Category Archives: Schalke

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

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

When Spanish stardust arrived in Gelsenkirchen

After it was announced Raul would not extend his contract at Schalke after the end of the current season, Diana Yeow looks back at the time when Raul first arrived at the club.

Raul at the media conference a week ago to announce that he will not extend his current contract with Shalke. He will leave at the end of the season.

It was striking reading what Schalke chairman Clemens Tönnies said at the media conference. Tönnies has always been a big fan of Raul, and played a part in pulling off one of the biggest coups in the club’s transfer history back in July 2010. He paid a glowing tribute to the Spaniard and said that the doors at the club will always remain open to him. And it was done, speaking with emotion.

For those wanting to be cynical, what happened a week ago at Schalke was not a time to be (or unless it is about Raul’s shirt number being apparently retired for an indefinite period of time). Not often someone in Clemens Tönnies’s position will eulogise about someone who will have played at the club for two seasons when the current Bundesliga season ends. But Raul’s announcement also got me even (with my VfB Stuttgart loyalties) walking down memory lane of the time when he did arrived at Schalke.

It was the summer of 2010, post-World Cup and Jose Mourinho had become coach of Real Madrid. There were several arrivals into the club with likes of Mesut Özil, who went to the Spanish capital on the back of his performances for the German national team in the World Cup in South Africa. Then came those Mourinho had to ship off. It soon became clear the man who has always been synonymous with Real Madrid was on that list, Raul. When Florentino Perez returned to the club as president for the second time, there were already questions whether he and Raul could get along given the relationship between the two after Perez’s first stint as club president. Raul did announce his departure from the club where he had accomplished quite a lot, the La Liga titles, the Champions League triumphs, though he didn’t said where he is heading next though.

But over in Germany, rumours were growing of the possiblity of Raul arriving at Schalke. As much as I was beginning to get excited at the idea that someone of Raul’s stature could be coming to the Bundesliga, I also tried not to get my hopes too high, given of the rumours of of a move to the Premier League in England. The rumours of Raul coming to Schalke began after the club had shipped Kevin Kuranyi off to play in Russia, thus leaving a room for a striker to come in. There were factors suggested a Raul move to Schalke. Christoph Metzelder had returned back to Germany and joined Schalke after his time at Real Madrid. Not only that, Schalke were due to be playing in the Champions League.

Then along came photos of Raul’s wife and his sons being spotted in Düsseldorf. That raised the hopes in Germany. For my generation, Raul had always been a one-club man. He could have chosen where the money is and not come to play in Germany. But that is just the man who just wants to play football, and enjoy playing it.

There was much pomp and pageantry when Raul was officially unveiled; such was the stature of the Spaniard. For the Bundesliga, this was a statement of the increasing allure of the league and for Schalke, it was quite a transfer coup by their standards. It was Christoph Metzelder, who had been Raul’s team-mate at Real Madrid which swung the deal Schalke’s way, and that was despite the then-Schalke coach Felix Magath who also played a part in the transfer. But it was already clear at that time who was really excited by the presence of Raul at the club. Club chairman Clemens Tönnies.

Schalke chairman Clemens Toennies, he is quite a big fan of Raul.

I personally nearly got choked up when Raul talked about his greatest moments at Schalke last Thursday. Schalke’s DFB-Pokal win last season was significant for him given he had never won the domestic cup with Real Madrid, but it was the mention of when he went to celebrate with the fans after Schalke had beaten Inter in the Champions League last season which gave me the goosebumps. That is my personal favourite Raul moment at Schalke. Not any of the goals he had scored, but that.

As much as I am sad that Raul will not be extending his current contract with Schalke, I am also comforting myself that I am privileged in the knowledge that someone like Raul did come to play in the Bundesliga where his professionalism has rubbed off on the young upstarts at the club like Julian Draxler. For all the stardust he has brought to German football, he has always been down-to-earth and humble. You cannot say that often in football these days.

Raul will be an impossible act to follow

Earlier today, Schalke 04 announced that their striker, Raul, would be leaving at the end of the season. Terry takes a few moments to assess the former Real Madrid legend’s impact on his club and on the Bundesliga.

If we’ve learned one thing from Raul’s two season stint at Schalke it’s that he does not shirk from a tough challenge. After a long and legendary spell at Real Madrid other players would have considered a move to a far less pressurised environment than the football mad region of North-Rhine Westphalia. In Gelsenkirchen, there was no way that he was in for an easy life at a club that has such a tremendous appetite and expectation of success and his record at Schalke demonstrates his commitment and appetite for the game.

So far, Raul has played ninety six matches in the blue of Schalke. In his first season he scored nineteen goals, including five in the Champions League and one in the DFB Pokal Final at the Olympiastadion which gave him his first domestic cup win. This season he has been even more impressive with twenty goals and ten assists in all competitions. By any standards this is an extremely impressive record for a player who is heading slowly toward the sunset of his career.

But the statistics don’t tell the whole story. The former Spain international has had to play in a deep position and doing a lot of fetching and carrying. What is striking about his play is his work rate and tenacity. In his first season, he played in a side that struggled in the League (but excelled in cup competitions) and he would be in the unfamiliar position of playing on the back foot, often in a losing side. Occasionally there was talk in the press that he was unhappy but there was very little evidence of this on the field. Furthermore, the impact that a player, who has achieved so much in his career, must have in the dressing room is impossible to measure. This as much as everything else he achieved on the pitch, will be missed when he says farewell in May.

His response to those difficult earlier months earned him almost universal respect among this who watch the Bundesliga and his departure is a sad moment for the League. For Schalke it must be a bigger blow. His experience and talent would have been of tremendous benefit to coach Huub Stevens as he attempted to steer his young team through a rigorous Champions League campaign, next season. Even at 34 years old, he will be missed and almost impossible to replace. Consequently, the club have decided to temporarily retire his number 7 shirt so as not to place too much pressure on his successor.

And with regards to his destination? Well that lies slightly beyond our purview. However, a return to Spain and Malaga has been suggested, as has a gig in the US with an MLS club. However, the smart money seems to be on a move to Qatar. As 2022 World Cup hosts, the Qatari football has a lot of work to do in developing their domestic game and supplying some home grown players for their national team. If he accepts an offer to join one of their domestic league clubs then he will be sure to embrace that challenge with the same gusto and professionalism that he did when he arrived in Germany.

It may be easy to think that he is settling for an easy life in the sunshine. However, the Qataris have a lot of work to do and in Raul they will have signed a standard bearer, a top professional and a hugely talented player who will inspire a generation.

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.

Rückrunde Return – Schalke v Stuttgart

Diana Yeow takes a look at the Schalke and Stuttgart’s first match of the Rückrunde, and takes a look what this result could mean for both sides in the remaining part of the seaoson.

Schalke's Joel Matip being surrounded by his team-mates after scoring the quickest goal for the club this season, after three minutes. Schalke would eventually win 3-1 against Stuttgart.

So what happened when Stuttgart travelled away to Schalke? As they say, revenge is a dish best served cold, and on a chilly day in Gelsenkirchen, it was Schalke who took their revenge having been beaten 3-0 on the opening weekend of the season at the Mercedes Benz Arena. Schalke’s success (and Bayern’s slip up) means that they are level on points with Bayern and Dortmund, and only third due to goal difference. Schalke coach Huub Stevens has been realistic about his side and has played down being the so-called ‘Bayern Hunters’, as termed by the media. But this result was certainly not out of the norm for these sides. For Schalke, it was their fifth consecutive home win, while for Stuttgart, it was the fifth consecutive time Bruno Labbadia’s side has not registered a win and the third defeat in succession. Despite this great win, there was not all good news to Schalke’s triumph: Captain Benedikt Howedes was injured after a collision with his fellow team-mate Marco Hoeger and suffered a broken his cheekbone, and according to reports is expected to be out for up to six weeks.

It wasn’t a good day for Stuttgart, they were beaten by the set-piece goal, twice: That was how the first two goals from Schalke came about, and the coach Bruno Labbadia was rightly critical of his side after the game on how they defended from corners. The first of the two goals was the fastest Schalke had scored for this season, in the third minute by Joel Matip. The second came from another corner, but this time it was a header from Kyriakos Papadopoulos. If the first two goals came down in part to bad Stuttgart defending from corners, the Schalke third couldn’t have been more different…‘one-touch football’ was the way commentator Gary Preston described it, and it was exactly that.  From Ciprian Marica (who actually used to play for Stuttgart) to Raul, before Klass-Jan Huntelaar passed it to Julian Draxler who slotted it home – a demonstration of how devastating Schalke can be. This effectiveness in front of goal goes some way to explaining the differing fortunes of these teams. Huntelaar and Raul have contributed 23 goals in total for Schalke so far this season. While by contrast, according to the Bundesliga’s English website, Stuttgart have the ‘most lightweight strike force in the division’ with only a mere five to the tally. Stuttgart coach Bruno Labbadia said post-match that he is putting his faith on Cacau, despite the striker being overlooked for the German national team in view of his form at club level. Also in the line-up was Pavel Progebynak, whose future has been constantly discussed. But with these misfiring strikers, it may of too much surprise that  Vedad Ibisevic was signed by Stuttgart from Hoffenheim in the wake of this match.

Schalke coach Huub Stevens, realistic about the title chances after the 3-1 win over Stuttgart.

What does the result could mean for Schalke? Coach Huub Stevens, may be realistic about their title hopes because they have been down this road before, as Schalke have often their hopes up of a title challenge before their form trailed off. But the manner of their win over Stuttgart has raised the question of whether they can mount a serious title challenge this time around. With players like Atsuto Uchida, Benedikt Höwedes, Kryiakos Papadopoulos and Christian Fuchs, it is not that surprising that on the defence side of things, things are going well. They have currently the fourth best defensive record in the league, and given it has always been said that having a strong defence plays a part in a championship-winning side, this is no bad thing. When it comes to attacking options, Raul, Klass-Jan Huntelaar and Jefferson Farfan are capable of banging in the goals when required. Having the second best goal haul in the league at the moment is a testament to that with 41 goals in total so far. Then there are also players for the fans to get excited about the future in Julian Draxler and Lewis Holtby, who benefitted from his loan spell at Mainz last season. While Draxler did shine against Stuttgart and his goal against them was already one to enjoy, it is frightening to imagine what could happen when Holtby returns from his injury and when Farfan gets enough match fitness to contribute to the goals tally. If Schalke can become injury free and still maintaining their current form, it is possible for Schalke to mount a title challenge.

VfB Stuttgart coach Bruno Labbadia. If how he did at Bayer Leverkusen and Hamburg before currently at Stuttgart are anything to go, it could possibly be a bumpy ride yet again.

But what about Stuttgart going forward? If things turn out for Bruno Labbadia the it did at Bayer Leverkusen and Hamburg, it could possibly be a bumpy ride yet again…Stuttgart: During the game, I have noticed on my own Twitter timeline where someone had pointed out that this seemed to bear the hallmark of how Bruno Labbadia had been at his previous employers. As in, improving the sides he coached initially before they trailed away. That was also my biggest doubt over Labbadia’s coaching credentials when he first came on board back in December 2010. Not only that, the local paper in the Stuttgarter Zeitung wondered post-match if the club is in for a relegation battle again like it did last season. The paper’s concern is that there does not seem to be a clear leader in the ranks to get out of the position it is currently in at the moment. In the days leading to the away match at Schalke, the paper wrote about how the recent seasons have been up-and-down one for the club, which has exactly been what I experienced since I became a Stuttgart supporter myself in the midst of the 2007-08 season. One can only hope that the contract extension of sporting director Fredi Bobic to 2016 which was announced on the eve of the Schalke match bring some form of stability. In fact speaking to Bild on Tuesday, Bobic criticised what his predecessor Horst Heldt had left him at Stuttgart with before his arrival since the summer of 2010. While Heldt has not replied to the claims, he had already said before in an interview preferring to point out the ‘sporting and economic success’ he had during his time at the club before he left for Schalke, which also included the surprise league title in the 2006/07 season…could it be the Heldt might be heading for a similar kind of success now with Schalke?

The Bundesliga Show Episode 46 – Bundesliga Show & Blitz Superpod

Its the last pod of the year and it is a huge one to finish off 2011…The Bundesliga Show and Bundesliga Blitz podcasts collide in London.Terry Duffelen and Jon Hartley from the Bundesliga Show are joined by Matt Hermann and Mark Hallam from the Bundesliga Blitz, and if that wasn’t enough European football Journalist Andy Brassell also joins the pod.

Included in this bumper pod, a review of matchday 17 and a look back at a fantastic first half of the season in the Bundesliga.

The Bundesliga Show Episode 46 – Bundesliga Show & Blitz Superpod by soundoffootball

Alternatively you can download the podcast directly from here.

Raul Of The Rovers

OK, so this comparison is a little loose but stay with me. I watched Hertha Berlin versus Schalke thinking about how Teemu Pukki’s story seemed like it was out of Roy of the Rovers. This phrase ‘out of Roy of the Rovers’ is usually linked to anything that you think is pretty special, unusual…or just damn right spectacular. Because in Roy of the Rovers, nothing was out of bounds in terms of bending the rules of what should be possible. For those of you not familiar with Roy of the Rovers, here is a very brief overview. Roy of the Rovers was a very long running English football comic which mainly followed the fortunes of fictional striker Roy Race. Roy was a player for an awfully long time, and led his team Melchester Rovers to no less than 33 titles. As a fictional character Roy played unbelievably for around 40-years (partly as player manager), scored more goals than anyone else, won more titles than anyone else…he was something special, even if he was the work of someone’s imagination.

I was a big reader of Roy’s exploits as a child, in-fact it was about the only thing that I did like reading. I have to thank this comic a little for my love of the football soap opera, because in Roy of the Rovers the story-lines got pretty unbelievable (sound familiar to modern football?). I’m sure that had it continued, Roy of the Rovers would have been telling tales of (alleged) corruption at FIFA, goal line technology and Russian oligarchs, way before they happened in real life. Needless to say, there were some pretty incredible things that happened at Melchester Rovers, but it didn’t always centre around Roy. At the tale end of the life of the comic, Roy’s boy Rocky had signed pro-terms and had been awarded his Dad’s number nine shirt. And this blond haired boy Rocky, somewhat reminded me of young Schalke striker Teemu Pukki. Rocky was not the finished article, but he played with that kind of youthful daring that is always delightful to watch, and that is what I like about Teemu Pukki.

Pukki’s story has been told over and over again this season, about how he scored against Schalke three times in the Europa League qualifying round and then was swiftly snapped up by the Royal Blues, like in some kind of football fairytale. So befitting this fairytale, his start for his new club has been pretty good as well. Three goals in seven Bundesliga games is not bad, and at that rate he would be scoring almost 15 goals a season. Pukki has proved that he certainly has pace, great movement and a very good eye for goal. His goals so far have been a combination of running onto through balls and slotting the ball away, or doing like he did against Hertha, and blasting one in from range.

The omens are certainly good for young Pukki because just look at the opportunity he has for the best type of schooling. At 21-years old he has the opportunity to work with one of the hottest strikers in European football at the moment in Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, and the man who really should take the crown of football’s real Roy of the Rovers…Raul Gonzalez Blanco.

OK, so Raul couldn’t quite hit the heights of Roy with a mere 18 titles, but as the top goal scorer for Real Madrid and the all-time top scorer in the Champions League, it isn’t a bad shout. In fact I’d go as far as saying that if Raul bleached his hair, he would be a deadringer for Melchester’s favourite son. So if a little of Raul’s magic rubs off on Pukki, then there is a chance that he could become a player with a big part in this young Schalke side that have a bright future ahead of them.

With all this talk of football and comic book stories, it is right to point out that they do sometimes cross over. But thankfully for Schalke, unlike Melchester Rovers, there have been no earthquakes at the Veltins Arena, no shootings in the managers office and no members of Spandau Ballet in the starting line-up…but unfortunately for Schalke they also haven’t had the titles of Melchester Rovers either. I don’t think that it will happen in the playing time of Raul of the Rovers, but perhaps his legacy might help it to become a reality.

By Jon Hartley

The Bundesliga Show Episode 34 – No Huub for HSV & Bayern’s Champions League Triumph

** Warning – Podcast recorded before Wednesday Champions League matches **

Terry Duffelen and Jon Hartley, run through the appointment of Huub Stevens at Schalke, and that he wasn’t given the job at HSV. What does it mean for these clubs, before they play each other this weekend. There is also a chat about the Bundesliga action from Matchday 7, plus an interview with James Thorogood from Bundesliga.com and The Munich Times on Bayern Munich versus Manchester City.

The Bundesliga Show Episode 34 – No Huub for HSV & Bayern’s Champions League Triumph by soundoffootball

It’s a Mad Tea Party

There is a place. Like no place on Earth. A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger! Some say to survive it: You need to be as mad as a hatter… Which luckily, I am!

One of the more signficant contributions to pop culture ever made by Charles Lutwidge Dotson was giving Disney theme parks an excuse to create the Mad Tea Party ride. For those unfamiliar with it, it’s a fantastic contraption that sees park-goers voluntarily decide to hop into oversized, pastel-coloured tea cups and spin round and round until either their eyes cross or their meals are involuntarily ejected. Despite these potential unfortunate side effects, the Mad Tea Party is considered one of the most iconic rides of all of Disney’s tehme park attractions and still quite popular.

A mad tea party also describes what we often see when it comes to the constant movement of trainers in Bundesliga of late, quite often with Felix Magath as the Mad Hatter.

So often when the sacking season begins, we refer to it as the “coaching carousel,” but this doesn’t quite fit the description of how things take shape for managers in Germany’s top flight. A carousel simply goes around in a wide circle, rhythmically moving up and down. Someone gets on, such as when Michael Oenning did in March for HSV, once someone else had been chucked of the horse, to begin a ride. The problem here, is that the carousel only goes in one direction, typically at only one speed, and the movements up and down can be timed so that the rider can come to expect when he’s on a high, and when he’s on a low.

Instead, Oenning just got his eyes crossed after having been spun violently every which way but up during his time in charge of Hamburg and from matchday to matchday likely had little notion of how to predict a high or low. Instead, he hopped into that red-shorted tea cup vacated by Armin Veh and gave it a spin for what many might have thought would be a short ride as a caretaker. The club opted to stay with Oenning to begin this campaign, however, and after one point from their opening six matches, could no longer wait to see if he might be able to lessen his vertigo and see the way forward. Even though it is still early doors at this stage of the Bundesliga season, it was becoming apparent the 45 yr old trainer was about to lose his lunch.

What is the hatter with me? Have I gone mad? 

Also, on the carousel, there is usually a large pole the rider can hold onto for security as the seat moves up and down. In Bundesliga, as in all top flight European football these days, there is typically no sturdy pillar with which a manager can cling to for support when his ride is at its ebb. Even a previous record of title triumphs is often not considered secure enough for them to latch onto to ride out the down times. Rather, in these eighteen tea cups, with some moving faster than particles in a CERN accelerator, a poor runs of form are spun so quickly into clubs being in crisis and managers start to look slightly dizzy and lost as the ride keeps speeding up as they try desperately to slow it down.

In the end, those, like Oenning, end up being spun right out of their seats before they decided to end their ride in the tea cup.

Now, there is the announcement that Ralf Rangnick is stepping away from Schalke 04, citing health reasons. Having listened to Rangnick prior to his appointment as the Royal Blues trainer in April, this is not an incredible shock. After Dietmar Hopp began spinning his tea cup in the wrong direction with Hoffenheim, Rangnick sounded like a person who wanted to take some time away from the game, watch the Mad Tea Party from the sidelines for a spell, before hopping back on the ride.

Instead, when the Mad Hatter himself left and took his party back to Wolfsburg, Rangnick was coaxed to come back for another spin, and he accepted perhaps too early for his own health. Those final days with Germany’s richest village team appears to have made him a bit sick of it all, and probably he should have given himself more time to focus on personal matters he most likely set aside while he remained a guest at the mad tea party.

You’re not the same as you were before You were much more…”muchier” You’ve lost your “muchness.”

So for Rangnick, being a rather seasoned veteran of this particular amusement park attraction, knew he was experiencing that feeling one gets right before they are about to be sick again if they have ridden the Mad Tea Party more than once, and chose to get off the ride on his own terms. As Schalke look for someone to replace him on a permanent basis, the question now becomes if another established Bundesliga manager is offered enough of a sweetener to hop out of their current seat to take a spin in Gelsenkirchen or if another guest is invited to the party.

Either way, it’s a mad ride. And do YOU know how a raven is like a writing desk?