Category Archives: Bundesliga

Bundesliga is Back!

The 52nd Bundesliga season finally got underway last weekend, and threw up some interesting stories. For Bayer 04 Leverkusen, a 2-1 comeback victory at the BayArena against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim saw old and young score the goals. Stefan Kießling and Julian Brandt secured the points for die Werkself, and for Kießling it was a particularly significant strike. His equaliser on the stroke of half time was the fourth year in succession that he has netted on the opening day, setting a new record. Schalke 04 hitman Klaas-Jan Huntelaar also achieved this feat in his side’s 3-0 win at Werder Bremen. Kießling has now scored seven goals in his last six appearances against Hoffenheim.

Thomas Tuchel’s reign as Jurgen Klopp’s successor at Borussia Dortmund started in spectacular fashion, with a stunning 4-0 victory over last season’s third place finishers Borussia Moenchengladbach. Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan was the star of the show, scoring twice. Wolfsburg – last season’s runners-up and tipped by many to close the gap to the champions this year – toiled to a 2-1 home win over Eintracht Frankfurt. If the Wolves are to mount any kind of serious challenge to Pep’s Bayern, they need to rebuff Manchester City’s advances towards their star asset Kevin de Bruyne.

The star team of week one, though, has to be Ingolstadt. This is their first ever season in Germany’s top flight, and they started off with a single goal win at Mainz 05. Mainz have lost some key players over the summer, most notably striker Shinji Okazaki to Leicester City, and they could well struggle this season if this result is anything to go by. The other promoted club, Darmstadt, got a respectable 2-2 draw at home to Hannover 96, who are expected to be involved in the relegation battle too.

Recent overachievers Augsburg, who finished sixth and fifth in the last two seasons, lost 1-0 at home to Hertha Berlin, and FC Köln won 3-1 at Stuttgart.

And as for Bayern Munich? Well, they won 5-0 against hapless and hopeless Hamburg, and are top after week one. Might as well start as you mean to go on!

This article will be published in Bracknell Town’ match day programme this weekend.

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Local and Leverkusen: Plenty of Football Ahead!

The next few days see plenty of football in Bracknell, and involving Bayer Leverkusen, starting tonight!

Friday – Bayer Leverkusen

B04First up is the opening game of Bundesliga Matchday 3. Bayer Leverkusen host Werder Bremen looking to maintain their excellent start to the season. Under new coach Roger Schmidt, the Werkself have won all five competitive games so far and top the fledgling Bundesliga table, and will be favourites in this match too. New signing Hakan Calhanoglu has lived up to the hype and the expectations following his summer move from Hamburg, while Karim Bellarabi – back after a season on loan at Eintracht Braunschweig – has been in scintillating form, keeping the other big new signing Josip Drmic out of the team.

The two sides met in the final game of last season, with Omer Toprak and Heung-Min Son securing a come-from-behind win to secure fourth spot and qualification for the Champions League. This season, Bremen have drawn both of their games, but this will be a hard match for them to get their first W.

If Leverkusen do find the net, then it will be an historic occasion. So far, the Werkself have played 1196 Bundesliga matches, and scored 1999 goals. But even if Stefan Kiessling or another player do score, they should be wary; Bremen have rescued a draw from losing positions in both league games so far.

The game is on BT Sport, with a 7:45pm kickoff.

Saturday – Bracknell Town Dev or Binfield FC

Bracknell town BadgeIf you can’t make the trip to Cheltenham Saracens to cheer on Bracknell Town’s first team, the Robins’ development side are in action at Larges Lane on Saturday. They take on Holyport Reserves in the first round of the Berks & Bucks FA County Intermediate Cup.  They achieved an astonishing comeback in their first game of the season, coming from three goals down to beat Rayners Lane 4-3, and confidence will be high going into this game.

On the other side of Bracknell, Binfield FC host Shrivenham at Stubbs Hill in the Hellenic Premier Division. Both sides have had mixed starts to the campaign, with Binfield four points ahead of their opponents going into the game. This game promises goals, though, as in their twelve combined games this season, there have been forty goals scored.

Monday – Binfield

binfield fcNo rest for The Moles, as they play forty eight hours later, this time entertaining Kidlington. Before Saturday’s matches, they lay sixth in the Premier Division table, but come into the back of this game two days after a huge clash with Ascot United. Two wins for Mark Tallentire’s team would catapult them amongst the early pacesetters.

Tuesday – Bracknell Town & Bayer Leverkusen

After a (hopefully) resounding win at bottom club Cheltenham Saracens, Ed Carpenter’s Robins welcome Newbury to Larges Lane. The Town have one win and one draw to their name so far this season – before Saturday – but Bracknell’s home form has been patchy at best.

While Carpenter’s side head to the bottom side at the weekend, Newbury come into this midweek encounter on the back of a tough home match with leaders Highmoor Ibis. If results go to form, Bracknell could be in the top four or better by the end of these two games.

As for Bayer Leverkusen, unfortunately they also play on Tuesday night, as they kick off their Champions League Group C campaign with a match in Monaco. This is a game that, a couple of weeks ago looked extremely tough, but with the French side losing their best two players, it looks a whole lot more winnable. It will still be a hard fought match, but Schmidt will be confident of returning with at least a point.

This game will be on Sky Sports via the Red Button, but if you can get out of the house, get along to Larges Lane!

Bundesliga Preview 2014-15

It’s back! After a summer of celebration for Germany’s national team, the business of club football can get underway once more. The first round of games kickoff this weekend, so here’s a preview of the coming season. I won’t concentrate too much on Bayer 04 Leverkusen in this particular preview – that will be in an upcoming post. Instead, this is a preview of the league as a whole.

Champions and European Qualification

Bayern Munich badgeAs with all good previews, I shall start at the very top of the division. Bayern Munich are rightly favourites to retain the title for the third year running, and take their total titles tally to twenty five. However, if they do, I don’t think they will do it quite as early as last year, and not by such a big gap as the last two triumphs. Last season saw them win it in record time, on matchday 27 (one round earlier than Jupp Heynckes’ team in 2012-13), and take the title with a nineteen point cushion. The season before, the gap was fifteen. On both occasions the runners-up were Borussia Dortmund, who will be looking to remain in contention much longer this time around.

Bayern have been rocked by the news that key defender/midfielder Javi Martinez will be out until the ruckrunde after badly injuring a knee in the German Super Cup defeat to their main title rivals, and unless Pep Guardiola can come up with a plan – or a replacement player – that will have a massive impact on their season. Granted, he didn’t play as much as he would have liked last season, and there was even talk that he isn’t happy at the club and may even have looked for a move this summer. Having said that, I think he would have played a big part this season. Of course, they have made one of the signings of the summer in Robert Lewandowski. The Polish international joined on a free from Dortmund, and could be virtually unstoppable in this current Bayern side. He will be fresh from a summer with no football, and will hit the ground running – and no doubt scoring. In terms of adding numbers, in come Pepe Reina, Juan Bernat and Sebastien Rode.

BVBAs for Jurgen Klopp’s men, they have set about replacing their talismanic striker well. In come Ciro Immobile from Torino and Adrian Ramos from Hetha BSC. Immobile was the top scorer in Serie A last season with Torino, while Ramos impressed in a struggling side. Also arriving at Westfalon are Mathias Ginter from SC Freiburg and Ji Dong-Won from Augsburg. Both will add good strength to the squad.

Dortmund endured an awful lot of injuries last season, with the likes of Subotic, Hummels and Gundogan out for most of the campaign, and injuries sidelining other key players at various times throughout the season. If they can keep their main players on the pitch instead of the treatment table, they will definitely push Bayern closer than this season.

I do think Pep’s lot will take the title, but I think the gap will be significantly smaller than the previous two campaigns; somewhere between eight and twelve points.

The other two Champions League places will be hotly contested between Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Schalke 04, Borussia Moenchengladbach, and VfL Wolfsburg. With absolutely no bias (honest!) I think third place will go to Leverkusen. They were second in the league going into the winter break last season, but a terrible ruckrunde saw them just hang onto fourth spot, but only after sacking Sami Hyypia and being turned around by youth team coach Sacha Lewandowski. Roger Schmidt is a very promising appointment as the new head coach, and the signings made by the Werkself are positively exciting. Again, I will go into more detail on Leverkusen in a specific preview.

Schalke 04Schalke 04 finished last season in third, but I think they will drop to fourth, and may even miss out on the Champions League qualification places altogther. Sidney Sam joins from Leverkusen, but he has the tendency to drift out of games, but in Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting they have a potential gem. He has moved to Gelsenkirchen on a free transfer after his contract at Mainz ended. While not as spectacular a free transfer as Lewandowski, he could prove to be every bit as important for his new club. He’s not the most prolific striker, but playing in a better side can only improve him. Whether he can help relieve some of the goalscoring burden from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar remains to be seen.

VfL Wolfsburg have made a great signing in Aaron Hunt. The 27 year old joins on a free transfer from Werder Bremen, where he was something of a legend. He will be a key signing for Dieter Hecking, and the team will largely be built around him. The other major signings are the excellent defender Sebastian Jung from Eintracht Frankfurt and the excellent-in-his-own-mind free agent Nicklas Bendtner.

GladbachGladbach, meanwhile, seem to have done the best business of the other three Champions League contenders other than Leverkusen. The may have lost their star goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to Barcelona for a rather cheap £14million, but have replaced him well, bringing in Yann Sommer from FC Basel. Also coming in are Ibrahima Traore (VfB Stuttgart), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim) and Andre Hahn from Augsburg. They have also brought Thorgan Hazard in on loan from Chelsea.

For me, it is set up for Die Fohlen to beat Schalke and Wolfsburg to fourth spot. They could even trouble Leverkusen to third. That leaves the other two to take Europa League places, and I am backing Hoffenheim to take seventh.

Relegation Zone

There are a number of clubs that could be dragged into a relegation scrap, and they will – for the third season in a row – be thankful that they have a seeming “minnow” guranteed an immediate return to the second tier. As with Greuter Furth and Eintracht Braunschweig before them, SC Paderborn will be expected to finish bottom. As I said in my article on them earlier in the summer, I too expect them to finish in 18th place, but would hope to see them put up a fight and look forward to seeing them in action.

The entire bottom half of last season’s table that survived, along with promoted FC Koln, are more than likely going to be in for another tough season. Hamburg managed to escape by the skin of their teeth, defeating Greuter Furth on away goals in the relegation/promotion playoff to retain their status as the only club never to be relegated. The permanent signing of Pierre-Michel Lasogga could be vital, as he was a shining light in a shocking season. Hamburg will be a bit more comfortable this season, but not by much.

Lasogga was on loan from Hertha Berlin, and I expected them to keep him for this season after the departure of Adrian Ramos, but the fact that they have neither is going to propel them to the precipice. They will be relying on Julian Scheiber for the goals to keep them safe, which I don’t think will be forthcoming. I fancy them to end up in the playoff place this season.

Which leaves the final relegation place. It would be easy to say the two promoted clubs will go straight back down, but I think Koln will do just enough to finish above Hertha. For me, I think Vfb Stuttgart will be dragged down into the Bundesliga 2. The losses of Arthur Boka, Ibrahima Traore and Rani Khedira will be hard to replace, and their stay in the top flight will come to an end this time.

So, there you have it. My predictions are locked in. Just to recap:

Champion: FC Bayern Munich

Runners-up: Borussia Dortmund

Champions League: Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Borussia Moenchengladbach

Europa League: Schalke 04, Vfl Wolfsburg, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim

Relegation Playoff: Hertha BSC

Relegated: VfB Stuttgart, SC Paderborn.

SC Paderborn – Bundesliga Newcomers

sc-paderborn-flagge-600Next season sees one of the rarer – but best – things in football; a team playing in the top flight for the first time in their history. Sport-Club Paderborn 07 e.V. finished second in the Bundesliga 2, beating VfR Aalen 2-1 on the final day of the season to secure automatic promotion to Germany’s top division for the first time in their 107 year history. To celebrate this momentous achievement, I thought I’d find out a little more about them. Continue reading SC Paderborn – Bundesliga Newcomers

North Rhine Derby is Bundesliga’s Top Offering

Tonight sees Bayer 04 Leverkusen host rivals Schalke 04 in Matchday 21’s top billing.

Bayer Leverkusen BadgeSami Hyypia has taken the decision to omit Sidney Sam from his squad for the BayArena clash. The midfielder is swapping Leverkusen for Gelsenkirchen in the summer, and Hyypia – perhaps rightly so – has taken the decision to protect the player from the whole occasion.

Der Werkself will be without Swiss forward Eren Derdiyok, who limped off after just half an hour of the DFB Pokal defeat by Kaiserslautern in midweek. It has now been revealed that Derdiyok has a torn muscle, and will miss a few weeks. Influential midfielder Lars Bender is also doubtful after picking up a knock in the cup tie, while Stefan Reinartz has a sore heel.

Schalke 04As for Schalke, they also have injury concerns to contend with. Julian Draxler, Christian Fuchs and Roman Neustadter have all been missing recently, and although all three resumed full training this week, none are expected to feature. Benedikt Howedes, though, has shown better than expected recovery and could return to the visitors defence this evening.

This game is likely to be won in midfield, with the team able to retain possession of the ball better more likely to take the spoils. In terms of Ruckrunde form, Leverkusen have recorded back to back wins against VFB Stuttgart and Borussia Moenchengladbach following defeat at Freiburg, while Schalke have won all three games without conceding a goal.

The game is live in the UK on BT Sport 1, and in HD, from 5:30pm.

Ter Stegen Barca Bound

Barca's new keeper? Pic: barca360.com
Barca’s new keeper? Pic: barca360.com

In an expected move, Borussia Moenchengladbach have confirmed that their highly rated goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen will leave the club at the end of the season, and he is on his way to FC Barcelona as Victor Valdes’ replacement.

The 21 year old is one of the best young ‘keepers in Germany, and has been rumoured to be on Barca’s shopping list ever since Valdes said he would not sign a new contract at Camp Nou. Ter Stegen himself has prompted the move, seemingly taking a leaf from Valdes’ book by declaring that he will not extend his contract with his hometown club, which runs until summer 2015.

Gladbach’s Sporting Director, Max Eberl, says the club has admitted defeat when it comes to Ter Stegen. “Marc has told us he will not accept our contract offer, and therefore will not extend his current deal. It’s a great shame from our point of view, but we must accept it. We expect he will join the club about whom there has been much speculation. I expect we will come to an agreement with this club for a transfer.”

The deal should be completed in the summer, and is expected to cost around €11m.

Bundesliga Matchday 17

The big result of the weekend sees Borussia Dortmund slip up at home to Hertha Berlin, losing 2-1 despite taking an early lead through Marco Reus. Goals from Adrian Ramos and Sam Allagui condemned Dortmund to their third home defeat of the season. There were also important wins for Freiburg and Mainz. There is just one game left this weekend, as Sunday sees Borussia Moenchengladbach host Wolfsburg.

Results:

Friday

Eintracht Frankfurt 1-1 Augsburg

Saturday

Borussia Dortmund 1-2 Hertha Berlin
Werder Bremen 1-0 Bayer Leverkusen
Freiburg 2-1 Hannover 96
Hamburg 2-3 Mainz 05
Eintracht Braunschweig 1-0 Hoffenheim
Nurnberg 0-0 Schalke 04