Bundesliga Roundup: Have the bottom three been decided?

Leave a comment

With just two rounds left after this weekend, maybe it’s worth giving a quick glance to the structure of the Bundesliga. In Germany’s top division, the bottom two sides get relegated to 2. Bundesliga, while the top two sides in the second division are promoted. What’s unique is that, instead of a four-team playoff for the third promotion place, the third-placed second division side takes on the side third from bottom in the Bundesliga.

Oh, and the tiebreaker is goal difference, followed by total goals scored.

That means this weekend more or less cemented the bottom three sides. Depending on how Hamburg fare against Augsburg on Sunday, Braunschweig might be certainly relegated. They certainly can’t finish higher than the playoff slot, while Nurnberg’s only hope is scoring enough goals to overcome a very poor goal difference.

Friday Results

Hannover 0-0 Stuttgart
A rare goalless draw in the Bundesliga – and one that has little effect on the table. Stuttgart are 15th, but with a five point advantage over Hamburg, a drop looks unlikely. Hannover are nine points clear and are now set to start planning for next season…possibly by finding a way to be less boring.

Saturday Results

Hoffenheim 0-0 Eintracht Frankfurt
Not one but two goalless draws in the BuLi this weekend? It’s almost as if they no longer want to entertain us. This result is particularly surprising coming from Hoffenheim, who’ve scored 67 goals while conceding 66. It also means Hoffenheim won’t be in Europa League next season.

Wolfsburg 2-2 Freiburg
Wolfsburg threw away a great chance to take fourth, Germany’s last Champions League position. Ivan Perišić put his side up after just three minutes, but Admir Mehmedi put in the equalizer with thirty minutes left to go. That lasted less than ten minutes before Perišić got on the end of a ball from Christian Träsch to put his side ahead once more. But Freiburg’s quick counter put Marco Terrazzino past the Wolfsburg defense, securing the point for the visitors – a point that just might keep Wolfsburg out of Europe’s top tournament.

Mainz 2-0 Nurnberg
Shinji Okazaki and Christoph Moritz had the hosts up 2-0 by the halftime break, but Nurnberg just never managed to get a toe in the game. With just one shot on target, is it really surprising that they’re almost certainly going down?

Hertha Berlin 2-0 Braunschweig
Another game, another dooming to relegation. Well, technically Braunschweig can still make the playoff, but it’s highly unlikely they’ll be playing in the top division next season. As for Hertha, second half goals from John Anthony Brooks and Sami Allagui gave them the win, but their poor showing in the second half means it’s just a second straight Bundesliga season for them, without any European play.

Bayern Munich 5-2 Werder Bremen
Yet another match in which a struggling side poked the dozing giant. With an eye on Real Madrid’s visit on Tuesday, Pep Guardiola fielded a slightly weakened side. So Theodor Gebre Selassie’s goal in the 10th minute wasn’t that surprising. Franck Ribéry equalized ten minutes later, but a goal from Aaron Hunt put the visitors back in front at the break. Then Bayern hit back, with a brace from Claudio Pizarro, a fourth from Bastien Schweinsteiger and a final strike from substitute Arjen Robben.

Bayer Leverkusen 2-2 Borussia Dortmund
Why bother defending? Surely it’s not necessary when one side is pushing to keep control of second, and the other really needs all three points to maintain their fourth place position. Fortunately for Leverkusen, Wolfsburg could only manage a draw, so they keep a one point advantage in the last Champions League spot. All the goals came in the first 40 minutes, with Lars Bender starting out the scoring in the 7th minute. Oliver Kirch equalized in the 29th minute, but Gonzalo Castro’s header put the hosts ahead once more in the 35th. But a handball from Roberto Hilbert gave Marco Reus the chance to step up to the spot, and the penalty put Dormund back on level terms. 

Sunday Fixtures

Augsburg vs. Hamburg
If Hamburg don’t get a win here, they could still technically save themselves if Stuttgart lose their last two and Hamburg win out. But considering their last two games are against Bayern and Mainz, three points here might be their best chance at not going into a playoff. Augsburg, though, can still squeeze themselves into the final Europa League place – if they want it, that is.

Schalke vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach
A tasty match to send the weekend out in style (we hope, anyway). Leverkusen are a little too close to third for Schalke’s comfort, and a win here could help assure them of going straight to the Champions League group stages. Gladbach are six out of the Champions League and still hold out hope for that final spot, although last week’s loss to Freiburg may have condemned them to Europa League already.

Wolfsburg holds off Braunschweig with Vieirinha blast (video)

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Outworked and outperformed in the first half of their playoff second leg at Eintracht Braunschweig, Wolfsburg needed a wake-up call to steady its hopes of staying in the Bundesliga.

That came off the boot of longtime right back Vieirinha, as the Portuguese veteran ran onto a rebound and fired a 17-yard arrow into the goal to boost Wolfsburg aggregate lead to 2-0.

[ MORE: Barcelona names new manager ]

That would mean the 2.Bundesliga hosts would need three goals to give the second tier a third promotion this season. An 82nd minute red card to Braunschweig’s Maximilian Sauer effectively ended those far-off dreams.

Ingolstadt and Darmstadt were relegated in the season, and Stuttgart and Hannover were promoted from 2.Bundesliga.

Barcelona announces Valverde as next manager

Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Six days after leaving his post at Athletic Bilbao, another dream job has been signed, sealed, and delivered to Ernesto Valverde.

The ex-Barcelona striker is joining the Blaugranas as the replacement for accolade-winning coach Luis Enrique, who stepped away from the position after Saturday’s Copa del Rey victory.

[ JPW: Huddersfield completes the dream ]

Valverde, 53, played two seasons with Barca in the late 1980s, and previously coached Espanyol, Olympiakos, Villarreal and Valencia. His spent most of his playing career at Athletic and began as their manager in 2013.

Here’s what Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu said about Valverde:

“Valverde has the ability, the knowledge and the experience. He promotes players from the youth teams and he has a style and a way of working like ours. He has a philosophy of the game that is very Barça and he is a hard worker. Also, he is passionate about applying technology to both training and matches.”

Valverde becomes the fourth manager to take charge of Barcelona since Pep Guardiola left in 2012 (Tito Vilanova, Gerardo Martino, and Enrique are the others).

Huddersfield seal fairytale promotion to Premier League

Getty Images
3 Comments

LONDON — Huddersfield Town have been promoted to the Premier League.

Let that sink in.

[ MORE: Wagner reacts to “fairytale” ]

The Terriers, for the first time in their history, will play in the PL and for the first time since 1972 they will be in the top-flight of English soccer.

German-American manager David Wagner has worked a miracle to turnaround a team who finished in 19th place in the Championship last season. They beat Reading 4-3 on penalty kicks on Monday after a tight, tense 120 minutes of action at Wembley Stadium, holding their nerve to seal an estimated windfall of $218 million next season and up to $372 million if they survive in the PL for another season.

All day long, and perhaps all season long, it has felt like Huddersfield were destined for promotion.

Huddersfield sold out their full allocation of tickets, 39,150, and their fans made the most noise all day long. There was no contest.

In central London Huddersfield’s fans piled on to the tube heading to Wembley for their day of reckoning.

“It’s his first full season as a fan!” said a proud mother decked out in a Huddersfield shirt as she hugged her five-year-old son proudly. “What a time to start!” replied a stranger, also a Huddersfield fan.

Excited chatter filled the 15 minute tube ride from Baker Street to Wembley Park as fans “I can’t believe it,” said one fan to another, quietly. “It will hit home when we get into the stadium,” his friend replied.

Steven Sunderland stood outside Wembley with his wife Melanie and their daughter Megan.

He summed up the surprise that Huddersfield were even one game away from the Premier League to start with.

“It would be amazing to play all of the big clubs, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, clubs like that,” Sunderland said. “I never thought we would make it. No chance. I just thought if we make midtable, it would be an improvement on last season because we’ve been struggling with relegation the last few seasons. This season, David Wagner has got the team playing really well, best team spirit I’ve ever seen for a long, long time. The fans are really connected. It shows today, there are nearly 40,000 Huddersfield fans here today and they are up for it.”

Oh yes. Yes they were.

Amid dissecting the struggles of Yorkshire rivals Leeds United, talk of just going up to the PL for one year and then enjoying it “no matter how we do” was rife among the Huddersfield fans. One Terriers supporter puffed out his cheeks, gripping his can of cider nervously as he walked up Wembley Way.

Tense was the word of the day.

With the future of both clubs on the line, the game itself didn’t deliver end-to-end excitement. With an estimated $218 million on the line for next season and $370 million if they manage to stay up one year in the PL, the economic benefit for Huddersfield the club, and the town, will be huge.

When Michael Hefele headed wide and Isaiah Brown missed a glorious chance early on, you began to wonder if it was Huddersfield’s day. In the end none of that mattered.

Christopher Schindler stepped up and slotted home the winning penalty kick after Danny Ward saved from Jordan Obita as Huddersfield had reached the promised land.

Huddersfield chairman Dean Hoyle summed up his emotions after taking over the club and putting in a prudent plan for promotion involving loan players and a budget less than $12 million this season.

“I’m so emotional. To say I’ve been supporting this club since 1969, to be a Premier League team now – dreams come true,” Hoyle said. “It’s huge what it means for Huddersfield, we’re on the big stage. It proves you don’t have to blow your brains to get promoted. We’ve done it the right way.”

What impact will this have on the Yorkshire town?

Sunderland and his family summed it up perfectly as yet another underdog, just like Bournemouth, Blackpool and Burnley before them, has risen to the promised land.

“It is massive. It is the land of milk and honey if you like, the place where everybody wants to be,” Sunderland said. “It will be brilliant, for the town. Just that little bit of success makes a big difference. We’ve been on TV this season more times than we have been the last 10 seasons. Next year it will be high profile very week. Match of the Day, on TV… Champions League the year after!? You never know.”

What did Wagner have to say? He told ProSoccerTalk he wants Huddersfield to keep the identity he has helped build and nurture.

“We have to be focused on ourselves and this football club has to be focused on themselves. This football club has created an identity and this was always our target, that we create an identity and a style of football where even if we wear neutral jerseys people from outside are able to say ‘okay, that could be Huddersfield.’ I think it makes no sense to compare ourselves with other small clubs. This football club has its own story and I think, we are on the way.”

They certainly are. Even if their fans can’t quite believe it.

As some posed for photos outside the electronic board at Wembley which said “congratulations Huddersfield!” others stood around in disbelief.

A group of three young Yorkshiremen sat on the tube back to Baker Street in stunned silence.

“We are going to be on Match of the Day!” said one fan, rubbing his hands in glee as he recites an intro to next years show which, of course, features Huddersfield top of the bill.

Discussion then switches to which games they’re most looking forward to. Arsenal, Liverpool and Man United away tops the list.

“We can’t believe it. It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said one fan as they looked at each other with dropped jaws.

Believe it, lads.

Watch out, Premier League. Huddersfield are on their way.

David Wagner reacts to Huddersfield’s promotion

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LONDON — There will be an American coach in the Premier League next season.

David Wagner, 45, led Huddersfield Town to its first-ever promotion to the Premier League as the Terriers beat Reading 4-3 on penalty kicks after a tense Championship Playoff Final at Wembley which ended 0-0 after 120 minutes.

Speaking after the nail-biting win, Wagner was delighted that his team proved everyone wrong and came from nowhere to reach the top-flight for the first time since 1972.

“A lot of the pundits wrote us off before the season,” Wagner told Sky Sports. “Over the season I thought we could do a little bit more, I thought around Christmas when we’d played everyone we had a chance. What happened is an unbelievable story – a fairytale.”

The former U.S. national team forward has galvanized the club, linking the team and fans together with passion and a plethora of loan players from the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea.

What he has achieved this season has left Huddersfield fans stunned as the former Borussia Dortmund II boss, who left the German giants in November 2015, has built a hardworking, organized team.

ProSoccerTalk asked Wagner if he will look at any of the smaller teams who have been recently promoted to the PL — the likes of Bournemouth, Burnley et al. — to follow a blueprint of how to plan ahead.

“We have to be focused on ourselves and this football club has to be focused on themselves,” Wagner said. “This football club has created an identity and this was always our target, that we create an identity and a style of football where even if we wear neutral jerseys people from outside are able to say ‘okay, that could be Huddersfield.’ I think it makes no sense to compare ourselves with other small clubs. This football club has its own story and I think, we are on the way.”

They are certainly on their way and we will be hearing a lot about the Terriers in the days and weeks to come.