Bundesliga Wrap: With one week left, who’s still got something to play for?

Leave a comment

There’s just one week remaining in the Bundesliga, so Germany was quite nice about allowing all eighteen teams to duke it out on Saturday afternoon. Let’s take a look at what’s been decided, and what remains to be played for in Round 34.

Title

Bayern Munich won the league something like twenty weeks ago, leading some people to believe that the Bundesliga is boring, simply because no one challenged for the title. Those people hate fun, as we shall soon see, and you should feel free to tell them that. Besides, even though the men from Munich already clinched first, they’re still determined to score goals. Against Hamburg, Mario Götze put in two, Thomas Müller grabbed one and Claudio Pizarro grabbed a sensational fourth. Oh, and Jerome Boateng got a straight red card, simply because he’s tired of playing.

Champions League

Borussia Dortmund had already made sure they’d finish second, but that didn’t stop them from battling it out with free-scoring Hoffenheim to a 3-2 win. Robert Lewandowski failed to score, but he still put in an impressive performance in his last home match with Dortmund before he joins Bayern next season.

Schalke beat Freiburg, who look rather tired of playing this game, rather easily, despite the hosts having a man advantage for nearly twenty minutes at the end of the match. Schalke can’t afford to rest, however – there’s still a chance that Bayer Leverkusen can overtake them on goal difference, and that would mean Schalke have to go through Champions League qualifications rather than straight to the group stages.

It’s Leverkusen that might have an easier time of it in the final round, as they’re scheduled to play Werder Breman, who’ve got nothing but pride to play for, while Schalke must face Nurnberg, who could still save themselves. Then again, Werder had nothing to play for this weekend either, and still had fun beating Hertha Berlin 2-0.

Europa League

Leverkusen must also keep an eye behind them. Their easy win over Eintracht Frankfurt kept them fourth, but Wolfsburg’s hard-fought battle over Stuttgart keeps them just a point out of the Champions League places. Die Wölfe will be singing the praises of Ivica Olić, as his winner in injury time keeps their hopes of taking fourth-place alive.

But it’s Borussia Mönchengladbach up next weekend – and the Foals, too, could sneak into fourth. Their 3-1 win over Mainz gives them 55 points, and they’re even with Leverkusen on goal difference. A decisive win over Wolfsburg combined with a loss for Leverkusen, and it’s the Champions League qualifiers for Gladbach.

No matter what, though, Wolfsburg and Gladbach will be playing European football next season. But who will take the last remaining slot?

Thanks to Gladbach’s win, Mainz are no longer sure of a Europa League spot. Augsburg, who beat Braunschweig 1-0, are just a point behind. Mainz need to beat HSV next week, but that requires defeating an opponent who are fighting for their very survival. Augsburg, meanwhile, are lucky enough to face Frankfurt, who have absolutely nothing to play for.

Relegation

Remember, Germany takes an odd stance on relegation: The side in 16th in the Bundesliga plays the side in 3rd in 2. Bundesliga in a two-legged playoff, with the winner earning a place in the top division for the next season.

Currently Hamburg occupy that playoff position. Nurnberg and Braunschweig are unable to reach safety, but they can still overthrow HSV to grab the playoff slot. It’s Braunschweig that are most likely to do so, as they face Hoffenheim, who have nothing to play for, in the final game. Nurnberg have a challenging trip to Schalke ahead of them, while Hamburg travel to Mainz.

The rest of the best

Losses today mean that Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin are both unable to reach the European places – which is rather sad for Hertha, who spent much of the first half of the season hovering around fourth place. Still, finishing midtable is better than yo-yoing right back down to the second division, as they’d been doing as of late. Hoffenheim, too, will be glad that they get another year in the Bundesliga.

Stuttgart may not have won today, but because HSV failed to get past Bayern, they’re safe – a rather small ambition for a club that started the season in the Europa League. So too with Eintracht and Freiburg, both who competed in Europa this season, and who will most likely finish 13th and 14th, respectively.

Rounding out the rest of the Bundesliga are Hannover, who play a pointless match against Freiburg to finish the season, and Werder Bremen, who hope to dash Leverkusen’s dreams of the Champions League next weekend.

2. Bundesliga

There’s still two matchdays left to play in Germany’s second division, with all 2. Bundesliga games set to kick off on Sunday. What we know is this: Cologne, who were relegated in 2012, will move back up to the top division. They’ll most likely be joined by Paderborn, unless they lose their remaining two matches and Greuther Fürth and Kaiserslautern both win out. The latter could also sneak into the playoff, of course, as could Karlsruhe.

East German side Cottbus is almost certain of relegation, along with fellow former Oberliga side Dynamo Dresden, who are currently facing a playoff to avoid slipping to the third tier. Bielefeld sits between, with little hope for survival.

RESULTS

Borussia Dortmund 3-2 Hoffenheim

Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-1 Mainz

Braunschweig 0-1 Augsburg

Eintracht Frankfurt 0-2 Bayer Leverkusen

Freiburg 0-2 Schalke

Hamburg 1-4 Bayern Munich

Nurnberg 0-2 Hannover

Stuttgart 1-2 Wolfsburg

Werder Bremen 2-0 Hertha Berlin

Serie A roundup: Napoli falls to Parma in debut for Gattuso (video)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Napoli’s last-minute loss to Parma in Gennaro Gattuso’s debut highlights Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Napoli 1-2 Parma

Napoli remains in a dark place as Gennaro Gattuso debut with Gli Azzurri ended in a last-minute 2-1 loss to Parma.

The defeat marks eight consecutive games without a win in Serie A play for Napoli, who dismissed Carlo Ancelotti earlier this week despite punching a ticket in the last 16 of the Champions League after a win over Genk.

After their fifth loss of the season, Napoli are currently eighth on the table with 21 points, seven behind sixth-placed Atalanta and 17 behind league leaders Inter Milan.

 

 

In the third minute of stoppage time, Gervinho – experienced as anyone else in tightly-contested situations – received a simple pass from Dejan Kulusevski, carefully striking it into the back of the net inside the six-yard box. The 32-year-old Ivorian has five goals in Serie A this season, and Saturday’s was his most important yet. 

For Gattuso (and hopeful Napoli supporters), Saturday was the antithesis of dreamy start, but with time and a change of mentality the situation may change.

“I don’t believe in bad luck. Right now we’re not good mentally,” the 41-year-old manager said following the match. “The team is paying for the fact that it has not won (in the league) for 50 or more days.”

“The first 10 minutes also prove it,” he added. “It’s tough as are the whistles of the fans. There’s a lot of work to do.”

The home side recorded 33 shots throughout the night, but Parma proved to be more clinical, scoring at death and opening the scoresheet just four minutes in. In the 64th minute, Napoli were able to get one go their way, as Dreis Merten’s lofting cross with force was headed home by Arkadiusz Milik. 

Gattuso and his men will be tested once as they travel to Sassuolo in a weeks time, while Parma look to trim their four-point gap with Atalanta when they host Brescia.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Brescia 3-0 Lecce

Genoa 0-1 Sampdoria

Hertha’s under-16s stop playing after alleged racist abuse

Getty Images
Leave a comment

BERLIN (AP) Hertha Berlin’s under-16 team stopped playing a game at regional rival Auerbach after its players were allegedly subjected to racist abuse from their opponents on Saturday.

The Bundesliga club says in a statement on its website that “several players from our team were racially abused by their opposing players.”

Hertha officials informed the referee of the alleged abuse and decided to stop playing in the 68th minute while leading 2-0 “because we as Hertha BSC condemn racism and discrimination in every form,” the club said.

Hertha executive board member Paul Keuter called it “the only correct decision, not to continue with the game.”

On Twitter, the club said: “There are times when football doesn’t come first. Racism has no place in our society.”

Hertha under-23 player Jessic Ngankam said he was targeted with monkey chants and called an “ape” by an opposing player during his side’s fourth division game against Lokomotive Leipzig on Dec. 6.

“Insults are unfortunately an everyday occurrence in football, and I can put up with them. But racist abuse is a no-go,” the 19-year-old Ngankam told broadcaster MDR.

Both Hertha and Lokomotive condemned the alleged abuse.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Ciaran Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

La Liga roundup: Sociedad hold leaders Barcelona to draw (video)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

A stunning draw from top-of-the-table Barcelona highlight La Liga’s Saturday action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Real Sociedad 2-2 Barcelona

If Real Madrid manages to walk away from Mestalla with three points, they’ll dethrone nemesis Barcelona and become clear-cut leaders of La Liga.

Just days before El Clasico itself, a rare 2-2 draw from Barcelona against hosts Real Sociedad is the reason behind Los Blancos’ prime opportunity.

 

Former Borussia Dortmund starlet Alexander Isak tapped in his fourth goal of the season in the 62nd minute, leveling the score for Sociedad and sending the home fans into a frenzy.

In true Barcelona fashion, Real Sociedad, ironically hit the ground running first. 

After earning a foul inside the box from a corner kick set piece, Reala captain Mikel Oyarzabal converted from the spot, putting Sociedad, who have exceeded expectations this season under first-year manager Imanol Alguacil, up against the defending champions. 

It wouldn’t take long before the visitors responded, however.

A familiar face and experienced goalscorer at Anoeta, it was the ideal scenario for Antoine Griezmann to shake off some pressure that has been a key talking point surrounding the Frenchman lately. Darting inside the box with only Alex Remiro to beat, No. 17 – like in the old days – carefully chipped the ball over Remiro and into the back of the net the ball wandered. 

If the second half indicated anything early on it was that it was going to be difficult for Barcelona to drop points on Saturday. Unselfish as ever before, Lionel Messi laid off the ball to an unmarked Luis Suarez, who his team up 2-1 four minutes into the second half.

A lack of control of possession and, most notably, an unstable defensive line, would end up costing Barcelona two points.

Next for Barcelona is the game of the season: a league bout against Real Madrid on Wednesday, while Real Sociedad travel to Becerril in the second round of Copa del Rey. 

Elsewhere in La Liga

Atletico Madrid 2-0 Osasuna

Granada 1-2 Levante

Atheltic Bilbao 0-0 Eibar

South Florida officials seeking more international soccer

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) More than two dozen political leaders in South Florida have written letters to the U.S. Soccer Federation’s board of directors, urging them to allow top-tier international matches to take place in the Miami region.

Relevent Sports, the soccer-promoting group owned by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, filed suit against the USSF earlier this year saying that the sport’s governing body in this country was helping to prevent them from hosting certain matches.

The letters were released Friday to media outlets, including The Associated Press.

The USSF did not respond to a request for comment.

Ross’ group and top Spanish league La Liga have been working for some time to bring a regular-season match to Hard Rock Stadium, the facility Ross owns and is the Dolphins’ home.

The politicians – ranging from city mayors, county mayors, county commissioners and one state Senator – all essentially said the same thing, that bringing major international soccer to South Florida only will help the region’s tourist-dependent economy.

“Doing so will demonstrate a genuine commitment to our communities and the growth of the game, which you, as the United States Soccer Federation, are charged with promoting,” wrote Dean Trantalis, the mayor of Fort Lauderdale. That’s the city where David Beckham’s new MLS team, Inter Miami, will begin play next March.