November 24, 2017

Very gossipy previews and predictions for Bundesliga MatchDay 34

The final matchday of the Bundesliga is here, and it’s time to say goodbye to what has been a glorious season full of exciting plotlines, so what better way to do so than using some good old gossip.We will get to the games as we work our way through the final previews and prediction of the year, but first let’s look at the top half of the table and go through each team:bulitop

Bayern are celebrating , modelling new kits and bidding farewell to Pep Guardiola, who is going out in style, shaking the hand of every journalist at his last press conference.

The champs have also snapped up Renato Sanches for next season already, while Dortmund are already moving on from the Hummels fiasco (remember, these two meet next Saturday in the DFB Cup final) and snapping up Ousmane Dembele from Rennes. From a PR perspective, it’s a brilliant move by Hans-Joachim Watzke and Michael Zorc, replacing the “captain jumping ship/prodigal son” Hummels narrative with the “new Cristiano Ronaldo” – as Constantin Eckner of Spielverlagerung called him, in this extensive analysis.  For fans and management, the cherry on the top is the wonderkid reportedly snubbing several clubs , because the club’s “concept” wowed him and his family. Playing in the Champions League and the Bundesliga in front of 80,000 rabid BVB fans,, running rampant alongside Christian Pulisic and the ARM trio is certainly an intriguing image. Leverkusen can certainly attest to the importance of PR, as the Chicharito signing has worked wonders for the club both on and off the field. Their third place spot is secure, so they can afford to miss the services of the Mexican against Ingolstadt this weekend. Gladbach would need to concede double-digit goals against Darmstadt (without the suspended Sandro Wagner, no less!) to lose fourth place to either Hertha or Mainz, who face each other at the Coface Arena. While, it’s unlikely that either team will win in a huge blowout that would vault one of them into the UCL, but a loss with a Schalke win could also see the Royal Blues overtake them. Wolfsburg and Cologne are just playing out the string at this point.

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The bottom of the table is where some drama still exists: Ingolstadt have sadly lost star manager Ralph Hasenhüttl to RB Leipzig, who are reaching ISIS levels of Bundesliga hatred – you can find out why in this excellent piece by Max Regenhuber. The replacement is Karlsruhe’s Markus Kauczinski, who signed a two-year deal. HSV are also engaged in some theatrics: firing sporting director Peter Knabel, and alienating veteran goalkeeper Jaroslav Drobny, who arguably saved a penalty and their season in the Nordderby against Bremen. “They lied to my face!” were his exact words, after he was not offered a contract and HSV signed the underwhelming Christian Mathenia from Darmstadt to compete with Rene Adler. Can you blame him for asking to be left out versus Augsburg.

Never  a dull moment in Hamburg, but at least they avoided relegation and supposedly shelling out 50 million on attackers next season, per Bild.

Augsburg and Darmstadt can finally exhale after an arduous campaign, while Hoffenheim’s season can be summed up in one word – Nagelsmann!

Hannover are down, which leaves us with the three musketeers of relegation, Werder, VfB and Eintracht -three of the Bundesliga’s historic clubs. Astonishingly, Frankfurt are somehow in the best position and are looking for a fourth straight win, but will actually avoid the playoff with just a draw in Bremen. On the other hand, Werder’s victory would mean securing their status, while a draw or a loss ensures further headaches for Viktor Skripnik. For the Green-Whites to actually drop into the Zweite Liga, Stuttgart would have to win by seven goals against Wolfsburg, and while anything is possible whenever Dante is involved, that seems like a stretch. For all the permutation, check out the Bundesliga.com’s inforgraphic:

http://www.bundesliga.com/en/news/Bundesliga/blmd34v-infographic-how-frankfurt-bremen-and-stuttgart-can-save-themsevles-relegation-battle.jsp

So that’s how things stand, now time to predict the actual games and of course to spread some more rumors:

  1. Alex Meier is back!

    Frankfurt is fired up, and they should be given their improbable rise in the last few weeks.

    bestformlast5gmsIt has not been pretty, but the recipe for three wins has been a dominant defense led by Marco Russ, excellent goalkeeping from Lukas Hradecky and some timely passes by Huszti (suspended) and Hasebe converted by Stefan Aigner. 21-year-old Mijat Gacinovic, could be the X factor in place of Huszti, but with only just 330 minutes played this season it’s hard to count on the Serbian, to say nothing of  his teammate Haris Seferovic. Goals will have to come by chance, or from an Alex Meier cameo, and given Werder’s defense conceding 65 goals already, both are highly possible.

    That infamous Werder defense finally produce a clean sheet against Cologne last week its first since May 2015, and their putridity is one of the Bundesliga’s biggest mysteries. While Wiedwald has arguably and statistically (still just 63% save %) been the worst goalkeeper, there is a decent amount of defensive talent here: Jannik Vestergaard is a highly sought after hulk of a center back, and Papy Djilobodji, while a bit of a loose cannon is capable of being decent, while the two fullbacks, Santiago Garcia and Theodor Gebre Selassie are both good, solid defenders on their own. But, for some reason when combined together, they have been a sieve, as opponents need just 6.75 shots to score and any one of their shots have a 0.129 expected goal value, the second worst and worst in the Bundesliga, per the Challengers Podcast. Sure, Clemens Fritz at 35 isn’t the CDM one would dream of and Werder often lack the tactical discipline to concentrate for a full game, but blame would fall on Viktor Skripnik,who has been unable to fix this problem, and would have been fired long ago, if Claudio Pizarro were not pulling a Game of Thrones’ Melisandre on all of us and saving the club with one of his 14 goals. Given, that Werder need the result more, go with the Peruvian to score in a 2-1 win.

  2. Speaking of  Melisandre, Stuttgart’s season would rival the TV show with the amount of plot twists and turns. Unfortunately, unlike in GoT, where fortunes can change in a flash, and bastards can become kings by luck or force, VfB’s fortune will not – needing to beat Wolfsburg by six or seven goals depending the Werder-Eintracht affair. In lieu of a speculative preview pontificating about those chances, let’s run through the most exciting pieces of gossip from the dungeons of King’s Landing, I mean the Stuttgart fan reddit. After replacement coach Jürgen Kramny’s Robb Stark like rise to “King of the South” he finally had his Red Wedding in Bremen, losing 6-2 and sporting director Robin Dutt is looking to hire Sandhausen coach Alois Schwartz. Of course, that is if Dutt somehow manages to stay on, which Bild and Kicker are doubting. Players like Timo Werner (Dortmund and RB Leipzig are favorites to land him and Martin Harnik  (to HSV )are already leaving, or like Daniel Didavi have already left, and Filip Kostic would be foolish to turn down offers from England. The following article does a good job of summarizing all the scenarios, which was summarized on the forum by a user named Godzilla0815: vfbI can’t imagine any team signing any of those defenders, and guys like Lukas Rupp (a sneaky good year) and Alex (mr.keypass\90) Maxim should be snapped up quickly by mid-table sides, but would fit in well at a team like Hertha, or even Wolfsburg!

Die Wölfe have had a disappointing post-de Bruyne season, where injuries and lack of squad depth have killed their league campaign. While a favorable draw fueled an impressive Champions League run highlighted by beating Manchester United in the fall and nearly culminating in advancing past Real Madrid, the truth is that Wolfsburg have been a sloppy and unmotivated side. Diego Benaglio has been error-prone, and the defense, which features young and old stars like Ricardo Rodriguez and Naldo, or the artist formerly known as Dante, has been surprisingly bad – a .131 expected goal per every shot against is the second-worst mark in the Bundesliga, ahead of only die Schwaben. Their midfield has not been much better, despite an impressive list of players: Luiz Gustavo and Josuha Guilavogui — ranked ninth among all midfielders by Squawka!! – have been mostly fine and young Maxi Arnold has probably been the most consistent performer with 46 chances created -putting him on the radar of several teams and in exclusive company.midfielderkp

On the left, Julian Draxler has found life difficult since the summer switch from Schalke and his injury came at a terrible time late in the season, just as he was rounding into form. The good news for Wolfsburg and Germany fans is that he might play on Saturday after returning to training and rejecting a Schalke return.

On the right, Vieirinha and Daniel Caligiuri -two defensively challenged, but highly technical wingers- have both played 1800 minutes and created 31-33 chances with 4-5 assists, but provided only one assist each in the Rückrunde.

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Vieirinha
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Caligiuri

Yet, the biggest sinkhole has been the forward position, where Andre Schürrle and Max Kruse have been huge disappointments – their 13 combined goals aren’t terrible, but Kruse had five in two games (6-0 vs Werder and hat-trick against Hoffenheim) and Schürrle scored three against Hannover – implying that they were woeful against quality opposition. The single most damning stat is Bas Dost is still the high scorer on the team despite missing 13 games in a row! No wonder they could use Didavi…

Unfortunately, Stuttgart are in too deep of a hole now and without any good center backs, they will not overcome a good home team in Wolfsburg, but I predict more than 3 goals given the bad defense!

3. Mainz – Hertha is the battle of two Cinderella teams limping to the ball that is the Europa League. The home side overcame Stuttgart and are the more in form team with eight points from their six matches. Their defense is missing a couple of important pieces with Hack suspended,Latza out and Stefan Bell doubtful, but Hertha’s attack has always been smoke and mirrors and will miss Vedad Ibisevic due to yellow cards. The return of Darida has been great, but the very underrated Per Ciljan Skjelbred’s absence will cause Pál Dárdai some headaches, especially as his team will have to stop the quick-hitting attacks by the Malli, Jairo, Cordoba trio. Karim Onisiwo eviscerated VfB and Hertha will hope that Marvin Plattenhardt (another underrated Hertha player at left back) recovers in time, otherwise it would be up to young Max Mittelstadt, who has 180 minutes of Bundesliga experience. Unless Salomon Kalou – two goals since early March- can conjure up some magic Hertha will not prevail against FSV who will avenge the Hinrunde loss.

4. Darmstadt take on Gladbach without the suspended Sandro Wagner  and the injured goalie Christian Mathenia, and given their terrible record, it’s hard to see the Lilies get points from this one. Gladbach finally got a result away from Borussia Park against Bayern last round, but it was only enough to give the Foals twelve points and a tie with Frankfurt as the worst away team of the Bundesliga. While they will be without suspended Oscar Wendt and Lars Stindl (away for personal reasons) and appear to be focused on keeping their stars (Yann Sommer wants to move to Man. City, everyone wants Dahoud, and Xhaka ), with Raffael and Andre Hahn, the league’s hottest striker over the last month, they will win by at least two goals!

5.Bayern’s match against Hannover might as well be a glorified friendly that will culminate in some beer drinking and some tears of joy after lifting the title and saying farewell to Pep. The only question is whether Robert Lewandowski will get his 30th goal against a youthful Hannover team that sent two defenders, who were playing in the Regionalliga a month ago, to our team of the week. The answer is a cautious yes, but Bayern will not win by more than two goals.

6. Dortmund could avenge the Hinrunde loss to Cologne that arguably played a major role in their ultimate failure to win the title. Given all the Hummels drama and the mental toughness that the teams failed to exhibit in some key games, like the Liverpool one, I strongly doubt that BVB will care. Still, this season had exceeded all expectations and the future, sans Hummels and Gündogan,,but with Dembele and a solid CB (Toprak would be swell) looks amazing. Without the suspended player of the year in Henrikh Mkhitaryan Cologne’s stout defense should have enough to earn a draw.

7 and 8. Speaking of missing the finale, Leverkusen will be without Chicharito who had the winner in the Hinrunde fixture against Ingolstadt. Goals will have to come from the Mehmedi-Kiessling duo, but will actually come from the newest bromantic duo of Brandt and Bellarabi. Jonathan Tah and Lars Bender will also miss the game, but a midfield of Aranguiz (where would die Werkself be if he had been healthy all year?) Kampl and Calhanoglu is still scary as heck. The visitors have been a great story under Hasenhüttl, who might get some RB lifehack advice from former RB Salzburg manager and fellow überpress tactician Roger Schmidt. The most intriguing question is who Ingolstadt will be able to keep next year, because if they also lose Pascal Gross, or one of Hübner\Matip for example, the team could easily go down. They are going down in this one anyway, and as a bonus prediction, Brandt (on nine goals) and Bellarabi (nine assists) will both reach double figures when all is said and done.

9.HSV visit Augsburg, and in many ways the spendthrift Hamburg side could learn from a well-run FCA squad that just gets a ton of results despite modest talent and budget. Markus Weinzierl is a big reason why and deserves that Schalke job, but former Dortmund legend, Stefan Reuter has quietly been one of the best sporting directors in the league. Since his takeover in February of 2012, the club has nailed many transfers (you can check all of them here) buying low and selling high on players like Baba Rahman (18 mill. profit), Wolfsburg rejects like Marwin Hitz and Caiuby (via Ingolstadt), Andre Hahn (prob. wishes he hung on to him, but getting 2.25m on a 250k player was smart), Ja-Cheol Koo or Alfred Finnbogason only whiffing once on Tim Matavz.

We covered enough of Hamburg shenanigans (above) for one article, but Albin Ekdal, who has been injured for much of the year, falling through a glass table and potentially missing the Euros is just too good to omit. Did I mention they are starting their fourth string goalie, because their backup keeper has basically told the club to piss off after they had lied to them. Dino gonna Dino! Take Augsburg, kids!

10. Schalke know a thing or to about disorder, as former sporting director Horst Heldt slammed the club for being glass half empty. Don’t let that half empty glass being thrown at your head on your way out the door is probably what fans of the Royal Blues are thinking. If we are to believe the club’s Facebook page, Andre Breitenreiter is not far behind.

Despite an ugly, but ultimately meaningless loss at Hannover, the Nagelsmann era Hoffenheim have been a tremendous side, picking up 23 points in 13 games. It’s easy to forget, but TSG were on 13 points and bottom of the table during the winter break, and it’s probably harder to name a player who hasn’t improved under Nagelsmann. (Ok, fine, Kevin Kurányi).

With the excellent form of Kramaric and Mark Uth squaring off against the Sane-Huntelaar duo, which barely needed 33 games to finally click, expect over four goals here.

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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