With thanks to @timbotania for the image

Article originally published on Football Fan Cast

Bundesliga Review – Fürth surprise Schalke but trouble looms by Archie Rhind-Tutt

The former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, once said: “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” Now it’s only logical to apply this wisdom to Kissinger’s beloved Greuther Fürth. Coach (or perhaps that should be Commander-in-Chief) Mike Büskens led the Franconian side into the Bundesliga in 2012 – a place where Fürth had never played before. But since then, their first season at the highest level of German football has been a struggle.

For a club whose nickname suggests they might have some luck (“Kleeblätter” translates to “Clover Leaves”), they haven’t been particularly fortunate this season. Fürth won their second game back in August against Mainz and until Saturday afternoon that remained their only win of an otherwise fruitless campaign.

Operating on one of the smallest budgets in the division, it’s not that Fürth were expected to excel. Yet nine points from 19 games is a poor total no matter how you spin it.  So with Mike Büskens returning with Fürth to Schalke, a club he played for and managed (the latter albeit briefly), little nostalgia was to be had given his current team’s predicament at the bottom of the Bundesliga.

That said Schalke’s start to 2013 has been unconvincing under Jens Keller – the former youth coach who was promoted after Huub Stevens sacking in December. A frantic 5-4 win over Hannover and a lacklustre goalless draw against Augsburg has shown that the Royal Blues aren’t the force they were earlier this season. Schalke were still expected to ease past Fürth on Saturday. But Mike Büskens, no doubt looking to put Henry Kissinger’s wisdom into practice, had a surprise for his former club.

His side were well disciplined despite Schalke’s control at the Veltins Arena. Having survived the first half though, the Clover Leaves luck looked to have run out less than 90 seconds after the break. On his Schalke debut, Michel Bastos scored spectacularly from distance meaning that Fürth would have to come from a goal down to win. This seemed improbable considering they had scored just once in their last 10 ½ hours of Bundesliga action.

But in a rare attack, the recently signed Nikola Djurdjic crossed for Felix Klaus who netted from close range just six minutes after Schalke’s opener. With so long left in the half, the home side were still favourites but maybe they were unaware that the last time Klaus scored, Greuther Fürth were victorious. To Schalke’s bewilderment, history would repeat itself. Because in an injury time counter attack, Djurdjic looped a header tantalisingly over Timo Hildebrand to secure victory and in turn, one of the shocks of the season.

Despite the referee not signalling full time, Coach Mike Büskens charged onto the pitch to celebrate with his team. It’s not even the first time he’s done that this season, as he sprinted on after Fürth’s late equaliser against Hoffenheim. Saturday’s win though held far more importance, both personally for Büskens and for Greuther Fürth.

Still, the result could prove to be an anomaly given the way they’ve played for the majority of the campaign. Even with 12 points now from 20 games, Fürth will find themselves back in the second division unless they can produce the most unlikely run of form. If we return to another quote of that famous fan Henry Kissinger, he once said: “Each success only buys an admission ticket to a more difficult problem.”

And in the case of Greuther Fürth and Mike Büskens, this more difficult problem will be survival in the Bundesliga. Saturday was a great success for the Franconian club but after an abysmal first half of the season, it would be very surprising if Fürth were in the Bundesliga come August.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga:

  • Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund provided an entertaining encounter, as you’d expect from sides ranked 2nd and 3rd  respectively prior to Sunday’s game. They ended up swapping places though as Dortmund ran out 3-2 winners at the BayArena. That wasn’t after racing into a 2-0 lead in the first ten minutes and throwing it away at the beginning of the second half. Thankfully for Dortmund, Robert Lewandowski punished a defensive error less than 60 seconds after Leverkusen’s equaliser, pushing Jürgen Klopp’s side into second. But whilst the Champions moved closer to Bayern Munich in terms of position, they were no closer in terms of points after the league leaders swept aside Mainz. Their opponents weren’t even that poor but as has been the case so often this season, Bayern were just too good with Mario Mandzukic scoring twice.
  • Aside from Fürth there were some other surprises in the Bundesliga this weekend. Relegation threatened Hoffenheim recovered to beat Freiburg despite Heurelho Gomes making his debut in goal. In true Gomes style, he managed to concede within the first five minutes. Fortuna Düsseldorf on the other hand were in “Kruse control,” after Australian striker Robbie Kruse netted twice in their win over Stuttgart.
  • Elsewhere, there was a first win for Nuremberg coach Michael Wiesinger as his side beat Gladbach. The man he took over from, Dieter Hecking, could only manage a draw with his new club Wolfsburg. Augsburg were the team to hold the Wolves as they continue to improve in 2013.
  • Eintracht Frankfurt’s unlikely challenge for a Champions League place continued with a win at Hamburg on Saturday evening. And finally, in what became a showcase of two of the division’s most mediocre teams, Werder Bremen beat Hannover on Friday night. Nils Petersen did provide a moment to behold, scoring an impressive volley with the outside of his right foot.
For more on the Bundesliga, follow @archiert1 on Twitter

Matchday 20 Results:

Werder Bremen 2-0 Hannover

Fortuna Düsseldorf 3-1 Stuttgart

Hoffenheim 2-1 Freiburg

Mainz 0-3 Bayern Munich

Schalke 1-2 Fürth

Wolfsburg 1-1 Augsburg

Hamburg 0-2 Eintracht Frankfurt

Nürnberg 2-1 Gladbach

Bayer Leverkusen 2-3 Borussia Dortmund

Table:

Rank Club Matches W* D* L* G* GD* Pts.*
1 FC Bayern Munich 20 16 3 1 51:7 +44 51 CL*
2 Borussia Dortmund 20 11 6 3 46:22 +24 39 CL*
3 Bayer 04 Leverkusen 20 11 4 5 38:26 +12 37 CL*
4 Eintracht Frankfurt 20 11 3 6 38:31 +7 36 CL* Qual.
5 1. FSV Mainz 05 20 9 3 8 27:24 +3 30 EL* Qual.
6 FC Schalke 04 20 8 5 7 33:31 +2 29 EL* Qual.
7 Borussia Mönchengladbach 20 7 8 5 28:29 -1 29
8 SC Freiburg 20 7 7 6 25:20 +5 28
9 Hamburger SV 20 8 4 8 22:26 -4 28
10 Hannover 96 20 8 2 10 38:39 -1 26
11 SV Werder Bremen 20 7 4 9 32:37 -5 25
12 VfB Stuttgart 20 7 4 9 22:35 -13 25
13 Fortuna Düsseldorf 20 6 6 8 26:28 -2 24
14 1. FC Nuremberg 20 6 6 8 20:27 -7 24
15 VfL Wolfsburg 20 6 5 9 21:30 -9 23
16 1899 Hoffenheim 20 4 4 12 26:44 -18 16 Play-offs
17 FC Augsburg 20 2 8 10 16:32 -16 14 Relegation
18 Greuther Fürth 20 2 6 12 13:34 -21 12 Relegation

Table thanks to Official Bundesliga Website

Article originally written at Football Fan Cast

Bundesliga Review – Stevens Shakin’ after sacking by Schalke by Archie Rhind-Tutt

Whilst Shakin’ Stevens festive hit “Merry Christmas Everyone” rings out continuously in this season of good will, a namesake of Shakin’ won’t be bustling with that Christmas spirit. In fact, Huub Stevens is more likely to be Shakin’ with anger. Because, after a regretful run of results, the Schalke head coach was sacked on Sunday morning.

It didn’t take long for BILD to point out that “the Dutchman has flown.” This is true as Stevens’ Schalke were indeed flying earlier this season. October marked the high point of their voyage as it was then that the Royal Blues outplayed Arsenal and most importantly, their fierce rivals Borussia Dortmund in what were two superb away performances.

But let’s not forget what Felix Baumgartner also showed us during October: what goes up must come down. Like the Austrian daredevil, Schalke’s descent has been spectacular. The problem is the Gelsenkirchen outfit haven’t landed on their feet.

Since that magical month, Huub Stevens has endured something of a nightmare in the Bundesliga, compounded by Freiburg’s victory in Gelsenkirchen on Saturday. Stevens was given false hope by Jefferson Farfan’s opener but then began the woeful defending that would curtail his second reign in charge.

After gliding in unnoticed, Jan Rosenthal volleyed home Freiburg’s equaliser from the edge of the area. Then Joel Matip took a swing and a miss at a bouncing through ball allowing Jonathan Schmid to poke the visitors in front before half time. And when Schalke decided to give the ball away in their own half, Rosenthal was there to make it three.

So could it get any worse for Stevens and Schalke? Well yes it could, because on the field the team’s talisman Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was sent off and off the pitch, there was fighting between a few Schalke fans. Parts of the VELTINS-Arena emptied before full time as memories of the victory over Borussia Dortmund less than two months ago seemed very distant. By the end of Saturday evening the Royal Blues had slipped to seventh place in the Bundesliga.

Stevens’s time was up and keeping to the lyrics of that now familiar English football song, Huub was indeed sacked in the morning. Schalke cited the team’s poor recent performance in the Bundesliga as the reason for his departure. That’s unsurprising when there’s been just one win in Schalke’s last eight games and four losses in their last six.

The Dutchman hasn’t been helped by the performance of a fellow countryman, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Last season he won the (brilliantly named) Torjägerkanone as the Bundesliga’s top scorer. This time round, the man nicknamed “The Hunter” looks unfocused as his modest total of five Bundesliga goals suggests. When you see that his contract expires in June it makes more sense.

Not much though will make sense to Schalke supporters at the moment. Their team’s recent performances have been oh so frustrating, especially after the heights they scaled just a short time ago. Of course, you can blame injuries and tiredness but it’s still perplexing to think that Schalke’s season looks to have peaked in October. Huub Stevens can be credited for his team topping their Champions League group.  Yet, as General Manager Horst Heldt made clear in a press conference after Stevens departure: “The Bundesliga is our bread and butter.”

Jens Keller is Stevens replacement for the rest of the season. The Schalke website excitedly reported that he has been having a fantastic season with the club’s Under-17 team. Still, he takes over from a man who was held dearly by Schalke for leading the club to UEFA Cup glory in 1997 and back-to-back German Cup wins four years later. But as was shown on Sunday, he was held so dearly by the club, that they sacked him meaning Huub Stevens will be left Shakin’ this Christmas for all the wrong reasons.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga:

  • Let’s start with the man who is favourite to be Schalke coach come next summer – Thomas Tuchel. His Mainz side grabbed another victory as they saw off Stuttgart at the Coface Arena. After their latest victory, Mainz’s General Manager Thomas Heidel said Schalke will need to come up with 30 million euros if Tuchel is to move to Gelsenkirchen. That comment may have been tongue in cheek but don’t doubt how highly Tuchel is valued by Mainz – they end the year in a very impressive 6th place.
  • Bayern Munich were surprisingly held at the Allianz Arena by Borussia Mönchengadbach. Gladbach goalkeeper Marc-André Ter Stegen deserves extra credit for some outstanding saves on Friday night. The teams trailing Bayern made up some ground though. Bayer Leverkusen comfortably beat Hamburg, Borussia Dortmund overcame Hoffenheim and the season’s surprise performers Eintracht Frankfurt were victorious in Wolfsburg. Bayern Munich though will be very satisfied though with their lead going into Christmas.
  • Meanwhile, in the relegation ramalamadingdong, Fürth and Augsburg drew – a result which left both sides still deep in the proverbial mire. A side that were expected to be in the relegation scrap, Fortuna Düsseldorf, were able to celebrate another win though. They beat off Hannover, who still haven’t worked out this winning away business. And in the last game before the winter break, Werder Bremen and Nuremberg shared the points in Lower Saxony.

For more on the Bundesliga on Twitter, follow @archiert1

Matchday 17 Results:

Bayern Munich 1-1 Gladbach

Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 Hamburg

Fortuna Düsseldorf 2-1 Hannover

Fürth 1-1 Augsburg

Mainz 3-1 Stuttgart

Wolfsburg 0-2 Eintracht Frankfurt

Schalke 1-3 Freiburg

Hoffenheim 1-3 Borussia Dortmund

Werder Bremen 1-1 Nuremberg

Table:

Rank Club Matches W* D* L* G* GD* Pts.*
1 FC Bayern Munich 17 13 3 1 44:7 +37 42 CL*
2 Bayer 04 Leverkusen 17 10 3 4 33:22 +11 33 CL*
3 Borussia Dortmund 17 8 6 3 35:20 +15 30 CL*
4 Eintracht Frankfurt 17 9 3 5 33:27 +6 30 CL* Qual.
5 SC Freiburg 17 7 5 5 24:18 +6 26 EL* Qual.
6 1. FSV Mainz 05 17 8 2 7 24:21 +3 26 EL* Qual.
7 FC Schalke 04 17 7 4 6 27:25 +2 25
8 Borussia Mönchengladbach 17 6 7 4 25:26 -1 25
9 VfB Stuttgart 17 7 4 6 21:28 -7 25
10 Hamburger SV 17 7 3 7 18:21 -3 24
11 Hannover 96 17 7 2 8 32:31 +1 23
12 SV Werder Bremen 17 6 4 7 28:29 -1 22
13 Fortuna Düsseldorf 17 5 6 6 20:22 -2 21
14 1. FC Nuremberg 17 5 5 7 17:22 -5 20
15 VfL Wolfsburg 17 5 4 8 17:27 -10 19
16 1899 Hoffenheim 17 3 3 11 23:41 -18 12 Play-offs
17 FC Augsburg 17 1 6 10 12:29 -17 9 Relegation
18 Greuther Fürth 17 1 6 10 11:28 -17 9 Relegation

Table thanks to Bundesliga Website

Article originall written at Football Fan Cast

Bundesliga Review – Arango’s left foot steals the show by Archie Rhind-Tutt

German sides have had a great week on the continent but it was a 32-year-old Venezuelan who provided the moment of the weekend

The Bundesliga is characterised by its seemingly endless amount of young, home grown talent who are now not just flourishing in Germany but on the continent too. At the same time, that’s part of what makes Juan Arango great – because he’s a 32-year-old Venezuelan playmaker.

The Hispanic flair he brings both to Borussia Mönchengladbach and the Bundesliga should be valued as highly as the young talent present in the division. Because its diverse talents like Arango which only add to what is proving to be the best division in Europe this season.

One part of Arango marks him out from others in the Bundesliga – his left foot. For this peg of wonder, this artefact of wizardry is capable of magnificence, as it proved again on Sunday. The Venezuelan’s side were already a goal ahead against Mainz before the Maracay Magician produced the most audacious of strikes. Just over an hour into the game, Mainz keeper Heinz Müller raced out to clear an over-hit through ball but he cleared it only as far as Arango.

Still, the Venezuelan captain, stationed on the byline, was 44 metres away from the Mainz goal. The chance to score was indeed small, but the scope for the spectacular was tremendous. As the ball came towards him, Arango prepared to swing that almighty weapon, though in fact, to say that Juan Arango swings his left foot at a ball would be to imply that he is not in control of it all times, something which just isn’t true.

So then, it was with precision that he drew back his left foot before shooting first time from the most improbable of angles. Such was the fusion between Arango’s foot and the ball, the Venezuelan slipped to the floor after striking it. But it was from there he watched the ball loop up, up, up into the Borussia-Arena sky and, as if by magic, the ball started curving towards goal. Still, it looked too high to get anywhere near its intended target but perhaps Newton himself was looking on favourably as gravity took hold.

Still curling, the ball plummeted down and with each inch it travelled towards the earth, you just knew where this one was heading. Down, down, down it went before landing over the line and cue wild scenes in the Borussia Arena, because Juan Arango had done it again. Coach Lucien Favre rushed towards him along with other members of the bench as the Venezuelan remained on the floor to take the plaudits from his teammates.

Borussia Mönchengladbach won the game 2-0 but the match belonged to Arango for providing another sumptuous moment of quality.  That was his fifth of the season and as BILD pointed out, four of the five have been dream goals. The Venezuelan is not short of confidence as he showed earlier in the season when talking about his free-kicks. “I’m just as good as Ronaldo or Messi. I do not have to hide behind them.”

Now this may sound far-fetched, but with this eye for the spectacular, Arango can certainly rank himself alongside Ronaldo and Messi in that aspect too. For the Venezuelan captain, the Maracay Magician, or to put it simply, Juan Arango showed the Bundesliga on Sunday afternoon that while he may be 32-years-old, he and that trusty left foot of his are special talents indeed.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga

  • Now whilst the piece above may have you believe otherwise, there was other football played in Germany outside of the Juan Arango vortex. So, where better to go next than Borussia Dortmund who were surprisingly beaten at home by Wolfsburg. That only explains half the story though. BVB were one up when Wolfgang Stark incorrectly sent Marcel Schmelzer off for deliberate handball on the goal line, when in fact it had hit his thigh. Within five minutes of the decision, Wolfsburg were ahead and despite a Dortmund equaliser, the Wolves went onto record a victory that was still impressive in any case. Schmelzer’s red card was overturned on Saturday evening and Wolfgang Stark apologised for his error. But by that stage it was too little too late for Dortmund.
  • Schalke’s woeful run of recent form continued too as they lost to Stuttgart. VfB striker Vedad Ibisevic grabbed a hat-trick in the process and also became the Bundesliga’s top scorer on Saturday afternoon. He was joined at the top of the charts later that day by Eintracht Frankfurt’s Alexander Meier. The burly attacking midfielder helped Eintracht to move above Schalke after they beat Werder Bremen to record their first victory in three.
  • But what about Bayern Munich? Well, surprise surprise, they won – this time against lowly Augsburg who seem doomed. Bayern’s nearest challengers, Bayer Leverkusen, lost at Hannover on Sunday meaning that the league leaders are now 11 points clear at the top. (One highlight for Bayer was Stefan Kiessling scoring meaning he’s also on 10 goals for the season along with Ibisevic and Meier.)
  • Back to the relegation dogfight though, because if Augsburg seem doomed, then Greuther Fürth are too. They lost to Freiburg whilst Hoffenheim could do no better without Markus Babbel as they slipped to defeat in Hamburg. And slightly further up the table, Nuremberg saw off Fortuna Düsseldorf in Franconia.
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Matchday 16 Results:

Hamburg 2-0 Hoffenheim

Augsburg 0-2 Bayern Munich

Borussia Dortmund 2-3 Wolfsburg

Freiburg 1-0 Greuther Fürth

Nuremberg 2-0 Fortuna Düsseldorf

Stuttgart 3-1 Schalke

Eintracht Frankfurt 4-1 Werder Bremen

Gladbach 2-0 Mainz

Hannover 3-2 Bayer Leverkusen

Table:

Rank Club Matches W* D* L* G* GD* Pts.*
1 FC Bayern Munich 16 13 2 1 43:6 +37 41 CL*
2 Bayer 04 Leverkusen 16 9 3 4 30:22 +8 30 CL*
3 Borussia Dortmund 16 7 6 3 32:19 +13 27 CL*
4 Eintracht Frankfurt 16 8 3 5 31:27 +4 27 CL* Qual.
5 FC Schalke 04 16 7 4 5 26:22 +4 25 EL* Qual.
6 VfB Stuttgart 16 7 4 5 20:25 -5 25 EL* Qual.
7 Hamburger SV 16 7 3 6 18:18 0 24
8 Borussia Mönchengladbach 16 6 6 4 24:25 -1 24
9 SC Freiburg 16 6 5 5 21:17 +4 23
10 Hannover 96 16 7 2 7 31:29 +2 23
11 1. FSV Mainz 05 16 7 2 7 21:20 +1 23
12 SV Werder Bremen 16 6 3 7 27:28 -1 21
13 1. FC Nuremberg 16 5 4 7 16:21 -5 19
14 VfL Wolfsburg 16 5 4 7 17:25 -8 19
15 Fortuna Düsseldorf 16 4 6 6 18:21 -3 18
16 1899 Hoffenheim 16 3 3 10 22:38 -16 12 Play-offs
17 FC Augsburg 16 1 5 10 11:28 -17 8 Relegation
18 Greuther Fürth 16 1 5 10 10:27 -17 8 Relegation

Table from official Bundesliga website

Article originally published on Football Fan Cast