Unprofessional Foul


January 28, 2011

Browsing the 1.Bundesliga: Matchday 20 Preview

Will the Gap Between 1st and 2nd Shrink?

With the Premiership on an FA Cup break, check out the top flight football on tap this weekend in Germany.  Think about it–when your WORG asks you why you’re walking about the house dressed in lederhosen, you have a somewhat legitimate excuse this time.  You were getting into the spirit of the game, honestly!

Friday 28 January 2011
Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Hannover 96

What better way to start the weekend than with a Friday Night Special between two top clubs battling for Champions League qualification–and one in which revenge might be on offer.  Why revenge you ask?  In the previous encounter on Matchday 3–a 2-2 draw at the AWD–a Sergio Pinto tackle took Michael Ballack out with a shin injury that shelved him until last weekend.

How do you say, "Pinto is a Flat Tamale" in German?

Ballack’s back–and after playing 34 minutes as a 2nd half sub last week, manager Jupp Heynckes is strongly considering starting the mouthy midfielder against the 96ers.  With Tranquillo Barnetta off for a spell–knee surgery–and Lars Bender unlikely to be fit, Leverkusen is thin in the midfield.  Sergio Pinto might want to keep his head on a swivel if Ballack’s on the pitch.

Then again, he could just run really fast around the former Chelsea man and he would just wobble, fall, and likely injure himself again.
Saturday 29 January 2011
FC Nuremberg v Hamburger SV

With Emmanuel Adebayor to Real Madrid a done deal, it looks like Horseface van Nistelruud will be staying put in Hamburg.  Although supporters are questioning Ruud’s commitment–after he offered to pay half of any transfer fee and might have been pulled off a Madrid-bound airplane with a pouty face–RvN is a pro, and Armin Veh will look to him for the match winner in a Hamburglar invasion of Frankenstadion.

The 1st half encounter was a tough 1-1 draw–with Nuremberg earning its goal on a late penalty conversion by Javier Pinola.  Now, Der Club is still without injured Ilkay Gundogan, but if its midweek DFB Pokal Cup performance against Schalke 04 is any indication, FCN are adjusting to life without Silky Ilkay.

Forward Julian Scheiber made the Schalke 04 defense–and all-world GK Manuel Neuer–look a bit silly on his first strike.  After Schalke had equalized, Scheiber pulled FCN ahead again, only for them to fall 3-2 in extra time.  Nuremberg has some fight and offensive talent to rely on, but if Hamburg can control the midfield through David Jarolim or get something out of a trio of talented yet underwhelming attackers–Elia, Pitroipa, or Ben-Hatira–Dieter Hecking might be joining St Pauli as newcomers to the relegation scrap.

Schalke 04 v 1899 Hoffenheim
Will Christoph Metzelder be poor in central defense again and make Neuer work far harder than he should?  Without a Metzelder gaffe, it might be difficult for Hoffenheim to find a goal in this one.  The striker line for the village club is paper-thin–Demba Ba’s gone, Obasi is injured long-term, and Prince Tagoe is listed as unavailable for this match–as he’s trying to follow Ba on a loan deal to a Prem side.

That’s okay–Ryan Babel’s arrived to keep 1899 in Europa League competition!  And defensively, Marco Pezzaiuoli’s side just got tougher with the signing of Bayern reject Edson Braafheid!

More Gylfi, Please!

Oof.  And can somebody tell me what’s going on with Gylfi Sigurdsson?  He’s not been on any injury list but his 1st league appearance in the 2nd half was as a 67th minute sub last week.  He started in the DFB Pokal Cup loss midweek–he better be starting against Schalke, or something is up.

As for Schalke, teenage Julian Draxler should get another start in the midfield, but his security blanket–LB Lukas Schmitz–is out due to suspension, so there’s a chance the youngster could make an error near the midfield for Hoffenheim to capitalize on a counter attack.

FC St Pauli v FC Koeln
Who’s cuisine reigns supreme?  This one is a relegation 6 pointer for certain, with St Pauli dropping into the zone after consecutive draws to begin its 2nd half while the Billygoats have leapt above them on goal difference.  The mauling they handed out to Werder Bremen last week  gives Koeln the look of the favorite–particularly as St Pauli has been woeful all season at home.

Still, St Pauli has surprised–4 goals in the past 2 matches after scoring only 16 in its previous 17–St Pauli has gotten all offensive and doing so without injured captain and striker Marius Ebbers.  It has been Gerald Asamoah who has turned it on for the Kult Club lately, so it will be down to a Koeln back line that is absent CB Geromel (suspension) to keep him away from GK Rensing.

As for Koeln, if new Polish signing Slawomir Peszko demonstrates the same understanding he had with Lukas Podolski in last week’s demolition of Bremen, this could be a much more exciting Billygoats squad to follow.

VfL Wolfsburg v Borussia Dortmund
Can Steve McClaren’s side tighten up the league title race and take points off BvB?  After finally winning a match following 7 straight draws, Wolfsburg has become accustomed to taking something away from every match it’s played for over two months now.  Die Woelfe will have do it without a quartet of players that have become mainstays in the starting XI–Grafite, Mario Mandzukic, Tolga Cigeri, and Simon Kjaer.

Juergen Klopp is also in a tight spot when it comes to player selection.  Shinji Kagawa suffered a foot fracture from Asian Cup play–is that over yet?–and will possibly miss the remainder of the season. Potential Kagawa replacement Robert Lewandowski was not incredibly confident in front of goal last week, and Mohamed Zidan might not be quite up to fitness yet.

Attacking compatriot Lucas Barrios–who’s going through a dip in form– is ticked Klopp failed to start him against Stuttgart, so his focus appears a bit off.  It looks like it’s Nuri Sahin time!

And as for BvB on the road–9 wins, 1 loss.  So, Wolfsburg face a similar style of oppositional philosophy to Matchday 19–all or nothing.  McClaren’s squad–lead from the back by Arne Friedrich and Marcel Schaefer–patiently waited Mainz out last week.  Could they do it again?

Werder Bremen v Bayern Munich
Does Werder have any fight left?  After getting kicked in the teeth by the Billygoats last week and being turned down this week by Tottenham’s midfielder Niko Kranjcar in an attempt to strengthen its woeful midfield, Bremen are primed for a hiding against Bayern Munich.

Only Borussia Moechengladbach is worse than Werder in shipping goals–39 so far this season–and they are entertaining a Bayern Munich side that finished off Kaiserslautern 5-1 last week.  Earlier in the season, Werder had a terrible 6-0 loss to Stuttgart away, but followed it up with a 0-0 draw at home to Eintracht Frankfurt.

This is not Frankfurt.  This is a Bayern side that’s getting the bit between its teeth as it gets into the Champions League scramble, blowing open a tight match last week with a Mario Gomez hat trick.  This is a Bayern squad that–although Scarface will be lost longer than expected–has Robben rounding into form, Gustavo providing flexibility in midfield selection, and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

And when you have a healthy pig climber, you’re usually in good shape–no matter how daft the manager is when he plays him behind center forward rather than back in a more holding position.

FC Kaiserslautern v Mainz 05
This match is a redemption affair–which side will recover after tough losses from Matchday 19?  The Red Devils were sideswiped by Bayern last week in the league and eliminated 2-0 in the Pokal Cup quarterfinals mid-week.  Croatian sensation Srdjan Lakic will be off to Wolfsburg next season and the club is drifting down toward the relegation zone.

Now Just a Super Sub?

Last week Mainz 05 were stunned near the close by Wolfsburg.  Thomas Tuchel will be without defensive midfielder Elkin Soto (injury) and his replacement in the Wolfsburg match, Eugen Polanski (suspension).  This should put Lewis Holtby in line to start again–unless Tuchel slots a defensive-minded player like Miroslav Karhan into the middle with Schuerrle, Szalai, and Risse in the attack.

For the O-Fivers to remain in line to secure European play next season, it must arrest its slide–after 7 matchdays, the club earned 21 points, but has collected only 12 more since.

Sunday 30 January 2011
VfB Stuttgart v SC Freiburg

The Swabians have seemingly found their feet defensively–a clean sheet against Mainz 2 weeks ago and only 1 goal allowed against attack-minded Dortmund.  We know the club can score–5th in the league with 34 strikes–so if Bruno Labbadia is able to keep the leaky defensive ship afloat, VfB could vault FC Koeln and St Pauli if those sides lose and Stuttgart can take 3 points off Freiburg.

Freiburg will enter the Mercedes Benz Arena rather wobbly.  With top scorer Cisse still out, Robin Dutt will also be without influential midfielders Julian Schuster and Jan Rosenthal.  The Breisgau side gives up an average of nearly 2 goals on the road, so if  Pogrebnyak lays into a couple, look for VfB to continue its improving run of form.

Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Moechengladbach
Michael Bradley’s gone, De Camargo’s out–is there any reason to follow this one unless you’re a die-hard Foals fan?  M’gladbach could probably win this match by 20 goals–and still be at the foot of the table when all is said and done.

So, there you have it–an entirely worthless and incredibly wordy preview for this weekend’s action.  At least we didn’t disappoint like a Guardian exclusive–you already knew what was in store.

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