It’s Thanksgiving week here in America, which means a short work-week and a four-day weekend.
It also means my writing time is limited by all the cooking, entertaining, sports-viewing, and parenting I’ll be doing the next few days.
And there you have my pre-lodged excuse for how badly I’m going to miss on this weekend’s matches.
VfL Wolfsburg : Hamburger SV
If I asked you to name the two Bundesliga sides without a loss over the last five matchdays, you’d clearly get Bayern immediately, right?
Would Wolfsburg have been your first guess for the other?
I’ve been telling anyone who will listen that Wolfsburg is on fire (my wife mostly ignores this), and I’m not sure I’d have guessed them automatically.
Last weekend’s draw in Nürnberg are the first dropped points since the home loss to Braunschweig, giving die Wolfe 13 of a possible 15 points over that stretch and putting them firmly amid the favorites for taking home a European spot at the end of the campaign.
Hamburg SV used a visit from the league’s worst road side to end a two-match skid last week, dropping Hannover 96 by a 3:1 margin.
The HSV also owns a respectable eight points from seven road matches so far this season, but those points were collected in Gelsenkirchen, Frankfurt, Nürnberg, and Freiburg. Take Schalke out of that string and you have the only three sides in the league yet to manage victory on their home turf.
Maximilian Beister seems to have found a new gear since Bert van Marwijk overtook HSV coaching duties, and I’m digging the continued emergence of Hakan Calhanoglu, but I’m not sure this club isn’t a little overly concerned about Tuesday’s DFB Cup match with 1. FC Köln coming to town…
Anybody buying that?
I think my issue with Wolfsburg is they seem to want to play to the level of their competition, rather than the best of their talent. If Dieter Hecking ever finds the key to unleash the full potential of the roster, I’d like them to charge into Champions League contention.
For now? Still can’t shake my mental images of the looks on some of their faces when they realized they were about to lose at home to Braunschweig.
Both sides will be missing the most-handsome bearded person in their employ. Rafael Van der Vaart is not expected back until the new year from injury, while Diego collected his fifth yellow card in Nürnberg and will serve his Gelbsperre (such a strong German word).
This leaves Ricardo Rodriguez as the most-handsome bearded Wolfsburger on the pitch and tilts the favor toward the home side just a wee bit more.
Wolfsburg 2 : 1 Hamburg
Bayern München : Eintracht Braunschweig
I FINALLY predict Braunschweig to earn points, and what do they do?
Yeah, lose at home to Freiburg.
Technically, I hedged and said I really believed Freiburg would win, but what’s down in virtual ink is the draw, so…
Thanks a lot, Obama!
(It’s fun to blame things on Obama.)
With that in mind, there’s not a lot to say about this match. One of these teams is simply outclassing anyone that comes near, and the other is scrapping hard and still losing.
Now, could Bayern overlook Braunschweig enough for it to be close? Maybe the motivation of ending Bayern’s winning streak boosts the underdogs to an unexpected effort? I mean, if Braunschweig did take down Bayern in München, it would definitely be their moment of the season.
Unlike Leverkusen, Bayern could very well rest some regulars and still field an eleven that would run circles around Braunschweig.
Bayern 5 : 0 Braunschweig
Bayer Leverkusen : 1.FC Nürnberg
What’s the mood in Leverkusen by Saturday? Will they have returned to the euphoria of displacing Borussia Dortmund as second in the table? Or, will they still be reeling from the 0:5 butt-kicking they took from Manchester United in Champions League Wednesday?
Sami Hyypiä’s club has responded well to adversity this season, following each of their three losses this year with fairly strong statements, beating Wolfsburg, Mainz, and Hamburg by an aggregate 12:5.
Unlike those prior opportunities for redemption, however, Bayer will be without the services of Sidney Sam due to a thigh injury.
Nürnberg, though, remains the Bundesliga’s last team to remove the goose egg from their “wins” column. Only a league-high eight draws and Braunschweig’s awful goal differential are keeping der Club off the bottom of the table.
3:1 was the result two matchdays ago when Nürnberg travelled to the Rhineland to visit Borussia Mönchengladbach. I think Bayer without Sam is comparable to their neighbors to the west.
Leverkusen 3 : 1 Nürnberg
1899 Hoffenheim : Werder Bremen
If I’m honest, I don’t want to touch this match.
Hoffenheim has lost four of its last five; Bremen three of its last four.
In 13 matches, Hoffenheim as surrendered 30 (yes, 30!) goals; Bremen has scored just 15.
In fact, only two opponents have failed to score at least twice against Hoffenheim this season. Their saving grace had been they were also scoring a lot of goals.
This is not so much the case. Four of the eight goals in the last five matches came in Hannover. If you’re surrendering at least two per match…well, you don’t have to be Good Will Hunting to do that math from here, I hope.
And Bremen…what the hell? I clearly misinterpreted things. I’d finally given up on my “Bremen is worse than they look!” line in favor of “Maybe Bremen is better than what seems reasonable,” just in time for Mainz to swing into Weserstadion and wreak havoc on the entire thing!
Hoffenheim has just one win at home. Bremen has a pair of road victories to their credit, but we’re not giving a ton of praise for winning in Braunschweig and early-season Hamburg.
Noting that all bets are off if Tim Wiese somehow gets into the action. Then the crazy train could take us anywhere.
Hoffenheim 2:2 Bremen
FSV Mainz 05 : Borussia Dortmund
Don’t look now, but FSV Mainz has won three of their last four.
Okay, so those three were against Braunschweig, Frankfurt, and Bremen. Even so, there’s something to be said for a side taking care of business against struggling sides. If anything, that seems a hallmark of Thomas Tuchel teams; lesser squads simply don’t get to push Mainz around the last few years.
But former Mainz manager Jürgen Klopp comes, despite all the well-discussed injuries in the defensive end, with a team incapable of being described as “lesser” in this, or almost any, match-up.
Yes, we see you Bayern. Geez.
Back-to-back losses to Wolfsburg and Bayern had many (I think it’s fair to call them) recent followers of Borussia Dortmund sounding the “KRISE!” alarm entering this week’s Champions League match with Napoli, as a loss would have shut the BVB out of the knockout stages and left them looking at Europa League.
Which would simply be below the new-style Dortmund fan, I suppose.
Of course, Klopp’s pieced-together eleven decisively defeated the visitors from Italy, putting Borussia in the driver’s seat for taking second place in the group.
So, I’m thinking “business as usual” come Saturday. I see Mainz as a flawed squad playing about as well as they can as they find their strengths after losing some key players this summer. Dortmund clearly has had to do the same, but from a might higher starting spot.
And, honestly, the better leader to direct the rebuild.
I’m a Tuchel fan, but give me Klopp (and Reus and Mkhitaryan and Lewandowski and Aubemeyang and Kuba and Großskreutz and and and) here.
Mainz 1 : 2 Dortmund
Hertha BSC : FC Augsburg
Hertha has not drawn at home.
Augsburg has not drawn away.
So that’s a draw ruled out right there.
Augsburg has won on the road, but just once from six attempts.
Hertha has dropped three of their seven home matches, including having been shutout in their last two matches in Berlin.
But, before dropping those matches at home to Schalke and Leverkusen, they had been sound in dispatching sub-par teams who paid them a visit, as well as getting a 1:0 from Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Hertha fans have waited over a month now to see a point or even a goal at home. They shan’t go away disappointed this weekend.
Hertha BSC 3 : 1 FC Augsburg
FC Schalke 04 : VfB Stuttgart
No word as of end of business on Thursday as to whether Timo Hildebrand will be fit and in net for Schalke when they host Stuttgart, but with Ralf Fährmann blanking Steaua Bucharest in Champions League Tuesday, don’t be surprised if Schalke boss Jens Keller opts to let his season-long number one continue to heal while allowing another option in goal make a case for more playing time.
But, let’s be honest, while Hildebrand has had some questionable moments, he’s not been the primary culprit in the defensive lapses of the royal blues. There’s plenty of blame to go around when the only clubs surrendering goals faster than you are Hamburg and Hoffenheim. Such accomplishments require a team effort.
When Schalke arrived in Frankfurt last weekend, their hosts had scored either one goal or not at all in each of their prior five matches and had scored more than two goals just once all season.
Facing an opponent with that sort of track record, you’d have to have liked Schalke’s chances of winning a game in which they held a two-goal halftime lead.
Instead, the normally anemic Frankfurt offense scored three goals in 13 minutes and threatened to win their first home match of the season before captain Benedikt Höwedes came to the rescue late in the day to equalize and, hence, salvage a point.
Stuttgart has me at a bit of a loss. They continue to look strong in stretches of games, but, when it’s all said and done, they’re not winning. All the threat of their offense usually remains just that, a threat.
Of course, none of that will matter if Thomas Schneider cannot help his team overcome their inability to handle a bit of Gegenpressing. After Borussia Dortmund dominated Stuttgart 6:1, it probably should have been of little surprise to see Borussia Mönchengladbach bring a similarly aggressive approach when Stuttgart gained possession in their own end, creating chances from turnovers and generally wreaking havoc in the VfB defensive end.
Should Schalke decide to help their struggling defense by employing similar tactics…might be fun to watch.
Don’t hope for it, though. I’ve learned to expect only the unexpected with these two clubs.
Schalke 2 : 2 Stuttgart
Hannover 96 : Eintracht Frankfurt
Here’s a fun fact for you…okay, unless your Armin Veh, then it’s not that fun…Anyhow, Eintracht Frankfurt has allowed a goal in the last ten minutes of all but one of their last six matches. The thirteen points late goals have cost Frankfurt would give them 24 total and have them back in Europa League contention, rather than barely keeping a few points between them and the drop zone.
For all the grief I give Braunschweig, the fact is that nobody is playing as poorly right now as Hannover 96. The scoreless home draw they had with Braunschweig two weeks ago is the lone point for Hannover the last five matches, a stretch which has taken Mirko Slomka’s squad from fifth in the table to thirteenth.
Hannover had won its first four home matches, but has just two points from the last three. Frankfurt had won two of its first three away matches, but has just two points from the last four.
So, here’s the question: Can a team unable to get more than one at home against defense-averse Hoffenheim and nothing against Braunschweig still manage to get a late goal against a team that seems virtually incapable of not surrendering one in a tight match?
It’d be a shame to not predict such a trend to continue. I mean, it’s more fun if it happens, so…
Hannover 1 : 1 Frankfurt
Borussia Mönchengladbach : SC Freiburg
Mönchengladbach doesn’t lose at home. They’re not going to start by dropping points to Freiburg.
With that out of the way, I’m happy to salute Freiburg’s run of three consecutive road matches with at least a point, including victories in the last two.
But, on the other side of a run taking points in Braunschweig, Nürnberg, and Bremen, lies the 5:0 beating received at Dortmund, home to the last quality side the SCF visited.
I think we’re done here.
Mönchengladbach 3 : 0 Freiburg
Okay, I have Thanksgiving leftovers calling my name.
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