Bundesliga Wrap: Bayern delay title celebrations until next weekend

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Bayern Munich had to stop the floats from rolling, as the spiteful Dortmund made sure the Bundesliga champions-to-be couldn’t claim the title just yet. Make no mistake – Bayern still won, of course. But BvB’s win just delayed celebrations until next week.

Things are getting rather feisty at the bottom of the Bundesliga as well, with clubs swapping positions nearly every week. Read on to find out more…

Friday Results

Freiburg 3-1 Werder Bremen
Freiburg are finally out of the relegation zone! Goals from Julian Schuster, Felix Klaus and Admir Mehmedi put the hosts up 3-0 before the hour mark. Nils Petersen’s goal in the 70th minute was nothing more than a consolation for Werder Bremen, but it matters little as they’re neither going down nor challenging for Europe.

Saturday Results

Hannover 0-3 Borussia Dortmund
Dortmund have no hope of the title and are unlikely to lose out on Champions League next season, yet they still enjoy scoring a fair few goals at will. Mats Hummels opened the scoring, with Robert Lewandowski grabbing another shortly after the break. Marco Reus’s excellent goal in stoppage time rather seemed like it was just for fun. Again, no real gain for BvB from this one – except the pleasure of raining on Bayern’s parade.

Mainz 0-2 Bayern Munich
All eyes turned toward Loris Karius during the Saturday Bundesliga matches, as every non-Bayern fan cheered on the Mainz goalkeeper. A series of fantastic saves kept the champions-elect at bay until a series of changes from Pep Guardiola gave the visitors the edge they needed. Substitute Xherdan Shaqiri crossed for Bastian Schweinsteiger to head in the opener in the 82nd minute, with substitute Mario Götze putting in his own goal four minutes later.

Schalke 3-1 Braunschweig
Do you really have to ask? Of course Klaas-Jan Huntelaar did it again, knocking in his tenth goal in eleven games for Schalke. The hosts, seemingly unaffected by losing once more to Real Madrid midweek, kicked off the scoring with a 17th minute goal from Leon Goretzka. They were nice enough to let Benjamin Kessel pull one back in the 82nd minute, but Adám Szalai restored Schalke’s two goal advantage in stoppage time. Schalke remain comfortably in the top three, while Braunschweig, well…we always knew they were going down.

Stuttgart 1-0 Hamburg
And…it’s back down to the danger zone for Hamburg. Sure, 18th in Germany can still avoid relegation, but they’re cutting it awfully close. Stuttgart, too, are barely hanging on, just a point into safety. But Alexandru Maxim’s goal – just five minutes after he came on to replace Arthur Boka – will have Stuttgart breathing a bit easier.

Wolfsburg 1-1 Augsburg
The only Bundesliga draw thus far this weekend came from two sides battling it out for a shot at next year’s Europa League. The point helped Wolfsburg move into sixth after Mainz lost to Bayern, but Augsburg are still two points back. They’ll really be regretting letting in that equalizer from Ivica Olić with ten minutes left to go.

Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-0 Hertha Berlin
It’s a big, big win for Gladbach, putting them within two points of fourth place – pending Leverkusen’s result on Sunday, of course. Juan Arango, Max Kruse and Raffael all scored within twelve minutes, giving the Foals a 3-0 lead before the break. Meanwhile, Hertha’s dream of Europe, which seemed so bright in the first half of the season, has dimmed considerably, with the side now sitting ninth.

Sunday Fixtures

Nurnberg vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
With Eintracht just three points clear, this match is a classic relegation six-pointer. Freiburg felled Eintracht 4-1 last weekend, but with Nurnberg having lost three in a row, will fortune favor the visitors?

Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hoffenheim
To ensure their spot in next year’s Champions League, Leverkusen – who bowed out of this season’s tournament to Paris Saint-Germain midweek – are going to need a home win. But the hosts are in a tailspin, having picked up just one point from their last five matches. Hoffenheim have lost their last two, but look to at least make things fun at Leverkusen, with at least four goals being scored in each of Hoffenheim’s last six matches.

“This game belongs to the players” Wenger downplays Guardiola success

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Arsene Wenger has stressed that Pep Guardiola has not changed the game of soccer over the last decade or so, maintaining that the players are the ones who make a team truly great.

Asked if Guardiola has “raised the bar” of managing in his time at the top, Wenger said, “No, because you look at Barcelona and they are still the best team in Europe. You have to accept that the modern game has changed with the recruitment of the best players in a short number of clubs.”

[ MORE: EFL Cup final preview ]

“We, as managers, can maybe impart our philosophy but this game belongs to the players because the importance of the players has become bigger than ever before.”

In fact, Wenger showed a twinge of jealousy at all the attention Guardiola is getting with the team blowing out the rest of the Premier League this season, referencing trophies in the recent past Arsenal has hoisted. “We are maybe underdogs but we have to believe in our quality. The history, the fact we have done it before, shows why not do it again?”

“At the end of the day, you have to be cool,” Wenger said, “because Manchester City is dominating the league in the head of everybody and so maybe we are more underdogs than in the FA Cup semi-final [last season when Arsenal beat Man City].”

Deportivo wastes penalty kick, remains winless under Seedorf

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MADRID (AP) — Clarence Seedorf remained winless as Deportivo La Coruna coach after a 0-0 draw with Espanyol in the Spanish league on Friday.

Deportivo squandered chances including a second-half penalty kick taken by Lucas Perez. Its winless streak reached 10 games in all competitions.

It was the third game in a row without a victory since Seedorf took over to try to avoid relegation. Deportivo was 18th in the 20-team standings, in the relegation zone.

In addition to the missed penalty, Deportivo twice hit the posts in front of a supportive crowd at Riazor Stadium. The players left the field applauded by the local fans despite the setback.

Perez’s penalty attempt was saved by Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez in the 65th minute. Lopez, who earlier this season stopped a penalty taken by Lionel Messi, dived to his right to stop Perez’s low shot.

The match marked the Deportivo debut of veteran Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari. He played alongside Seedorf at AC Milan, and was signed this week after a trial period.

Espanyol, 15th in the standings, hasn’t won in seven matches, since it ended Barcelona’s 29-match unbeaten streak in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. Espanyol’s last league win was in January, seven rounds ago.

Barcelona defends its seven-point lead in the standings when it hosts Girona on Saturday. Second-place Atletico Madrid visits Sevilla on Sunday.

Conte says he believes in his selection regarding Willian

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Antonio Conte has lashed out at anyone questioning why Brazilian winger Willian hasn’t played regularly until recently, saying

“Do you think that I am stupid when I put Willy on the bench?” Conte fired back at reporters when he was asked about Willian’s earlier lack of playing time at his pre-match press conference ahead of Chelsea’s match on Sunday against Manchester United.

[ MORE: Heynckes squashes Lewandowski to Premier League rumors ]

“I have to try and make the best decision for the team, no? Maybe last season we won the title, or did I forget something?”

The 29-year-old has made 29 Premier League appearances, but only 13 starts. He started in the midweek Champions League match against Barcelona and not only scored Chelsea’s only goal but also proved their most incisive player, prompting questions about his selection.

“Now he is playing because he deserves to play, not because there is some regret from the past,” Conte said. “For what? If a player deserves to play, and shows me during the training session that he is on top of his form, and wants to work defensively, he plays. If not, [he will] stay on the bench, stay in the stands.”

Instead of saying he wishes Willian had played more earlier in the season, he praised himself for giving the Brazilian the start at the appropriate time.

“He is playing now and I am very happy with my choice. Willian deserved to start in the previous game, and played well. I did a fantastic choice, and I want to take credit for that.”

EFL Cup Final preview: Arsenal, Manchester City fight for different types of glory

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  • These two clubs have never met in a major Cup final
  • With a win, Arsene Wenger would become the 8th PL manager to win all 3 major English trophies
  • Sergio Agüero has scored in all of his last 4 appearances against Arsenal

For Manchester City, it’s the first step of a potentially record-setting season. For Arsenal, it’s the Gunners’ best chance at securing a trophy.

The two teams are fighting for very different levels of glory as the two meet at Wembley Stadium on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET. Manchester City, despite losing to Wigan in the FA Cup just a week ago, would still be on track for a Double this season with a win against the Gunners. Meanwhile, Arsenal is outside the Premier League top four, and – as they have done each of the past two seasons in the FA Cup – could salvage an otherwise disappointing league season with a major Cup trophy.

Both teams will be struggling with selection in certain areas. Manchester City is likely missing Raheem Sterling, who could sit out due to an unspecified muscle injury according to Pep Guardiola in his pre-match press conference, while Fabian Delph is suspended after his sending off against Wigan in the FA Cup. That means either Danilo or 21-year-old Oleksandr Zinchencko would start at wing-back. Zinchenko is the likely candidate there, having appeared in four of City’s five EFL Cup games this season so far and playing almost every minute of those four matches. Gabriel Jesus, who missed more than two months with a knee injury, could be ready to make his early return. Claudio Bravo will continue to play in goal for the domestic Cup competitions.

Arsenal, meanwhile, is without new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan who is cup-tied to his previous club Manchester United, while Alexandre Lacazette is not yet recovered from his knee injury suffered in the North London derby, and Mesut Ozil could miss out with an illness. The Gunners are likely, however, to get Aaron Ramsey back in midfield after recovering from a groin injury, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can return to the lineup after his own cup tied absence in the Europa League midweek.

What they’re saying

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on playing Arsenal twice in a week: “We will be happy if we win, sad if we don’t but after the game we have another match against Arsenal. We are going to try and maintain our level, but finals are different, it is not what you have done in the past.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on playing Manchester City: “Manchester City have so many players that you think you have to stop that it is better to focus on the team plan than rather than on any individual. It’s true that I always used to use this competition with a youth team. For us it’s an opportunity. We’ll play with all the regular players.” 

Prediction

Arsenal has often come up big in hotly contested Cup matches, despite poor form in the surrounding competitions, so it would not be surprising to once again see Arsene Wenger hoist a trophy on Sunday to temporarily distract the fanbase and media from larger struggles. However, picking against this Manchester City team would be selection suicide, even after their disappointment against Wigan and considering the absence of under the radar star Raheem Sterling. Manchester City wins 3-1 with a pair of late goals to sink the Gunners, with a newly healthy Gabriel Jesus providing an influential injection off the bench in the final 20 minutes. Pep Guardiola raises another trophy at the site where he won the 2011 Champions League.