For Bundesliga fans, winter break seems to last an eternity. Even though this season’s break is shorter in duration than others in the past, it seems a lifetime since the final whistle blew on the last German club action of 2010…the wild and wooly DFB Pokal Cup golazzo in which Bayern Munich eliminated VfB Stuttgart 6-3.
Now that the holidays have passed and the New Year is upon us, we’ll look at some of the goings on at Bundesliga club winter camps, as we wait anxiously for the second half of the season to resume on Friday, January 14 with the enticing matchup between Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund and runner-up Bayer Leverkusen.
Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund side won’t be taking their 10 point lead over Bayer Leverkusen for granted after losing their last match to Eintracht Frankfurt. The Yellow-Blacks are training in Jerez de la Frontera. In their first competitive match of 2011, they drew 2-2 against Ligue 1 club RC Lens. Dortmund had the lead twice, first on a penalty kick by Nuri Sahin in the 13th minute. RC Lens equalized near intermission. Dortmund regained the lead in the 83rd minute on a goal by midfielder Tamas Hajnal, as he knocked in a rebound off the Lens keeper. The French side, however, were able to level just before the final whistle.
In other Dortmund news, team captain Sebastian Kehl has been in camp, involved in some drills, but is not sure when he can resume full training, although he is feeling well and hopes to begin full training soon. Longtime Dortmund veteran Dede wore the captain’s armband in the Lens friendly, and commented in a later interview regarding his future that ” my plan is to end my career at Borussia. Just recently I had some very positive talks with Michael Zorc. Everything else will be decided in the coming weeks.”
Second place Bayer Leverkusen play a Thursday friendly match against 2.Bundesliga side Rot-Weiss Oberhausen. Kicker magazine recently ranked Leverkusen’s Arturo Vidal as one of the top three defensive midfielders in Germany, along with Sahin and Bayern Munich’s Bastian Schweinsteiger. The magazine also touted Renato Augusto of the Werkself as one of the top three attacking midfielders in the Bundesliga.
Meanwhile in Dubai, Armin Veh’s Hamburg SV squad won their first training match of 2011. defeating Al Wasl FC of the United Arab Emirates 3-2. Hamburg took an early lead on goals by Paulo Guererro and Ruud van Nisterlrooy but the UAE side were able to level before midfielder Anis Ben-Hatira scored to give Hamburg the victory. Hopefully the win will be a good omen as Hamburg try to regain their form following a disappointing first half of the season.
SC Freiburg, one of the pleasant surprises of the Bundesliga Hinrunde, have experienced a good news/bad news training camp so far. Robin Dutt’s team won the Harder 13 indoor tournament in Mannheim, defeating 1. FC Kaiserslautern in the tournament final 5-1. The win over the Red Devils to capture the tournament crown was tempered by the news of injuries to Freiburg’s Stefan Reisinger and Anton Putsila. Reisinger suffered a fractured jaw in a collision with the Red Devils’ goalkeeper while heading in a goal and will require surgery. Putsila suffered a ligament injury that will sideline him in training for several days.
FC Schalke were not able to replicate Freiburg’s success in indoor play. They were eliminated from the Licher Hessen Cup 2011 in the preliminary round by Kickers Offenbach in Frankfurt last Sunday. Schalke had drawn an earlier match with St. Pauli 2-2. Royal Blues’ leader Felix Magath fielded a team of familiar faces for the Offenbach contest, including Manuel Neuer, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Jose Jurado, Benedikt Howedes and Ivan Rakitic, but Kickers went away with a 3-2 triumph. Howedes suffered an ankle injury that forced him to leave the match after receiving treatment.
Schalke arrived Wednesday at its training grounds in Belek, Turkey. They will have little time to prepare for their Friday match with Turkish Super League leaders Trabzonspor. Friday’s match will be televised on Sports 1 in Germany, so enterprising Schalke fans worldwide may want to search the internet for a live feed of the match.
VFB Stuttgart have had a tumultuous season thus far, sitting in the relegation zone of the Bundesliga despite topping their group in Europa League play. The team is on its third coach of the 2010-2011 campaign, as Christian Gross was fired and replaced by Jens Keller, whose reign only lasted sixty days before Bruno Labbadia was hired. Stuttgart have started 2011 on the right foot though, defeating Turkish 1st division side Manisaspor 4-1 Wednesday. After surrendering an early lead, Labbadia’s men came back in the second half on a brace by reserve team striker Sven Schipplock and single tallies by Zdravko Kuzmanovic and Mamadou Bah. Labbadia was pleased with his club’s second half performance.
Things are going well in Werder Bremen’s training, also being held in Belek, as far as weather and training conditions. But the absence of injured Brazilians Naldo and Wesley, and the collapse of fitness coach Yann-Benjamin Kugel have blemished the positive atmosphere surrounding the club in camp. (Kugel was taken to the hospital after collapsing during a morning jog. Although his situation does not appear to be life-threatening, he will be held for further observation).
Thomas Schaaf’s side played a friendly match with top Turkish team Trabzonspor at Mardan Palace Stadium. The Turkish side went ahead early but veteran Claudio Pizarro scored at the 40′ mark to level. There were no goals in the second half as the teams played to a 1-1 draw. New acquisition Denni Advic from Sweden made his Werder Bremen debut as a 58th minute substitute for Pizarro.
Finally, Louis van Gaal’s Bayern Munich side is regaining its health, which must be scary news for the other Bundesliga teams. Arjen Robben has resumed training, along with defender Holger Badstuber. Hamit Altintop is also back from the groin injury that sidelined him for Die Bayern’s last match of 2010.
Van Gaal also welcomed newly signed midfielder Luis Gustavo from Hoffenheim to the club’s training site in Qatar. Gustavo, 23, has been busy off the field during the winter break –on his visit home to Brazil, he became engaged to girlfriend Milene on Christmas Day. Gustavo, a devout Catholic, is very excited to be joining the Bavarian giants and has chosen two former Bayern players as his role models. “Lucio and Ze Roberto. I like their attitude, they always give everything. That’s the way I am too” said the young Brazilian.
I like the fact that the Bundesliga takes a winter break, giving players and coaches a chance to rest, regroup and also to spend time with their families over the holidays. But I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit being antsy for January 14 to roll around.