Nuremberg's Mike Frantz, right, and Bayern's Mario Goetze challenge for the ball during a German first division Bundesliga soccer match between 1.FC Nuremberg and Bayern Munich in Nuremberg, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Bundesliga Wrap: Bottom sides failing to pull themselves up

Leave a comment

With the Bundesliga title pretty much all sewn up (Bayern Munich are likely planning their parade route already), attention focuses on two places in Germany: the race for Europe and the struggle to avoid the drop. Both are pretty tight, but with none of the bottom three able to get a point this weekend, it’s starting to look like we already know who’s headed down.

Friday’s Results

Borussia Mönchengladbach 0-1 Bayer Leverkusen
That’s three losses in a row for Gladbach, and five games without a win, with the Champions League is looking but a distant dream now. Meanwhile, Leverkusen look content in second – with Bayern 13 points ahead, there’s no need to fight for first, while Dortmund’s struggles probably give Leverkusen more comfort than the four-point cushion should provide.

Saturday’s Results

Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0 Braunschweig
Frankfurt hardly played nice with the Bundesliga’s bottom side, but when you’re starting the day just a couple points above the drop, it’s likely emphatic wins are exactly what you’re after. Johannes Flum opened the scoring after just seven minutes, with Alexander Meier and and Stefan Aigner adding two more before the first half finished.

Freiburg 1-1 Hoffenheim
Freiburg, now a point above the relegation places, must’ve been devastated when Anthony Modesto got on the end of a ball from Sven Schipplock. The 85th minute equalizer canceled out Jonathan Schmid’s 68th minute opener. Hoffenheim’s point makes little difference, as they remain in 11th.

Nurnberg 0-2 Bayern Munich
USMNT defender Timothy Chandler left the match early with a suspected hamstring injury, with forward Daniel Ginczek following barely ten minutes later. In that context, it’s remarkable that relegation-threatened Nurnberg held on as long as they could against table-toppers Bayern. Mario Mandžukić scored between the injuries, but Nurnberg looked like they just might get back in it – until Philipp Lahm doubled Bayern’s lead early in the second half.

Werder Bremen 1-5 Borussia Dortmund
Well. If ever there’s a way to break out of your slump, scoring five goals is it. Dortmund had just one win in their five previous matches and went to Werder Bremen just two points above Schalke, three above rivals Gladbach. Then Robert Lewandowski happened. And Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Both scored a goal apiece in each half. They were also kind enough to give a goal to Manuel Friedrich, a defender signed in November to provide cover for Dortmund’s many injuries. Werder did manage to get a goal in the 89th minute, but Levent Aycicek’s shot was nothing but a consolation.

Wolfsburg 3-0 Mainz
The two sides started Saturday even on points, but Wolfsburg’s stronger squad ran out the winners, keeping them in Germany’s final Europa league position. Ricardo Rodriguez started the scoring in the 59th minute by converting a penalty. Bas Dost put in another seven minutes later, and Luiz Gustavo finished it all up with a header from close range.

Hamburg 0-3 Hertha Berlin
Hertha will be thrilled to finally secure another win, after a string of poor results saw them slip out of the European spots. Now they’re knocking on the door of sixth again, thanks mostly to Adrián Ramos who, despite having a penalty saved, scored two and provide the assist to Sami Allagui, who opened the scoring in the 15th minute.

Sunday’s Fixtures

Stuttgart vs. Augsburg
Stuttgart may be playing Europa League football, but they’ve lost their last four in a row, and are sitting just two points above the relegation zone. Augsburg, meanwhile, look like they’re considering making a late play for the European positions, with an unbeaten run of seven, including four wins.

Schalke vs. Hannover
The week ends with Schalke trying to re-close the gap on Dortmund, but with Hannover having won their last two matches 3-1, it might not be so easy to inch closer to third. Still, the hosts are undefeated through four and don’t have to worry about the Champions League for another couple of weeks, so it should be a routine home victory for them.

Allardyce on Palace’s “great victory” over Boro

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 25:  Sam Allardyce manager of Crystal Palace signals during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough at Selhurst Park on February 25, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)
Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Big Sam got a big win, and he knows it.

Two days after tearing into his players for not adapting to his system, the Crystal Palace boss was glowing with praise after the Eagles knocked off visiting Middlesbrough in a relegation six-pointer on Saturday.

[ MORE: Palace 1-0 Middlesbrough ]

The win lifts Palace out of the drop zone, a point ahead of Leicester City who plays Monday. Allardyce is shaping his own Premier League table and he’ll try to lift a sort of Bottom Seven trophy after the season

From the BBC:

“It’s a great victory. I think the two-week break helped us refocus and that showed – today they made a lot of very good decisions.

“The three points are important as it puts us in amongst the pack, out of the bottom three and a bit closer to Bournemouth.

“I see the bottom seven as the Premier League table we need to try and win. If we can achieve more then that would be great but we need to make next week’s game against West Brom a game to win.”

Crystal Palace have too much talent to be in this spot, and Allardyce’s acumen as a “never relegated” manager has not been questioned much despite the Eagles falling into a worse spot than they were when Alan Pardew was fired. Is this finally their move out of trouble, or just a clean sheet against a Boro team that can’t score?

Conte delighted with his ruthless Chelsea machine

Leave a comment

Chelsea are a machine.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The Blues beat Swansea City 3-1 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to 11 points as the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal are all on a weekend off due to the EFL Cup final.

Facing a stubborn Swansea side, Chelsea went ahead through the excellent Cesc Fabregas and even when they were pegged back right on half time through Fernando Llorente’s header you expected them to kick on win the game.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

They did just that as Antonio Conte‘s men were relentless throughout and goals from Pedro and Diego Costa late on made it 20 wins from 26 games this season as their title procession continues.

Speaking after the game, Conte was asked if this win was simply another step on their way to winning the title.

“Yeah, I think it is another step,” Conte said. “For sure a good game, a good win and it wasn’t easy to play against them because I watched Swansea’s games against Liverpool and City and they played very well. I think today we deserved, a lot, to win the game. We created many chances in the game, we dominated the game in the first half.

“It is a pity for the goal we conceded at the end of half time. In the second half we started again and created chances with Hazard and then Cesc hitting the crossbar. I am pleased because now, to play the ball is not easy because the season is going to end. In this moment it is very important to have the performance of my players.”

The Italian manager also admitted that a pivotal moment in the game went Chelsea’s way. With the score still locked at 1-1 with 20 minutes to Gylfi Sigurdsson‘s trickery saw Cesar Azpilicueta handle in the box. Referee Neil Swarbrick waved away the penalty calls but Conte admitted the ball hit Azpilicueta’s hand despite it being very close to Sigurdsson and perhaps unintentional.

Moments later Pedro scored to put Chelsea ahead as they powered to yet another victory, their 10th straight at home in the Premier League.

Nobody looks like catching this Chelsea side as Eden Hazard and Fabregas dazzled in the drizzle at Stamford Bridge and Costa was at his clinical best.

A brief defensive lapse aside, this was a dominant and well-deserved win against a dogged Swansea outfit.

In the words of Jay Z – “On to the next one.”

That’s a trip across London to West Ham on Mar. 6, as games against Stoke City and Crystal Palace follow. The way Conte’s side are playing and finishing teams off, they could have this thing all but sewn by April 1 when they face Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.

Men In Blazers podcast: Pochettino, Lloris discuss “To Dare Is To Do”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Hugo Lloris of Tottenham Hotspur and Mauricio Pochettino, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur after the goalkeeper was substitued during the Premier League match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park on August 13, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Rog speaks with Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, and head of coaching and development John McDermott in a preview of his film, “Premier League Download: Tottenham Hotspur: To Dare is to Do” which airs Sunday at 11 a.m. ET after Spurs vs. Stoke City on NBCSN.

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

Subscribe to the podcast OR to update your iTunes subscriptions ]

Click here for the RSS feed ]

Watch Live: Watford vs. West Ham (Lineups, Stream)

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: Troy Deeney of Watford (L) struggles to hold off Michail Antonio of West Ham United (R) during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Watford at Olympic Stadium on September 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Vicarage Road is the scene for a Saturday afternoon clash between top half hopefuls West Ham United and Watford (Watch Live at 12:30 p.m. EDT on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The Irons have 32 points and the hopes of continuing an upward climb to the position they wanted back when this season began in August.

The Hornets are two points below West Ham, having dealt with a woeful stretch in form to climb back to within sight of 10th.

LINEUPS

Watford: Gomes; Janmaat, Kaboul, Britos, Holebas; Cleverley, Behrami, Capoue; Zárate, Deeney, Niang. Subs: Arlauskis, Prödl, Cathcart, Zúñiga, Doucouré, Success, Okaka.

West Ham United: Randolph, Cresswell, Fonte, Reid, Antonio, Obiang, Kouyate, Noble, Snodgrass, Lanzini, Feghouli. Subs: Adrian, Byram, Masuaku, Collins, Fernandes, Ayew, Calleri.