Ten quick talking points from Saturday’s early Bundesliga matches

There’s a lot to talk about before Bremen visit Dortmund for the Top Spiel so here are 10 quick hitters from the five early games from Saturday’s Bundesliga action.

  1. Franck Ribéry looked awesome against Frankfurt

    The 33-year-old had 8 take ons, 2 shots – both on target, and created 3 chances on 70 touches.

  2. Bayern had 21 shots to Eintracht’s 4 and created 14 shots to 4 with possession 69-31 in favor of the Bavarians. Niko Kovac’s squad once again played Bayern tough, after the goalless draw in the Hinrunde, but offered very little going forward. Not really sure why the excellent Marc Stendera didn’t start, but Frankfurt are quickly running out of time.
  3. They can thank Mainz for thrashing Augsburg 4-2 in a wildly entertaining game that saw two braces from Pablo De Blasis and Christian Clemens for the hosts. We mentioned in our preview that these teams are not all that far apart, and with total shots being 19-14 that appeared to be the case. Despite the devastating news about Yoshinori Muto’s injury, missing the suspended Jairo Sampeiro and a subdued Yunus Malli performance (3 key passes, but just 32 touches) Mainz were just a little bit sharper in all aspects of the game, thanks to their incredible depth. De Blasis had 5 shots in Jairo’s place and Clemens, a team low 26 touches notwithstanding, added another 2 goals – to become the 4th and 5th players on the team with 4 or more goals! Their 3 man midfield rotation of Baumgartlinger (came off the bench today) Latza and Frei features interchangeable, hard-running, tough-tackling players, and Stefan Bell, Leon Balogun (missed today’s game) Alexander Hack (the hero against Bayern and quickly making a name for himself) and Niko Bungert are all quality center back options. Gaetan Bussmann – 6 interceptions today – has been a revelation since coming over from Metz, and with Giulio Donati suspended, Daniel Brosinski stepped up in his place with 5 tackles, 4 key passes and an assist – all team high numbers – from the right back position. It’s just one of the many reasons why Martin Schmidt’s club is now on 44 points and in 5th place – right in the middle of the Champions League race!
  4. Augsburg on the other hand continue to throw away points, as this was another game after which Markus Weinzierl’s squad should feel hard done by. While not as bad as dropping 2 points from 3-0 up against Leverkusen, equalizing twice (through Ja-Cheol Koo and Caiuby) away from home should be enough for a badly needed point, but FCA were poor in defense, with Hong Jeong-ho and Marwin Hitz not having the greatest of days. 8 points from the Rückrunde is simply not going to cut it and the relegation playoff spot is a likely destination for the Bavarians.
  5. Speaking of relegation, Hannover are now surely done – with the 3-0 home loss to HSV the 13th loss in just 14 games – and it would have been 14 in a row had Kevin Großkreutz not decided to go on vacation on two corner kicks to allow Christian Schulz to score twice. On Saturday, Schulz was to blame for his error for the 2nd goal, an awful header that doubled as a throughball. https://streamable.com/vna2  Despite outshooting HSV 16 to 9 with half of those coming from the veteran Adam Szalai – Hugo Almeida duo, finally together on the pitch after injuries and dumb suspensions, they could not solve Rene Adler, as the Hamburg goalkeeper bamboozled them with 9 saves!
  6. HSV finally got some goals, despite Ivo Ilicevic’s ‘miss of the season’ contender, a miss he atoned for later. Nico Müller is still doing Nico Müller things and got his 8th goal of the season and Sven Schipplock, the 4th forward option had 4 key passes and a great assist for Müller’s third goal. Perhaps we should write about HSV’s terrible offense more often…
  7. Darmstadt had themselves a cracker of a game versus Stuttgart and can only blame a two-minute defensive lapse at the end of the first half for not getting all 3 points. Peter Niemeyer and Sandro ( soon to be EURO 2016 hero) Wagner both scored a goal, but could have each had at least 1 more, combining for a whopping 11 shots and 6 of them on target. The Lilies kept the terrorizing attack of VfB to just 9 shots, but with their 4th consecutive draw they are still on just 29 points and far from safe.
  8. Stuttgart, aside from Filip Kostic, who had 79% passing!, and 4 shots with 2 key passes, were mostly poor. The decimated defense got another blow, as Toni Sunjic had to be substituted due to suffering from double vision on just 20 minutes. Timo Baumgartl often could not deal with Wagner, but led the team with 7 clearances. Serey Die committed an egregious error with a backpass that released Wagner on goal to open the scoring. Daniel Didavi was poor with his passing, despite 80% accuracy he got 2-3 elementary passes wrong that broke up a couple of promising counters. Artem Kravets did brilliantly to set up Lukas Rupp, but was dispossessed far too often and far too easily. Rupp and Gentner disappeared for the second half. Tyton toed the line between the horrendous and the brilliant for most of the game. All in all, it is both painful and safe to say, the Kramny magic has worn off and this is a mid-table team.
  9. Don’t look now, but Ingolstadt just keep on going on, with a 3-0 drubbing of Schalke. The toughest decision is to choose a man of the match between RB Danny Da Costa -2 assists and 3 chances created, Marvin Matip – 10 clearances and Dario Lezcano – 7 aerials, a goal and a PK earned, after tormenting poor Júnior Caiçara, who committed 5 fouls, all afternoon.  With 7 goals in the last 3 games as a team and Lukas Hinterseer (5 in 5) now scoring goals and Moritz Hartmann at a career-high of 8 (6 of 6 from the penalty spot), FCI suddenly this looks like a team with few flaws. They are now just 2 points behind Wolfsburg for 8th. Ralph Hasenhüttl should be a hot candidate for a few clubs – Leverkusen (MORE PRESSING!) or even Schalke.
  10. I wonder how long the Breitenreiter era will go on in Gelsenkirchen with yet another depressing performance. The team looks confused out there, as the manager is unable to decide on a starting XI – one week it’s Kolasinac and Riether starting at fullback, the next it’s Aogo and Caiçara – both with poor games. Roman Neustädter had a nightmare of a game with that ridiculous mistake for the third goal, while Joel Matip – who probably has every reason to play like he has one foot out the door, was the only decent player with 8 clearances, 4 interceptions and 3 blocked shots. The midfield did not fare much better – 2 combined key passes from the U22 quartet of Goretzka, Sane, Geis and Meyer is just not going to cut it. Leroy Sane is a great talent no doubt, but his lack of vision and inability to make the right decision lately is appalling. It’s probably not helping his or Franco di Santo’s (who quite frankly isn’t very good) confidence that Breitenreiter is just coaching with a “let’s throw lineups at the wall and hope it sticks” philosophy, as winter transfers Alessandro Schöpf and Younes Belhanda were relegated to the bench today after starting several Rückrunde fixtures. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar also appears to be out of favor, after not making the starting XI. With the resources and the talent this team has it is quite frankly embarrassing for them and the fans to be this inconsistent and they can only hope that Christian Heidel will fix things.
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Abel started out watching and playing soccer in Hungary, before falling in love with the Bundesliga in the mid -90s (thanks to Kicker and Sat1's Ran). Now, he's in the USA -- and still loving it all many years later. Abel is faithful to BVB, but also endlessly fascinated by the emergence of new teams and talents from Germany, to the point that he even started a website about it, at www.bundespremierleague.com. Otherwise, you can find him working in publishing, teaching ESL, and/or drinking craft beer - not necessarily at the same time, or in that order. Abel tweets at @VanbastenESL and @BundesPL