Bundesliga schedule
Getty Images

Bundesliga preview: Dortmund v. Schalke headlines return

Leave a comment

The 2019-20 Bundesliga season returns this weekend and my goodness are we glad to be writing a preview focusing on the nine games, of which a Revierderby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke headlines.

[ LIVE: Bundesliga scores ] 

Matchweek 26 in the Bundesliga will of course see games played in empty stadiums, which is the plan for the rest of the season and beyond. If you’re new to Germany’s top-flight, here’s a guide to help you pick a club to support.

With an almighty title battle set to take place in the final weeks of the season, the Bundesliga will provide epic drama with plenty on the line up and down the league as it is the first of Europe’s ‘big five’ to return amid the coronavirus pandemic. Strict safety protocols are in place as Bundesliga teams have been training for weeks ahead of these games and the outbreak in Germany has been largely controlled due to widespread testing.

[ MORE: Bundesliga latest news ] 

Below is a look at what lies ahead this weekend, as you can check out the full schedule, standings and find out how to watch the action, while we will have you covered right here on ProSoccerTalk.

Borussia Dortmund v. Schalke: 9:30 a.m. ET, Saturday

Focusing on this weekend, Borussia Dortmund host bitter rivals Schalke with both teams desperate for the win. Schalke are in sixth place and ahead of a cluster of teams in the race for a Europa League spot, while Dortmund are in second and four points off leaders Bayern Munich.

USMNT fans will have a close eye on this game with Giovanni Reyna, 17, a rising star for Dortmund, while Weston McKennie is a regular for David Wagner’s Schalke. Even without fans the atmosphere will be intense for this huge rivalry, especially with so much on the line and especially because games have been suspended for over two months. Lucien Favre has a stacked young squad to choose from, as Erling Haaland, Jadon Sancho, Reyna and Mario Gotze give him plenty of options in attack. Marco Reus, Emre Can and Axel Witsel are all said to be out of this clash as they work their way back to full fitness. The Revierderby is a great way to get things going again.

Bundesliga return date
Getty Images

Union Berlin v. Bayern Munich: 12 p.m. ET, Sunday

The newly-promoted upstarts have settled into life in the Bundesliga extremely well as Union Berlin sit pretty in midtable. Bayern are top of the table but have a host of challengers and Hansi Flick’s side have a tough remaining schedule. Flick was handed a long-term contract after doing a fine job to turn things around but there’s no doubt the suspension hit Bayern’s momentum hard as Alphonso Davies and Co. were in fine form in March as they tried to surge towards an eighth-straight title. Bayern can’t afford to drop points with big games against Leverkusen, Dortmund and ‘Gladbach to come.

Getty Images

Quick look at the other games…

Plenty of USMNT stars are in action around the Bundesliga with Timmy Chandler having a great season for topsy-turvy Eintracht Frankfurt who host Fabian Johnson’s Borussia Monchengladbach who are fourth. Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig have great momentum and are challenging for the title and in the last eight of the UEFA Champions League. Julian Nagelsmann’s talented side host SC Freiburg who are battling for European qualification. John Brooks’ Wolfsburg are in the hunt for Europe too and they host struggling Augsburg. Fortuna Dusseldorf and Paderborn square off in a huge game at the bottom as USMNT midfielder Alfredo Morales will be key for the home side, while goalkeeper Zack Steffen has been struggling with a knee injury. Josh Sargent’s struggling Werder Bremen host Bayer Leverkusen who are in the top four hunt as all eyes will be on the host of young Americans in the Bundesliga.

Americans star in Bundesliga play
Getty Images

Saturday, May 16

9:30 a.m. ET: Augsburg v. Wolfsburg
9:30 a.m. ET: Borussia Dortmund v. Schalke
9:30 a.m. ET: Fortuna Dusseldorf v. Paderborn
9:30 a.m. ET: Hoffenheim v. Hertha Berlin
9:30 a.m. ET: RB Leipzig v. SC Freiburg
12:30 p.m. ET: Eintracht Frankfurt v. Borussia Monchengladbach

Sunday, May 17

9:30 a.m. ET: Cologne v. Mainz
12 p.m. ET: Union Berlin v. Bayern Munich

Monday, May 18

2:30 p.m. ET: Werder Bremen v. Bayer Leverkusen

Scott Parker’s first season as a manager ends in Fulham promotion

Fulham promotion
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Fulham are headed back to the Premier League after just one season in the EFL Championship, and that means Scott Parker has worked something of a minor miracle in west London.

[ MORE: Promoted! Fulham back in PL after 1 season in Championship ]

Parker took on a hefty challenge when he accepted his first senior managerial job last year. Fulham were a virtual lock to be relegated from the Premier League when he was named interim boss in February, and their place in the second division had long since been confirmed by the time he was named Claudio Ranieri’s permanent successor in May. The squad was expensive, bloated and full of players who had no intention of sticking around after relegation.

Given the club’s wealth of resources relative to the rest of the Championship, promotion at the first time of asking was more an expectation than a hope at Craven Cottage. Fast-forward 15 months, and the 39-year-old has quickly proven himself the right man for the job after doing just that — taking Fulham back to the PL by way of Tuesday’s Championship promotion playoff final.

Promotion may have been sealed on Tuesday, but Parker believes it was earned over a long period of transition and self-reflection by the players, beginning when he first took the job — quotes from the BBC:

“We’ve done what we’ve done tonight, but there’s still improvement, and that’s what makes me so proud and happy.

“For all of the good players and everything you see, what makes me so happy is I see a group of players who only a year ago were struggling psychologically, didn’t have a mindset or mentality.

“I’ve driven this team every single day and what makes me proud is I stood on the touchline tonight and seen a team that represents what I’ve been saying over the last 12 months.”

Now comes the the truly difficult challenge for Parker: after winning Fulham promotion he must assemble a squad of players not only good enough to stay in the PL, but also one full of individuals who want to be at his club and not simply any club that just so happens to be in England’s top division.

Promoted! Fulham back in PL after 1 season in Championship

Championship promotion playoff final
Photo credit: @FulhamFC
Leave a comment

Fulham are headed back to the Premier League after claiming west London derby delight at the expense of local rivals Brentford in Tuesday’s Championship promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

[ MORE: Ranking the new Premier League kits for 2020-21 ]

It was an incredibly cagey affair — as the Championship promotion playoff final tends to be — that saw the two sides combine for just 17 shots (four on target) through 90 minutes of regular time. In the end, it was the most unlikely of restarts halfway through extra time that sent the Cottagers on their way.

Brentford were nearly the architects of their own downfall early in the first half. FirstIt was a poor back pass from Henrik Dalsgaard that left David Raya in worlds of trouble in the 10th minute, though Fulham were unable to find a proper chance amid the chaos inside Brentford’s box.

Fulham were perhaps fortunate not to go a man down in the 29th minute, when Harrison Reed slid through Christian Norgaard and put studs into the Dane’s ankle. Reed came over top of the ball in a 50-50 challenge and, despite first making contact with the ball, came in with borderline excessive force and in a reckless fashion. Nonetheless, only a yellow card for the on-loan Southampton youngster.

[ MORE: Christian Pulisic issues injury update ]

The start of the second half looked like more of the same from the first half: Fulham with an early chance and Brentford scrambling to stay level. Neeskens Kebano curled a free kick around the wall in the 48th minute, likely beating Raya if it was on frame, but only managed to rippled the outside netting.

Championship Golden Boot runner-up (25 goals) Ollie Watkins had the final scoring chance of regular time in the 70th minute as he fired from the edge of Fulham’s penalty area, but Marek Rodak was able to comfortably palm the ball over the crossbar. Still, the first threatening signs of life from the Bees.

[ MORE: Man United, Dortmund in talks over $140 million Sancho transfer ]

The decisive moment finally arrived in the 105th minute, and it came from absolutely nothing — less than nothing, one might credibly argue. Joe Bryan was tasked with restarting play following a foul roughly 50 yards from goal. Rather than lofting the ball high and to the back post, as Raya so clearly expected him to do, Bryan wrapped his left foot around the ball and whipped it toward the near post — as “near” as it can be from 50-plus yards. Raya was painfully slow to recognize the shot and tried to scramble across the face of goal, but never had a chance of getting anywhere near the ball.

Bryan doubled Fulham’s lead in the 117th minute. It was fast and fluid one-two atop Brentford’s penalty area and the left back tucked it away to seal promotion back to the top flight, and it turned out to be hugely necessary after Dalsgaard poked home a late consolation goal for the Bees with virtually the last kick of the game.

Fulham spent the 2018-19 season in the Premier League but finished with just 26 points in 19th place and were relegated back to the Championship after one season. Only time will tell if they’re able to stay in the top division this time, or if they’re a full-time yo-yo club.

Transfer confirmed: Ferran Torres to Man City for $26 million

Ferran Torres to Man City
Photo credit: Man City
Leave a comment

Reports sending Valencia youngster Ferran Torres to Man City have been burning red-hot over the last 24 hours.

[ MORE: Ranking the new Premier League kits for 2020-21 ]

Man City confirmed their capture of the 20-year-old — one of the brightest prospects in all of Europe — on Tuesday.

Torres, who came through the Valencia academy, tallied six goals and seven assists in 43 appearances (all competitions), including two of each in the Champions League, for Valencia this season.

He broke into Valencia’s first team back in November of 2017, at the age of 17, before establishing himself as a regular over the last two seasons.

[ MORE: Man United, Dortmund in talks over $140 million Sancho transfer ]

Reports out of the UK claim it will reportedly cost just $26 million to bring Ferran Torres to Man City, plus possible add-ons, as he had just one year remaining on his contact with Valencia. Torres reportedly met with City sporting director Txiki Begiristain earlier on Tuesday, adding further fuel to the fire that a move was imminent.

Torres seems an obvious replacement for recently departed winger Leroy Sane. He’ll join Raheem Sterling as one of only two natural wingers in Pep Guardiola’s squad, offering more tactical flexibility — not to mention, width — after City were fairly limited in the wide areas during the 2019-20 season.

Championship playoff final: How to watch, start time, odds, prediction

Brentford - Fulham
Photo byJacques Feeney/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Fulham – Brentford: Team news is in with the two West London sides set to do battle for a place in the Premier League in the Football League Championship promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

We can hardly wait to find out who’ll claim the 20th berth in the 2020-21 Premier League season in the richest game on earth.

[ MORE: Predictions, Odds for Europe ]

Kickoff is at 2:45 pm ET Tuesday at Wembley Stadium.

Team news


Key players

Fulham leading scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 26 goals were the joint-most in the Championship and more than three times as many as Tom Cairney, second amongst the Cottagers. He’s healthy for the first time after missing the semis with a hamstring injury.

Brentford’s Ollie Watkins scored the same amount of goals as Mitrovic, tying for the league lead, and he’s joined by Said Benrahma’s 17 goals (fifth in the league) and Bryan Mbeumo (eighth). The latter have combined for 16 assists, too. The Bees can sting.

Their seasons

Brentford won a even-straight league games to surge into the mix for automatic promotion but lost their last two, meeting Fulham on 81 points.

As for the Cottagers, Fulham finished the season on a seven-match unbeaten run which included five wins

Their playoffs

Brentford overcame a 1-0 first-leg deficit to oust Swansea City in the semifinal, while Fulham’s first leg win was enough to outlast Cardiff City’s strong second leg in their semi.

Odds and ends

Brentford beat Fulham twice, 1-0 at Griffin Park and 2-0 at Craven Cottage.

The Bees are favored to win the match at +108 odds, while Fulham carries +265 odds of a win.

Prediction

Mitrovic’s availability is huge for a Fulham side hoping to break down the league’s second-stingiest defense. Brentford feels like it’s the superior side but Fulham has been here and Cairney even scored the goal to beat Aston Villa in the 2017-18 playoff final. That experience is an X-factor, but we’ll still call Brentford 2-1 winners.

How to watch Fulham – Brentford

Kickoff: 2:45 pm ET Tuesday
Stream: ESPN+