Bundesliga's tight race for fourth flying under the radar

Posted by Raphael Honigstein

AllsportIf Borussia Monchengladbach earn the fourth spot in the Champions League, another brief trip may not be good for the Bundesliga.

Four matches before the end of the season, the race for fourth spot in the Bundesliga couldn't be more exciting. Bayer Leverkusen (4th, 51 points) Wolfsburg (5th, 50 points) Borussia Monchengladbach (6th, 49 points), and Mainz (7th, 47 points) are all within four points of each other. So why is there relatively little buzz about a competition that could be a game-changer for those involved?

The main reason has to do with the actual outfits in question. Leverkusen, Wolfsburg and Mainz are small clubs with fan bases that don't stretch beyond the respective city limits. Continue Reading...

Paderborn to be wild

Posted by Uli Hesse

Padeborn supporters small section GettyImagesSC Paderborn 07's 15,000-capacity Benteler Arena could play host to Bundesliga football next season.

Markus Kroesche is 33 years old and a professional footballer by trade. He has spent 13 consecutive seasons with the same team and has captained the side for the last six. He likes to mention that he “started out in front of 600 people in the third division.” This is technically correct, but a bit misleading.

Kroesche did start out in the third division, back in 2001. And yes, sometimes he would play in front of even fewer than 600 people, for instance away at Dresdner SC (who are now competing almost at the very bottom of the league pyramid) or at Bayer Leverkusen's reserves (who are about to be dissolved; see my column from two weeks ago). Continue Reading...

Leverkusen loss signals end for 'gentle giant' Hyypia

Posted by Uli Hesse

Sami Hyypia Sascha Lewandowski BundesligaAllsportSami Hyypia, left, will be replaced in the interim by Sascha Lewandowski at Bayer Leverkusen.

The 2-1 loss to Hamburg that cost Sami Hyypia his job at Bayer Leverkusen was an emotional rollercoaster ride. Hosts Hamburg played with a passion rarely seen from them and went ahead early. But Hyypia's Leverkusen team fought back and created many scoring opportunities before eventually equalising thanks to a goalkeeping blunder on the hour.

For the remaining 30 minutes, the game hung in the balance. Leverkusen were denied at least one clear penalty, then Hamburg regained the lead through the greatest goal defender Heiko Westermann will ever score. Continue Reading...

Keeping something in reserve?

Posted by Uli Hesse

Nuri Sahin has made several Dortmund appearances this yearAllsportNuri Sahin started on Dortmund's second-division team.

A week ago, the professional clubs playing in Germany's top two divisions voted against the introduction of a goal-decision system such as the Hawk-Eye computer setup used in England. The decision made headlines, for one, because some clubs said they voted no due to costs involved. It sounded like a strange explanation coming from teams in one of the most financially professional football leagues in the world.

Another decision made on the same day -- and partly for the same reason -- wasn't half as widely reported, even though it could have far stronger repercussions. Continue Reading...

The impact of Hoeness' loss on Bayern

Posted by Raphael Honigstein

Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty ImagesHoeness has been involved with Bayern as a player and executive for over 40 years.

Pep Guardiola dedicated Bayern Munich’s 24th German championship, which was confirmed on Tuesday night, to Uli Hoeness, who he called “the most important person in the club.”

The 62-year-old is in fact no longer the most important person in the club; indeed, he’s not even a part of its hierarchy anymore after Hoeness stepped down from his role as president and chairman of the supervisory board following a guilty verdict in his tax evasion trial three weeks ago. Continue Reading...

Germans and penalties: The facts and the fiction

Posted by Uli Hesse

AllsportNeuer saves Ozil's penalty on February 19.

You know you are in a World Cup year when people start cracking jokes about Germans and penalty kicks as early as February.

Four weeks ago, when Bayern Munich's goalkeeper Manuel Neuer saved Mesut Ozil's feeble penalty in the Champions League round of 16 first leg, hundreds if not thousands of people felt prompted to send variations of the same quip around the world.

One British newspaper even used it for a headline which was about as snappy as Tolstoy's first "War and Peace" draft. Continue Reading...

In Dortmund, Gladbach will seek to end their slump

Posted by Raphael Honigstein

Lars Baron/Getty ImagesGladbach players react to their latest defeat, last weekend vs. Augsburg.

There’s still hope. There always is. Eight thousand fans of Borussia Moenchengladbach will accompany their team to Dortmund on Saturday in what is almost an act of defiance against harsh realities.

“We wouldn’t have 8,000 people going there if they felt that Borussia will get a beating,” Matthias Neumann, the chairman of the club’s official supporters group, told local paper Rhein-Post.

Those unwavering loyalists aside, few believe that it will be a successful venture. Continue Reading...

Lives lived for football

Posted by Uli Hesse

Litan Shtrauber GettyImagesLitan Shtrauber of Netanya shakes hand with a fan after the friendly match 'goals for peace' in 2008 between Maccabi Netanya and Borussia Moenchengladbach.

It isn't very often that football clubs win prizes, as opposed to trophies, unless they happen to be awards handed out by football associations. But last month, Borussia Moenchengladbach won a proper award. It goes by the name of the Future Prize 2014 and is handed out by the Israel Foundation in Germany.

Gladbach earned it for having used "football as a bridge of understanding" -- as the foundation put it in the explanation. What this means is, quite simply, that no German club has done as much for improving relations between the two nations and peoples. Continue Reading...

Transferring loyalties

Posted by Uli Hesse

Max Kruse celebrates after netting the opening goal in last year's 2-0 victory over Gladbach.GettyImagesMax Kruse celebrates after netting the opening goal in last year's 2-0 victory over Gladbach.

A little under a year ago, Freiburg hosted Borussia Moenchengladbach in a crucial game in the race for the European slots. It was a close, intense match that could have gone either way. For instance when, a few minutes after the restart and with the game still scoreless, Gladbach's speedy winger Patrick Herrmann ran into the box and hit the crossbar from a tight angle.

As happens so often in such close games, it was a fine individual effort that eventually made the difference. Continue Reading...

No one likes them; they don't care

Posted by Uli Hesse

Holstein - Red Bull Leipzig Uli Other / Uli HesseHolstein Kiel hosted German football's public enemy No. 1, RB Leipzig, on Saturday.

For all practical purposes, the battle between the forces of good and evil lasted just 55 minutes. Then a marvellous Sebastian Heidinger strike from almost 30 yards sealed the outcome. Since this wasn't a Peter Jackson epic but a sporting contest, the young man delivered his decisive blow not for the good guys. Heidinger was wearing the lily-white uniform of the evil empire.

As soon as the ball hit the back of the net, the majority of the home fans knew the match was lost. And so, with little else to do, the banners came out again. Continue Reading...

In familiar surroundings, Bayern found a way to win

Posted by Raphael Honigstein

Alex Broadway/Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesKroos was a pivotal figure vs. Arsenal but doubts remain about his Bayern future.

It was business and pleasure as unusual for Bayern Munich in London on Wednesday night. The day had begun with striker Mario Mandzukic’s agent, Ivan Cvjetkovic, having tea with club president Uli Hoeness in the Landmark Hotel lobby, and it ended -- for this column, at least -- with the same agent sitting in the lobby at close to 2 a.m., deep in conversation with colleague Giovanni Branchini. “Ten million,” one said to the other.

A couple of hours earlier, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge had welcomed guests at the traditional postmatch banquet in the hotel's grand ballroom. Continue Reading...

Could 'dictator' Magath be the man to save Fulham?

Posted by Alima Hotakie

AllsportFelix Magath might not be universally loved, but he is good at helping teams avoid relegation.

If the Premier League didn't already have enough strong managerial personalities, enter Felix Magath.

Paolo di Canio didn't last long, but then again he didn't arrive with the same prestigious record. The German is described as the most successful Bundesliga coach and his specialty of saving clubs from relegation is a reputation that has now landed him a job with English side Fulham.

It's the main reason Fulham owner Shahid Khan brought in the polarising figure.

"I'm especially impressed with the reputation Felix has for coming into clubs at difficult times, often late in the season, and lifting them to their potential and beyond," said Khan. Continue Reading...