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

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.