Bundesliga roundup: Schalke’s terrible, horrible, completely understandable bad week

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Schalke just completed the most understandably horrible week in the short history of modern soccer, a pair games that left one of the most affluent clubs in Europe on the wrong end of a 11-2 scoreline over their last 180 minute. Perhaps the Miners aren’t in the same spending category as Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, its opponents over the last four days, but regularly ranked among the 12-20 most valuable clubs in the world, Schalke’s plight highlights the ever-growing divide between Europe’s elite and the merely enviably huge.

Real Madrid’s 6-1 win in the team’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 opener was the low point – los Blancos putting up six goals in Gelsenkirchen before Jens Keller’s team got Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s spectacular consolation. On Saturday, however, the Schalke boss had the misfortune of seeing his team move from Europe’s second-best team to its defending champions. Bayern Munich, having lost only once since Pep Guariola took over, welcomed the Blues on the Allianz Arena.

The result, superficially, wasn’t as embarrassing as their loss at the Veltins Arena, but after giving up four goals in the match’s first 29 minutes, the disappointment was far more swift. David Alaba, Arjen Robben, Mario Mandzukic, and a second from Robben had Bayern up 4-0 before Schalke even registered a shot, let alone an attempt on target. An own goal from Rafinha eventually provided the visitors some consolation, but when Robben completed his hat trick with a 77th minute penalty conversion, the Bundesliga’s leaders completed their 5-1 demolition of the league’s fourth place club.

Yet as disheartening as the last four days have been for Keller’s club, they’ll likely prove irrelevant to the team’s ultimately goal – getting back into Champions League. So Schalke can’t compete with Bayern or Real? That’s not exactly an above-the-fold revelation. The fact that they were so far behind Europe’s two best teams only amplifies something that wasn’t news in the first place. Schalke, despite their nine-goal deficit over the last 180 minutes, is still a team that should be favored to grab Germany’s final Champions League spot. Their horrible week was completely understandable.

Bayern, however, did offer us something interesting in Saturday’s game. If Real Madrid’s mid-week rout was a message to Europe, Bayern Munich’s first half hour at the Allianz was a rebuttal. Four goals and no shots allowed may not have led to a more lopsided final, but in its own way, it was more remarkable.

There’s still no doubt. Bayern is the best team in Europe.

Elsewhere

  • Hertha Berlin 0, Freiburg 0 – Admir Medmedi peppered the hosts’ goal with four shots on target, but thanks to five saves from Thomas Kraft, Freiburg stays in the drop.
  • Borussia Dortmund 3, Nurnberg 0 – BVB recovers from last weekend’s embarrassment in Hamburg with a second half outburst, with Mats Hummels, Robert Lewandowski, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan allowing Dortmund to claim second place.
  • Werder Bremen 1, Hamburg 0 – Whatever momentum HSV garnered from last week’s win was left at the Imtech Arena, with Werder extending their unbeaten streak to three thanks to a Zlatko Junuzovic’s 19th minute winner.
  • Augsburg 1, Hannover 1 – Mame Biram Diouf’s 21st minute opener allowed Hannover to end their three-game losing streak, with a second half response from Ragnar Klavan salvaging a point for the hosts.
  • Braunschweig 1, Borussia Mönchengladbach 1 – An own goal from Marc-André ter Stegen cancelled out Raffael’s opener, sending previously Champions League-competing Gladbach to seventh.
  • Bayer Leverkusen 0, Mainz 1 – Sami Hyypia’s team ran their losing streak to four, giving up second place in the process. Thanks to Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s first half winner, Bayer now have to worry about their top-four survival, with fifth place Wolfsburg only four points back.

Sunday
Hoffenheim vs. Wolfsburg
Einfracht Frankfurt vs. Stuttgart

Others
Bayern Munich 5, Schalke 1

Standings

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Bayern Munich 23 21 2 0 66 10 56 12-0-0 9-2-0 65
Borussia Dortmund 23 14 3 6 54 27 27 8-1-3 6-2-3 45
Bayer Leverkusen 23 14 1 8 39 26 13 8-1-3 6-0-5 43
FC Schalke 04 23 12 5 6 42 35 7 7-2-2 5-3-4 41
VfL Wolfsburg 22 12 3 7 38 26 12 8-1-2 4-2-5 39
FSV Mainz 05 23 11 4 8 32 35 -3 6-2-3 5-2-5 37
Mönchen 23 10 6 7 40 29 11 8-2-2 2-4-5 36
Hertha BSC Berlin 23 10 5 8 34 27 7 5-2-5 5-3-3 35
FC Augsburg 23 10 5 8 35 33 2 6-2-3 4-3-5 35
1899 Hoffenheim 22 6 8 8 46 46 0 3-5-3 3-3-5 26
Hannover 96 23 7 4 12 30 42 -12 6-3-2 1-1-10 25
Werder Bremen 23 6 7 10 26 46 -20 4-4-4 2-3-6 25
1. FC Nürnberg 23 4 11 8 27 40 -13 2-5-4 2-6-4 23
Eintracht Frankfurt 22 5 7 10 24 38 -14 2-5-4 3-2-6 22
VfB Stuttgart 22 5 4 13 35 47 -12 2-3-6 3-1-7 19
Hamburger SV 23 5 4 14 38 52 -14 3-1-7 2-3-7 19
SC Freiburg 23 4 7 12 22 44 -22 2-4-5 2-3-7 19
Eintracht Braunschweig 23 4 4 15 17 42 -25 3-2-7 1-2-8 16

PHOTOS: Tottenham’s stunning new stadium

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Tottenham Hotspur’s new $1 billion stadium is taking shape and it is looking magnificent.

The plan is for Spurs’ new home at White Hart Lane to be ready for the 2018/19 season, with reports stating that Mauricio Pochettino‘s men will play their first couple of games away from home next season in order to squeeze in a few more weeks for construction.

Spurs’ new  home will seat 62,062 fans and will be the second-largest stadium in the Premier League behind Manchester United’s Old Trafford.

Take a look at the photos below in the spring sunshine in London, with the largest single-tier stand in Europe looking sublime as the roof panels are going on and the stadium is really starting to come to life.


Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso handed three-game ban

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After being named in the PFA’s Premier League Team of the Year on Wednesday, it has been a mixed few days for Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso as he has received a three-game ban with immediate effect after being found guilty of violent conduct.

Alsono, 27, stamped on Shane Long‘s calf in Chelsea’s 3-2 comeback win at Southampton last time out but referee Mike Dean missed the incident completely.

Since then Alonso has received a retrospective charge from the English FA and although the Spanish left back appealed the decision and the length of the ban, it was upheld and he will now miss Chelsea’s next three games.

Alonso will miss the clash at Burnley on Thursday, the FA Cup semifinal against Southampton on Sunday and the trip to Swansea City on Apr. 28.

Who will come in for Alonso?

Antonio Conte has already stated that Emerson Palmeri, a January arrival from AS Roma, will start at Burnley on Thursday and if the Brazilian full back impresses then it is highly likely he will stand in for Alonso in the big FA Cup semifinal on Sunday against Saints. Other options would be Davide Zappacosta playing as the left wing-back or even Cesar Azpilicueta out there.

As for Saints, they feel hard done by after Dean didn’t spot Alonso’s foul even though he was standing yards away from the incident and looking straight at it. At the time of the incident they led 1-0 going into half time and their manager Mark Hughes believes it would have made a big difference as Alonso’s cross set up Olivier Giroud to make it 2-1 and the Spaniard made a big difference from left back in the incredible 3-2 comeback victory. Still, at least Saints won’t have to play against Alonso on Sunday with revenge in the air…

PHOTOS: Liverpool unveil new 2018/19 kit

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Liverpool have gone for a “pepper red” kit for the 2017/18 season.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game ]

On Thursday the Anfield club released their new jersey for next season with New Balance once again their kit suppliers.

The key features of this new kit is a small collar, with a fresh white and red look throughout.

Check out the images and video below.


VAR decisions at World Cup to be explained on giant screens

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FLORENCE, Italy (AP) Fans attending World Cup matches in Russia won’t be left wondering about the reasons behind decisions of the video assistant referee.

After the VAR’s decision is made, replays will be shown on giant screens inside the stadiums accompanied by a written explanation.

It’s all part of the VAR information system that FIFA unveiled Wednesday .

[ MORE: Man Utd makes historic hire ]

FIFA will place someone in the VOR (video operations room) who will listen in to the VAR’s decisions and communicate them to both TV commentators and stadium personnel operating the giant screens.

“So we will have graphics on the giant screens, we will have replays after the decision on the giant screens, and we will also inform the fans about the outcome of a VAR incident and review,” said Sebastian Runge, group leader of football innovation at FIFA.

With the VAR making its tournament debut during the June 14-July 15 World Cup, FIFA is holding its final training camp this month for the 99 match officials – 36 referees and 63 assistants – who have been selected to go to Russia.

Thirteen VARs have been pre-selected and are being trained at Italy’s Coverciano complex, and FIFA referees chief Pierluigi Collina said more VARs and VAR assistants will be chosen from the 99 match officials.

Three of the 13 VARs come from Italy’s Serie A and two from Germany’s Bundesliga – elite competitions that already use video assistants.

The VAR can support the referee in four game-changing situations: goals and offenses leading up to a goal, penalty decisions and offenses leading up to a penalty, direct red card incidents and cases of mistaken identity.

Still, VARs in both Italy and Germany have received vehement criticism for long delays and bungled decisions this season.

On Monday, Mainz was awarded a penalty during halftime against a rival Freiburg side that had already left the pitch for the break – prompting the unusual scene of a team returning from the changing room to defend a penalty.

“Yesterday we had already discussed this incident here and gave match officials and VARs clear indication about what should be done if something similar in FIFA competition – specifically the World Cup – happens,” Collina said without providing further detail.

Collina added that the VAR should not be overused, adding that ideally it would intervene at all in a match.

“The goal of VAR is to avoid major mistakes,” Collina said. “The objective is not to have clear and obvious mistakes committed on the field of play. This is the target, the goal is not to re-referee the match using technology.

“There will continue to be incidents when a final answer will not be given and there will be different opinions,” Collina added.

Among other items involving the VAR:

MOSCOW CONTROL CENTER

FIFA will follow the Bundesliga model of a central control center for the VAR rather than using trucks outside stadiums.

“We will have all of the referees based in Moscow so there won’t be any stress in terms of travel,” Collina said.

For each match, Collina will select one VAR and three assistant VARs.

Training operation rooms presented to media included six monitors for the VARs and two more for technical assistants enabling the VARs to see requested replays.

There could be up to four technical assistants in the room for World Cup matches.

OFFSIDE CAMERAS

FIFA will install two extra cameras at matches to monitor offside decisions.

The cameras will be in addition to the 33 cameras used for broadcasters and they will be installed under stadium roofs.

Broadcasters will not have direct access to the cameras but if they are used by the VAR then broadcasters can show the video.

Runge added that three dimensional technology – considered the ultimate strategy for determining offside – is not ready for real-time access yet.

SWEAT AND STRESS

VARs will not officiate more than one match per day.

“It’s not like watching a match on the sofa sipping coffee,” Collina said.

Collina, who officiated Brazil’s 2-0 win over Germany in the 2002 World Cup final, explained why the VARs will wear track suits similar to referees’ on-pitch attire.

“The reason is at the end they sweat as much as someone on the field, because the tension is very high,” Collina said. “They can’t do two matches per day – it’s too stressful.”

COMMS AND HACKING

The Moscow control center will be connected to match officials via a fiber optic network.

If the network fails, the backup plan includes an old-fashioned land telephone line and a telephone stationed near the fourth referee for emergency use.

“Worst-case scenario includes a backup plan on site. That’s when the IBC is down – no power, no fiber network,” Runge said. “Then we have a plan in place where the fourth official would become the VAR and the fourth official would be replaced by the reserve referee.

“We have a cabin in the broadcast compound from where we send all of the feeds to the IBC anyway. That cabin can be turned into a smaller, light version of the VOR.”

Hacking has also been considered.

“We are aware that there might be something but our IT department put measurements in place that will protect us from that,” Runge said.

POST-MATCH BRIEFINGS

In extraordinary circumstances, FIFA will hold post-match briefings to explain decisions in greater detail.

“If something should happen that we think should properly and accurately be explained – and it doesn’t matter if it’s related to VAR or something different – if it is a matter to explain the background of a decision, as an exception certainly we will do it,” Collina said.

“But it won’t be a post-match press conference for every match, explaining every single decision taken during every single match.”

More AP soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Soccer

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf