The Bundesliga in Europe: A Much Better Week

After a disappointing week last time out for the six Bundesliga clubs involved in European competition, this week’s Group Stage MatchDay 3 was much better — three of the four Bundesliga Champions League clubs earned wins while Bayer Leverkusen drew once again, while in the Europa League Thursday Schalke kept their perfect record in that competition by defeating FC Krasnodar 1-0 while Mainz had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Anderlecht– each of the six clubs got a result. Also of importance for the individual clubs was the fact that Bayern, Dortmund and Gladbach were able to break out of recent poor runs of form in league play with their midweek wins.

Group Stage MatchDay 2 in Europe at the end of September was dire — Bayern Munich and Borussia Mönchengladbach both lost (against very tough competition, one might add) and Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund could only manage draws, leaving the Bundesliga’s CL clubs with a low total of two points earned, although Mainz and Schalke were able to salvage things a bit on their September 29 dates when they beat Gabala and Red Bull Leipzig, respectively.

Tuesday’s Champions League Fixtures

Borussia Dortmund was the first to return some prestige to Germany’s top division when they defeated Sporting Clube Portugal 2-1 in Lisbon Tuesday.  Sporting had won their last nine home matches, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang showcased his talents, scoring a well-taken goal in the 9th minute after Mario Gotze got off a kick forward to free the speedy attacker.   Julian Weigl netted his first senior-squad goal from distance to give BvB a 2-0 halftime lead.  SCP sub Bruno Cesar halved BvB’s lead in the 67th minute on a FK from just outside the six-yard box, booming a left-footed shot into Bernd Leno’s net.

Former Wolfsburg striker Bas Dost had a chance to equalize on a headed chance but shot wide and still later Christian Pulisic hit the woodwork with a would-be insurance goal for Dortmund in a match where each club had 10 shots but the visiting yellow-blacks were superior in winning tackles, covering distance, holding possession and had 23 clearances in the match.  It was by no means a walk in the park for Thomas Tuchel’s men, but the result was good medicine for his club that had only a loss to Leverkusen and a draw against Hertha Berlin to show in league play after playing an exciting 2-2 draw with Real Madrid in its Round 2 CL match.  The one negative for BvB was that, with a squad already a bit thin in recent weeks due to injuries, three Dortmund players received yellow cards — between injuries and yellow card accumulation, BvB might be shorthanded in the final match or two of the CL Group Stage, something that sport bet will take into account..

Bayer 04 Leverkusen did everything but win against visiting Tottenham Tuesday as the match ended in a scoreless draw, their third in CL Group play this season.  Die Werkself appeared to score on a day where a win was much-needed, but Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez’ effort was smothered on the goalline by Spurs’ French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, as he prevented a portion of the ball from crossing the line.  Although Leverkusen looked dominant at times, Spurs had their own chances despite being outshot 16-5.  For all of Leverkusen’s effort to gain three points, it was Spurs who had the edge in possession, covered more ground, and passed more accurately.

The draw leaves Leverkusen with little room for error if they are to advance in the very tight Group E. where Monaco has earned 5 pts, Spurs 4, Leverkusen 3 and CSKA Moscow 2 — Monaco being +1 in goal differential, Spurs and Leverkusen level and Moscow -1 in GD.  But if there was a silver lining on Leverkusen’s cloudy Tuesday, it was the play of summer signing Julian Baumgartlinger.  Coming on at halftime, the former Mainz man hadn’t found a regular spot in Roger Schmidt’s rotation, but the Austrian turned in a performance reminiscent of his highly-touted play with the 05ers last season.

Wednesday’s Champions League Fixtures

FC Bayern Munich, meanwhile, recovered from a wobbly last few weeks, stamping out an impressive 4-1 at the Allianz over PSV Eindhoven Wednesday.  Since beating Hertha Berlin 3-0 on September 21, the might Bavarians have proceded meekly — they eked out a 0-1 win over lowly Hamburg before losing 1-0 in Madrid to Atletico and then drawing in successive weeks against Bundesliga up-and-comers Eintracht Frankfurt and 1.FC Köln.  So it was happy days again when Thomas Müller opened the scoring against PSV in the 13th minute and red-hot young gun Joshua Kimmich scored before PSV got a goal to narrow Bayern’s lead to one goal.

But Bayern’s old reliables, Robert Lewandowski and Arjen Robben put the Dutch side to the sword in the second half and provided relief for Bayern supporters who were getting antsy over the last weeks’ sub-par results.  Bayern trail Atletico by three points in relatively weak Group D and will be looking to grab the top spot in the league when the Spanish side visits the Allianz on December 6 in their last Group Stage fixture.  It will be interesting to see what the sportsbetting-x will report prior to that fixture with the likelihood being that both clubs win their next two CL matches.

Also getting back in good graces Wednesday were Andre Schubert’s Foals, as Borussia Mönchengladbach won in Glasgow, defeating Celtic 2-0.  Andre Hahn won MOTM honors with a goal and an assist on Lars Stindl’s 57th minute opening goal, while Gladbach’s defense, even without defender Andreas Christensen, were able to keep young newcomer Moussa Dembele off the scoresheet.  The Frenchman has scored six goals in six league matches this season, and although Celtic had the edge in shots, Yann Sommer was able to keep the clean sheet for BMG.

Schubert will hope to keep the ball rolling in Saturday’s late MatchDay 8 contest as the Foals face the challenge of playing Bayern Munich at the Allianz as the club continues without top attacker Raffael.

Thursday’s Europa League Fixtures

FC Schalke 04 made a major step towards advancing into the Europa League knockout rounds on Thursday as they defeated FC Krasnodar 1-0 in Russia Thursday.  The only goal of the match was a thundering volley from the foot of Yevhen Konoplyanka, the Ukrainian winger who is on loan to the Royal Blues from Sevilla, with the result that Schalke leads Group I by three points over Krasnodar while posting a +4 goal differential.

In Markus Weinzierl’s debut season as coach of Schalke, the club has gotten off to a historic worst start, losing its first five league matches and creating a state of utter disbelief and extreme frustration with the Gelsenkirchen club’s plight.  But after Thursday’s win, the Royal Blues are now 5-1-5 in all competitions and things look less bleak than they did only a few weeks ago.  And the fact that Schalke should now have no real obstacle to derail their advance to the EL knockout phase takes some of the sting out of the season-ending injury of Swiss teenager Breel Embolo, who was just beginning to excel in league play when he was injured last weekend against FC Augsburg.

1.FSV Mainz 05, meanwhile, have had a tough time winning at home this season, getting their first win at the Opel Arena just last weekend against SV Darmstadt 98.  Once again, Coach Martin Schmidt’s men had difficulty closing the deal at home against Anderlecht.  Mainz were staked to an early 1-0 lead over the Belgian side on a PK goal by Yunus Malli, who has been in fine form.  The penalty was called after Pablo De Blasis, also having a fine start to his season, was tripped in the box.  But Anderlecht’s Lukasz Teodorczyk replied with a headed goal in the 65th minute, and although the 05ers led in shots 13-6, there were no more goals as the match closed 0ut as a 1-1 draw.

The result leaves both teams, along with St. Etienne,  tied with five points at the midpoint of the Europa League Group Stage.  While Mainz have been somewhat disappointing, especially with their lack of home wins, it’s important to remember that this is their first year being involved in three competitions, and that they have a good chance of EL advance while also being only six points behind leaders Bayern Munich in league play.

With MatchDay 4 of the CL and EL Group Stage competitions beginning on Tuesday, November 1, it won’t take long to see if whether the fine showing on MatchDay 3 or the poor showing on MatchDay 2 truly represents how Bundesliga clubs will finish out the 2016/2017 European group competitions.

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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.

1 Comment

  1. “CP sub Bruno Cesar halved BvB’s lead in the 67th minute on a FK from just outside the six-yard box, booming a left-footed shot into Bernd Leno’s net.”

    Roman Bürki. Bernd Leno plays for Leverkusen.

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