Germany Bundesliga Soccer

Bundesliga Wrap: Leverkusen, Dortmund hold steady; Schalke creeping up the table

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Germany are only in their second round after taking a month off for the winter break, but it’s already clear that there will be plenty of movement in the table in the second half of the season. Well, there’s the potential for movement in slots 3-16, anyway. It’s almost certain Bayern Munich will win the title, while it’s looking more and more unlikely that Bayer Leverkusen will be ousted from second. At the bottom, Braunschweig and Nurnberg look like they’ll get relegated – unless Nurnberg pull off their second win of the season on Sunday, that is.

Friday’s Results

Braunschweig 1-2 Borussia Dortmund
Dortmund managed to hang on to third place this week, but bottom side Braunschweig gave them a bit of a scare first. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang opened the scoring, heading on a ball from Robert Lewandowski. But Braunschweig, who’d scored just 10 goals thus far this season, by far the worst in the league, took advantage of Dortmund’s defensive weaknesses, with Benjamin Kessel scoring after a corner. Aubameyang came back to score another, but it was a sore reminder for Jürgen Klopp’s men of just how frail Dortmund are at the moment.

Saturday’s Results

Augsburg 3-1 Werder Bremen
Beating Werder Bremen gave Augsburg a big boost toward the European positions, putting them within two points of Wolfsburg in sixth. But the hosts very nearly made a hash of it right from the start, with Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker scoring an own goal within three minutes. Tobias Werner equalized for the hosts before the break, but the real turning point was likely when Santiago Garcia was sent off with a second yellow, forcing Bremen to play the second half down a man. Augsburg took advantage, with Halil Altintop and André Hahn scoring before the hour was out.

Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 Stuttgart
Leverkusen are back to within ten points of league leaders Bayern Munich, but that’s mostly because the Bavarian giants have yet to play this weekend. Moritz Leitner gave the visitors an early lead, but Stefan Kießling had equalized before thirty minutes were out. The hosts had a bit of trouble finding the winner, but finally Eren Derdiyok got on the end of a cross from Sidney Sam, heading in in the 84th minute.

Hoffenheim 3-0 Hamburg
Hamburg remain in the relegation places after barely putting up a fight against Hoffenheim. The hosts scored three within an hour, the goals coming from Roberto Firmino, Niklas Süle and Andreas Beck.

Mainz 2-0 Freiburg
Freiburg remain just one point clear of the relegation zone, quite a drop from their fifth placed finish of last season. The visitors managed just one shot on target, giving Mainz a rather easy time of it. Joo-Ho Park and Ja-Cheol Koo were the goalscorers for the hosts.

Schalke 2-1 Wolfsburg
Schalke have moved up into fourth thanks to a run of four unbeaten matches. Felipe Santana scored early on for the hosts, who must’ve thought the game was a lock when Daniel Caligiuri was sent off with a straight red in the 50th minute. But despite being down a man, Maximilian Arnold managed to score for the visitors, and it took an 81st minute goal from Kevin-Prince Boateng to secure all three points for Schalke.

Hannover 3-1 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Hannover may not be doing all that well this season, but their home remains a near-fortress, and they’ve proved it by defeating Gladbach, who were in fourth before they made the trip east. Artjoms Rudnevs broke the deadlock in the 57th minute, but it wasn’t until the final ten minutes that things got really exciting. Mame Biram Diouf added another in the 82nd, but Peniel Kokou Mlapa put Gladbach within one just two minutes later. Diouf put in his second in the 90th minute, sealing all three points for Hannover.

Sunday’s Fixtures

Hertha Berlin vs. Nurnberg
After a great start to the season, Hertha have now slipped into eighth. The Bundesliga newcomers show an interesting inconsistency, going unbeaten in December – even beating Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion – then losing to relegation-threatened Eintracht in their first game back after the break. If The Old Lady have issues with Nurnberg, second from bottom, we’ll know they’re really on the downward slide.

Bayern Munich vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
Bayern Munich play a rare Sunday match, usually reserved for teams inhabiting the bottom of the Bundesliga table, but it’s likely because they had a midweek fixture away at Stuttgart. But with Bayern still unbeaten this season, and having dropped points just twice thus far, this match’s outcome already seems preordained.

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.