Bundesliga Wrap: Bayern Munich finally fall

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After 65 Bundesliga games in which they’ve managed to score a goal, Bayern Munich were unable to find the back of the net on Saturday, the fist time they’ve missed out since April 2012. But when the title is already in hand and they need to advance in the Champions League, it matters little, right?

The biggest change in the Bundesliga table is Gladbach rising up to snatch fourth place away from Bayer Leverkusen, thanks to yet another Leverkusen struggle combined with a comfortable win for the Foals. Down at the bottom, Stuttgart’s win takes them up over Hamburg, but their safety is by no means assured just yet.

Friday Results

Hamburg 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Leverkusen really don’t want to play in the Champions League next season, do they? After spending the first half of the season in second place, they’ve slipped down to fifth, thanks to one win from nine games. This time they lost to lowly Hamburg, still in the relegation zone. Hakan Calhanoglu started off the scoring four minutes in, and although Julian Brandt managed to equalize in the second half, Heiko Westermann came through with the winner for the hosts in the 82nd minute.

Saturday Results

Augsburg 1-0 Bayern Munich
Yes, it’s Bayern’s first loss of the season, and it comes at the hands of Augsburg, currently eighth in the Bundesliga table. But, with Pep Guardiola thinking ahead to the must-win against Manchester United, many of Bayern’s regular starters didn’t get much time. Still, Mario Götze, David Alaba and Thomas Müller came on in the second half, and were unable to cancel out Sascha Mölders’ opener.

Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 Mainz
Mainz’s hopes of a European position may have died with this loss, their third in four games. Joselu opened the scoring with a header in the second half, while Alex Meier got on the end of a ball from Stefan Aigner to kill off Mainz’s hopes and give Eintracht the win.

Nurnberg 0-2 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Gladbach have slipped into Germany’s fourth and final Champions League spot, thanks to a better goal difference than the struggling Leverkusen. It was a simple enough contest for the Foals, with Juan Arango scoring before 20 minutes were up, and Max Kruse converting a penalty in the second half. Nurnberg, however, lost their chance to climb out of the relegation zone.

Stuttgart 2-0 Freiburg
Stuttgart lifted themselves into safety with their victory at home, but it’s only by virtue of a better goal difference – both sides still won’t be feeling too comfortable. Still, after three straight losses, Stuttgart will be thrilled to have found a late win. Freiburg held out until the 69th minute, when Alexandru Maxim scored, and Martin Harnik’s tap-in in the 89th doubled Stuttgart’s lead.

Werder Bremen 1-1 Schalke
Leon Goretzka’s equalizer may have canceled out Franco Di Santo’s opener, but after Sebastian Prodl provided a goalline clearance to stop Schalke from going ahead, the Royal Blues did little to threaten. The draw, combined with Dortmund’s win later in the day, means Schalke remain in third.

Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Wolfsburg
It looked like Dortmund were going to miss out on an opportunity to take sole control of second place when Ivica Olić opened the scoring for the visitors. But shortly after the restart, Robert Lewandowski got on the end of a ball from Marco Reus to put in the equalizer. Reus himself became the hero in the 77th minute, slotting past Max Grün to score the winner.

Sunday Fixtures

Braunschweig vs. Hannover
The leadup to the Lower Saxony Derby has already resulted in a dead sheep being hung near Hannover’s training ground. With both sides struggling and neither safe just yet, this could very well result in a goalless draw, as the reverse fixture ended. But with the hosts currently sitting bottom, could their desperation make this a watchable match?

Hertha Berlin vs. Hoffenheim
The week wraps up with the match dubbed “least likely to cause any impact whatsoever.” Hoffenheim and Hertha are even on 36 points, which means they’re safe, but they’re also eleven points outside the European positions. Still, Hoffenheim’s 63 goals – second only to Bayern Munich – and their propensity to score on the road could make this one exciting regardless of either side’s need for points.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.