Bundesliga Preseason Spotlight: Wolfsburg, Eintracht, Hoffenheim and Hertha

VfL Wolfsburg:  Will Injuries Undermine Expectations?

Wolfsburg’s Swiss training camp ended Friday, with the club travelling to Hamburg to participate in the Telekom Cup. Dieter Hecking’s club played only one test match while in Switzerland, defeating Austrian Bundesliga side SCR Altach 3-1, with goals from Max Arnold, the ageless Ivica Olić and Naldo.

Under the leadership of Hecking and Sporting Director Klaus Allofs, VfL are becoming a Bundesliga power.  Wolfsburg will have Europa League play this season, thanks to their fifth place finish, and Dortmund Coach Jurgen Klopp considers the Wolves a threat.  “VfL Wolfsburg are plenty powerful,” the BVB coach surmised, “they’re rivals to be taken very seriously, although that in itself is no surprise.”

But injury has unfortunately plagued Wolfsburg so far as they prepare for the upcoming season.  Christian Träsch underw surgery on his left shoulder Wednesday, while Felipe Lopes will be rehabbing for 3-4 weeks and Patrick Ochs has just begun rehabilitation after suffering a cruciate ligament tear.  Additionally, striker Bas Dost and veteran Wolfsburg defender Marcel Schäfer missed much of the club’s final week of training, although he featured in Saturday’s Telekom match in which Wolfsburg defeated HSV on penalties.  Naldo, newcomers Sebastian Jung and Aaron Hunt, along with Arnold, Vierinha and Junior Malanda all scored from the spot against HSV to take the Wolves into Sunday’s Telekom championship match against Bayern Munich.

VfL Wolfsburg v SCR Altach: Grün – Jung, Naldo (80’ Knoche), Klose (41’ Sprenger), Jung – Malanda (46’ Medojeivc), Arnold (72’ Schulz) – Perisic (46’ Caligiuri), Hunt (46’ Klich), Vieirinha (62’ Stolze) – Olic (62’ Scheidhauer)

Following the Telekom competition, Wolfsburg will face Cardiff City (August 2) before beginning training in Donaueschingen the following day.  The Wolves will face St. Gallen on August 8 before hosting Spanish champions and CL finalists Atletico Madrid August 10 at the Volkswagen Arena.

Schaaf Prepares Eintracht Frankfurt

It will be so strange to see longtime Werder Bremen manager Thomas Schaaf on the sidelines for Eintracht Frankfurt this season, Schaaf began his youth career in Bremen in 1972, and played for the club’s senior side from 1978-1985.  He began as a youth coach for Bremen in 1987, working his way up the ranks to become the team’s manager in 1999.

Schaaf now has World Cup participants Timothy Chandler, Makoto Hasebe and Constant Djakpa in Die Adler’s training camp held in Donaueschingen.  The former two are offseason additions to Eintracht, a club that has seen more players outgoing than incoming thus far this summer.  Players departed who saw a large degree of action for Eintracht last season include Sebastian Jung, Joselu, Pirmin Schwegeler, Sebastian Rode and Tranquillo Barnetta.  Until today, the only the only two players brought in so far by Sporting Director Bruno Hübner in addition to Chandler and Hasebe are former Bremen man Aleksander Ignjovski and Mainz U-19 center back David Kinsombi.

But Eintracht are hoping to catch some magic with the latest addition to the club, Chelsea attacking midfielder Lucas Piazon, a 20 year-old from Brazil on loan to Die Adler.  Piazon has only played in three matches for the London club, but played on loan for Malaga in 2013 and last season in the Netherlands for Vitesse Arnhem, where he scored 11 times in 29 Eredivisie fixtures.  Hubner remarked

We’re happy that we’ve been able to reach an agreement following our long, but very fair negotiations with Chelsea FC and that Piazon will strengthen our side in the upcoming season. He’s a left-winger, but can be played in a variety of positions and is just as comfortable on the right or through the middle

Schaaf’s club played VfR Aalen Thursday, with the test match ending in a 1-1 draw.  Alexander Meier equalized for the Eagles in the second half after Manuel Junglas gave the 2. Bundesliga side the lead just before half time.  Meier was assisted by midfielder Takashi Inui.

Last weekend, Eintracht faced Russian Premier League side Terek Grozny, losing 2-1, with Martin Lanig scoring the lone goal for the Eagles.  Nevertheless, Schaaf was relatively pleased with his squad’s effort, noting that “It was a good test against a good opponent.There’s still plenty of space for improvement but we performed better already.”

Eintracht v Aalen:  Wiedwald, Chandler, Anderson, Russ, Djakpa (57. Oczipka), Lanig (57. Gerezgiher), Flum (57. Hasebe), Aigner (78. Madlung), Meier, Inui, Kadlec (57. Rosenthal)

Eintracht v  Terek Grozny: Trapp – Djakpa (46′ Weiß), Madlung (46′ Anderson), Russ, Oczipka – Gerezgiher (69′ Kinsombi), Lanig, Meier (78′ Azouaghi),  Inui – Rosenthal (56′ Flum), Kadlec (56′ Bunjaki)

The remainder of Frankfurt’s preseason schedule is as follows

  • Sunday 27 July at 17h CET: Test match v SV Sandhausen (Hardtwaldstadion, Sandhausen)
  • Saturday 2 August at 20.45h CET: Test match v Sampdoria Genua (Luigi Ferrari Stadium, Genua)
  • Tuesday 5 August at 17.30h CET: Test match v US Alessandria Calcio (Bardonecchia)
  • Sunday 10 August: Season opening party and test match v Inter (Commerzbank-Arena, Frankfurt)
  • Tuesday 12 August at 19.00h CET: Test match v Rot-Weiss Walldorf (Mörfelden-Walldorf)
  • Tuesday 19 August at 18h CET: Test match v SV Nonnenroth (Stadion Lindenallee, Hungen)

Hoffenheim Looks to Improve Defense

Coach Markus Gisdol and his Hoffenheim team look to improve their defensive efforts for the upcoming season.  Their ability to score goals was unfortunately matched by their ability to surrender them, too.  Entertaining, yes, but for all the goals scored by Hoffenheim last season, they could only manage a 9th place finish in the table.

As Gisdol commented after last season’s MatchDay 14 4-4 draw with Werder Bremen. ” I’m sick to the back teeth of it,”  “I’ve stopped believing that we’re going to have a normal game again this season. If we ever manage to score seven goals, we’ll no doubt concede seven as well.”  Hoffenheim ended up third in league scoring with 72, only behind champions Bayern Munich (94) and runnerup Borussia Dortmund (80).  On the other end, though, only 16th place Hamburger SV allowed more goals. 75, to the 70 surrendered by Gisdol’s team.

Hoffenheim have attempted to address their defensive woes in the offseason.  Bringing in goalkeeper Oliver Baumann from SC Freiburg should bring stability to a position that was anything but last season, with Koen Casteels,starting 23 matches and Jens Grahl 11 (both are still on Hoffenheim’s roster).  On the backline, Hoffenheim have signed South Korean defender Jin-Su Kim, along with Eintracht Braunschweig’s Ermin Bičakčić and defensive-minded midfielder Pirmin Schwegler from Eintracht Frankfurt.

Thus far in the preseason, the defense is much improved, not yet allowing a goal.  Hoffenheim, though, have finished their fine defensive record against lower-level clubs, winning all five of their preseason contests thus far.  For example, Hoffenheim won its most recent test match, 4-0, over Swiss third-division club FC Tuggen.  Schwegler led off the goal-scoring for Hoffenheim with a 35th minute strike set up by a throughball from Bruno Nazario.  Sebastian Rudy continued the scoring in the 2nd half with a curving free kick that evaded the wall and ended up in the back of the net. Jiloan Hamad and newcomer Adam Szalai also supplied goals.

Hoffenheim will have more telling preseason matches coming up soon.  On July 27 they face FC Zurich, who have won their first two Swiss Super League matches of the season, and on July 31 they take on AZ Alkmaar, who have competed in Europe the past five seasons.  It will be interesting to see if Giscol’s team can maintain their shutout streak against two much higher caliber clubs, but at the very least, Gisdol has seemed to change the club’s defensive frailty to a more positive culture.

Hertha Berlin Look to Establish Bundesliga Stability

Hertha Berlin finished 11th in the table last season, earning only 13 points in the second half of the season after ending the Hinrunde sixth in the table.  Moreover, the Old Lady have been demoted and promoted twice since the end of the 2009/2010 season.  Finding stability is important to the club and its coach, Jos Luhukay, who commented

We have to be realistic.  We’re still not in a position to deliver top performances week after week, but if teams like Leverkusen, Mönchengladbach and Dortmund go through bad patches, we’re allowed to as well. The only team that didn’t were Bayern München and that’s because they have enormous strength in depth. We need to improve in defence, midfield and attack if we’re to compete

If finding stability in the Bundesliga seems a rather humble goal for the capital city club, it’s a realistic one.  Hertha lost leading-scorer Adrian Ramos, who transferred to Dortmund in the offseason, and have brought in 26 year-old strujer Roy Beerens from AZ Alkmaar along with Bundesliga vet Julian Schieber from Dortmund.  Beerens, who scored 41 Eredivisie goals since 2007 for PSV, NEC, Heerenveen and AZ, will need a big effort, as will Schieber, to replace Ramos’ 16 league goals last year.

It’s been an offseason of highs and lows for the club — the joy of seeing young defender John Anthony Brooks scoring a dramatic World Cup game-winner for the USA against Ghana, coupled with the tense negotiations over the transfer fee involving  Pierre Lasogga’s sale to HSV, and completed by the sorrow on hearing news of the suicide of Andreas Biermann, who came up in Hertha’s youth system and featured on its reserve side.

So, all in all, stability may be reasonable goal for the club.  In their sixth test match of the preseason last Thursday, Hertha played to a 1-1 draw with PSV.  The Old Lady played well for much of the game, and took a 1-0 lead on a goal by newcomer John Heitinga in the 14th minute.  PSV were able to gain a draw late, as former Bundesliga man Luuk de Jong scored in the 85th minute.  Earlier in the week, the capital club played a scoreless draw against Vitesse Arnhem.

In other Hertha news, midfielder Tolga Cigerci will be out three months following surgery.  Cigerci played in 19 matches last season for Hertha while on loan from Wolfsburg.  He signed a permanent deal with Hertha this summer.

Hertha v PSV:  Kraft – Pekarik, Heitinga, Langkamp, Plattenhardt – Hegeler (78. Samson), Hosogai – Beerens, Baumjohann (78. Ronny), Haraguchi (75. van den Bergh) – Schieber (78. Wagner)

 

 

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Gerry Wittmann

Gerry is the founder of the Bundesliga Fanatic. Besides loving German football, he also enjoys the NBA, collecting jerseys and LPs, his pets and wishes he had more time for fishing, bicycling and learning the bass guitar.

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