Hoffenheim play risky game with star players

Germans love to hate Hoffenheim but the village club backed by a billionaire mogul provide unparalleled entertainment on and off the pitch.
Internal disputes, miraculous escapes and eight-goal thrillers are all par for the course at the Bundesliga’s smallest club.
Any football coach has to manage players who feel they are too big for their boots, but few opt for Hoffenheim’s radical solution this season. Fed up with the egos of some of his players, coach Markus Gisdol set up a so-called ‘‘Training Group 2,’’ banishing most of his biggest names to training away from the rest of the first team squad.
Internationals like Tim Weise, the club’s biggest earner, and Eren Derdiyok are barred from contact with the other players in a grown up version of a playground ‘‘you’re not playing with my football’’ tiff.

Bundesliga: Gisdol points the way forward

Bundesliga: Gisdol points the way forward

Last week a fed-up Derdiyok took his employers to a Mannheim labour court for breach of contract. For many, including former Hoffenheim sports director Andreas Mueller, the player had a strong legal case so the club were probably grateful to offload the Swiss international to former club Bayer Leverkusen on loan.
But Hoffenheim are left with multimillion euro problems in the shape of goalkeeper Weise, who reportedly earns €3.5 million a year, former German international Tobias Weis, experienced Frenchman Matthieu Delpierre and Dutchman Edson Braafheid, who only three years ago played in the World Cup final.
Indeed, clubs who think that they had a tough transfer window can look to Hoffenheim for consolation: the Sinsheim outfit moved heaven and earth to find clubs for their star names, but found none willing to pay anywhere near their current salaries. Weis and Braafheid, however, are still hoping to get transfers to Turkey, where the transfer window is still open.
To be fair to Gisdol, he built authority to wield the axe after his spectacular success since taking over the team in April after the disastrous reign of Marco Kurz.

Late Escape
Hoff looked doomed to relegation, but Gisdol’s first match in charge ended with a 3-0 win against Fortuna Dusseldorf. Then came the most remarkable Houdini Act in Bundesliga history: on the last day of the season Hoffenheim needed to win at Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund and see Dusseldorf lose at Hannover. Outplayed for 75 minutes, Hoffenheim got two late penalties, won 2-1 and stayed up. Gisdol had pulled off a near miracle.
Many Bundesliga neutrals would have been delighted to see relegation for Hoff, who are bankrolled by billionaire software entrepreneur Dietmar Hopp. Massive funding saw two consecutive promotions to the top flight in 2008 for a club whose stadium can seat more than the entire village of Sinsheim.
The late escape couldn’t disguise a miserable season.
Weise and Weis had already been fined by the club for inappropriate behaviour at a party. Attendances, already low by Bundesliga standards, dropped by 2,000, and even Gisdol admitted the club was in danger of losing its connections to the local community.
Disastrous form had not been helped by chaos behind the scenes: Since 2011 Hoffenheim have had six coaches and four sports directors.
So ahead of his first full season in charge, Gisdol vowed to exclude players who he insisted were at the root of the team’s problems, and instead concentrate on young talents hungry to make a name for themselves. The purge was thorough: even signed Wiese postcards and shirts have even been removed from the club shop.

Mixed Results
So has Gisdol’s experiment worked? The jury is out.
The 44 year-old-coach is banking on youth and Kevin Volland has been in fine form. With the German national team short up front, Volland has even been tipped as a future international. The official Bundesliga site wrote last week that the forward should ‘’refrain from booking a summer holiday next year just yet.’’
Early signs this season were good. Had technology been used, Volland’s opening day ‘goal’ against Nuremberg would have been given and probably resulted in victory. Matchday 2 saw a 5-1 humiliation of Hamburg, with a rampant Roberto Firmino scoring twice.
Since then, the roof has fallen in. A madcap match against Freiburg saw Sejad Salihovic sent off for slapping an opponent within the first ten minutes. Two Freiburg players, as well as coach Christian Streich, received red cards but Hoff could only muster a 3-3 draw.
Last week Hoffenheim, who conceded a staggering 67 league goals last campaign, again proved an opposing attack’s dream, losing 6-2 to a Stuttgart team who had not won a point all season. This time, Weise and the other players banished to ‘’Training Camp 2’’could not be blamed, with Belgian keeper Koen Casteels not doing his World Cup chances any good with a performance to forget.
For a coach who has seen his team concede nine goals in two matches, Gisdol is remarkably composed: ‘‘We do not have a defensive problem. It’s just that all the cogs in the machine have to work together.’’Those cogs worked well in Gisdol’s first five months as a Bundesliga coach. But Hoffenheim are nothing if not unpredictable and suddenly the pressure is on. Any more away days like the one at Stuttgart and Gisdol too might find he is persona non grata at the club.

Andreas Evagora
Deputy Head, Eurosport2

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Stuttgart axe Labbadia

VfB Stuttgart's coach Labbadia reacts ahead of their German soccer cup (DFB Pokal) quarter final match against Vfl Bochum in Stuttgart

Just as the transfer world record continues to rocket, so the first sacking of a new season comes faster than ever. This season the quickest to the chopping block are VfB Stuttgart whose axe fell on coach Bruno Labbadia after just three games. It`s the earliest sacking in the five seasons that Eurosport 2 have been broadcasting the Bundesliga. And yet nobody seems really surprised, including Labbadia.
Before his final game, the 2-1 defeat at Augsburg, the 47 year old said. “We’re in a bit of a crisis in terms of results at the moment. Losing possession cheaply really tends to cost us.” Well he was right about that; it cost him his job !

Stuttgart haven’t won a single point and are one place off the bottom just above newly promoted Eintracht Braunschweig. And yet the margins between keeping and losing your job seem very fine. Stuttgart lost all three games by just a single goal and haven’t been embarrassed in the way that Hamburg, Schalke and Eintracht Frankfurt have been so far.

Labbadia was unlucky in that his first choice central defenders Serdar Tasci and Georg Niedermeier have both been injured. The captain Tasci ruptured his outer meniscus in the season opener while Niedermeier hasn’t played this season due to a torn knee ligament.

There’s been something of a former player curse on Stuttgart in their three Bundesliga defeats. Japanese midfielder Shinji Okazaki, who they sold to Mainz in the summer, scored against them. New signing Daniel Schwaab scored the winner, an own goal, for his former club, Bayer Leverkusen and Raphael Holzhauser, a player loaned to Augsburg was man of the match in Sunday’s Swabian derby defeat.

The first sackings in a season usually happen during the winter break when clubs take stock or at the start of spring just before the crunch run-in, with Bundesliga survival at stake. So why now ?

After all, Labbadia in his two full seasons in charge had guided Stuttgart into the Europa League. In his first full season they finished in sixth place while last campaign they qualified by default after losing the German Cup final to Bayern Munich who will of course defend their Champions League crown.

Last resort
This season losing to in-form Mainz and Bayer Leverkusen was no disgrace but the final straw was defeat to Augsburg. Stuttgart decided that last year’s cup run had papered over the cracks and that Labbadia hadn`t really taken them forward. They pointed to an unacceptable twelth place finish as proof.

Stuttgart are ambitious as you’d expect from a team sponsored by Mercedes-Benz.Hopes were high that they would revive not just the success of 2007 when they won their last Bundesliga title but also an attractive style of play. Despite Labbadia and sporting director Fredi Bobic being former strikers, Stuttgart only scored 37 goals last season, the third worst total in the Bundesliga. That led to eight new signings including Mohammed Abdellaoue and Konstantin Rausch from Hannover and Moritz Leitner on loan from Borussia Dortmund.

In the past two seasons Labbadia had complained about working to a very tight budget but this campaign that was no longer an issue. Stuttgart picked up a bonus payment of 3.7 million euros from the German football federation and UEFA for their performances in Europe over the past five seasons.

The timing of Labbadia’s sacking is intriquing, just before Thursday’s crunch Europa League second leg play off against Croatian side HNK Rijeka followed by Sunday’s Baden Wurttemberg derby against Hoffenheim. It would seem more logical to have waited until after both games and to have taken a decision during the international weekend at the start of September.

New coach
As it is, Stuttgart have given a baptism of fire to their former player Thomas Schneider. The 40 year old played 12 seasons at the club and becomes the fifth youngest coach in the Bundesliga as Stuttgart continue the recent trend of promoting youth coaches. However unlike Mainz’s Thomas Tuchel, Freiburg’s Christian Streich and Thorsten Lieberknecht at Eintracht Braunschweig who came from under 19 sides, Schneider was in charge of the under 17 team.

The simple fact is that Labbadia had lost the changing room. The gamble is that the inexperienced Schneider will provide a much needed boost to a side short on confidence.

“This is the right step to unblock a team that has a lot of quality, said Bobic. Unfortunately we lost our belief a bit in recent days.”

And it’s safe to assume that Bobic was the man who was behind the decision to sack Labbadia.After all the new club President, Bernd Wahler only started his job at the end of July.

Is it the right decision ? Of course only time will tell. The next three days are crucial for VfB Stuttgart. Bobic was “pleased a convincing solution had been found so quickly.” Some would say the speed of the appointment smacks of desperation. It remains to be seen whether the rookie coach will see out his two year deal.

Anthony Jeffers
Bundesliga commentator

On Saturday Eurosport 2 has live coverage of Borussia Moenchengladbach v Werder Bremen (15.30) followed by Schalke v Bayer Leverkusen. On Sunday don’ t miss a Baden Wurttemberg derby between Stuttgart and Hoffenheim (15.30) and Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Dortmund (17.30).

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Frankfurt and Braunschweig in need of harmony

Eintracht means ‘‘harmony’’ but that’s a commodity in precious little supply right now at Bundesliga clubs Frankfurt and Braunschweig.
Eintracht Frankfurt and Eintracht Braunschweig have both played two, lost two in the new league season and neither can afford another defeat when they go head to head in Lower Saxony on Sunday.
It was all so much sweeter 12 months ago: last season Eintracht Frankfurt won their opening four matches of the season for the first time in their history. Playing in the second division, Eintracht Braunschweig kicked off with five victories on the bounce on the way to promotion.
But it’s all gone horribly wrong this term. Frankfurt made a couple of astute signings over the summer, poaching Jan Rosenthal and Johannes Flum from Freiburg (Eagles fans greeted incoming loan deals for the struggling Hoffenheim duo Joselu and Stephan Schrock with less enthusiasm).

Veh:  Needs firepower

Veh: Needs firepower

Armin Veh’s men travelled to the German capital on the first day of the season full of confidence, but came home on the wrong end of a 6-1 thrashing against Hertha Berlin.
Veh demanded that his men dig in against Bayern Munich last week, and while the 1-0 home defeat may have looked honourable, in truth the European and Bundesliga champions rarely got out of third gear.
Worryingly, Veh has left Permin Schwleger at home for Thursday’s Europa League qualifier in Azerbaijan against Qarabag Agdam.

‘‘For a long time I have had the impression that he lacks enough fitness to play for 90 minutes. He will be more valuable to the club against Braunschweig. Whether he plays, wait and see,’’ Veh added cryptically.

Schwegler is one of four different Frankfurt captains in the last eight matches, hardly a sign of dressing room stability.
UEFA Cup winners in 1980, Eintracht Frankfurt are back in Europe after seven years. Fans feel they belong in European competition. The draw against Qarabag Agdam may have had them searching atlases in vain but The Eagles need European competition. Chief Financial Officer Axel Hellmann says Europa League group stage competition will generate what he calls ‘‘crucial’’ extra revenues of at least €5 million.

Lieberknecht: fight for survival

Lieberknecht: fight for survivial

Indeed, the club could be at a financial turning point, with its biggest ever sponsorship deal, worth €6 million annually, kicking in this season.
But history does not augur well. Frankfurt’s nickname isn’t ‘‘Eintracht’’ but
‘‘Zwietracht’’ – conflict. The team also has a history of ending the season poorly.
Last season, Veh’s team only just qualified for Europe after winning only two of their last 14 matches. In 2010-11, The Eagles won only once in the second half of the season and slipped to relegation.
In both seasons, the problem has been scoring. Frankfurt’s strikers scored a miserable seven goals last season, and Veh relied for too heavily on giant Alex Meier to strike from attacking midfield. They’ll hope new €3.2 million signing Vaclav Kadlec from Sparta Prague will fix the problem.
On the subject of goals, there are in short supply too at Eintracht Braunschweig.
Again, this Eintracht have a fine tradition, having been founder members of the Bundesliga in 1963 and champions in 1967.
Older fans still grumble about a last minute penalty given to Juventus in the 1968 European Cup, which denied the club a place in the semi-finals.
Coach Torsten Lieberknecht, who turned 40 earlier this month, has done a wonderful job since taking over the team in 2008, celebrating two promotions and taking the club back to the top flight after a 28-year absence.
Lieberknecht played with and under Jurgen Klopp at Mainz and shares the Borussia Dormund coach’s footballing philosophy.
Braunschweig were a touch unlucky to lose their opener against Werder Bremen, who won with a superb late strike from Zlatko Junuzovic. While there was no shame in a 2-1 reverse at Borussia Dortmund, that made it six defeats in a row in all competitions and it’s clear that Braunschweig are badly lacking top-flight quality. Braunschweig, roared on by 7,000 visiting fans in Dortmund, only had two players on show with Bundesliga experience.
This week Lieberknecht looked to address the problem, taking promising but injury-hit youngster Karim Bellarabi on loan from Bayer Leverkusen. Not many 23 year olds can claim to have scored against Bayern Munich and Barcelona, but Bellarabi is one of them. To escape the dreaded bottom three Lieberknecht needs Bellarabi to shine and Domi Kumbela, last year’s top scorer, to recover fully from injury and find his goalscoring touch.
Eintracht Frankfurt need to recover from a 6,000 kilometer-round trip to Azerbaijan for their trip to the Eintracht Stadium in Lower Saxony this weekend. There’ll be plenty of harmony in the winners’ dressing room at the end. But in all likelihood, the losers will be bottom of the table come Sunday night and needs to call on plenty of “Eintracht’’ for the rest of the season.

Andreas Evagora
Bundesliga Commentator, Deputy Head, Eurosport2

Eurosport2 has live Bundesliga action on Friday starting with second division action Aue vs Energie Cottbus. In the top flight it’s Dortmund v Bremen at 20:30. Then on Saturday don’t miss Bayern v Nurenberg (15:30) and Hertha Berlin against Hamburg (18:30). On Sunday Braunschweig play Frankfurt and Augsburg face Stuttgart. Coverage in North and East Europe

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Guardiola’s Bundesliga debut

Bayern Munich's coach Guardiola talks to Lahm during German first division Bundesliga soccer match against Borussia Moenchengladbach in Munich

Flying into Germany for the opening game of the Bundesliga season after 12 long weeks off is always exciting. But jetting to Munich to see treble winners Bayern and Pep Guardiola’s Bundesliga debut is extra special.

There were no obvious signs that Bayern would be starting the defence of their title the next day against Borussia Moenchengladbach. What was clear was a strong Spanish presence.  The Guardiola effect or just young Spaniards escaping a fragile economy to take their chances in Germany ?

Ominously it rained heavily on the Friday. A bad sign for Guardiola’s Bundesliga debut ?
There was great fanfare as the President of the German Football League, Dr Reinhard Rauball, led the teams out to the German National anthem and the unmistakeable verse of “Deutschland Uber alles”. After the all-German Champions League final last May, the confidence of that anthem seemed very fitting. But this was hardly a nationalist affair as all eyes were on a Catalan, Pep Guardiola.

During Bayern’s pre-season, Guardiola’s team choices had posed more questions than answers. Philip Lahm in midfield, Franck Ribery as the playmaker and Thomas Muller as a false Number 9. On the day of the game, German football media reported that the two players to be left out would be defender Jerome Boateng and Mario Mandzukic in attack. The Bundesliga record signing Javi Martinez was tipped to replace Boateng with Muller ousting Mandzukic.

There was a mini stampede when the Bayern official handed out the team lists.
And yet after all the speculation about who would be in and out, it was a case of “as you were”. Boateng started in defence with the Croat striker Mandzukic as centre forward. Reports of the Guardiola revolution had obviously been exaggerated. That was perhaps because of Thiago Alcantara missing with a fever. The 25 million euro signing from Barcelona, whose agent just happens to be Guardiola’s brother, had been Bayern’s best player in the entertaining 4-2 Super cup defeat to Borussia Dortmund two weeks before.

One thing which the media did get right however was the 4-1-4-1 formation.
Bastian Schweinsteiger played in front of the back four but without a defensive midfield partner. Toni Kroos, back from the knee injury which saw him miss the Champions League final, was further up the field.

The Debut

In front of 71, 000 fans at a sold out Allianz Arena, Bayern made a dream start.
They raced into a two nil lead in the opening fifteen minutes as goals by Arjen Robben and Mandzukic punished mistakes. It looked as if the rest of the game would be an exercise in damage limitation for the Foals.
However, their Swiss coach Lucien Favre is a canny tactician and decided to play Bayern at their own game. New signings Max Kruse and Raffael settled quickly and when Dante scored an own goal against his former club just before half time it was game on.

Penalty drama

Bayern lost their shape in the second half. Following ankle surgery in June, Schweinsteiger didn’ t look one hundred per cent fit and was isolated as ‘Gladbach through Max Kruse stretched the Bayern defence and exploited gaps between defence and midfield.

The game turned in a whirlwind two minutes with twenty minutes to go.
Spanish defender Alvaro Dominguez handled the ball in the area but Muller’s penalty was well saved by Marc Andre Ter Stegen. Inexplicably from the rebound, Dominguez handled again to give away another penalty. This time David Alaba made the final score 3-1.

That extended Bayern’s unbeaten run in the Bundesliga to 26 games but records weren’t the talking point at the post match press conference .


Guardiola, speaking in decent German was pleased with the result but not the performance. Bayern averaged more shots on goal than last season but the negative was they also conceded more shots on goal than last year’s average.  The coach himself doesn’t consider the new formation a problem: “I like the system, but perhaps I need to adapt more to my players and make some changes,” he said. “I wouldn’t have a problem with that.”

The Eurosport team’s evening ended with a 50 minute traffic jam inside the Allianz Arena complex.  Our French producer couldn’ t believe that the locals weren’t complaining. Patience is a virtue in Munich. And maybe that’s what Guardiola will have to show at Bayern.

“We need more time, insisted Guardiola. “It’s difficult for a new coach at the beginning of the season. In my first press conference I said, the beginning will be not easy.”

Ths is what makes the new season so intriguing at Sabener Strasse. Jupp Heynckes was always going to be a tough act to follow after guiding Bayern to the first treble in German football. So how does Guardiola follow that ? Yet there’s the problem because the 42 year old is a perfectionist and an obsessive.

A more pragmatic coach would not be remonstrating so much in his technical zone in his first games. Rome wasn’t built in a day and so Bayern Munich won’t be changed overnight. A radical overhaul would be foolish so it would be wise if changes were small and gradual.
But Guardiola’s used to doing things his way. Whether that means selling Ronaldinho, Eto’o and Ibrahimovic or taking a year off.

He’s shown his perfectionist steak by learning German well enough in six months to be able to conduct press conferences in German. However as a capable linguist he might want to learn the English expression : ‘If it’s not broken then don’t fix it.’

Tony Jeffers

Eurosport Bundesliga commentator

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‘‘Osram’’ determined to switch off career with Champions League glory

Bundesliga: Heynckes' departure the end of an era

Bundesliga: Heynckes’ departure the end of an era

Jupp Heynckes’ last Bundesliga match was more emotional than anyone predicted, but if the legendary Bayern Munich coach wants to end his career with the high of a Champions League victory he’ll need to stop a poor run of form in big games against Borussia Dortmund.

The day before Alex Ferguson’s 1,500th and last match at Manchester United ended in a bizarre 5-5 draw at West Brom, another veteran coach Heynckes saw his Bayern team win a crazy seven-goal thriller against the club closest to his heart, Borussia Monchengladbach.

United blew a 3-0 lead but Bayern came from 3-1 down to win 4-3.

Heynckes, 68, was a legend as both player and coach at Monchengladbach, the town of his birth, so it was fitting that his 1,011th Bundesliga match as player and coach was at the Borussia Stadium.
With nothing at stake, it all got rather sentimental on Saturday.

Heynckes, who will be replaced by Pep Guardiola next season, normally spends the night before matches putting final touches to tactics, but on this occasion had a barbeque with stars of the 1970s Gladbach team.

Bundesliga: Unstoppable Bayern

Bundesliga: Unstoppable Bayern

Before and during the match, Monchengladbach and Bayern Munich fans alike were on their feet, cheering Heynckes’ name. During the post-match press conference, screened live in the stadium, Heynckes broke down in tears
“This is where I started my career as a player, as a coach,” Heynckes said in between sobs. ”They showed me that this is my home.”

Heynckes even got an ovation from journalists, who in recent years have poked fun at his stiff interview style and tendency to turn red at big points in matches (hence his nickname ”Osram”).

There could not have been a better farewell season, with Bayern racking up the most number of points in Bundesliga history (91) and winning by the biggest margin ever (25).

It’s a season that caps a stunning career. Heynckes is one of only three men to have participated in more than 1,000 Bundesliga matches. As a player he netted 220 goals in 369 matches (only Gerd Muller and Klaus Fischer scored more), winning four Bundesliga titles and just missing out on the European Cup, which he later won as a coach with Real Madrid.

For those looking to compare Heynckes with Ferguson, Heynckes has won 598 matches out of 1,172 (51 percent), Ferguson 1,253 out of 2,155 in all (58 percent) and 895 of 1,500 matches for Manchester United (60 percent). Clearly, there’s little these two men do not know about the modern game.

Heynckes has received offers to coach abroad, but retirement seems likely after the German Cup final.
“I am getting a bit long in the tooth and clubs want a new generation. You can’t do that with a 68-year old,” he said.

 Bundesliga: Cheers, Dante

Bundesliga: Cheers, Dante

Indeed, the last day of the Bundesliga season was a great one for Germany’s young coaches. Jens Keller, 42, saw his Schalke side clinch the fourth and final Champions League spot, 38-year old Markus Weinzierl completed the mother of all Houdini acts by guiding Augsburg to safety after a 3-1 victory versus Furth, while 43-year-old Markus Gisdol steered seemingly-doomed Hoffenheim into the playoffs with a shock 2-1 win at Dortmund. None of those three coaches were even born when Heynckes made his debut for West Germany.

But the man who symbolizes more than any other the new generation of coaches will be Heynckes’ opposite number in the Champions League final at Wembley.

Jürgen Klopp is everything that Heynckes is not: young, media savvy and armed with a toothy smile that can disarm the most sceptical journalist.
And Dortmund’s 45-year-old coach has a fabulous record against Bayern, the club that rejected the chance to hire him in 2008: Dortmund are the only team to have denied Bayern winning a Bundesliga match in 2013, drawing twice this season 1-1. The yellow-blacks have won four and drawn two of their last six league matches.

While it’s true Bayern prevailed in this season’s German Cup quarters, that match came just before a big Dortmund clash in the Champions League, which has very much been Klopp’s focus this season.
In 2011-12, Klopp’s Dortmund humiliated Bayern 5-2 in the German Cup final and completed a league double with two 1-0 wins.

In both those games, Dortmund’s midfield stifled service to Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. Their full-backs marauded down the flanks and Dortmund’s passing was too swift and elaborate for Bayern. Most tellingly of all, Dortmund played with no fear on each occasion: Klopp’s men will not feel they are underdogs when they take to the Wembley pitch on Saturday night.

Mario Götze scored the winner in the first match, Robert Lewandowski the second: the former has already been poached by Bayern and the latter looks likely to follow him to Bavaria.
While, like the rest of Germany, Klopp is full of admiration for Heynckes, there is no love lost between Dortmund’s coach and Bayern.

Klopp admits that he was hardly able to speak after being told that emerging super star Götze was heading to Bavaria at the end of the season. Recently comparing the Bavarians to a James Bond villain, Klopp said “We are not a supermarket but they want our players because they know we cannot pay them the same money.”

If Klopp gets his tactics right again at Wembley, Bayern will become the first team to ever lose three European Cup finals in four seasons.
But if Heynckes is the victor, he will cap his career by becoming only the fourth coach in history to win the trophy with two different clubs.

Andreas Evagora
Deputy Head
Eurosport 2

There’s more Bundesliga action to come on Eurosport2 this week with the promotion-relegation playoffs. Hoffenheim face Kaiserslautern on Thursday (20:30) for the right to play in the first division with Osnabruck playing Dynamo Dresden in the second tier playoff. Coverage in north and east Europe.

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Six Bayern players in Eurosport’s Bundesliga team of season

Such has been Bayern Munich’s dominance of the 50th Bundesliga season that some might be surprised that a mere six of Jupp Heynckes’ men have made Eurosport’s team of the season, writes Andreas Evagora.
With the season drawing to a close, eight Eurosport Bundesliga commentators and correspondents picked their team of the season based on a 4-2-3-1 formation. They were also asked to name a coach of the season and flop of the campaign.
With Bayern holding a record 22-point lead with one round of matches left, it was perhaps tempting to pick Bayern’s entire first 11. Record after record has fallen with Bayern garnering the largest number of points in Bundesliga history. But our team of voters spent as much of the season watching Augsburg and Greuther Furth as Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, so looked beyond the confines of the Allianz Arena for the season’s star performers. Meanwhile a good sign for Germany one year before the World Cup: only three foreigners made the best 11. There was much lobbying at the Eurosport coffee machine, but voting was made in secret. Here are the results. Drum roll….

Bundesliga: Adler saves Hamburg again

Bundesliga: Adler saves Hamburg again

Goalkeeper: Rene Adler, Hamburg (3 votes). Games started: 31, goals conceded: 51. Conceding nine goals in a single match against Manuel Neuer’s Bayern Munich didn’t stop our panel picking the former Bayer Leverkusen stopper ahead of Germany’s No. 1. The fact that HSV are in with a shout of European football has much to do with Adler’s shot-stopping behind a leaky defence.

Right back: Phillip Lahm, Bayern Munich (6 votes). Starts: 27, goals: 0. Lahm’s habit of easing through matches didn’t disguise the Bayern captain’s superb positioning and laser-like tackling. It was fitting that he held the champions’ trophy aloft last week.

Left back: David Alaba, Bayern Munich (7 votes). Starts: 21, goals: 3.
Alaba has a claim to be the most improved defender in Germany. He didn’t even start the season as Bayern’s first choice left back, but Holger Badstuber’s injury gave the Austrian his chance. Such is the faith in his abilities that, at 20, Alaba is already Bayern’s penalty taker.

Dante: the toast of Munich

Dante: the toast of Munich

Centre back: Dante, Bayern Munich (8 votes). Starts: 28, goals: 1. Dante, Dante, Dante, Dante, Dante, Dante, Dante, Dante. The likeable Brazilian was the only unanimous pick, but Bayern President Uli Hoeness said Dante was originally bought as a back-up centre half. There was even some doubt about the pronunciation of his name (it rhymes with ‘‘canter’’). Near-faultless season from a player given his first Brazil call up this season.

Centre back: Mats Hummels, Borussia Dortmund (3 votes). Starts: 27, goals: 1.
Dante had three different centre back partners this season and perhaps that allowed a non- Bayern player to crash the back four. It was fitting the nod went to an ex-Bayern man, Hummels, who made more than his usual share of mistakes this term but remains a class act.

Defensive midfielder: Bastian Schweinsteiger , Bayern Munich (7 votes).
Starts: 26, goals:7.
The man Heynckes calls “the best midfielder in the world” and the “brains of the Bayern team’’ has upped his game in the face of increased opposition in the squad. Missed a penalty in last season’s Champions League final, but like his team, has shown great character in putting that defeat behind him.

Defensive midfielder: Ilkay Gundogan, Borussia Dortmund (7 votes). Starts: 25, goals: 3. Gundogan had the unenviable task of filling Nuri Sahin’s boots, and struggled at first. Now the cog in Dortmund’s wheel, but has said he doesn’t feel comfortable about the idea of playing in a more advanced role next season.

Attacking midfielder: Marco Reus, Borussia Dortmund (6 votes). Starts: 26, goals:14. The bad news for Dortmund was that they rejected Reus as a youngster, believing him too lightweight to cope with the rigours of top flight football. The good news is that they bought him back for a bargain €17m. It says something about Reus that he has outshone Bayern Munich-bound Mario Götze for much of the season.

Attacking midfielder: Thomas Muller, Bayern Munich (5 votes). Starts: 24, goals: 13. To say that Muller excels in two positions would do a disservice to the Bavarian-born star. Muller has an uncanny ability to crop up in any part of the pitch at the right time. Though this was strictly a Bundesliga poll, Muller’s eight Champions League goals must have swung a few floating voters.

Bundesliga: Ribery back to his best

Bundesliga: Ribery back to his best

Attacking midfielder: Franck Ribery, Bayern Munich (4 votes). Starts: 23, goals: 8.
‘As important to this team as Rummenigge was in his time?’’ said Paul Breitner. If he could reproduce his Bundesliga form for France, Les Bleus could have a serious shot at winning the next World Cup.

Centre forward: Stefan Kiessling, Bayer Leverkusen (5 votes). Starts: 33, goals: 24. The lanky Leverkusen forward may not have convinced national coach Joachim Low, but his 24 goals and seven assists, did enough to win over our jury.

Coach: Christian Streich (Freiburg) It takes something special to beat Heynckes this season, and Streich’s record since taking over in January 2012 reads won 21, drawn 15, lost 14. With barely a euro to spend, Freiburg will finish in a top four Champions League spot if they beat Schalke on Saturday. No wonder Mainz’s respected coach Thomas Tuchel calls Streich ‘’the best educator in Germany.’’

Honourable mentions: Our panel agreed that Neuer was desperately unlucky not to make the team; as was Hiroshi Kiyotake, having almost single-handedly kept Nuremberg away from the relegation zone; while Toni Kroos would surely have been a shoo-in but for his hip injury.

Flop of the season:
Tim Wiese. Started the season as one of Hoffenheim’s best-ever paid players, but conceded 25 goals in 10 games. Fined in mid-season for what police called ‘‘rude’’ behaviour in a men’s toilet at a party while dressed as a prisoner, the former German international has not played since January.

Andreas Evagora
Deputy Head, Eurosport2

Eurosport2 has live Bundesliga action on Saturday with Freiburg v Schalke. (15:30) and the important goals from the other matches in the last round of matches. Coverage in North and East Europe.

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Relegation dogfight


Werder Bremen 14th – 33pts

Five minutes is a long time in football. Ask Werder Bremen.
Last Saturday, with just five minutes to play, Thomas Schaaf’s men were leading 2-0 against Hoffenheim, another relegation-threatened side. “The Green and Whites” just had to hold on till the final whistle to all but guarantee their safety.
Victory would have given them a five point lead over Fortuna Dusseldorf and Augsburg and an eight point lead over Hoffenheim. Instead, typical of their underwhelming season, Werder blew it allowing “Die Hoffe” to come back and snatch a 2-2 draw and what could yet prove to be a precious point.
That made it 11 games without a win for Werder, whose 32-year stay in the Bundesliga is under increasing threat.
Thomas Schaaf the longest serving coach in the Bundesliga has become a master of stating the obvious. “It was a hectic final few minutes. We lacked the calmness we needed and sadly, we didn’t hold on until the end,” said Schaaf. “We will look forward though.”
This Saturday it won’t get any easier as they host the season’s surprise package Eintracht Frankfurt who will be going all out to book a place in the Europe League. Werder hope to welcome back Serbian international Aleksander Ignjovksi from a knee problem for the last home match of the season at the Weser Stadium which is sold out. They will need all the drive and energy of the 42 thousand fans to help them stay up. Two players who don’t lack drive and energy will be missing. Austria forward Marko Arnautovic and Dutch midfielder Eljero Elia have been suspended for the rest of the season after they were caught speeding on a German motorway late at night at the end of April.
If Werder lose, they will have to save their very forgettable season with a victory at Nuremberg on the last matchday.


Fortuna Dusseldorf 15th – 30pts

One team who can vouch for Eintracht Frankfurt’s resurgence is Fortuna Dusseldorf. Last Saturday they lost 3-2 at Frankfurt in their third consecutive defeat. Norbert Meier’s team have lost all momentum. They haven’t won any of their last 10 games and their last victory was against bottom club Greuther Furth back in February.
In their favour, Fortuna look to have have the easiest run-in, against two teams who have nothing to play for. This Saturday they host Nuremberg whose Bundesliga survival was guaranted last week despite their home defeat to Bayer Leverkusen who in turn booked their ticket for next year’s Champions League. They finish against Hannover.

Augsburg 16th – 30pts

Augsburg too are finding out that the margins between success and failure are very fine. Last Saturday Markus Weinzierl’s side took the game to Europe League chasing Freiburg. They had four golden chances to take the lead in the first half only to be denied by inspired goalkeeper Oliver Baumann. Christian Streich’s team rode the storm and their luck and it was they who scored the vital first goal through Cedric Makiadi. That knocked the stuffing out of the Bavarians who went on to lose the match 2-0 leaving the Black Forest in a black mood.

This Saturday, Augsburg face the unenviable trip to face Champions Bayern in Munich. Some might say it’s a good time to face the record champions who will have one eye on the final of the Champions League on May 25th. The only problem is that Bayern’s second side is as good as most other team’s first choice.

It seems likely that Augsburg will have to save their season with a win at home to already relegated Greuther Furth. Ominously for ‘Die Fuggerstadter’ now the pressure is off Furth, new coach Frank Kramer has got them enjoying their football and they’ve won their last two away games. Last season under Jos Luhukay, Augsburg escaped the drop. Will lightning strike twice ?

Hoffenheim 17th – 28pts

On paper, Hoffenheim are favourites for relegation as they are in the automatic drop position, three points behind the other three relegation contenders. However they will have been boosted by their comeback draw last week in Bremen thanks to two goals from super substitute Sven Schipplock, including a dramatic stoppage time equaliser. The 24 year old striker took both his chances for only his fifth goal this season and his first goals in five months

New coach Markus Gisdol oozed belief at the end of the game.
“Our second goal was fully deserved and an emotional moment for everyone. I am very proud. The decisive factor was that we never gave up and got our reward in the end,” said Gisdol. “The best thing of all is that we didn’t do anything silly, we just kept on playing football.”

Gisdol is Hoffenheim’s fourth coach this season and their seventh in the last three years. Since he took over, they have only lost one of their last five games and have momentum. But is it a case of too little, too late ?

This Saturday ‘Die Hoffe’ host Hamburg who are still dreaming of Europe in what should prove to be a tough match. Things go from bad to worse for Hoffenheim when they have to travel to Borussia Dortmund on the last matchday. They can only hope that Jurgen Klopp is going to wrap his best players in cotton wool a week before the Champions League Final against Bayern Munich at Wembley.

The side built by the software billionaire benefactor Dietmar Hopp are staring relegation in the face for the first time since they were promoted five seasons ago. The fairytale seems to be over for the village side who rocketed up from the fifth division to the Bundesliga top flight. Could there yet be a dramatic twist and a great escape ?

Tony Jeffers Eurosport 2 Commentator

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