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.

Report: Manchester United, Inter Milan keen on Perisic deal

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Manchester United wants Ivan Perisic, and both the player and his current club are all about it.

Perisic, 28, is ready to leave Inter Milan, and the Serie A mainstays are happy to accept $46 million for his services according to Sky Sports.

[ MORE: No China for Costa ]

Primarily a left winger, Perisic moved to Inter from Wolfsburg at the start of the 2015-16 season. He scored 10 goals and added nine assists in Serie A play this season, and has kept up his production pace since moving from the Bundesliga to Italy.

United needs stars and depth for its Champions League campaign, and Perisic would buttress an attack with Marcus Rashford, Henrikh Mkhitaryan amongst others. He was a difference maker for Croatia at EURO 2016, and can do the same at Old Trafford.

Celtic secures trophy treble, ends Scottish season unbeaten

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GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) Celtic completed a trophy treble in Scottish soccer and finished the domestic season undefeated after beating Aberdeen 2-1 in the Scottish Cup final thanks to an injury-time goal on Saturday.

Midfielder Tom Rogic scored from an acute angle in the second minute of stoppage time at Hampden Park to ensure Celtic added the cup to the Scottish Premiership and the Scottish League Cup.

[ MORE: No China for Costa ]

Brendan Rodgers became the third manager, after Jock Stein (1967, 1969) and Martin O’Neill (2001), to lead Celtic to a treble of domestic titles.

Celtic hasn’t lost any of its 47 games across in the league and both cups, and is the first team to go through the whole of a Scottish domestic season unbeaten.

No China for Costa: It’ll be Chelsea or Atletico Madrid

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Blues striker Diego Costa offered some insight into his future following Chelsea’s FA Cup Final loss to Arsenal on Saturday.

The combustible striker was subject to a head-turning bid from the Chinese Super League this winter, but is only looking at two European locations for his future.

Those are his current club, Chelsea, as well as former home at Atletico Madrid.

[ JPW: Poignant FA Cup Final reflects English mood ]

The 28-year-old Costa has kept his scoring pace level since arriving in the Premier League. He scored 64 goals in 134 matches for Atleti, and has notched 58 goals for Chelsea in 120 appearances.

Costa reportedly said, “No, no, no” when asked about China, as well as the following:

More Messi wizardry leads Barca to Copa del Rey title (video)

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Sometimes, a match recap needs just a couple keywords instead of paragraphs.

For example: Messi, Barcelona, Cup Final, the best.

The greatest player on Earth was at it again on Saturday, scoring a deft goal before assisting a Paco Alcacer offering as Barcelona won another Copa del Rey with a 3-1 win over Alaves on Saturday.

[ MORE: Pulisic, BVB win German Cup ]

It’s a third-straight Copa del Rey for the Blaugranas, their 29th crown in the tournament’s history. Barca has also lost 10 Copa finals, the last in 2014 against Real Madrid.

Here’s the goal:

And the pass: