Category Archives: Borussia Mönchengladbach

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

Dante set for Brazil debut at Wembley

Bayern Munich’s 29-year-old defender Dante is set to win his first cap for Brazil in a friendly against England at Wembley on Wednesday reports Mark Lovell.

Brazil’s new and old coach Luiz Felipe Scolari (lovingly known as Big Phil) had no hesitation in calling up the Bayern defensive lynchpin to his revamped squad. With regular centre half Thiago Silva of PSG currently out injured, Dante travels to London on Monday with high hopes of a first start for the Seleção (Brazil national team).

Scolari, a World Cup winning coach against Germany in 2002, is back in charge of the ‘Boys from Brazil’ for a second spell after replacing Mano Menezes. The ex-Chelsea manager quickly needs to instil a feel-good factor in the Brazilian national squad ahead of the fast approaching 2014 World Cup on home soil.

Dante joined Bayern in the summer from Borussia Mönchengladbach for a bargain fee of €5m. He has been an ever-present this Bundesliga campaign and has quickly established himself as an integral part of Bayern’s parsimonious backline. Dante is arguably the Bavarians’ stand-out defender this season, compensating for the serious injury of Holger Badstuber.

After the record German champions’ comfortable away win in the carnival city of Mainz on Saturday, Dante immediately turned his attentions to the mouth-watering prospect of a Brazil debut at Wembley, the ‘home of football’.

“Now, I just want to concentrate on the Seleção,” explained Dante. “I am very happy to have this opportunity and hope to get the chance to play. I am the only newcomer to the squad, so it’s going to be difficult to earn the coach’s trust right away.”

Despite the match’s billing as a mere friendly, Dante says he cannot wait for the game and is keen to impress the new boss. “England against Brazil, this is a classic of the world game,” he beamed.

Away from Dante’s potential debut, there is likely to be more media scrutiny on the returning Ronaldinho. The two-time World Player of the Year has also been called back into Big Phil’s star-studded squad for this glamorous fixture, kicking off the English Football Association’s (FA) 150th anniversary celebrations.

Dante flies to London on Monday to meet up with the rest of the squad and could form a potentially formidable ‘afro partnership’ with Chelsea’s David Luiz in the heart of the Seleção defence.

“That would be cool,” Dante joked. “Though he is blonder than me.”

On the subject of eye-catching hairstyles, Dante may have to mark someone with his very own hair history. In-form England striker Wayne Rooney famously underwent hair transplant surgery in 2011. ‘Roo’ will soon realise, like the rest of the millions watching around the world, that there is much more substance to Dante than just a frizzy ‘fro.

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.
For more on the Bundesliga on Twitter, follow @archiert1

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

Bundesliga Review – Lift Off For Last Season’s Overachievers by Archie Rhind-Tutt

Success can be hard enough to attain but following it up is often the real challenge of a team’s abilities. Until this weekend, two of the Bundesliga’s overachievers from the previous campaign, Augsburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach, had shown just how difficult it can be. In May, Gladbach earned an unlikely top four place, and in turn a shot at Champions League qualification whilst Augsburg’s mere presence outside the relegation zone was surprising.

Both clubs lost significant figures in the summer, severely denting their chances on building on last season’s good work. Roman Neustadter, Dante and Marco Reus joined the three clubs which finished above the Foals last season whereas last year’s Bundesliga debutants lost coach Jos Luhukay. Respective replacements were found but neither has been able to carry on regardless.

That’s shown by the fact that until this Friday, Augsburg were yet to win in the Bundesliga this season under new coach Markus Weinzierl. He was working in the third tier of German football last year and had struggled to adjust to life in the top flight. The visit of bipolar Werder Bremen on Friday could well prove a seminal moment in his reign at the SGL-Arena, or so Weinzierl will hope.

This was a game Werder were expected to win with relative ease and judging by the performance of Thomas Schaaf’s side on Friday night, the Northerners thought they’d be able to do so with minimal effort too. As much as Augsburg deserved credit for their subsequent 3-1 victory, their opponents were toothless.

Tobias Werner scored the fastest goal of the season (94 seconds) with a diving header after a great cross from Captain Paul Verhaegh. The Bavarians were pegged back by a Kevin De Bruyne free kick soon after but strikes from Stephan Hain and Daniel Baier either side of half time secured a first win of the season for Augsburg. That was enough to lift them out of the automatic relegation places and as if that wasn’t enough, the players were even rewarded with a trip to Munich for Oktoberfest.

Mention the word Munich though to Gladbach fans and it might rekindle memories of their two victories over Bayern last season. As such, those results were just a small part of a cracking campaign under Lucien Favre but, going into their game against in-form Eintracht Frankfurr, the Foals were hovering nervously above the relegation zone after just a solitary win in their first six games.

They didn’t necessarily return to their best as a team on Sunday either but a 2-0 win was just what Gladbach needed. Juan Arango provided a contender for goal of the season in scoring the Foals first. The man with the sweetest left foot in the division struck a 31 yard thunderbolt early on before new signing Luuk De Jong netted his second of the campaign. This in turn ensured Frankfurt’s first defeat of the season, though Oliver Occean’s contender for miss of the season didn’t help their cause on a difficult day in North Rhine-Westphalia.

What next then for Gladbach and their fellow overachievers from last season, Augsburg? Survival remains the aim for Augsburg and it still looks like it will be very difficult to achieve. The same doesn’t apply to Lucien Favre’s side, even if they have lost key players over the summer. The club has invested heavily in an effort to ensure more than a temporary revival of fortunes. Their weekend win will have come as a relief – an emotion Augsburg will understand too. Yet as they continue without significant figures from the last campaigin, both clubs are probably just realising now the extent of which they have been victims of their success.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga

• Bayern Munich pulled further clear at the top of the Bundesliga as they saw off Hoffenheim 2-0 at the Allianz Arena. Franck Ribery scored both and victory at this time could only mean one thing for Bayern – getting down to Oktoberfest.

• There was no celebrating for Champions Borussia Dortmund. Despite an encouraging midweek Champions League performance, they slipped to a 1-1 draw at Hannover. That’s by no means shabby – Hannover’s unbeaten home record stretches back more than a season now. However, conceding another late goal, this time from Mame Biram Diouf, will hurt Jürgen Klopp after doing the same in Manchester on Wednesday. Dortmund’s local rivals Schalke kept their good start to the season going with a 3-0 victory against Wolfsburg, who dropped into the bottom two.

• Meanwhile in mid table, Freiburg beat Nürnberg 3-0, Bayer Leverkusen were held 2-2 at Stuttgart and promoted Fortuna Düsseldorf lost for the first time this season. Mainz became the first side to breach the side’s defence on their travels in a 1-0 victory for the home side. And finally, Hamburg continued their recent revival as the in-form Son Heung-Min scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory at Greuther Fürth.

For more on the Bundesliga, follow @archiert1 on Twitter

Matchday 7 Results:

Augsburg 3-1 Werder Bremen

Bayern Munich 2-0 Hoffenheim

Freiburg 3-0 Nürnberg

Fürth 0-1 Hamburg

Mainz 1-0 Fortuna Düsseldorf

Schalke 3-0 Wolfsburg

Gladbach 2-0 Eintracht Frankfurt

Hannover 1-1 Borussia Dortmund

Stuttgart 2-2 Bayer Leverkusen

 Table

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

Table thanks to Official Bundesliga Site

Article originally written on Football Fan Cast

Bundesliga Review – Derby excitement tempered by Pezzoni incident By Archie Rhind-Tutt

 

Derbies – they are part of what makes not just the Bundesliga but football in general great. It’s there where all of the passion is poured out onto the pitch by both fans and players. This weekend the Bundesliga had no less than four of them on show. Not all of them were necessarily local – Bayern Munich and Stuttgart for instance are 136 miles apart.

The pair nevertheless make up the Southern derby (not to be confused with Nuremberg v Fürth which is the South derby). With Borussia Dortmund drawing with Nuremberg on Saturday, it was a great opportunity for Bayern to take an early lead over the Champions. They did just that, but not before Stuttgart were made to realise that Bayern are like the Incredible Hulk – you wouldn’t like them when they’re angry.

The Swabians hit the bar early on and then took the lead through Martin Harnik’s superb volley on 25 minutes. By half time, Stuttgart were trailing by two after Müller, Kroos and most spectacularly Luiz Gustavo, gave the Bavarians the lead their fans expected. In the second half, it continued with Müller (again), Mandzukic and Schweinsteiger ensuring last year’s runners up were 6-1 up just six minutes after half time. That’s how it stayed but there was still time for Vedad Ibisevic to be sent off, completing a bad start in the Bundesliga for the Bosnian after last week’s horrible miss.

Perhaps not for the last time this season though, Bayern went to the top of the Bundesliga. Still, they weren’t the only side to enjoy a Sunday roast. For the Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) derby was more like the demolition derby as Hannover thumped Wolfsburg at the VW Arena.

This in itself was a surprise. After all, Hannover hadn’t won in Wolfsburg since 2006 and they weren’t great on the road last year, picking up just two away wins all season. The Wolves have also been tipped to do well this season and were expected to build on last weekend’s win at Stuttgart.

Still, Hannover are not a side to be underestimated, as they showed. Their star was Szabolcs Huszti. The Hungarian, who returned to the club after three years at Zenit St. Petersburg, set up all four goals for “The 96.” Karim Haggui and Artur Sobiech made it 2-0 before the break. In the second half, Leon Andreasen and Sobiech completed a fantastic day for Mirko Slomka’s men. Wolfsburg also had substitute Robin Knoche sent off in the second half and it was unsurprising when coach Felix Magath apologized to the fans after his side’s tame performance. After all, the Lower Saxony bragging rights were firmly with Hannover.

It wasn’t as clear cut in the Niederrhein (Lower Rhine) derby as Fortuna Düsseldorf and Borussia Mönchengladbach renewed rivalries in the Bundesliga for the first time in over 15 years. Yet neither was able to find a winner in a tight affair on Saturday evening. The match belied the ever entertaining nature of Fortuna Düsseldorf whilst for Gladbach, you can’t help but feel it was the sort of game they might have won, if they still had a certain Marco Reus. Still, the Foals look well set for the season, something which cannot be said of Hamburg.

HSV travelled to Werder Bremen in the Nordderby (North derby) but were outclassed for a second week running. With new signing Rafael van der Vaart watching on having returned from Spurs, Werder picked up from their encouraging performance at the Champions on the opening night of the season. Aaron Hunt had one penalty saved by René Adler, a definite positive for Hamburg in the new season. However, Adler was beaten by a second Hunt penalty in the second half and then by a Nils Petersen strike, ensuring that Werder and Hamburg were looking in different directions going into the international break. BILD even questioned after the result whether van der Vaart’s contract extends into the 2.Bundesliga – a cheeky and slightly premature jibe. Time is on their side but HSV’s start has been far from inspiring. Patience is thin on the ground with fans, as it is with many supporters these days.  Passion runs high which is what makes derby matches and indeed what made this weekend’s Bundesliga matches special.

However, we must be careful, especially after what happened to Kevin Pezzoni this week. Pezzoni was a player at another big club who have been going through hard times, that being Cologne who were relegated from the Bundesliga just a few months ago. He cancelled his contract this week after being threatened outside his home by a group of angry Cologne fans – an appalling development. So while fans displeasure at results is understandable, the Pezzoni incident certainly helped to put into context where football’s boundaries for passion lie.

For more on the Bundesliga, follow @archiert1 on Twitter

Matchday 2 Results:

Mainz 0-1 Fürth

Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Freiburg

Hoffenheim 0-4 Eintracht Frankfurt

Nuremberg 1-1 Borussia Dortmund

Schalke 3-1 Augsburg

Werder Bremen 2-0 Hamburg

Fortuna Düsseldorf 0-0 Gladbach

Wolfsburg 0-4 Hannover

Bayern Munich 6-1 Stuttgart

Table

Position Club Games W* D* L* F:A GD* Points
1 FC Bayern Munich 2 2 0 0 9:1 +8 6 CL*
2 Eintracht Frankfurt 2 2 0 0 6:1 +5 6 CL*
3 Hannover 96 2 1 1 0 6:2 +4 4 CL*
4 FC Schalke 04 2 1 1 0 5:3 +2 4 CL* Qual.
5 Fortuna Düsseldorf 2 1 1 0 2:0 +2 4 EL* Qual.
6 Borussia Dortmund 2 1 1 0 3:2 +1 4 EL* Qual.
7 1. FC Nürnberg 2 1 1 0 2:1 +1 4
7 Borussia Mönchengladbach 2 1 1 0 2:1 +1 4
9 Bayer 04 Leverkusen 2 1 0 1 3:2 +1 3
9 SV Werder Bremen 2 1 0 1 3:2 +1 3
11 SpVgg Greuther Fürth 2 1 0 1 1:3 -2 3
12 VfL Wolfsburg 2 1 0 1 1:4 -3 3
13 1. FSV Mainz 05 2 0 1 1 1:2 -1 1
14 Sport-Club Freiburg 2 0 1 1 1:3 -2 1
15 Hamburger SV 2 0 0 2 0:3 -3 0
16 FC Augsburg 2 0 0 2 1:5 -4 0 Relegation
17 1899 Hoffenheim 2 0 0 2 1:6 -5 0 Relegation
18 VfB Stuttgart 2 0 0 2 1:7 -6 0 Relegation

Table thanks to the Bundesliga Official Website

Article originally written on Football Fan Cast

Bundesliga Review – Faces old and new shine on opening weekend – by Archie Rhind-Tutt

The Bundesliga has steadily built a reputation of being an entertaining and competitive division. The competitive part has waned a touch over the last few years, but at the start of its 50th season, Germany’s premier division proved it is both entertaining and competitive. After all, only two games were won by more than a goal this weekend. The league has also garnered a reputation of uncovering new talent but on the first weekend, credit had to go to both last seasons’ top performers and to the division’s necomers.

Take Fortuna Düsseldorf’s Dani Schahin for instance. He was one of an incredible 20 new signings for Fortuna who are back in the Bundesliga for the first time in 15 years. What’s more, he was unsure if he’d even be in the squad for the first game. Schahin ended up scoring both goals in a 2-0 away at last year’s surprise package Augsburg. Such was his performance it even led to an unlikely invite that evening to “Aktuelle Sport Studio,” one of Germany’s most prestigious sports shows. Elsewhere, there was also a debut goal for Wolfsburg’s new striker Bas Dost who struck an 89th minute winner. It came just two minutes after Stuttgart’s Vedad Ibisevic had won a penalty, had it saved and missed the rebound from just a few yards – a strangely impressive achievement.

Yet, it was hard to ignore the efforts of some of last season’s stars. Marco Reus is an obvious starting point, what with Borussia Dortmund playing the first game and with the high profile nature of his move from Borussia Mӧnchengladbach. It took the German Player of the Year just 11 minutes against Werder Bremen to get his first goal for Dortmund. BVB weren’t at their best though and Theodor Gebre-Selassie’s goal (another new signing doing well) threatened to spoil the Champions opening game. Mario Gӧtze’s late winner though ensured Borussia started with a win meaning its 29 league games unbeaten now for the Champions.

It was victory for the Bundesliga’s other Borussia too with Gladbach securing a 2-1 home win. They beat Hoffenheim, the only side to defeat them at the Borussia Park last year. This was mainly down to one of their heroes from last season, Juan Arango. The Venezuelan set up Gladbach’s opener by curling in a free-kick to Mike Hanke to nod home. He then scored their winner – a free-kick on the edge of the box, which he dispatched into the corner. This led to Arango proclaiming after the game “I shoot sharper than Ronaldo,” a statement he might struggle to back up this season, even if his left foot is somewhat mercurial. Still, Arango certainly helped to lift spirits in Gladbach ahead of their daunting trip to Kiev on Wednesday, where they’ll have to score at least three if they want to qualify for the Champions League.

Bayern Munich and Schalke have no such problems on that front – both have qualified direct to the Champions League group stages. They were the two sides that finished just ahead of Gladbach last season and some of the usual suspects were on form again over the weekend. Even though he is a new signing, Mario Mandzukic comes into this bracket for Bayern, as he’s effectively proven himself in the Bundesliga. The ex-Wolfsburg striker scored his first in the Bavarians 3-0 win at newly promoted Greuther Fürth with Thomas Müller and Arjen Robben grabbing the others.

Schalke meanwhile were the only one of last season’s top four not to win on the opening weekend as they were held in Lower Saxony by Hannover. That didn’t stop last season’s Bundesliga top scorer, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, from opening his account for this campaign. He scored the equaliser after Hannover’s centre back Felipe (yet another new signing) netted the opener just before half time. Lewis Holtby put the away side in front before another one of Hannover’s new signings Adrian Nikci came off the bench and rescued a point for Mirko Slomka’s side.

So as far as opening weekends go, this was a good one, not just for players old and new, but also for their teams. Three of the top four won whilst two of the three promoted sides gained impressive victories – the standout being Eintracht Frankfurt’s win over Bayer Leverkusen. For now though, you can’t make too much of these results as it is so early on in the campaign. Nevertheless, when it comes to reaching 50, the Bundesliga certainly did so in the exciting manner it has become renowned for.

Matchday One Results:

Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Werder Bremen

Augsburg 0-2 Fortuna Düsseldorf

Freiburg 1-1 Mainz

Fürth 0-3 Bayern Munich

Gladbach 2-1 Hoffenheim

Hamburg 0-1 Nuremberg

Eintracht Frankfurt 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen

Stuttgart 0-1 Wolfsburg

Hannover 2-2 Schalke

Table

Rank Club Matches W* D* L* G* GD* Pts.*
1 FC Bayern Munich 1 1 0 0 3:0 +3 3 CL*
2 Fortuna Düsseldorf 1 1 0 0 2:0 +2 3 CL*
3 Borussia Dortmund 1 1 0 0 2:1 +1 3 CL*
Borussia Mönchengladbach 1 1 0 0 2:1 +1 3
Eintracht Frankfurt 1 1 0 0 2:1 +1 3
6 1. FC Nuremberg 1 1 0 0 1:0 +1 3 EL* Qual.
VfL Wolfsburg 1 1 0 0 1:0 +1 3
8 FC Schalke 04 1 0 1 0 2:2 0 1
Hannover 96 1 0 1 0 2:2 0 1
10 1. FSV Mainz 05 1 0 1 0 1:1 0 1
SC Freiburg 1 0 1 0 1:1 0 1
12 1899 Hoffenheim 1 0 0 1 1:2 -1 0
Bayer 04 Leverkusen 1 0 0 1 1:2 -1 0
SV Werder Bremen 1 0 0 1 1:2 -1 0
15 Hamburger SV 1 0 0 1 0:1 -1 0
VfB Stuttgart 1 0 0 1 0:1 -1 0
17 FC Augsburg 1 0 0 1 0:2 -2 0 Relegation
18 Greuther Fürth 1 0 0 1 0:3 -3 0 Relegation

Table from Official Bundesliga Website

Article originally published on Football Fan Cast

The Bundesliga Show Episode 68 – Cup Shocks & Matchday 1 Preview

Welcome back to a new season with The Bundesliga Show. At the start of the new season the show Matt Hermann joins Jon Hartley as the new co-host of the pod. In the first episode of the campaign, the pair tackle the Cup shocks from the DFB Pokal, talk Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Champions League  play-off and look forward to the kick-off of the 50th Bundesliga season.

Enjoy the show!

Download the Bundesliga Lounge Season Preview magazine here.

Bundesliga Matchday 33 Review – Schalke and Gladbach prepare for departures

It was an emotional weekend in the Bundesliga, not because of any spectacular results, but more to do with departures. The two clubs occupying third and fourth, Schalke and Gladbach, are coming to terms with losing players next season.

Whilst Gladbach will be saying ‘auf wiedersehen’ to Roman Neustadter, Dante and Marco Reus, Schalke have to bid farewell to Raul, a man who’s made quite an impression in his two years in Gelsenkirchen.

Signing a month after his 33rd birthday, Felix Magath, the man who brought him over to Gelsenkirchen, has called him the most influential foreigner to play in Germany. This is an exaggeration but you can understand where the-now Wolfsburg coach is coming from.

Raul has only missed one game in the Bundesliga since joining Schalke. During that time, he’s amassed 28 goals along with 11 assists. Add to that the Bundesliga Goal of the Year in 2011 (an extraordinary chip over Michael Rensing) and it is little wonder the Spaniard was overcome with emotion such was the send off he was given after Schalke’s victory over Hertha Berlin on Saturday.

Teammates bowed to the Spaniard when celebrating his obligatory goal against Hertha. That in itself isn’t much of an achievement such has been the form of Otto Rehhagel’s side. Schalke’s 4-0 victory means they will go straight into the Champions League group stages – without Raul however. Saturday’s win pushed them out of reach of fourth placed Borussia Mönchengladbach. They were held to a goalless draw at home by Augsburg.

Gladbach have somewhat limped over the line in securing a place in the 4th Round Qualifying of the Champions League in 2012-2013. That said Lucien Favre’s side deserve credit for their performance over the course of the season, going from relegation play-off survivors to Champions League qualifiers. The problem for Gladbach is that three key players who helped to make this possible depart this summer.

Roman Neustadter, Dante and Marco Reus have all played their final game for the Foals at Borussia Park. They’ll move to the three sides above them in the table. Neustadter’s departure to Schalke has gone slightly under the radar, a bit like the player himself, whose contribution has been underestimated.

Dante and Reus meanwhile are off to Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Dante has been part of the second best defence in the Bundesliga this season whilst Reus is the most high profile departure. With 16 goals and 11 assists, he’s certainly one of the players of the season in the Bundesliga. It’s not too surprising that Dortmund were so keen to get a former trainee of theirs back at the club.

At Gladbach though will come Lucien Favre’s greatest test. It would be most impressive if he can build a side which can compete in the Champions League and most importantly in the Bundesliga.

Schalke are better equipped to deal with the departure of Raul than Gladbach with their leavers. Nevertheless, it’s overlooked that last season they finished 13th in the Bundesliga, only four points ahead of Gladbach in the Relegation Play-Off position. The Royal Blues excellent run to the Champions League Semi Finals and their DFB-Pokal win helped erase memories of the league campaign though.

Memories of Raul will arguably remain for longer although it’s odd to see that Schalke have decided to retire his shirt number for an indefinite period, after all he’s only been there two years. Still, Schalke must move on.

They have the squad to cope with Raul’s departure whilst Gladbach are going to have to rebuild. It would be a shame from a neutral perspective to see the Foals flutter away into the ether after the great work done by Lucien Favre so far.

But for now, both clubs can be thankful for what Reus, Dante, Neustadter and Raul have given to Borussia Mönchengladbach and Schalke respectively.

For more on the Bundesliga on Twitter, follow @archiert1

Matchday 33 Results:

Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 Hannover

Bayern Munich 2-0 Stuttgart

Freiburg 4-1 Cologne

Gladbach 0-0 Augsburg

Hamburg 0-0 Mainz

Hoffenheim 2-3 Nuremberg

Kaiserslautern 2-5 Borussia Dortmund

Schalke 4-0 Hertha Berlin

Wolfsburg 3-1 Werder Bremen

Table

Rank Club Matches W* D* L* G* GD* PTS*
1 Borussia Dortmund 33 24 6 3 76:25 +51 78 CL*
2 FC Bayern Munich 33 22 4 7 73:21 +52 70 CL*
3 FC Schalke 04 33 19 4 10 71:42 +29 61 CL*
4 Borussia Mönchengladbach 33 16 9 8 46:24 +22 57 CL* Qual.
5 Bayer 04 Leverkusen 33 14 9 10 48:43 +5 51 EL*
6 VfB Stuttgart 33 14 8 11 60:44 +16 50 EL* Qual.
7 Hannover 96 33 11 12 10 39:44 -5 45 EL* Qual.
8 VfL Wolfsburg 33 13 5 15 45:57 -12 44
9 SV Werder Bremen 33 11 9 13 47:55 -8 42
10 1. FC Nuremberg 33 12 6 15 37:45 -8 42
11 1899 Hoffenheim 33 10 11 12 40:44 -4 41
12 SC Freiburg 33 10 10 13 45:57 -12 40
13 1. FSV Mainz 05 33 9 12 12 47:48 -1 39
14 Hamburger SV 33 8 12 13 35:56 -21 36
15 FC Augsburg 33 7 14 12 35:49 -14 35
16 1. FC Köln 33 8 6 19 38:71 -33 30 Play-offs
17 Hertha BSC Berlin 33 6 10 17 35:63 -28 28 Relegation
18 1. FC Kaiserslautern 33 4 11 18 23:52 -29 23 Relegation

Table thanks to Official Bundesliga Website

This article was originally written for Football Fancast by Archie Rhind-Tutt and is reproduced with their kind permission. Please follow this link for the original article. http://www.footballfancast.com/2012/04/football-blogs/bundesliga-review-schalke-and-gladbach-prepare-for-departures

Derby Fever

Matthias Suuck looks at the stories behind some of German’s biggest local derbies…big derbies that are taking place this weekend.

This weekend is derby weekend in the Bundesliga and nothing evokes supporters’ passions more than a derby match. These are the matches where (for the supporters) league position is secondary and bragging rights against their bitter rivals is all that matters. There are plenty of great rivalries in the football world and Germany is no different. There are scores of great rivalries across German football, from the lowest leagues on up to the top of the Bundesliga. The region richest with rivalries is undoubtedly the west of the country, more specifically Nordrhein-Westfalen, since it is one of the most densely populated regions of the country, both in terms of inhabitants and football clubs. It is also the cradle for what is widely recognized as the greatest of all German football rivalries, the “Revierderby”; Borussia Dortmund vs. FC Schalke 04 and it will once again be on display this weekend.

THE derby of the west features two of the most passionate (and similar) fan bases in Germany. In fact, the similarities between the two clubs cannot be denied. Both come from the working-class areas of Gelsenkirchen and Dortmund, where historically most supporters (and even some players) came from the mining industry of the region. These clubs’ supporters are not separated by their religion or their income, but rather simply by the fact that they grew up a mere 35 km apart. Ever since the founding of both clubs over 100 years ago, they drew much of their support, as well as players, from eastern European immigrants. Simply looking at some of the great players’ last names from the past highlights this fact, e.g. Ernst Kuzorra, Fritz Szepan, and Heinrich Kwiatkowski. I believe, in fact that the bitterness of this rivalry does not lie in the differences between the clubs and their supporters (as is the case in the Old Firm derby), but rather in the similarities. They are almost like estranged brothers and nobody likes losing to their brother.


What many outsiders do not realize is that the rivalry did not even exist prior to World War II. Schalke, with its magical “Schalker Kreisel” dominated football in Germany during the 1920’s and 30’s, when it won four German championships and one cup title. Dortmund at that time was more of a lower league or also-ran club. However, after the formation of the Oberliga system in 1947 the rivalry truly began to take shape, especially with a new batch of immigrants to work the local mines, coming from the recently lost eastern reaches of Germany. In the 1950’s the rivalry came to a head when Dortmund, lead by manager Helmut Schneider won two German titles (1956, 1957) and Schalke one (its last) in 1958. Dortmund supporters have never let Schalke supporters forget the fact that the last of their seven German titles came over 50 years ago. In fact, a group of BVB supporters paid for a small plane to fly over Gelsenkirchen in 2008 with a banner reminding them of the 50 years without a league title.

Though the rivalry ebbed a bit in the 1970’s and 80’s, when both teams had their spells in the second tier of German football, it came back with a roar in the 1990’s. This was a decade that saw Dortmund’s greatest success since the 50’s and both clubs winning European titles in the same year, 1997 (Dortmund the Champions League and Schalke the Uefa Cup). Though Dortmund has had more league success than Schalke in the last 20 years (4 Bundesliga titles), the “Knappen” (nickname for Schalke) have had more success in the cup (3 titles).

The animosity of both sets of supporters runs deep, with neither side actually using the name of the other’s city. Schalke supporters refer to Borussia Dortmund as “Lüdenscheid-Nord” and Dortmund supporters refer to Schalke as “Herne-West,” in a way to make each side sound more provincial and less sophisticated. Ironically, Schalke (unlike Dortmund) is one part of the city of Gelsenkirchen (Gelsenkirchen-Schalke) and not its own true city. This deep seated rivalry also extends to the pitch. Nowhere was this more on display than in the recent cup tie between Dortmund and Greuther Fürth. One of the Fürth players (Gerald Asamoah) played many seasons for Schalke. Before the match he stated how much he would enjoy ending “Lüdenscheid’s” cup dreams with a winning goal late in the match. After Dortmund defeated Fürth with a dramatic last-second goal, lifelong Dortmund supporter (and former Ultra member) and star player Kevin Großkreutz (who once said that if his son became a Schalke supporter he would stick him in an orphanage) decided to rub the victory in Asamoah’s face, who took exception to it (but let’s remember who actually started it shall we).

This weekend’s match has added importance for both clubs. With Dortmund hoping to extend their lead over Bayern Munich at the top of the table to claim another title and Schalke in a tight battle with Mönchengladbach for the final direct Champions League spot, neither club (nor their supporters) will give an inch and either side would relish in making life difficult for the other.

The other derby on display this weekend is the “Rheinland Derby” between FC Cologne and Borussia Mönchengladbach. This rivalry only really began to take shape when Gladbach was promoted to the Bundesliga in 1965. By that point, Cologne had already won two German titles. What added to the spice of the rivalry was the fact that Gladbach’s manager was the former Cologne manager Hennes Weisweiler. Under Weisweiler, Mönchengladbach quickly eclipsed Cologne with its young squad of attacking players and rose to prominence in the 1970’s, winning 5 Bundesliga titles. When Weisweiler returned to Cologne in 1976, they quickly won the cup and in 1978 won the double. Now you had two legitimate powerhouse clubs in the same Rheinregion of Germany battling near the top of the Bundesliga for many years in the late 1970’s and early to mid 1980’s. However, both clubs fell on very hard times in the last 20 years, seeing both of them relegated to the 2nd Bundesliga a number of times.

Though the tradition and cultural history behind this rivalry in no way compares to that of Dortmund vs. Schalke, it is a bitter rivalry nonetheless. The edge to this rivalry, as is often the case, is delivered mainly by the fans. In recent years and months there have been extremely ugly scenes from both sets of supporters, but mainly coming from Cologne, which included a recent incident where Cologne supporters stopped a bus full of Gladbach supporters and assaulted them. Part of this is just brain dead thuggish behavior, but some of it clearly stems from the fact that Cologne are once again fighting off relegation, while Mönchengladbach are the surprise team of the season and are fighting for a spot in the Champions League.

There are plenty of other great rivalries across German football that still play out every year, such as the “Nord Derby” between Hamburg and Werder Bremen. There are also more recent derbies that have sprung up over the past decade or two, e.g. Freiburg vs. Stuttgart, Mainz vs. Kaiserslautern, Wolfsburg vs. Hannover, etc. Then there are those rivalries that only success brings with it, such as the ones between Bayern Munich and Borussia Mönchengladbach, Werder Bremen, Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen, but these lack the bitterness of the local derbies. There have also been historically significant rivalries that have faded a bit over time, since the clubs hardly face off anymore, as is the case between Bayern Munich and 1860 Munich or Eintracht Frankfurt and Kickers Offenbach.

As you can see, the rich history of football in Germany has delivered some outstanding rivalry matchups over the past 100 years, and this weekend’s fixtures of Dortmund vs. Schalke and Mönchengladbach vs. Cologne are sure to be no different.

Poker Face: Heynckes v The Pretenders

A Wave Goodbye?

Despite an amazing run of recent form, Bayern have suffered some key losses this season. Kyle Barber, investigates.

So far this season, Jupp Heynckes has fallen foul of six domestic defeats. That tally represents just one fewer than last season’s total, and could scarcely have looked further away during their eponymous run of 1,147 minutes without conceding so much as a goal, let alone three points. The opening round 1-0 reversal to ‘Gladbach was quickly cast as a mere speed bump on the inevitable road back to Bundesliga triumph. After all, the long-sought Manuel Neuer had joined, Robben and Ribéry posed the most vibrant wide threat inEurope, and the much-vaunted Jupp Heynckes had returned to revise the shadows that still clouded the end of his previous tenure, in 1991.

However, in retrospect that 1. Spieltag defeat offered portent for similar results yet to come. Thus far in 2011-12, Bayern have registered 16 wins, garnering 51 points, and finding the net on 58 occasions (at a ratio of 2.32 goals per game). However, the Bavarians have regularly found periods of promising form punctuated by debilitating defeats. Over the six losses sustained, the Bavarians have leaked 12 goals, managing just four themselves. And perhaps more concerning, each of those occasions has seen them tactically outmanoeuvred, with creativity stifled, and Plan B conspicuous by its absence.

There is little dispute that, man-for-man, Bayern have the standout starting eleven and squad in the Bundesliga. Yet the common thread running through their league losses is that they have all been to sides bossed by coaches regarded as being both tactically and sequentially astute. Cast against the dogmatic – bordering on stubborn – commitment to personnel and formation nominally adopted by Heynckes has appeared tired and archaic. By restricting the time and space afforded to Bayern’s wide men – from the more robust man-to-man marking shown by Dortmund in their victory at the Allianz Arena on Matchday 13; to the attacking verve employed by Mainz that forced them back into unfamiliar areas of the field just one week later – coupled with a disciplined back four (reinforced by at least one holding central midfielder) in all instances, opponents have limited Bayern’s principal routes of attack to looking distinctly prosaic.

As a result, the energy and creativity of the likes of Schweinsteiger and Kroos is rendered redundant. The expectation then to perform, whether home or away and brought largely by the weight of history, lends itself to Bayern invariably over-committing. Set a natural 4-4-2, or more fluid 4-2-3-1, against that – mounted on pace through the front two or three and a pivotal figure in the central midfield berth (think Reus and Arango for ‘Gladbach, or Pinto and Rausch for Hannover) – and the exposure to a vibrant counter-attack has proved stark.

There were further signs of the Bavarian’s potential for a readily-blunted attack last season. With eight draws, only four teams recorded more – they had already displayed a propensity for being stopped. The subsequent decision to reinforce their backline rather than enhance their attacking options was understandable (they shipped 40 goals during their league campaign – 18 more thanDortmund), but missed a real source of limitation that has since come to the fore. Heynckes apparent reticence to adapting his approach in respect of the opposition merely serves to add to the evident frustrations both on and off the pitch, casting an exasperation in him that then accentuates the pressure on his players, increasing the tension which further hinders the talents at his disposal.

Four of a Kind?

Aces in the Pack

Thomas Tuchel

Thomas Tuchel is some 28 years the junior of Jupp Heynckes. Yet the Mainz Head Coach is swiftly establishing a burgeoning reputation for tactical acumen, coupled with a style of football that epitomises the definition of being greater than the sum of its constituent parts. Having taken charge of first team affairs ahead of the 2009-10 season, Tuchel imbedded a dogmatic work ethic amongst his squad, with no little skill and an eye for youth development. His second campaign saw him quickly face down any remaining sceptics by leading Mainz to a sequence of seven straight wins.

Tuchel is widely touted as the ultimate successor to Heynckes, principally for reasons mused by the venerable Rafael Hönigstein: “Mainz are created in their manager’s image – young, eager players happy to learn new things. And teach rivals a few too”!

Mirko Slomka

Mirko Slomka parallels Tuchel in a notable number of ways, not least amongst which is his adoption of the counter-attack as his weapon of choice. His tenure at Hannover has been prefaced by a need to use the tools at his disposal. Yet, with a limited transfer fund, he has turned a 17th placed side into one still creating waves in second-tier European competition, and all in a little over two years. The perfect balance of a resolute back four – one noted for its parsimonious nature – and a fluid attacking verve, spearheaded by Mohammed Abdellaoue and Didier Ya Konan, has become an identifying factor of the team. As has the implementation of Slomka’s defining ‘ten second rule’ – whereby the team must work hard for ten seconds to directly regain possession after losing is, before reverting to two banks of four. Such was epitomised in their Matchday 10 win, where they covered some 6km more than Bayern, and were restricted to just 37% of the ball.

Lucien Favre

Having taken charge of ‘Gladbach on Valentine’s Day last year, it would be no exaggeration to say the love affair between Club and Head Coach is still very much in its veritable honeymoon phase. Still justifiably able to be considered part of the title race, the pairing have also held something of an Indian sign over Bayern during their time together. As the only side to take maximum points from the Bavarians this year (so far), the feel good factor engendered in his squad by the Swiss tactician has been at its most evident through the countering style built around the machinations and undoubted talents of Marco Reus. There is a growing degree of upper-hierarchical support for Favre at Bayern, with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge having touted the 54-year old this time last year.

Robin Dutt

At the end of last season, Robin Dutt was the immediate choice to follow Heynckes into the principal role at the helm in Leverkusen. Cast forth nine months, and there is a growing groundswell of opinion that sees him as doing the same once more at Bayern. The attentive and aggressive way he set his side up to directly match Bayern recently in their 2-0 win will have done much to impress both Munich fans and higher echelons. In that game, Leverkusen matched Bayern on shots and territory – albeit with a more direct style – and showed a good deal more endeavour (covering some 7km more over the course of the 90 minutes). The direct 4-2-3-1 like-for-like formation may also have suggested he has the formative ability to use the tools that would be immediately at his disposal. And the shark-like manner in which he sought to capitalise on Bayern’s humiliation in their away tie to Basel will also have appealed, as will his more amiable relationship with – and handling of – Michael Ballack. One element that may count against him, though, could be the rather more lacklustre surrender yielded in the 3-0 vohr-ründe loss in the reverse fixture on Matchday 7.

The Joker

Jürgen Klopp

Joker in the Pack

In amongst all the wider considerations as to who may be next in the Bayern hotseat is the proverbial ‘Joker’: the irrepressible Jürgen Klopp. To continue the metaphorical references; Klopp is the ‘elephant-in-the-room’ when it comes to who the Bayern top-brass would truly like to don the head trainer’s tracksuit. Moreover, he is also the predominant choice amongst the fans, and the likely retention of the Bundesliga title this term will do little to assuage that desire. In that vein, Klopp’s achievements and heraldry tells more than the bare facts: Dortmund’s success underlines Bayern’s relative failure. It also shows that they are no longer the overbearing domestic force; unable to simply buy-up the resources of their greater opposition, nor cherry-pick the best National talent – accentuated by Reus’s decision to head Northeast to them, rather than South to Munich.

The Here and Now

It’s not all negative for Heynckes and his players though by any means – they’re some nine points better off than at this stage last term; have scored more; conceded less; and sit just five points offDortmund, rather than the 19 of 2010-11. And when the likes of Gomez, Ribéry, Robben, Müller and Schweinsteiger are firing, Bayern invariable triumph. That was certainly underlined by their midweek annihilation of Basel, as well as the 13 league goals they’ve registered since the debilitation of losing to Leverkusen. Some of the problems which have manifested this term are also rooted in the changes in management over the last 12 months, and the disagreement fostered amid the Bayern hierarchy.

Indeed, there is some thought that Heynckes failure would please certain areas of that senior group, with his appointment seen by many as having been motivated by a polar reaction to the approach adopted by predecessor Louis van Gaal. The Dutchman had been cited as the archetypal tactician, but had a method that ruffled more than few feathers. In contrast, Heynckes offered a more grounded, tender approach that was intended to restore the feel good factor to both the dressing room and training ground. Yet even at that stage – and as reported by Bild this past week – the names of Slomka and Favre were also in the frame, but were debarred from further consideration due to their relative anonymity amongst the casual fan, and global standing (not to mention the political determinations of the Munich ‘upstairs’; with it being seen as Rummenigge’s turn to pick after Uli Hoeneß’s choice – Heynckes – failing to meet expectations). Hoisted by their own petard 12 months ago, Bayern could easily find themselves in the same predicament once more; especially should they land their ultimate goal this year, and lift the Champions’ League trophy in their very own back yard.