MatchDay 24 in the Bundesliga has come and gone, with only ten regular season matches left in the 2010-2011 season. In Friday’s match, VfL Wolfsburg got a much needed three points in their win over Borussia Gladbach. Saturday’s fixtures included the match that all fans were looking forward to, with Bayern Munich hosting first-place Borussia Dortmund. The game was a classic, and Dortmund showed that they well deserve the Bundesliga title with their convincing 3-1 hosts. Hannover 96 continued their winning ways, downing St. Pauli, 1-0 while FSV Mainz 05 grabbed three points with their 2-1 victory over 1899 Hoffenheim. FC Schalke and the streaking 1. FC Nurnberg drew 1-1, as did 1. FC Kaiserslautern and Hamburg SV. FC Koln got another win, defeating SC Freiburg 1-0.
On Sunday, VfB Stuttgart took advantage of a sinking Eintracht Frankfurt squad, defeating their hosts 2-0. Werder Bremen came back from a two goal deficit to gain a point against Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 2-2. What did we learn from MatchDay 24 action, besides the fact that BvB will be a very worthy champion?
Frankfurt Fading Fast
The Eagles are dropping faster then a stone from the sky. The team from Germany´s financial capital had a decent shot at the European places before the winter break, and they even won their last match before the break against Dortmund. Unfortunately for Eintracht Frankfurt fans, the team has failed to score a single goal following winter break, making them the first Bundesliga team ever to fail to score in seven games in a row. Furthermore, their brilliant defending that was the cornerstone of their success before the break is now in shambles. Conceding 5 goals in the last two games, and not being able to use the one man advantage the team got from the red card of Stuttgart captain Delpierre shows that the team from West-Germany have had a lot of problems.
The team has managed to take one point in the last seven games, which means that they have taken fewer points then Werder Bremen, Borussia Mönchengladbach, VfB Stuttgart, Wolfsburg and Kaiserslautern. Eagles coach Michael Skibbe has to do something about that situation very quickly. Skibbe told reporters after the game that “he’ll talk the ball into the net during the training sessions next week”, and that “he hopes that his talking will lead to the team´s first goal of 2011 in the game against Kaiserslautern.” Frankfurt´s misery in front of goal can hardly be explained by a lack of talking by the former national coach, but rather on the team´s lack of first rate strikers behind Fanni Gekas. So far the Greek has scored 50% of all of Frankfurt´s goals, with his form crisis in 2011 the team simply haven´t found any player that can create danger in front of the goal. Furthermore, their other offensive Wunderkind, Halil Altintop has now been without a goal for 28 games.
SC Freiburg Struggles
Freiburg are slowly dropping out of the race for a European berth next season. Another defeat against the current in form team Koln was a major setback for the “Breisgau Brazilians” Europa League ambitions. The team´s top scorer, Papiss Demba Cisse, seems to be lost some of his form, missing two vital chances against this weekend. Freiburg are currently paying the price for having a very thin squad and not a lot of resources. The other team´s ahead of Freiburg have, however, the strength and resources and the manpower to handle the last ten games of the season.
However, not all is lost. Freiburg might still qualify for the Europa League qualifiers, giving them a top table finish that nobody expected at the beginning of the season.
Werder Bremen Comeback
The green and whites took a crucial point on Sunday against Leverkusen. The team came from a 2-0 deficit to make it 2-2 at the end of the game. The team made up for their lack of comprehensive passing through simple route one football, a fighting spirit that has been lacking for almost the entire season and managed to turn around the game in the last ten minutes.
Bremen is currently in need of every point that they can get, and getting a draw against the Leverkusen, who have been excellent on the road, is actually a good result for the team from Northern-Germany. Next week the team will be up against a Freiburg side that is slowly climbing down the table, and their out of form striker Cisse. This might be a good chance for Werder to snatch another three points.
However, this season has clearly shown that Werder needs to do a lot of restructuring in their side. Today Torsten Frings announced that he is retiring at the end of the season. Petri Pasanen and Daniel Jensen are leaving or will probably be leaving the club at the end of the season. The team won’t be playing in the Champions League next season, which means that many of the high earners either must take a pay cut or leave the club. Amongst those players are Marko Marin, Marko Arnautovic, Aaron Hunt, Tim Wiese, Per Mertesacker and Claudio Pizzaro. Even if Werder stays up in the Bundesliga, the side of next year will look fundamentally different from this year´s team. (Niklas)
VfL Wolfsburg: Diego Shakes off His Funk
Wolfsburg played in what could be deemed a “relegation six pointer” on Friday against fellow cellar dwellers Gladbach. Considering both teams positions before the match this was a must win for both sides. Gladbach and their new coach had just come off an impressive win against Schalke while Wolfsburg came into the game with just 1 win in their last 13 matches. Fortunately Pierre Littbarski’s side came to play and despite missing a penalty early on Diego had arguably his best individual performance since leaving Bremen and led his team to a massive 2-1 win. This was Wolfsburg’s first home win since October and more importantly, it lifted them out of the relegation zone into 14th place.
A loss against Gladbach could well have sent Littbarski on his way and Wolfsburg further down the ladder but it may just signal a turnaround if they can build on it and create stability. There remains a cloud of uncertainty about Wolfsburg’s actual best line up with many players rotated, especially in attack. That is surely one of the bigger challenges for the remainder of the season. Up next for the Wolves is second placed Leverkusen. Suffice to say, no easy task as Patrick Helmes is set to take on his old team.
Giving the worst team in the league their first home win all season is not exactly a way to endear yourself to the supporters or display your European ambitions. The pressure on Magath was raised tenfold after last week’s loss at Gladbach and supporters have responded to Magath’s social media campaign with a huge thumbs down. Schalke have failed to put together a string of consistent performances and results in the New Year, failing to follow up any of their victories and stumbling at home three times.
Things did not get any easier this weekend either as Schalke took on the in form Nurnberg side making waves across the league but who were missing their most important player, Schieber. Schalke had to come from behind to salvage a point after Hegeler put Nurnberg up. Raul, one of Schalke’s most important players this season, equalized shortly after half time but it took Magath’s men too long to get going and at the end had to settle for a point.
Schalke are now in 10th place and 7 points off a European spot. They are still alive in the Champions League and that may be their saving grace this season if they cannot manage to steady the ship and find some form of consistency. Next up is a trip to a seemingly revitalized Stuttgart side battling relegation but the schedule only gets harder after that so Magath has it all to do.
Some of those problems could well undermine their position in Europe next year and include the recent public criticism by Manuel Neuer of the team’s spirit as well as record -signing Huntelaar’s goal drought, which extends over a 1000 minutes after the Nurnberg match. (Cris)