Bundesliga Roundup: Have the bottom three been decided?

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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.

Transfer rumor roundup: Willian Jose to Spurs, Bournemouth after Croatian CB

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London could get itself another Willian.

Willian Jose, 28, was left out of Real Sociedad’s squad at his request on Wednesday, with the club Tweeting that he’d prefer not to play until his situation is resolved.

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Jose Mourinho said he would not comment on another team’s players, but Willian Jose could help Spurs bridge the gap to Harry Kane‘s return.

Willian Jose has been a double-digit scorer for Real Sociedad in La Liga for the previous three seasons, and is well on his way to another 10-goal campaign. He’s got eight goals in 20 matches this season.

Bournemouth needs defensive help, and is reportedly rivaling Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers for Portuguese giant Toni Borevkovic.

The 22-year-old Croatian has one goal in just over 3000 minutes with the side since arriving from domestic side NK Rudes.

He’s averaging 1.3 interceptions, .9 tackles, and 3.3 clearances per game in league play.

Rio Ave sits seventh in Portugal’s top flight and is managed by former Premier League boss Carlos Carvalhal.

Dropped points in Top Four race point to wild February

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Regardless of whether Wolves end Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League season on Thursday, there will be five teams within seven points of fourth place heading into Matchweek 25.

Chelsea has 40, a comfortable-enough six-point lead on Manchester United, Spurs, and Wolves (who meet Liverpool at 3 p.m. ET Thursday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). Sheffield United has 33 points.

February, specifically the next three matchweeks, will see the teams inside that group learn a lot more about their fates, and give Chelsea and Sheffield United big opportunities to cement their places in the Top Four and Seven, respectively.

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In the case of the latter, it’s because the Blades are the only team in the bunch who don’t face a Top Four six-pointer; Chris Wilder‘s men will meet Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, and Brighton, while the others will be beating up each other.

Chelsea’s path is fraught, but a big opportunity. The Blues travel to Leicester City before hosting both Manchester United and Spurs. Nine points there would effectively Top Four-proof Frank Lampard‘s side.

By the way, how’s this for a hot take? If any of Chelsea, Man Utd, or Spurs find their center forward or playmaker help in the window, they’ll have a leg up on their Top Four rivals. And, really, is that extra few million pounds worth the spoils of the Champions League? Yup.

Bruno Fernandes is not (yet) with United, and the Red Devils face Wolves and Chelsea in their next two matches. Spurs have City and Chelsea. Tumult is probable!

A draw with Newcastle and loss at Watford dampened Wolves’ hopes of riding into fourth. Beginning with Thursday’s visit from Liverpool, however, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men face three of the Top Seven and then a visit from Norwich City. It’s not over.

And don’t entirely rule out Leicester City from dropping into the fray; The Foxes host Chelsea and Man City, and visit Wolves.

One more nod, however improbable: Arsenal sits 10 points back of fourth but meets Burnley, Newcastle, and Everton over those three match weeks. A perfect run could have the Gunners thinking big (Man City is after that, alas).

Matchday 25
Leicester City v. Chelsea
Crystal Palace v. Sheffield United
Manchester United v. Wolves
Spurs v. Man City

Matchday 25
Sheffield United v. Bournemouth
Wolves v. Leicester City
Chelsea v. Manchester United
Aston Villa v. Tottenham Hotspur

Matchday 27
Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City v. Man City
Wolves v. Norwich City
Sheffield United v. Brighton
Manchester United v. Watford

Spurs play Wolves the next week, too!

Mourinho doesn’t have attacking options, but he does have ‘family’

Mourinho on Spurs win
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In this “whole new Jose Mourinho” world, the key word is family.

Mourinho said it six times in his post-match presser after Tottenham Hotspur scrapped to a 2-1 defeat of Norwich City on Wednesday in London.

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Spurs had an early lead disappear when Ryan Sessegnon gave away a penalty to Max Aarons, and Teemu Pukki converted it for a 70th-minute deadlock.

Heung-Min Son scored nine minutes later. It was a win that is good for the whole family.

From Football.London:

“It was fantastic what happened after the 1-1, which happens in a difficult moment for us where I look to the bench and I don’t have attacking players to change the game the team is a little bit fatigued, especially Lucas, Son and of course Lamela. I took him off because he was in trouble and he is a player who is coming from very important and long injury, so very difficult.

“How can we change the game? With the family spirit, the family character and desire.”

Mourinho also praised Giovani Lo Celso‘s work on the wing for attack-short Spurs as “a good experience for the family,” and Paulo Gazzaniga‘s support for returned goalkeeper Hugo Lloris as “a good member of the family and he is such a special friend of Hugo.”

I mean, I’m getting the warm and fuzzies.

Clearly, Mourinho is stressing unity and there’s a bit of bunker mentality involved, as the manager mentioned some dicey calls not going their way against Watford, Liverpool, and now Norwich.

Solskjaer: Manchester United ‘looked mentally tired’ versus Burnley

Solskjaer reacts to Manchester United loss
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OIe Gunnar Solskjaer doesn’t have the answers to what ails Manchester United without Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba, and he can’t even fake it.

The United boss could only hang his side’s 2-0 loss to Burnley on sharpness, as the Red Devils out-attempted the visitors by a 24-5 margin.

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United also had 72 percent of the ball, but Burnley’s whole philosophy is cool with you having the ball if you don’t have the lead.

The Red Devils never looked quite ready to grab that, either, from the moment an early Aaron Wan-Bissaka cross sailed through the six absent receiver. From the BBC:

“The boys looked mentally tired towards the end, we didn’t find that creativity,” Solskjaer said. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. When you are at Man United you are privileged because you are playing for the best club in the world.

“Sometimes you go through periods like that and it is a test I am sure they are going to come through.”

It’s all formulaic from the Norwegian manager. “The we’re United and it’s a special place” struck all the right chords when he first took the reins at Old Trafford, but the club hasn’t bought much quality since then and it’s ringing hollow as the depth fails to bail them out.

Spoiler alert: He did.

You can accept that Solskjaer is going nowhere and also accept that the whole thing is not going to improve any time soon. United should absolutely be in the Top Four given the failings of Chelsea, but cannot stop tripping over its own feet.