Monday, 19 May 2008

Week 34: Judgement At Nuremberg

They say that records are there to be broken and few would argue that more vociferously that Nurnburg. Bavaria’s other club established their own record this weekend by being the club relegated the most times from the Bundesliga as they submitted to Schalke 2-0 at home and are demoted for the seventh time in their history.

The white flags were out at the Easycredit Stadion and the supporters serenaded their players with a moving lament. At least it may have been a lament, for all I know they could have told the players to f*ck off. In any event, it brought a sad end to what should have been a year of growth for last season’s cup winners under Hans Meyer and turned into hopelessness under Thomas von Hessan. Still, I expect they’ll be back in a couple of years to have another go.

Of course you realise that this means Bielefeld survived yet another season. Armenia’s 2-2 draw at Stuttgart only underlined their achievement while, at the same time denying the Champions a place in the UEFA Cup. That honour goes to Hamburg who sealed their place by giving Karlsruhe the mother of all (gerd) mullerings (7-0). Rafael van der Vaart said farewell with a penalty, which lit the blue touch paper. Guerrero’s hat trick and Olic’s brace put a smile on Huub Steven’s face as he handed over the keys to Martin Jol.

The other UEFA Cup qualifier was Wolfsburg, a club that have deservedly received nothing but stick for their constant under-achievements have managed to achieve something. Hats off to Felix Magath for making it happen. The Wolves made certain of their trips to Portsmouth next season by tonking BVB 4-2 at the Westfalon.

The biggest losers (apart from Nurnberg) were Leverkusen who had been in the European frame all season until the last day. They were beaten by Bremen who needed the win to guarantee a Champions league birth, which they did. Schalke finished third and will have to qualify.

Elsewhere, the newly crowned champions said farewell to Otto Hitzfeld and Oliver Kahn in the time honoured tradition of beating the crap out of Hertha. 4-1 the final score at the Allianz. Four was clearly the magic number this weekend as Hannover put four past Cottbus and likewise Frankfurt against Duisberg.

That pretty much rounds up the 1 Bundesliga action. Lets dip quickly into the 2 Bundesliga long enough to tell you that joining ‘Gladbach in the top flight are Koln and Hoffenheim, the latter being an incredible story. This is their first ever season in the second division and they’ve won promotion. The club has benefited from Dietmar Hopp, former player and Software billionaire. He began investing in Hoffenheim in 1990 when they were a non-league club. His backing has come good, as Ralf Rangnick has led the team to incredible heights. Hopp has also financed this stadium, which will seat 30000 people. The trouble is won’t be ready until 2009 so until then they’ll have to say at their current ground which only seats 5000. Hopefully the club and its supporters will stay realistic and acknowledge that building a football club is a long game.

In any event and for what it is worth, the Bundesbag wishes them success and will follow their exploits with great interest… as I hope will you.

Which seems like a good point to wrap things up. The Bundesbag is closing down now as yours truly will be blogging on Some People Are On The Pitch from now on. Bundesliga Round Ups will return next season but on SPAOTP instead of here. I’d like to thank you for reading, in particular Jan from the Bundesliga Offside for all the links and for generally being a stand up fella.

So there it is. A whole season of German football written by an Englishman and not once did I mention the…

Results and tables are here.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Pinning our ears back

First of all, please accept my apologies for not updating lately. I have been consumed by the Onion Bag’s fifth anniversary celebrations. Add to that the unexpected entry of my first love Crystal Palace into the English Championship play-off and I’ve been a little pre-occupied.

Anyhoo, with Palace out of the picture, and my consequent writer's blockage cleared, I can return to matters Bundesliga. Most notably, the return of Bayern to the German football summit.

In truth, there was a bit of a whimper the Bavarians title clenching, overshadowed as it was by their humbling at St Petersburg. I saw the first half of the UEFA cup semi Final second leg and Bayern were blown away, denied their date with destiny in Manchester. Some may call that a blessing.

None of which should take away from what Bayern have achieved. Congratulations should go to Uli Hoeness for putting his hands in the clubs pockets and shelling out for Ribery, Toni and Klose. Yes Klose. Miro’s goals at the start of the season gave his team-mates the platform and breathing space, He went off the boil after that but hey, he’s keeping his powder dry for the Euros maybe.

We are down to the final fixture and so matters turn to what goes on below the top spot. Currently, Bremen are second. Their 6-1 (gerd)mullering of Hannover at the Weserstadion has put them needing only a point realistically to keep second place and qualify automatically for the Champions League.

Schalke are third and there is a ten-point gap twixt them and Leverkusen, Hamburg, Wolfsburg and Stuttgart whose goal difference puts them at a severe disadvantage over the fight for the two UEFA Cup spots. One of those clubs will leave, as Anne Robinson might put it, with nothing. Another will have to face the gruesome prospect of Intertoto Cup football in July.

The last round of the season next week sees Hamburg face Karlsruhe (flip-flops), Wolfsburg travelling to Dortmund (already in the UEFA Cup thanks), Leverkusen off to Bremen (eeek) and Stuttgart facing Bielefeld, which brings us nicely on to the bottom of the table.

Already down are Rostock (gutted) and Duisberg (meh). Third from bottom on 31 points is last year’s German Cup winners Nurnberg. Immediately above them is Bielefeld on 33 points. Ordinarily Nuremberg might be bullish about their chances. After all, Armenia will not fancy a trip to Stuttgart who need to win in order to keep themselves in the UEFA Cup hunt. Unfortunately for the Bavarians they have to play Schalke who need to win to be in with a chance at automatic qualification to the Champions League. If I were a betting man, I’d say Bielefeld were favourites to stay up. Either way, Nurnberg v Schalke is the game to watch this Saturday.

It is hard to believe that a club such as Nurnberg with such a magnificent stadium and huge support should be relegated but hey… that’s the Bundesliga. Just ask ‘Gladbach, they’ll tell you.

That’s it. Results and tables here.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Week Thirty: The Doll's House

I think we can call it for Bayern now don't you? Ribery's virtuoso second half performance against Champions Stuttgart hasn't sealed the title for Munich but the Bavarians are mighty close. It was 1-1 at the Allianz and half time. Luca Toni, a player who's name has been ubiquitous on the score sheet this season opened the festivities. De Silva equalised for Stuttgart who were dogged opponents and did not deserve what was to come. Van Bommel's free kick to take the lead in the second half was pretty much the last thing he did before making way for Ribery who scored two goals of such quality that Youtube have already taken them down.

Bayern are twelve points points clear of Bremen & Schalke with only four matches remaining. Their goal difference makes it unrealistic to suggest either of their pursuers will catch them even if Bayern contrive to lose their remaining fixtures. The title will return to Munich. This leaves Bayern to focus on a trip to St Petersburg in the UEFA Cup this Thursday. Schalke and Bremen meanwhile can fight it out for the Champions League places. Both teams have established a four point gap on fourth placed Bayer.

The Gelsenkirchen club advanced their cause no end with an away win at fellow contenders Hamburg. Kevin Kuranyi scoring yet again to give plenty for incoming coach Fred Rutten to think about. Werder participated in a 3-3 draw at Karlsruhe whic effectively ruled them out of the title race. Wolfsburg still have enough games in hand to catch up to Stuttgart, Hamburg and Bayer with whom they drew 2-2 at the Bayarena. Realistically, its all to play for between second and sixth in the table. Everyone else can look forward to the summer.

To that end, we'll gloss over the mid table stopping briefly to poke fun at BVB coach Thomas Doll who let rip at the German media for slagging off his team's disappointing season despite qualifying for the UEFA Cup. "Before I came here this club was on the floor. Now we're in Europe and still you say everything's shit." he said in a carefully prepared statement. "Where's the respect? You say my players don't try! You make me laugh my arse off." Pressure? What pressure?

To the bottom then and time is running out. Nurnberg and Bielefeld played out a relegation six-pointer that turned out to be a two-pointer. Armenia are still out of the drop zone with a two point cushion (albeit a very thins and cheap one) over the Bavarians. The trouble for them is that they probably need more since they have to go to Bayern the game after next. Bottom club Duisberg also play Bayern on the penultimate game of the season. Alas for them, I fear its all over.

Rostock are still in the survival hunt despite losing to Cottbus who themselves are set to pull of the revival of the century. However, no one up to Bochum on thirty eight points is safe and you can include Dortmund on 35 in that list. To quote Thomas doll once again “We are seven points above the relegation zone, but nobody here wants to see us playing Augsburg next season”. I'm sure the people of Augsburg think just as highly of him.

That's it. Results and tables here.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Week 28, 29 & Cup Final (which I missed)

On some issues, the word of Mrs Duffman is law. For instance when a dinner part with some some friends was planned and the date happened to coincide with the German Cup Final between BVB and Bayern, I swallowed my protests resigned to the fact that any appeal would fall on deaf ears. Mrs Duff rarely intervenes on my football watching activities, so on this occasion I relented to an evening of middle class banter instead of hot German action from Berlin.

And so, While I was discussing house prices in west London, Dortmund were pushing Bayern to extra time only to finally relent to Luca Toni's second goal of the game. The victory seals Munich's first silverware in what could be a momentous treble. Bayern can console themselves with a UEFA cup place and the fact that they restored some pride after the 5-1 (gerd) mullering they took the week before to the same opponents in the Bundesliga.

Bayern are now ten points clear of second placed Bremen who themselves have, managed to turn their poor form around. Their 5-1 (gerd) mullering of Schalke followed by a 3-1 win at Franfurt has steadied the ship. They are still vulnerable to Schalke in third who, sacked their coach Mirko Slomka after the Bremen game. As a tribute to his departure/celebration that he'd finally gone, the Royal Blues tonked Cottbuss 5-0. Kuranyi scored four goals.

Slomka's dismissal had been on the cards. However, a man who managed a team to the quarter finals of the Champions League and within touching distance of a qualifying place for the same competition next year will feel hard done by. Ultimately, you can't help but feel that he paid the price for bottling the title race last year. Nevertheless, for old times sake, the Bundesbag pays trubute to the man by using his picture again... for old time's sake.

Realistically, there are three other teams along with Schalke who are contesting the third Champions League place (assuming Bremen take second which is still a big assumption but never mind that where is the close bracket button oh wait here it is). Hamburg and Stuttgart are fourth and fifth respectively with 48 points each. Leverkusen are a point and a place behind with 47. The Champions are fourth in the form table behind Bayern, Schalke and Cottbus. If they can keep up the good work then who knows. They'll need to avoid 3-0 beatings last they had last weekend against Leverkusen though.

Beneath them is Wolfsburg with a four point gap. They may have blown their chance of Euro qualification after losing their postponed fixture at Nurnberg 1-0.

Which brings us nicely once again to the bottom of the table. Nurnberg's aforementioned win over Wolfsburg was there second from the last three games. They are back in contention for survival. Duisberg are bottom and undid their hard work against Hamburg by losing to Flip-Fop Karlsruhe. Rostock's form is dreadful and are third bottom. Outside the death zone are Bielefled who grabbed a great win against Leverkusen mid-week and then it's Cottbus. There 5-0 spanking by Schalke masks their brilliant work to get them off the bottom. Only four points separates the five teams. Still, there is five rounds left so plenty of time for all sorts of shenanigans. I really should start making some predictions but what the hell do I know?

That's it. Results and tables here.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Week Twenty Seven: Flip flop fly

It is very easy to form opinions about a foreign league based on your own experiences watching football in your domestic competition. Take Energie Cottbus for instance. Here was a team that seemed to be jealously guarding the bottom place in the Bundesliga table which the sort of determination that would have Derby County nodding with approval. In the Premier League, Cottbus would never have recovered from their position. Yet in the last four weeks wins against Bayern, Berlin and latterly Duisberg, they have propelled themselves out of the relegation zone with two points and one team between them and third bottom Rostock. Energie’s survival hopes have been upgraded from “hopeless” to “actually quite good”.

Cottbus face Bielefeld, Schalke and Rostock in their next three games. Two of those are winnable and I wouldn’t bet against them upsetting the Gelsenkirchen club this close to the end of the season. The Royal Blues picked up another valuable three points at home to Rostock. They now sit second ahead of Hamburg who haven’t won since they beat Dortmund in mid-March. This is a bad scene to be in and Huub Steven’s swansong is in danger of dragging HSV to the rocks.

Another team whose season is in danger of going the way of the pear is Leverkusen. Defeats to Bayern, Frankfurt, St Petersburg and Ruhr rivals Dortmund. It’s tighter than a gnat’s chuff in those euro spots and Bayer’s slump takes that down to sixth. Very much in the ascendancy however is Stuttgart. The Champions haven’t lost in the League since February. Something tells me that at least one Chumps League contenders is going to choke badly before the end of the season and Stuttgart cold be well placed to capitalise.

One contender for that dubious distinction might have been Werder Bremen. However the northern Europeans ruined my theory by popping up at Berlin and winning 2-1 after a 176 year losing streak.

Moving swiftly past the euro wannabes clash twixt Wolfsburg and Hannover (3-2 to the Wolves) the bottom is looking even tastier than the top. Duisberg you already know about, they’re bottom. Above them by one point are Nurnberg who are pulling out the stops after an impressive away win at Frankfurt. Fourth bottom are Bielefeld who beat Karlsruhe who, themselves have got the flip flops out and are ready for the beach.

That just leaves Bayern, whose passage to the Bundesliga has been cleared in large part by their squabbling rivals. They came back from a goal down and with 10 men to beat Bochum 3-1 at the Allianz. There is an air serenity about the leaders in the Bundesliga. Now if they can get past pesky Getafe…

That's it. Results and tables here. Follow the Bundesbag on Twitter.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Week Twenty Six: Turn your head and cough

"There's no change in that pocket" said the commentator on Bundesliga Highlights on Setanta last nights. In fact there was no pocket in those shorts, Just a pair of goolies, Markus Schuler of Bielefeld's in fact. Schuler was playing against Hamburg and found himself involved in an altercation with one David Jarolim who had just got up from one his frequent trips to the ground. Schuler suspected Jarolim of diving. Jarolim, outraged by this slur, demanded satisfaction so tweaked Schulers bollocks. By this time the ref had seen quite enough and sent Jarolim to the showers, presumably where he could tweak his own, bollocks that is. The game finished 1-1 and 10 a side as Jorg Bohm was sent off for two yellows. Apparently, that was the extent of the excitement.

For the sake of the title race it was a shame Jarolim couldn't keep his hands to himself. Three points against lowly opposition would have closed the gap to 6 points on Bayern. The leaders were held to a 1-1 draw at Nurnberg in the Bavarian derby, Podolski getting off the mark for the season with a late strike.

In fact the top of the Bundesliga seems to have adopted some sort of holding pattern, which suits Bayern down the ground. As long as everyone else keeps drawing until the end of the season, Bayern will be crowned champions and we can all start getting ready for Euro 2008.

The only team prepared to take the initiative are Bremen, although you can't help but feel that they've got the wrong end of the stick. Thomas Schaaf's heroic failures have had a dreadful March and this latest defeat at home to Duisberg sees them drop to fifth. Fortunately, Stuttgart could only manage a draw against Hannover on Sunday so Werder have some breathing space above the Champions.

Schalke occupies the final Champions League place. The Gelsenkirchen club are a point above Leverkusen and Bremen. Bayer will be seething over their 2-0 home reverse to Frankfurt who themselves are now in the European mix. Even Wolfsburg could claim to have something to play for in the run in following their incredibly dull 1-0 victory at Rostock.

The weekend’s only mid-table clash was the derby between Bochum and Dotmund. Both teams played with the sort of gay abandon that only teams who have packed up for the season can play. 3-3 was the final score.

It’s getting real at the bottom though. Cottbus are out of the bottom three for the first time since 1977. Skela bagged a brace in their 2-1 win against Hertha. If you leave out Dortmund on 31 points, the relegation battle is between Rostock (lost), Cottbuss (won), Duisberg (won), Bielefeld (drew) and Nurnberg (drew). There is only four points between them so it really is all to play for. Should be a cracking climax to the season.

That’s it. Results and table here. Follow the Bundesbag on Twitter here.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Week Twenty Five: Binary numbers

The field is opening up nicely for Bayern. The mark of a true champion after such a defeat as their comic collapse to Cottbus last week, is to pick themselves up, straighten their tie and jolly well stick it to the next poor sap who comes their way. As it happens their opponents last week were as far from saps as fast food is from the rain forest (that gag may not work... its been a long week). Leverkusen are heavy hitters this season and must have hoped to catch the Bavarians off guard at the Allianz. That was never going to happen in a million years though and from what I saw of the game, Bayern were deserved 2-1 winners.

One of the things I noticed when I covered the last season Bayern won the title, was that when they did slip up, their rivals could not capitalise. Well this season the Munich club have slipped up plenty of times and the chasing pack have rarely taken advantage. Indeed Bremen and Hamburg seem content to fight it out for the remaining Champions League places rather than try to challenge Bayern's hegemony. Hamburg faced a tough trip to Wolfsburg and on current form would probably been pleased with a 1-1 draw if were of any real use to them. Bremen on the other hand traveled to the far less daunting location of Bielefeld but also only managed a 1-1 draw.

The resultant foolery has resulted in the places between 2nd and 6th squeezing together like some giant football club shape consertina (if you can imagine such a thing). The winners from this situation are Schalke who are now level with Bremen and Leverkusen on 44 points and, get this, Stuttgart. The Champions are three points back on Schalke (2-1 winners at Berlin) and wait for it... Stuttgart. The Champions are only three points behind the Gelsenkirchen club after they gave Rostock a 4-1 (gerd) mullering. If they have a strong run into the end of the season they are still on for a Champions League spot. What odds would you take on at least one of the teams above them bottling it?

At the bottom its got that kind of four from three look about it doesn't it? Rostock have a three point gap over Bielefeld who are fourth from bottom. Nurnberg could only manage a 1-1 draw with Bochum. Ditto Duisberg against Hannover. Cottbus lost at Frankfurt.

The final word goes to Dortmund. The Ruhr giant spent a moderate sum before the beginning of the season and will be disappointed with their league position. However, salvation has come in the shape of a German Cup Final appearance against Bayern. Along with the prospect of only their third Cup win, this also means that Dortmund should qualified for the UEFA Cup unless Munich seriously mess up and fail to qualify for the Champions League.

European football would be something of a fillip for BVB coach and 80's soft rock wannabe Thomas Doll. I ask you, how many managers do you see turn up for games in jeans? Surely that alone is worth a UEFA Cup spot.

That's it. Results and table here. Follow me and the Bundesbag on Twitter.