I missed a few picks last week, but I could have gotten every match wrong and had a better week than Felix Brych.
Brych is, of course, the referee who awarded the much-discussed Phantomtor to Stefan Kießling last week.
I get picks wrong … eh, who cares? I mean, how many people are reading this? Not nearly as many who were in Rhein-Neckar Arena ready to shove Brych’s head through the hole in the netting that allowed the ball to go into the goal without passing between the posts.
Dr. Brych definitely has the tougher gig.
VfB Stuttgart : 1.FC Nürnberg
Are we still all “Thomas Schneider rules!”?
I mean, yes, it’s consecutive draws to middling teams, but his unbeaten streak starting his time as VfB Stuttgart’s coach now stands at six matches. Only two other clubs are unbeaten over the same stretch and Borussia Dortmund isn’t even one of them!
Do I have to tell you it’s Bayern and Leverkusen, or would you have figured it out or looked it up on your own?
Well, I’m still on the bandwagon. I can’t say that I thought the roster was overly impressive when Bruno Labbadia was in charge, but now when I look at names like Ibisevic, Harnik, Taore, Gentner, Boka, and Kvist, I think, “how is this team not a contender?” Throw in the emergence of Alexandru Maxim (I told you the kid could straight ball!) and Timo Werner, and you have to start to like Stuttgart to emerge from the glut of fair-to-middling teams that makes up pretty much the entire league other than the top two and bottom two right now.
Der Club will be hoping the Tuesday appointment of their new man, Gertjan Verbeek, will yield a similar turnaround. Nürnberg is one of only two teams yet to register a victory this season (through Germany’s top three leagues!)
Sidebar: Once I noted the bit about there being only two winless teams in the top three leagues, I had to check the next tier down. Only two clubs playing in the five Regionalligen have yet to find victories.
Back to the topic at hand…
Verbeek makes it back-to-back Dutchmen hired to overtake coaching duties at historic German clubs, as Bert van Marwijk is now one month into his Hamburger SV tenure. But, where van Marwijk left his most-recent post with the Dutch national team due to performance failures, Verbeek was dismissed during a continued run of success at AZ Alkmaar. In fact, in his final two weeks at Alkmaar, Verbeek’s club managed an away win in Europa League action at Haifa and, in his last match with the club, a victory over perennial power PSV Eindhoven.
So, while Der Club clearly is getting a coach capable of pushing his players to succeed, it may also be getting a guy capable of making even Felix Magath say, “Hey, THAT guy is a bit tough on his players!”
It’s difficult to assess how much impact a man can have on a team with fewer than three days between his first training session and kickoff in his first match, but I doubt it’ll be enough to make me look at the FCN roster and get a reaction anything close to what I get from the VfB talent pool.
All signs point to a draw (that’s pretty much what Nürnberg does), and while the Verbeek revolution may be coming, there’s is still a Schneider party up in here.
Stuttgart 2 : 0 Nürnberg
Bayern München : Hertha BSC
I think it’s fairly safe to say I’ve underestimated the boys from Berlin fairly consistently. I keep picking them to lose, or even play equally with a team I think is going a bit south, but they continually seize more points than I expect.
I think it’s also fairly safe to say I tend to overestimate the goal-scoring prowess of the Bavarians … which is a bit absurd, really, but I DO keep thinking they’re on the verge of averaging 4-5 goals per match, rather than the 2.1 they’re currently logging.
Bayern did put four on Mainz last weekend, but it’s only the second time they’ve scored as many. Considering they’ve scored at least three in each of their three Champions League matches to date, I find it startling that Pep’s squad has scored either one or two goals in seven of their nine league matches to date. By this time last season, Bayern had 27 goals to their credit.
I think the nine goals in the last two matches is but a preview of what is yet to come from this side. It seems maybe the club is settling into their new coach’s new style of play.
More clearly, though, Mario Götze ‘s return to health has quickly reminded people of just why it was such a big deal for him to transfer from Dortmund. Between the Mainz and Plzen matches, Super Mario logged just over an hour on the pitch, but managed a goal and three assists in that time. To say he was an instant catalyst in both appearances would be an understatement.
That Hertha managed a 1:0 win over a solid Borussia Mönchengladbach team should not be taken lightly. Jos Luhukay didn’t even need to call on Ronny to provide some off-the-bench magic, riding a 36th minute Adrian Ramos goal to three points. They’ve lost just once this season and sit 4th in the table; they’re not a typical Aufsteiger/pushover.
But I also don’t think they’re really the fourth-best squad in the league, nor do I think they’re quite up to Bayern and Dortmund class.
Bayern 3 : 0 Hertha BSC
FC Schalke 04 : Borussia Dortmund
Without getting into just how ‘not that long’ it’s been that I’ve followed the Bundesliga closely, has any team been as unconvincing in their ascension into a European spot in the table as this year’s version of Schalke has? They’ve dropped only four points over their last six league matches, but haven’t really shown exceptional form at any point during that stretch.
Surrendering two goals to Eintracht Braunschweig last week did less to convince me the league newcomers are on the verge of turning their fighting spirit into a legitimate chance at class retention than it did to convince me that FC Augsburg might have held on to win in Gelsenkirchen on match day 8 had they not played down a man after just a quarter hour.
Some concession must be made for the remarkable number of injuries suffered by men in Königsblau. Were it just Jefferson Farfan, Kevin-Prince Boateng, and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, you’d think, “Wow! They’ve been missing some key players.” But, those are not the only names unavailable for Jan Keller to put on the match sheet; he’s also missing the services of Marco Höger, Jermaine Jones, and Timo Hildebrand.
Even though I’ve been down on Hildebrand as a top-level keeper, Braunschweig’s first goal Saturday clarified for me that, at the very least, he’s an upgrade over Ralf Fährmann. (Feel free to watch all the highlights, but the Fährmann blunder comes around the 0:47 mark.)
The end result on paper was three points, but the lingering effect for me is a feeling that Schalke is not building into the contender I thought the club might be with the summer transfer work, rather is something on the verge of unraveling completely.
Of course, it’s better to get the points than to look good while getting battered on the scoreboard, as was the case Tuesday in Champions League. Schalke controlled the match in large stretches, but Chelsea had little problem where it counted, leaving Germany with an 0:3 result that put London’s “Royal Blues” atop Group C at the mid-way point of group play.
How much any of it matters Saturday, though, is questionable, because coming to town are Revierderby rivals Borussia Dortmund.
As the (solely American?) cliché goes: “When these two teams meet, throw out the records!”
So, even though Dortmund looks the far superior side by all reasonable measures right now—not the least of which would be their Tuesday handling of a white-hot first-place Arsenal club IN LONDON by a 1:2 margin with Klopp sitting and grinning in the stands—you have to keep in mind the emotional boost of playing your biggest rival in your home stadium, especially with a chance to put a dent in what has been the club’s best-ever start.
And I’ve considered all that.
I simply think that, emotional boost or no, a defense struggling to contain the personnel of an Eintracht Braunschweig is going to need something stronger (maybe borrow a Ter Stegen?) to defend against a swarming black-and-yellow attack that looks simply marvelous.
In fact, that I gave the same result as what happened mid-week in London, should show that I’m offering a bit of respect for the quality I think lies within this Schalke team, even if it’s yet to be unleashed on the world.
Schalke 1 : 2 Dortmund
Bayer Leverkusen : FC Augsburg
Do you subscribe to Anu Garg’s “A.Word.A.Day” newsletter? If not, you should. It’s a delight.
Earlier this week, the word of the day was “recidivism,” which means “relapsing (into smoking, crime, etc.), especially repeatedly.”
Now, I don’t think we’re quite to the point where we can describe FC Augsburg’s return to losing ways as “repeatedly” just yet, signs do point to the pleasant surprise start they produced has been replaced with a club that maybe is not the same as the one that was brutally bad a year ago, but isn’t miles better.
Losers of two consecutive and three of their last four, Markus Weinzier’s crew has earned just one point since creeping into sixth place after match day five with a point total equal to that which they produced through the entire Hinrunde last season.
Now, you can’t help but notice those nine points were amassed in a three-week stretch that brought Bruno Labbadia’s version of VfB Stuttgart and SC Freiburg to town and sent the FCA only down the road to Nürnberg. It’s not Augsburg’s fault. You play the teams that are on your schedule, and, should you draw clubs during times of struggle, make sure you aren’t the club that helps them find their way back to prosperity. We have to credit Augsburg for doing just that.
And while I will not demand anyone credit Leverkusen with much of a victory last week in Hoffenheim, nor for having much in the way of integrity where “Fair Play” is concerned, you have to admit they cannot be lumped with the large gang of clubs who have had some struggles this year. Die Werkself is having their best-ever Bundesliga start. The only points dropped in their five home matches were in a draw with Bayern.
Even if players and officials are losing sleep over the ringing cries of “CHEATS!” and “Phantom goal!” and “Replay the match!,” they are simply not going to drop points to FC Augsburg right now.
Leverkusen 4:0 Augsburg
Hannover 96 : 1899 Hoffenheim
This one is tough to call.
Will Hoffenheim have moved on from the scandal of the “phantom goal,” or is the injustice of the whole thing a distraction gnawing at them during preparations throughout the week?
Or, will Markus Gisdol have rallied his team around their having been cheated? Will Hoffenheim come into Hannover with their hair on fire, ready to take out their frustrations on the next team they see?
I tend to think it’ll be the latter, especially considering the magic Gisdol seemed to work with the club in an adverse situation last year, somehow escaping direct relegation at the last possible moment. If any intensity whatsoever can be channeled into the defensive side of play, Hoffenheim may be a very dangerous opponent, considering they are laden with offensive talent.
Hannover is missing Didier Ya Konan from their attack. Mame Diouf has been back in training, but did not play last week in Dortmund, so…who knows? Clearly, they’re more dangerous with Diouf on the pitch, but perhaps, with the possibility of a winter transfer to England (Stoke remains interested, according to reports), Diouf is hesitant to return to action until he’s fully confident of his health.
Whatever happens personnel-wise, we’ve seen Mirko Slomka’s side sit back WAY too much the last two weeks. The strategy may have kept things close in Dortmund, with the visitors losing by just one, but it also cost the reds two points when the effort to sit on a one-goal lead was decimated in the time it took Ronny to drive a free kick into the corner for a Hertha Berlin equalizer late in match day 8 action.
I’m constantly disappointed in what I see from Hannover. I think their talent is better than the results, especially away from home. They had been dominant at home until the draw with Berlin. Perhaps it will spur them into action.
But I’m not counting on it.
Too much Kevin Volland, Roberto Firmino, and angry guys in white and blue.
Hannover 2 : 3 Hoffenheim
FSV Mainz : Eintracht Braunschweig
I don’t have a ton of faith in Mainz right now, but I have less in Braunschweig.
Thomas Tuchel’s team has tanked after their three-win start. An injury time equalizer is the only point for Mainz over the last six matches. The nicest thing you can say about their 4:1 loss at Bayern last week is that they scored a goal. Well, that, and “they played hard.”
But Braunschweig plays hard ALL THE TIME! They just don’t happen to have first-league talent to go with their first-league spirit. This makes them dangerous for a Mainz team with marginal talent and spotty effort. They had a point in their clutches against Schalke last week until an injury-time goal got the win for the visitors. Though, it has to be said that it was poor defending that led to the goal, much more than a case of quality players taking care of business.
I wish I could do the bold thing and call for consecutive road wins for Braunschweig, but I think they’re outclassed, even against a team playing as poorly as Mainz has been.
Mainz 1 : 0 Braunschweig
VfL Wolfsburg : Werder Bremen
I suppose nothing will wake a club up like taking a shocking loss at home to a team who had yet to win.
VfL Wolfsburg put in the work after conceding a goal in the tenth minute of the match and earned three points on the road in Augsburg last weekend. It featured the sort of workmanlike effort that was lacking when Eintracht Braunschweig came to town and blew the doors off the stadium.
Bremen has not dropped a point their last four matches, though the lone quality result in the stretch is the draw at Stuttgart. Dutt’s squad is defending, but take away the five goals scored on the porous defense of a Hamburger squad between managers and three on 1. FC Nürnberg in the last gasps of the Michael Wiesinger era, you’ve but four goals scored in seven other matches.
Nobody is going to say Dieter Hecking’s gang is in an entirely healthy spot, especially after losing at home to Braunschweig, but they at least can remember the experience of that happening and will likely be on guard against conceding multiple goals to a team that simply doesn’t score multiple goals.
I’m taking the eyebrows!
(Although, I won’t be shocked to see another 0:0 …)
Wolfsburg 1:0 Bremen
SC Freiburg : Hamburger SV
Hindsight being 20/20, I should have known the Bremen:Freiburg match last weekend would end the Bundesliga’s run without a scoreless draw.
Part of the reason I was willing to call for an upset to give SC Freiburg their first win of the season was that I wanted it to happen, which paired nicely with my suspicion that Werder Bremen is not very good.
I don’t like to see any team suffer, but it’s even worse to see Christian Streich and fans of the SCF have to suffer through this, considering they were flayed alive during the Rückrunde last year, with moneyed clubs luring away the talent while the team pushed for a European spot. Without question, Freiburg will benefit financially from their participation in Europa League this year, but no way they’re sitting on seven points total between the two competitions, still thirsting for their first victory of the season if they had kept even just a few of the names who departed.
None of that will change my thought that Bert van Marwijk can get enough from his newly inherited club to get three on the road. While there remain questions about some of the regulars, others are showing signs of inspiration, not the least of whom is Rafael van der Vaart, who has scored each of the last two match days.
Freiburg played valiantly in earning a point at home to Bayern earlier this season, but having played Thursday is bound to take a bit of a toll on a team still trying to find a better identity than “relegation favorite.”
Freiburg 1:3 Hamburg
Borussia Mönchengladbach : Eintracht Frankfurt
Earlier in the season, I had Hannover pegged as the home/away-Jeckyll/Hyde act of the league.
And, they maintain that status, but they may have to share the identity with Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Initially, I had thought maybe Mönchengladbach’s road woes were tied into the toughness of their opponents. Plenty of quality sides will leave München empty-handed this season. Same for Leverkusen.
Three away matches later and just one point from the five total played on the road, it’s time to recolor the away form of die Fohlen as it being maybe a bit of a problem.
But their home form remains stellar, with four wins from four matches, the most-recent being a 2:0 thriller over Borussia Dortmund. The home side was outplayed by most measures of the match, but not the one that awards points.
And this match is at home.
Frankfurt has eight points from their five away matches so far this season, but I’m thinking more of the 6:1 blasting they took on match day 1, rather than the points earned at locales such as Braunschweig and Freiburg. Okay, so they won in Bremen and were the first to take points from the rejuvenated VfB Stuttgart, but I’m not entirely impressed.
Frankfurt has drawn each of their last four matches, with three of them ending 1:1. Armin Veh’s crew got two against Hamburger SV, but even Bremen got two goals against the HSV! Take away the own goal scored by Freiburg and you have to see that scoring remains a big issue for Frankfurt.
The visitors are likely to play it tough, but I like the home side to keep their home record sparkly and clean.
Mönchengladbach 2:0 Frankfurt
Well, I didn’t pick a single draw. That’s just how I roll. I don’t care for draws, at least when it comes to pickin’ matches. Seems a bit too wishy-washy and probably is a bit of my American showing.
Enjoy the Fußball!
Latest posts by Randall Hauk (see all)
- Let the Right (Number) One In: Neuer or Nübel for Bayern in 2020-21? - January 6, 2020
- Fortuna Düsseldorf Must Pay Compensation to Artist for Copyright Infringement - October 2, 2019
- Summer Schedule for Bundesliga Clubs - June 26, 2019