Bundesliga Report: Dortmund score six, Leverkusen flounder

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Twenty goals have been scored in the seven Bundesliga matches played thus far this round, but an astonishing seven of them came in Friday’s match between Dortmund and Stuttgart. On Saturday, Bayern Munich were up to their old tricks, Leverkusen finally slipped up, and Hertha Berlin fell out of the European places.

Friday

Borussia Dortmund 6-1 Stuttgart
Stuttgart poked the sleeping giant and were deeply punished for it. Karim Haggui got things started for the visitors, but it took Dortmund just six minutes to respond. The equalizer came from Sokratis, of all sources. Than the usual suspects took over. Marco Reus gave Dortmund the lead before halftime. In the second half, Robert Lewandowski scored a hat-trick inside 20 minutes, then substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang finished it off with Dortmund’s sixth goal. Is it any wonder this side is in second? And how nervous are Arsenal now, :L:ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League match?

Want more? Check out our report on Dortmund’s win.

Saturday

Braunschweig 1-0 Bayer Leverkusen
Most Bundesliga fans were fairly confident that Leverkusen were sure to slip up soon — but almost no one thought it would be against bottom-side Braunschweig. But the Lions spent the majority of the match on top, and their hard work paid off in the 81st minute with a goal from Domi Kumbela. Leverkusen didn’t have so much as a shot after the goal, but Lars Bender did succeed in getting  himself sent off in injury time. Alas, Braunschweig remain dead last.

Hamburg 0-2 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Gladbach lifted themselves back into the Champions League places with their victory over Hamburg, and with Nurnberg up next, it seems like the Foals are in good position to remain there. It was Max Kruse, of course, that put in the goals, one on either side of the break. That’s five for Kruse thus far, and four assists. Who’s going to come calling for the forward?

Hertha Berlin 0-2 Schalke 04
Hertha slipped up for the second time in a row, and have now tumbled out of the Champions League spaces. Schalke, meanwhile, are lifting themselves back up, with goals from Adam Szalai and Julian Draxler. They’ll want to hold on to that winning feeling, as trip to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea is up next. And after losing 3-0 in the reverse fixture, Schalke will need all the optimism they can muster.

Hoffenheim 1-2 Bayern Munich
It’s almost becoming routine for Bayern Munich: let the other team score first, allowing them to think they’ve got a chance against the German giants, and then hit back for all three points. Niklas Süle gave Hoffenheim the lead for approximately five minutes, before Mario Mandzukic canceled it out. Thomas Müller put Bayern ahead with fifteen minutes left to play — and ensured his side maintained their narrow lead over Dortmund at the top.

Nurnberg 0-3 Freiburg
The two sides switched places in the table, but both remain under the threat of relegation. Felix Klaus scored first and, less than fifteen minutes later, Oliver Sorg picked up a second yellow and was sent off. With 20 minutes left to play, Nurnberg should’ve been able to find a way back into the match. Instead, Vladimir Darida scored just four minutes after coming on, and Admir Mehmedi followed it up with a goal in the 88th minute.

Eintracht Frankfurt 1-2 Wolfsburg
The hosts started off the match by generously gifting a goal to Wolfsburg. But the visitors were kind enough to allow Alexander Meier to put the ball past Diego Benaglio, making it all even at 35 minutes. But, with less than ten minutes left to play, Maximillian Arnold stuck one in for the visitors. That moves Wolfsburg up into fifth, just a point out of the Champions League places.

Still to come on Sunday

Augsburg – Mainz
Augsburg are just two points in the clear and, with Bayern on deck, could really use a home win. Mainz might be in 11th but are only three points above the hosts, and are displaying rather inconsistent form this season. The Fuggerstädter just might be able to nick this one.

Werder Bremen – Hannover
The two sides are separated by just a point, and both suffered rather harsh defeats last time out. Werder Bremen fell 3-0 at Wolfsburg, while Hannover lost 4-1 at home to Hoffenheim. Neither team have had a win since September. Will it be a goalless draw, or all out goal fest?

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

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With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.

Mark Hughes wants Stoke City to “suck it up”

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Mark Hughes is under fire at Stoke City with the Potters firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, and with that he’s charging his players, staff, and himself to gut the rest of the season out.

With Stoke heading to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, they sit just three points above the drop. The players were faced with jeers from angry fans at the train station following this past weekend’s 5-1 disaster against Tottenham. The fiery Hughes is hoping to use this jarring moment to jolt his squad.

[ PREVIEW: Tuesday’s Premier League action ]

“That is still resonating. It’s good we have a game because it is still fresh in their ears probably, and they can use it as a motivating factor,” said Hughes during his pre-match press conference.

“You either suck it up and do ­something about it or you go under, and we can’t accept players like that. I don’t feel we have players like that.”

With managers nowadays often reaching into the excuses barrel as they hope to save their own skins, Hughes refuses to do just that, instead placing the decision firmly on the players shoulders, telling them they are the only ones who can save the club.

“Maybe some hadn’t ­confronted that before – but sometimes you need a reality check, and understand how our results and ­performances affect people,” Hughes said. “When people criticize you, you have to grow a thick skin in this industry. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong place.”

Louis van Gaal calls Mourinho’s United “far more boring”

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Louis Van Gaal has picked just the right time to pipe up.

The former Manchester United manager, who took flak while in charge for his side being hideous to watch, has now taken shots of his own at his successor Jose Mourinho, kicking Manchester United while they’re down after a 2-1 derby defeat at home.

The Dutchman told Fox Sports Netherlands, “If you ask me how did I do at United, I will say it was my best year ever, given the circumstances I was working under. We played football that was quite alright. But it’s not football that is appreciated in England. And yet, right now, looking at United, I have to conclude Mourinho is not being criticized while it’s far more boring football.”

[ PREVIEW: Premier League Tuesday matches, including Chelsea vs. Huddersfield ]

Van Gaal was blasted consistently for playing a boring style, especially in front of the home crowd, and now Mourinho is being criticized for the same concept. Mourinho was denounced for similar reasons while in charge of Chelsea, but with the club winning multiple titles under his leadership, the noise was always less while the team was winning. With Manchester United still unable to crack the top 4, Mourinho is feeling the heat.

“What United produce now is defensive football,” van Gaal said. “I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Jose Mourinho plays so defensive.”

To van Gaal’s point, Manchester United is seventh in the Premier League in possession, holding 51% possession this season. They were out-possessed by Manchester City 65-35 at Old Trafford over the weekend. Meanwhile, van Gaal’s last full season with Manchester United, the 2015/16 season, saw the Red Devils hold 54%, which ranked third in the Premier League, just a percentage point behind leaders Arsenal. However, van Gaal’s United ranked 15th in the Premier League in total shots, while Mourinho’s United this season ranks sixth at this point.

Van Gaal made sure to point out he prefers their cross-town rivals.

“I would rather watch City play than United. You need quality in a squad and it’s clear City have a better squad.”

Conte blames fatigue for dip in Chelsea form

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Antonio Conte has figured out what is plaguing his Chelsea side as they sit 14 points back of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“I think when you play every three days, it is impossible to have a training session and to work on the physical aspects,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference as the Blues get set to play Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. “It’s impossible. It’s impossible because you have to prepare with the players for a game every three days.”

Chelsea has yet to find itself eliminated from a single competition, drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League while navigating fixtures across all four competitions.

And yet, this is nothing new for Conte. The Blues boss is more than familiar with fixture congestion, having taken charge of Juventus and regularly competing at a high level on multiple fronts. In 2012/13, he won the Serie A title, won the Supercoppa Italia, and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

However, this is new for Conte at Chelsea. Last season, the Blues did not take part in a European competition thanks to their disastrous season the previous year. While they reached the FA Cup final, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup in the 4th round.

“We have to try to do our best,” Conte said. “For sure, some players can be tired, that’s normal because some players are playing from this summer and our tours in China and Singapore. It’s normal. But I repeat we have to find the best solution. We have to find more rotations. I’m doing this, we will try and do our best with hunger and desire. We will fight.”

As an example, Conte said Alvaro Morata will miss the match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town due to fatigue, with the Spaniard battling a slight back injury. “Morata is out. He is a bit tired and he has a problem in his back.