Bayern Munich 2-0 Barcelona: Conclusions Drawn from Pre-Season Friendly

Bayern Munich 2-0 BarcelonaBayern Munich’s 2-0 preseason triumph over Barcelona only affirmed what we knew: Bayern are supremely dominate in Europe, while Barca are somewhat faltering behind. The opening goal of the match was a typical “Barca” type goal to concede, a poorly defended cross that was headed in by Phillip Lahm.

The game was played at a slow pace, Bayern gave some pace to the game with some slick passing movements that looked typical to a Guardiola side. Barcelona were evidently on their first pre-season outing, with Lionel Messi’s brightest moment was a narrowly wide strike in the opening minutes. Cristian Tello and Alexis Sanchez never really came into the game; Dante and Jerome Boateng kept them at bay as they both took their fine form from last season into the new season.

Barcelona still need a new defender, and Marc Bartara proved why he is not ready for the set up to the highest level of football while Javier Mascherano again showed why he is not a natural center back. Bayern’s second goal was well-timed and elegant, and it typified the dominant Bayern Munich and showed Barca’s defense pace down the wing with a quality finish from Mario Mandzukic.

Perhaps the only success for Barca was the performance of the youngsters in the second half, many of which have yet to make their first team competitive debut. They never got into a real rhythm, but there were flashes of talent, and they managed to restrict Bayern Munich for much of the game. Barcelona’s young keeper, Oier Olazabel, was another plus mark, with the 23-year-old looking comfortable for the most part, hinting that he could one day earn a starting berth. Pep Guardiola wasn’t wholly satisfied with Bayern’s performance, as a perfectionist there was still things to improve on:

“We still have to improve a bit in terms of our finishing. I’m happy with what we’ve done so far, but we still need a little more time.”

Although Guardiola believes the team are not yet read for the start of the season, it is quite alarming to think of the standard he can get Bayern to after a few months in the job. They still seemed sharp as ever, and they can only get sharper.

New Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino was absent for the game, thus it was perhaps unwise to fully evaluate the Catalan Giants’ upcoming season from the match. Johan Cruyff seems confident that Martino can emulate the success of Rijikaard & Guardiola despite knowing very little about him:

“I do not really know Tata. I hardly know anything about him. However, Rijkaard and Guardiola had not won anything either before they started at Barcelona and ended up being hugely successful. I have no doubt Martino can follow the same path.”

Only small conclusions can be made from the game, but Bayern look like they are set to dominate European football again this season. Barca were missing two new recruits, Martino and Neymar, and with them could be able to complete the dream team they once were. With over three weeks to go until the start of the season, there are things at Barcelona that still need to be ironed out.

Written by Jimmy Cartwright

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Pep Guardiola Believes Abundance of Bayern Munich Midfielders Will be Key to Success

Thiago AlcântaraBayern Munich officially confirmed the signing of Thiago Alcântara from Barcelona for an initial fee thought to be around €22 million. Earlier this month, Thiago was all set to join Manchester united until out of the blue Pep Guardiola boldly stated, “I want Thiago. I have asked Rummenigge and Matthias Summer to get him. It’ll be him or no one. We have many players but we need the special quality that Thiago Alcantara brings.” Is this a statement that sums up Guardiola’s innocent intentions? Or is Thiago’s arrival a subliminal warning signal to other midfielders at the club?

The Bavarian club are coming off the back of a historic treble, and key to this achievement was a midfield that was second to none, not only in Germany but in the entire European continent. So wouldn’t altering an already majestic midfield be an act of foolishness? Enis Koylu, a sports journalist, claims that Thiago’s arrival would upset the balance of his new club and serve as a snub for Mario Gotze, another new signing at Bayern Munich. But again no one, not even Guardiola himself, said that Thiago was bought to take the place of any of the club’s established internationals. “Gotze is a superb player, but I need Thiago” were Pep’s exact words, a clear indication of his acknowledgment of Gotze’s qualities. Then where is the logic in purchasing Thiago?

What is certain about Bayern’s upcoming season is that they will play more than 50 games. German Super Cup, European Super Cup, Bundesliga, DFB Pokal, Champions League, and Club World Cup are the competitions that Bayern will try harder than usual to either retain or reclaim. In order to challenge for all titles and have a fit squad at decisive moments of the next campaign, the German Champions will need a team made up of in-shape winners and fighters, whether a starter or a substitute, and Thiago’s signature serves this purpose. His qualities would surely come in handy.

Arrigo Sacchi, mastermind of the Milan side that dominated the late 1980s, once said that the next tactical revolution in the game would be the conversion of the whole pitch into a midfield area, in addition to the elimination of specialists. What does this imply? This means that teams would have the luxury of having defensive midfielders playing as defenders and attacking midfielders playing as strikers. They would also still function as midfielders, passing the ball around quickly, closing down space, and playing a high tempo game.

Bayern MunichBack to our day, Guardiola has certainly upheld Sacchi’s saying and put his words into practice by converting defense and attack into a midfield. Guardiola’s football simply relies on midfielders. At Barcelona, he had Fabregas, Xavi, Iniesta, Thiago, Busquets, Dos Santos, and Mascherano, and no one complained of not playing as some are implying will happen at Bayern. With proper rotation and balanced motivation, all players can get a chance to prove their worth. The Catalan manager played Mascherano as a defender, Iniesta as a winger and Fabregas as a striker, just as Sacchi expected. He turned his squad into midfielders capable of playing anywhere and doing anything - pass, press, attack, and defend - unlike specialized players.

In the majority of his pre-season games, Guardiola played a 4-1-4-1 system. If he ends up relying on this system next season, that would mean he will be depending on one defensive midfielder, two central midfielders, and maybe a false 9. That is four midfielders on the pitch at the same time doing different tasks but still acting as midfielders. Bayern now have Kroos, Martinez, Schweinsteiger, Gotze, Gustavo, Thiago, Emre Can, and Hojbjerg, which means 8 players should fill 3-4 positions (depending on whether he plays with a midfielder as a false 9, or with a striker) in over 50 games. Is that midfield still overcrowded? Isn’t such competition healthy for a team playing for major trophies?

In football, some players seek money, others more playing time, while a big portion of players hunt for glory, whether it is single such as the Ballon D’or or collective such as a major tournament. When a player reaches a place in his career where nothing matters more than holding a Champions League title, achieving a historic treble or even a double, they would most definitely, and willingly, sacrifice certain things such as more minutes on the field. In small teams, it’s more important to sustain a certain balance in the squad, between achieving mediocre targets and having a satisfied team. Meanwhile, in bigger teams, the most important thing is the collective achievements, realized through having a sufficient number of world-class players capable of fairly competing to win a starting place.

Guardiola doesn’t rely on one system only, he always experiments. “Javier Martinez can play at center-back, he played very well there with Athletic,” stated a confident Guardiola. Such an alteration would definitely free up a spot in midfield. Robben, Ribery, Muller, Shaqiri, and maybe even Gotze will challenge for a spot on the two wings. What is certain is that Guardiola is unpredictable when it comes to squad selection, and what is even more certain is that a manager of Pep’s caliber will relish seeing his outstanding players battle it out for a starting spot.

After all, in four years with Barcelona, he has never played the same team twice in a row. That is because he makes sure to make the most out of every talent in his squad, be it through player rotation, positional interchange or tactical shifts. Options are what Guardiola seeks, and Thiago’s arrival gives him exactly that. In any given team, under any given manager’s guidance, abundance in players at a certain position might cause problems such as dissatisfaction and disillusionment. But in a team such as Bayern Munich and under Pep’s guidance, the wealth in talents is going to be more than welcome.

Written by Hassan Chakroun

Bayern Munich Striker Mario Gomez Completes €20m Move to Fiorentina

Mario GomezOn 15 July, Mario Gomez was unveiled as a Fiorentina player to over 20,000 fans. The Florence-based club spent €20 million on the big center-forward. The move to Fiorentina followed a four-year spell at Bayern Munich, which was preceded by six years in the senior team of Stuttgart.

Gomez likely completed the move with the next World Cup in mind, as he’s never started a game at a World Cup. He came off the bench four times at the 2010 World Cup but failed to score on each occasion, and this will be his last chance to play for Germany at the biggest competition in world football. To get a place in the team he had to leave Bayern, where he played second fiddle to Mario Mandžukić last season. At Fiorentina, a first-team spot is almost certainly assured for the German striker.

Gomez should fit into Fiorentina’s side well. Last season, they deployed a 3-5-2 formation, with Pasqual and Cuadrado as wing-backs and Ljajic and Jovetic as the two strikers, or alternatively, one as an attacking midfielder and one as a striker; this brought the Serie A side large success. They finished fourth, only losing out on the Champions League by two points, their highest finish since the 2008/09 season when they also ended the season in fourth place. Gomez will probably play as the main striker with Ljajic just behind, and this could work to disastrous effect. Pasqual and Cuadrado are both good crossers of the ball, and with the right delivery, Gomez will get goals.

Gomez and Jovetic are similar in some respects; neither have a weaker foot, both are just over six feet tall, and both are predators inside the box. But there are more differences than similarities in the way they play. Jovetic is fast and quick-footed, and dribbling is an integral part of his game. He scores many of his goals from the edge of the box and he creates a lot of his goals for himself as well as others (he created 55 in 31 Serie A games last season).

Mario GomezMeanwhile a lack of pace and dribbling ability is Gomez’s main weakness, and all of his goals last season were inside the box. He relies on his team-mates to create chances for him and he doesn’t create many for others (6 in 21 league games). The differences aren’t only in the way they play, but also where they play. Jovetic played as the main striker, as the second striker, and on the right wing last season, while Gomez is usually limited to playing only as the main striker.

Mario Gomez is much more comparable with Luca Toni, who recently moved to Verona. The 36 year-old has been on rapid decline in recent years and Gomez is perfect to come in as Toni departs, not as a replacement but as an upgrade. Gomez has everything Toni has - aerial ability, strength, and a natural poaching ability - but the German has one key attribute that Toni doesn’t: passing. It’s not a big part of Gomez’s game by any means, but he has it in his locker, completing an impressive 79% of his passes last season, 13% more than the Italian.

He may have only scored 11 goals last season, but he averaged a goal every 79.7 minutes, an astonishing record and a good way better than anyone else in the Bundesliga. This is even more impressive considering Bayern weren’t playing the type of football most suited to his game. He did have some of the best wide players in the world to cross him the ball, but he was asked to chase the ball down and play a style more suited to players such as Mario Mandžukić. Gomez had a respectable 50% shot accuracy last season and scored a goal with every 27.1 touches, another astonishing feat matched by few others in the Bundesliga. Those two stats show how rarely he runs with the ball and how few touches he uses to get a shot on target, and the goals-per-minute stat shows just how clinical the big striker is.

If Pasqual and Cuadrado carry on the form they showed last season, then Gomez could set the Serie A alight, and €20 million could prove to be a steal. If Viola bring in a top-class forward to replace Jovetic, or Guiseppe Rossi can step up to the plate, the rest of the Serie A have good reason to be very worried.

Written by Sean Currie

Barcelona Must Focus on the Future as Bayern Munich Sign Thiago Alcântara

Thiago AlcântaraFor the first time since 2008 things are not looking positive. A feeling of uncertainty has crept to the hearts and minds of many cules. The much-needed stability is fading away bit by bit. Tactical matters aside, Rosell and co. are unintentionally dragging the club into controversy, which will eventually affect the team’s performance on the pitch. Running a club of Barcelona’s stature is never easy, and gaining everybody’s contentment is almost impossible, but when voices of concern reach unprecedented heights then surely something wrong is happening.

Tito Vilanova is once again expected to be absent from our first four league games, while Thiago’s mishandling led to his departure to Bayern Munich. Meanwhile, Rosell is tinkering in the statutes to change the number of needed votes it would take to have him removed from office, while Lionel Messi faces tax problems.

The failure to capture a reliable defender is yet another problem facing Barcelona, and Abidal’s mistreatment led to release and a move to Ligue 1 side AS Monaco. Looking into the future, Eusebio’s Barca B are facing problems and a decline their performance, while star striker Gerard Deulofeu will surely be mishandled by the club in the future.

The list of problems facing Barcelona, both in the present and in the future, goes on and on. Things are definitely not looking as rosy as they were couple of years ago, and the dominance of the La Liga Champions may be slowly fading away.

Thiago Alcantara is a La Masia graduate. The son of Mazinho awed all cules as he made his way to the first team. La Masia graduatess importance to Barcelona’s way of playing is something indubitable, due to the fact that they start grasping this philosophy from day one.

When Pere Guardiola sat with Rosell, Zubizaretta, Mazinho, and Thiago to discuss the latter’s contract last year, Pep’s clever brother insisted on including a section in the contract that clearly states that Thiago’s release clause would decrease from 90 million to just 18 million Euros if he was not played in a minimum of 30 minutes in at least 60% of Barcelona’s games. When asked about this issue, Jordi Roura said:

“It is not the coaching staff’s job to know about such clauses in player’s contracts, we only decide who plays based on sporting reasons.”

If that is the case, then whose job is it to be aware of such clauses? Zubizaretta’s? If he knew but did not inform the coaching staff then it is a disaster, and if he informed the coaching staff but they did not act accordingly to solve this problem, then it’s a bigger disaster.

Thiago AlcântaraEither way, the club put itself in a critical situation. One might argue that Thiago was not played frequently because Xavi’s presence is more influential in big games such as Milan, PSG, and Bayern’s matches. But didn’t Barcelona have a 15 point advantage in La Liga since December 2012? Thiago surely deserved to play on merit of his qualities, let alone to rotate the squad and avoid fatigue.

Whatever the reasons, and whatever the outcome, this clearly is a massive administrative and technical blunder that could have been avoided. A manager should possess good management skills in addition to being a good tactician, and Thiago’s case shows that Tito is severely lacking in the management department. Either someone is insincere, or there is an apparent lack of communication between the board, its staff members, and the players regarding contract extensions.

Zubizaretta should have been informed that Alberto Aquilani was not played in the last several games of the 2011-12 season with AC Milan in order not to activate the clause that obliges the Serie A side to buy him. This is how such clauses are handled.

Although this whole situation is the club’s responsibility, Thiago should have been more attached to the crest and colors of the club. He is only 22; Xavi and Iniesta were patient before becoming first choice Barca players. What differentiates this Barcelona generation of players from other players is that they are attached to the club; they are not mercenaries following financial gain or a personal glory.

They eat, drink, live, and breathe Barcelona. What makes Thiago think he is better than this? It’s only fair to assume that Thiago is seeking a move abroad in order to gain more minutes on the pitches before Del Bosque makes his mind about who he will be taking to Brazil next summer. But is that really the case?

It’s official now, Bayern and Barcelona agreed on a 25 million deal that sees Thiago ply his trade at the Allianz Arena. Earlier this month Cruyff clearly said:

“Thiago should be careful in making his choice. If Barcelona can guarantee him more playing time then he should stay, if not then he should leave. It is as simple as that.”

So was Thiago really considering staying? Was the allure of playing under Guardiola’s management more appealing than anything Barca can guarantee? Was Thiago more of a mercenary than a Blaugrana faithful? Before Thiago’s imminent transfer, Gerard Piqué also had an opinion concerning this matter:

“There is a possibility that he could leave but we have to convince him that the best place for him is Barcelona. Players in his position, like Xavi, were patient and they ended up defining an era.”

Thiago AlcântaraIt should be noted that Xavi had nobody in his way, except incompetent managers, while Thiago at 22 could’ve realistically only truly become a Barca fixture after at least two more season. But is the alternative much better?

Bayern Munich are coming out of the most successful season in the club’s history. Having won an unprecedented treble, with a midfield which was second to none, not only in Germany, but in the entire European continent. So altering an already majestic midfield would be an act of foolishness, and Thiago’s World Cup aspirations surely are not one of Pep’s concerns in the upcoming campaign. So If Thiago doesn’t adapt instantly to the German style of play there is a big chance he won’t be a regular starter. Thus being in a situation close to the one he was in at Barcelona.

In addition to that, Bayern already have an abundance of talent when it comes to the middle of the field. Martinez, Kroos, Schweinsteiger, Gustavo, Gotze, and Emre Can all can play in Thiago’s position. Even with a proper rotation he would not end up playing a sufficient number of minutes to enable him to surpass Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Cesc, and Alonso in the national team.

So unlike what many think, staying at Barcelona might have boosted his national team chances more than moving abroad. By looking at Vicente Del Bosque’s squads ever since he took over the national team, it is quite obvious that the vast majority of his selections are players from Barcelona and Real Madrid.

At Barcelona, Thiago’s quality was known, he show cased his skills since day one, and every single one in Barcelona was convinced that he was going to reach great heights in the near future, that’s why he would have been able to build a connection with Spanish players at Barcelona, which will positively affect the national team and support his cause of representing La Roja.

Currently, Thiago is a Bayern Munich player, but he would have been smart to carefully assess things and avoid making a hasty decision. An excellent player would have always shined no matter which colors he is wearing, and how many minutes he is getting.

Although he is concerned with the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, his move to Bayern doesn’t guarantee regular starts and successive success. As for Barcelona, it’s a case of you don’t know what you got until it’s gone, and now, it is officially gone.

Written by Hassan Chakroun

Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich: Champions League Final Preview

Champions League Final: Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern MunichBorussia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich, the first ever all-German Champions League final, will take place at Wembley on May 25th. Both teams have thoroughly deserved their place there and have been strong and consistent all tournament. In this year’s final, both clubs are rich in history, rivalry, and both have the chance to make history.

For Bayern, it is a case of righting the wrongs of previous finals and tournaments where they came so close, yet so far. In fact, the last 2 finals they have been in, they finished as runners’ up. In 2010, they were defeated by 2 Diego Milito goals as Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan completed the treble at the Bernabeu. In 2012, they lost on penalties to Chelsea in their own stadium.

This is something which will be in their minds and no doubt they’ll use it as a spring-board to ensure they are fully focused for the game. Bastian Schweinsteiger will no doubt remember last year at the Allianz, as it was his penalty which Petr Cech saved to give Didier Drogba the opportunity the win the Champions League for Chelsea.

These memories will be fresh in the minds of fans and players alike, and they will no doubt want to put it right. If they did lose to Dortmund in the final, they would have come runners’ up in the tournament more than any other team. No doubt, an unwanted title.

Bayern head into the game at Wembley as Bundesliga Champion, and have fought off Barcelona in the semi-finals with ultimate ease, after the 7-0 aggregate win over the Catalan Giants. It was 2 nights to remember for all. The players really turned on the style, and in all fairness, shocked a lot of football fans in doing so.

Bayern 4-0 BarcelonaAll players are in top form going into the game, and hopeful, they can continue their great form for a final game, and sign off in style. If Bayern do win the final, they will complete a tremendous treble, in what has been a glorious season for Jupp Heynckes’ men.

Dortmund haven’t won the Champions league since 1997 after a 3-1 victory over Italian Giants Juventus at the Olympiastadion in Munich, a match which included current Aston Villa manager, Paul Lambert. It will surely be their greatest moment to date, but this match will be a brilliant opportunity for this young team to make a real statement in European football.

Whilst they may not be the most prolific team in the tournament, having only scored 23 to Bayern’s 29, they can boast the second most prolific goal scorer in Robert Lewandowski, who has netted 2 less than Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

This will be Dortmund’s second ever European final, and they will relish the chance to rewrite the history books. A real blow for them will be not having Mario Götze available through a knee injury sustained in the second leg of Dortmund’s semi-final clash with Real Madrid.

The young German has had a massive part to play in Dortmund’s European adventure this season and has been a key figure in attack for them. He quite possibly could have been somewhat a controversial figure in the final following the confirmation of his summer move to Bayern from Dortmund. If Götze was fit to play, this would have been his last ever game in a Dortmund shirt.

So, how will this game be won and lost?

Effectiveness of Dortmund’s Counterattack

Robert Lewandowski and Mario GotzeDortmund are a team that have quite often defended deeply, so they can try to hit team on the counterattack. Not many teams in Europe are better in this transition than Jurgen Klopp’s side. This tactic depends on the effectiveness of their holding midfielders, Sven Bender and İlkay Gündoğan.

As Dortmund concede space, it leaves them with a fair bit of work to do and some ground to cover. They need to ensure they’re preventing the likes of Thomas Müller from getting into space and finding an opening for a chance, otherwise Dortmund’s back 4 can be exposed and put under a lot of pressure.

Arjen Robben’s Attacking Flair

The Dutchman showed a completely different side to his game in the semi-finals against Barcelona. Not one for being much of a team player or tracking back, this is something which he willingly did throughout both legs whenever Barcelona attacked.

But, it is in the attacking third where Robben can be most crucial. He is able to drive at Marcell Schmelzer, who sometimes dives into challenges a bit too eagerly when facing his attacker. This may be where the majority of Bayern’s chances come from.

Marco Reus vs Bastian Schweinsteiger & Javi Martínez

Borussia Dortmund 4-1 Real MadridWith Mario Götze injured, the onus is now on Marco Reus to support Robert Lewandowski with his intelligence and touch. In any other game, this wouldn’t be seen as a big problem for the 23-year-old, but he now faces the task of beating Schweinsteiger and Martinez as they look to combat the midfield and be midfield generals.

The duo showed how impressive they are when working together ion the middle of the park when they stopped Xavi and Andres Iniesta from being their influential selves. Reus will no doubt have to be on top of his game to defeat these two.

Dortmund’s Right Flank

The Dortmund right flank is traditionally a strong one, with Polish internationals Lucasz Piszczek and Jakub Blaszczykowski combining smoothly and providing chances for Lewandowski & co. Piszczek’s overlapping has featured rather heavily for Dortmund in the last couple of years. This will be an interesting match up, going up against Franck Ribéry and David Alaba.

Bayern’s Game Changers

If Dortmund’s starting eleven starts strongly, then they will be very tough to beat. But as the game wears on, problems may occur with the players getting tired and fatigue kicking in. If this was to happen, Jupp Heynckes will see this as an advantage to his team, and when you look at his bench, and it has the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Luis Gustavo, and Mario Gomez, players who are proven to be capable of influencing a game. Klopp on the other hand, cannot call on such calibre, so the last 20 minutes may be tough for his side.

Last 3 meetings:

  • Dortmund 1-1 Bayern (Bundesliga)
  • Bayern 1-0 Dortmund (German Cup)
  • Bayern 1-1 Dortmund (Bundesliga)

When looking at these last 3 results, it looks as if there is nothing to choose between the two sides, and the game looks like it could be fairly open with the team’s styles of play. It will be a brilliant final for everyone, and the side who wins will undoubtedly deserve the title “Champions of Europe.”

Written by OneFutbol

Bayern Munich 4-0 Barcelona: German Storm Demolishes Barca in First Leg of Semi-Final

Bayern Munich 4-0 BarcelonaThe second most exciting stage of the UEFA Champions League is finally here! 28 teams from all parts of Europe have been eliminated and the strongest 4 remain. Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, and Real Madrid have gotten past tough opponents to get to this stage, and in doing so, have proven to the world that they are worthy of being crowned Champions of Europe. After an exciting draw that saw defending and soon-to-be-crowned champions drawn against each other, it was time to finally see which two teams would make it to the final.

Barcelona headed to Munich on the back of a hard-earned 1-0 win against Levante in the Spanish Liga BBVA. Bayern Munich would head into this game with, perhaps, more confidence from a 6-1 win in Hanover, along with a strong home support behind them. 68,000 spectators went to the Allianz for what would be, at least to the home side, a great match.

First Half

This game started well for the Bavarians; their first chance coming in just 2 minutes after Viktor Kassai blew the first whistle. This was deeply encouraging for them, as they wanted nothing more than to score early goals. Fortunately for the Spanish visitors, Victor Valdes was wide awake to save an Arjen Robben shot. The visitors had their first real chance 7 minutes later, when they were awarded the first corner of the game. Gerard Pique headed wide.

Bayern Munich 4-0 BarcelonaFrom then on, the home side continued to threaten near the Barcelona goal. Finally, 25 minutes into the game, Thomas Muller met a Dante pass, provided by a Robben cross, and put the ball past Valdes to score the first goal of the game. This goal was enough to wake up the Spanish side, who wasted no time trying to get things level. Unfortunately for them, the ball forward was a little over-hit, and the Germans were able to escape all the way until the half-time whistle was blown.

Second Half

The Catalans knew what they had to do in the second half, and seemed determined to do so after the half-time break. Things got harder for them, however, when the hosts added to their tally just 4 minutes in. Bayern were doing so well on set-pieces, as their second goal came, yet again, from a corner. Arjen Robben’s corner got to Mario Gomez, through Thomas Muller, and the 17-year-old German made sure to put this one into the net.

And Heynckes side just wasn’t done yet; 3 minutes after their second goal, Muller got a good chance to make it a brace, but was just unlucky. The visitors knew they had to score fast, but their hosts didn’t think so. The only thing they had over their hosts was possession at this point, and it wasn’t taking them anywhere. Attempts kept coming in for Bayern, and the Spanish giants were lagging.

Bayern Munich 4-0 BarcelonaA good chance to get an important goal at the Allianz for Barcelona came in the 70th minute, but an off-balance Marc Bartra was unfortunate. Manuel Neuer had managed to escape so far and seemed to be enjoying it, naturally! 3 minutes afterwards, Luis Gustavo came in for a happy, but tired, Mario Gomez, and the home side added a 3rd goal. Arjen Robben finally got one for himself, very well assisted by Bastian Schweinsteiger.

The visitors knew they had to score and score soon! 15 minutes from time, another good chance came for Marc Bartra, but the youngster put too much on it to the disappointment of Tito & co. The question on everyone’s mind at this point was: “Where, oh where is Lionel Messi?” The Argentinian had been overpowered for a huge part of the game, and it was evident that Bayern had studied him very well.

As if they hadn’t had enough problems throughout the night, Barcelona conceded a fourth goal, and it was surely over for the Spanish side. Thomas Muller, who shortly after this made way for Pizarro, finally got his brace; all of it was made possible by some great work by David Alaba and Franck Ribery. Even if Barcelona would score, they wouldn’t be able to score 4 with only 10 minutes remaining on the clock, at least not against this team!

Bayern Munich 4-0 BarcelonaJupp Heynckes and his Spanish counterpart both made some last-minutes substitutions and introduced Shaqiri and David Villa respectively. These two wouldn’t see too much except a very good chance for Bayern to make it 5-0 in added time. Fortunately for Barca, Arjen Robben missed the target and it remained 4-0 to the German hosts.The Spanish side will now have to work, not just double or triple, but quadruple hard in the second leg of this tie if they are to reach the final instead of Bayern; something which now seems very, very unlikely. We all know how strong they can be, however, so anything is still possible. Who knows, we might see some surprises at the Camp Nou next Wednesday evening.

Statistics
Bayern Munich-Barcelona
  • 36% Possession 64%
  • 9/4 Attempts on Target/Off Target 2/2
  • 13 Total Attempts 4
  • 4 Goals 0
  • 1 Saves 3
  • 11 Free Kicks 19
  • 16/10 Fouls Committed/Suffered 10/16
  • 3/0 Yellow/Red Cards 4/0
Squads

Jupp Heynckes and Tito Vilanova lined up the following squads:

Bayern Starting XI

Neuer | Dante, Boateng, Lahm (c) | Martinez, Robben, Alaba, Schweinsteiger, Ribery, Muller | Gomez
Subs: Starke, Van Buyten, Rafinha, Shaqiri, Tymoshcuk, Pizarro, and Gustavo

Barcelona Starting XI

Valdes | Dani Alves, Pique, Bartra, Alba | Xavi (c), Iniesta, Busquets | Sanchez, Messi, Pedro
Subs: Pinto, Montoya, Abidal, Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara, Villa, and Song

Final Score: Bayern Munich 4-0 Barcelona

Muller 25′, 82′, Gomez 49′, Robben 73′

Written by Ange Marline

Borussia Dortmund Superstar Mario Götze Signs for Bayern Munich in €37m Deal

Mario Gotze“Everyone knows how comfortable I feel in Dortmund. The club is far from finished with their recent resurgence. And I want to be part of this development.” -Mario Götze | 27 March, 2012

This quote was said by Mario Götze himself, answering questions in an interview after signing his contract extension with Borussia Dortmund that would keep him at the club until 2016. However, there was always one area of his contract that stood out that kept major clubs around Europe and Germany keeping a close eye on this talented players progress.

This was, of course, his buy out clause, which was €37 million, and on the 23 April 2013, Bayern Munich paid the fee for his services, making him the most expensive German player ever. It has been reported that Mario Götze will officially move to Bayern Munich at the end of this German Bundesliga season that would end an emotional spell at Dortmund, which started when he was just eight years of age.

This account is going to focus on what Mario Götze has done in his short career so far, and whether this will be the right move for him in terms of progressing his career and molding him into the perfect player. This article will also concentrate on how Borussia Dortmund will recover from this loss and whether BVB can still challenge Bayern Munich at the top to continue the rivalry football fans love to observe.

There is no doubt about it, Mario Götze is a credit to Borussia Dortmund’s youth academy, as he is a distinctive player coming through the ranks with a crop of talented football players. The current Dortmund number 10 made his first appearance in the Bundesliga in November 2009 against Mainz 05, after being put on in place of Jakub Błaszczykowski.

Mario GotzeJürgen Klopp was aware of Götze’s talent and upgraded him to the Borussia Dortmund first team, which has proved to be a wise decision. That year, Dortmund won the German Bundesliga, and Mario Götze played his part in making this happen.

There was a slight delay on Mario Götze’s progression however, due to him having problems with his hip; he was out of action for a while before returning to action against Borussia Mönchengladbach in April 2012. The return was perfect timing for Borussia Dortmund and Mario Götze, as there were huge games coming up.

That season Götze was part of a Borussia Dortmund team that broke the German Bundesliga record for acquiring the highest points tally in one season. To further this great season for Borussia Dortmund, they went on to beat Bayern Munich in the final of the DFB Pokal with the score of 5-2, however Mario Götze only made the substitutes.

This season has proved to Mario Götze’s most influential, however as he has played a huge part in Borussia Dortmund’s season, even though they have not been able to keep up with the force that is Bayern Munich. Götze has played 2028 minutes in the Bundesliga this season, scoring 10 goals in the league and gaining 8 assists. He has also created 138 chances for his Dortmund teammates and had 56 attempts on goal.

Götze has appeared in 28 games this Bundesliga campaign with 23 being in the starting line up. It just shows how influential Mario Götze is, with him touching the ball 1487 times and him being fouled 63 is miraculous. His pass succession rate is also 85.8%, which proves his style of play of being a short sharp passer of the ball.

Mario Gotze‘Götzinho’ has not only made a huge impact domestically, but also on the European stage too. Borussia Dortmund have advanced into the UEFA Champions League semi-final and will play Real Madrid for a trip to Wembley in May. He has been influential in wins against Shakhtar Donetsk, Real Madrid, and Malaga in this Champions League campaign. He has scored 2 goals in the UEFA Champions League this season and gained 4 assists, proving Dortmund’s dominance in Europe.

With Mario Götze moving to Bayern Munich however, you have to focus the attention on Borussia Dortmund and how they will recover from this huge loss. Jürgen Klopp has been seen taking the Götze loss in good vein with his recent press conference (see video below), but did mention he was annoyed at the timing of the transfer as he feels it may disrupt the team’s preparation against Real Madrid:

“It could have been worse; it could have happened a couple of hours before the game. But on a scale of one to 10, this is a nine. We all know why it has come out now. We don’t know why the people who have leaked this have done so at such a delicate time. We can only speculate but we are all making the same suppositions.”

He also made it aware that the BVB fans should not single out Mario Götze and that the atmosphere at the ‘Signal Iduna Park’ should be special as always. ‘Kloppo’ also stated that he could not stand in Mario Götze’s way, because he described Pep Guardiola as being a ‘special coach’ and that Götze was the main player he wanted at Bayern Munich.

But assessing whether Borussia Dortmund can recover from this is crazy due to their talent at the club. Marco Reus is another player of fantastic ability, and one you could argue that he has had an even better season than Mario Götze. Rumors have also been flying around that Robert Lewandowski is leaving, but he may stay to see his contract out as he only has one year left on his current deal.

Mario GotzeBut you have to gaze at what these players Jürgen Klopp has brought to the club and what they are worth now compared to when they entered the club. ‘Kloppo’ has brought the likes of Lewandowski for €4.5 million, Hummels and Gündogan both for €4 million, Blaszczykowski for €3 million, Piszczek for free, and other players coming through the clubs fantastic youth system. It needs to be remembered that the club nearly went into bankruptcy in 2005, and that times are far better than what they were.

Jürgen Klopp can again achieve this and he probably has a few irons in the fire on who to bring in next season as he has the task of replacing Mario Götze. Super Mario will still give his all for the rest of his Dortmund career and will always have them in a special place in his heart.

Written by James Williams

Borussia Mönchengladbach: Glad to be Back Near the Top

Borussia MöchengladbachBorussia Möchengladbach was formed in 1900 and is a club situated in Germany’s North-Rhine Westphalia. They are a very well supported club that has many times been compared to Liverpool for their unique way of supporting a football team.

Borussia Mönchengladbach plays at Borussia-Park and has done so since 2004 after moving from their famous Bökelbergstadion. Their stadium holds just over 54,000 supporters and is famous for it’s ‘Nordkurve’ (North Stand) due to its similarities with Liverpool’s ‘Kop.’ The club has just over 38,000 members making them one of the largest clubs in Germany.

Die Fohlen (The Foals) won their first ever trophy in 1960 when they won the DFB Pokal after beating rivals 1. FC Köln with the score of 2-1. Mönchengladbach did not win anything else for another ten years when they reached their ‘Golden Generation’ between 1970 and 1980.

This Mönchengladbach era saw players such as Berti Vogts, Günter Netzer, Herbert Wimmer, and Jupp Heynckes play for them. This period in time built a huge rivalry with Bayern Munich, and going head to head with players like Beckenbauer, Schwarzenbeck, Müller, and Maier was a huge task.

They acquired their first ever Bundesliga trophy in 1970 and went on to successfully defend their trophy a year later, making them the first team to do so in the short Bundesliga history. Bayern Munich stated their dominance however, winning it three years in a row that only allowed Borussia Mönchengladbach to gain their second DFB Pokal in 1973. In that same year, Mönchengladbach reached the UEFA Cup Final, only losing out 3-2 over two legs to Liverpool.

Borussia MöchengladbachHowever, when they reached 1975, this is where Die Fohlen proved their dominance with players like Jupp Heynckes demonstrating his predator instincts, scoring 29 goals that year. They won the Bundesliga and managed to mirror Bayern Munich’s record, winning it three years on the trot.

They reached the UEFA Cup Final, beating Dutch side FC Twente 5-1 over two legs with Jupp Heynckes scoring a hat trick in the away tie. In 1977, Mönchengladbach reached the European Cup Final at the Stadio Olympico in Rome, but went onto lose yet again to Liverpool 3-1 in a major European final.

Mönchengladbach reached the promise land yet again in 1979, beating Red Star Belgrade 2-1 over two legs in the UEFA Cup Final, with the only Danish player in the team, Allen Simonsen, scoring the winner. It seemed that Borussia Mönchengladbach were back again, reaching the UEFA Cup Final another time for an all-German affair.

They lost the match on away goals that seemed to really hurt the Borussia Mönchengladbach fans and players. Since this final, Mönchengladbach has only managed to add the DFB Pokal in 1995 and have struggled to maintain a consistency in the Bundesliga, yo-yoing between the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga.

Borussia Mönchengladbach have had major players wear their famous shirt over recent years, but this has all ended in them selling these players to clubs with a much higher status, most notably Marco Reus to Borussia Dortmund and Dante to Bayern Munich.

Since their ‘Golden Generation,’ Mönchengladbach has majorly stepped back, whereas Bayern Munich kicked on, getting stronger and stronger as an empire. Questions have been asked why this was the case, but nobody could really put together an explanation for them not getting stronger like Bayern.

Borussia MöchengladbachRecently though, Mönchengladbach have managed to get some type of consistency after near missing relegation in 2011 after a post-season playoff. After that season, they have been a very strong side in the German Bundesliga when finishing fourth last season, gaining entry into the UEFA Champions League; they were beaten over two legs by Dynamo Kiev in the qualifying round. They were then entered into the UEFA Europa League but were beaten in the knock out stages by Lazio.

Mönchengladbach currently sits in seventh place on with 41 points and hold a strong position to gain another European spot. UEFA Champions League may be a big ask, but it is still a possibility if Schalke 04 slip up. Mönchengladbach still have to play Schalke 04, so the European race still could be turned on its head. Their supporters will certainly expect them to gain some type of European football, with manager Lucien Favre wanting the same.

But with striker De Jong arguably being out of form, as he has only scored six goals in the league all season, it may be a hard target and a big mountain to climb. However, with Mönchengladbach not being in any more cups, they can fully focus on the league for the final push into one of the European spots.

Borussia MöchengladbachAs mentioned earlier, the Borussia Mönchengladbach supporters have been compared to the Liverpool fans of England for their unique style of supporting the team. Since the 1970s, Mönchengladbach has built a strong relationship with Liverpool as they had a strong rivalry throughout their prestigious years. This relationship has developed every single year as many Liverpool and Mönchengladbach supporters travel between the two cities to see each other play.

After the Hillsborough disaster, Borussia Mönchengladbach donated a large amount of money into the Hillsborough fund. They were also the opposition for Emlyn Hughes’ testimonial game, and to this day, many Mönchengladbach fans wear Liverpool shirts on their famous ‘Nordkurve.’

This is a club that has much tradition that arguably should be at the top challenging Bayern Munich, as they did throughout the 1970s. But it can be said that Mönchengladbach has turned into a selling club, and they will not progress if they continually sell their top players. They have a great chance to enter the UEFA Champions League again this season, but they will have to impose some strong performances if that is to happen.

Written by James Williams

TSV 1860 Munich: Bayern’s Noisy Neighbors Continue Their Fight for Promotion

TSV 1860 MunichDid you know that Munich has two main football teams? Did you know that the other club that you cannot think of was formed before the other club that you are thinking of now?

That is correct; Munich has a second major football club, and not everybody in this towering city support the team that play in red. TSV 1860 Munich is the second illustrious club that play football in this fantastic town, and are one that don’t seem to get much advertisement.

They share ground with their hated rivals Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena and have forever been in their shadow for many years. This account is going to explore the season TSV 1860 Munich have had so far and whether they can push 1. FC Kaiserslautern to the very end for a season play-off finale to gain a place in the Bundesliga.

1860 München is a club with a strong history and a football team that is well supported around the city. The club has just over 20,000 members, and their average attendance in 2006 was just over 41,000, however this has seemingly dropped since then, with their average attendance last season being nearly half that figure.

Die Löwen (The Lions) have won the DFB Pokal on two occasions and won the German Bundesliga once in 1966, making them the third team in Germany to be crowned champions.

They also made an appearance in the 1965 Cup Winners’ Cup Final against West Ham United, but were beaten 2-0. This great club has also made an attendance in the UEFA Champions League in 2000, but didn’t advance far, as they were defeated by Leeds United and then were knocked out by AC Parma in the UEFA Cup the same season.

This club has also inherited some great players such as Rüdi Voller, Martin Max, Jens Jeremies, and Sven Bender. Since 2012, 1860 Munich have had Alexander Schmidt in charge, who was appointed after Reiner Maurer was sacked in November 2012. Schmidt is a man that knows the club well, as he managed 1860 München II for a year before being appointed.

This season, however, has been a frustrating one for the fans of 1860 Munich. They have a squad that has huge potential to challenge teams like Hertha BSC, 1. FC Kaiserslautern, and Eintracht Braunchweig at the top, but their inconsistent form has cost them.

TSV 1860 MunichThe Lions currently sit in sixth place with 42 points from the games they have played this campaign, and they are seven points off the end of season play-off place. So is the play-off place a realistic target for 1860 Munich?

There were many signs that Die Löwen would kick on from their years of disappointment at being in 2. Bundesliga for so long. They started the season very well, as they were unbeaten in their first eight games, scoring thirteen and only conceding three. They presented impressive performances against SV Sandhausen 1916, MSV Duisburg, 1. FC Kaiserslautern, and VfL Bochum 1848.

It only took a terrible performance away to Hertha BSC to knock their confidence, and this is when the inconsistent form began. They struggled to get a hold of their performances, only winning two more games until the winter break. The games leading up to the break saw them draw five games and lose three.

Since the winter break, the form of 1860 Munich has been a lot better, with huge potential to kick on. Since Christmas, they have won four, lost three, and drew three. They have put up some impressive wins against Eintracht Braunchweig, MSV Duisburg, and FC Erzgebirge Ave.

At this moment in time, 1860 Munich have 42 points, scoring 31 goals and conceding only 26, resulting in a goal difference of +5. The obstacle that has been stopping them, however, has been the amount of games they have drew, which is twelve all season, and transforming some of these games into wins could have made their season read differently.

The poor form of their strikers has not helped 1860 Munich, with only one player hitting some type of good form. Benjamin Lauth has played 2211 minutes in the league this season, scoring nine goals, making him 1860 Munich’s highest goal scorer.

Their midfield maestro Moritz Stoppelkamp has played 2410 minutes in the league this year, scoring five goals and gaining five assists. Another influential is Daniel Halfar, who has played 1689 minutes in the league, scoring two goals but gaining five assists, making him a valuable player to 1860 Munich.

TSV 1860 MunichSo do 1860 Munich have the nerve to kick on and challenge until the final minute of the season for the play-off place? You’d like to think so as the statistics show they have the potential to do just that with their settled defense and their promising manager, Alexander Schmidt.

But it seems to be scoring goals that is their problem, and they cannot keep relying on Benjamin Lauth to carry the responsibility of doing it all himself. They lost in their last game to St. Pauli 3-1, which was a huge stumbling block in their season target.

With a huge game at home to FSV Frankfurt next, they cannot afford to dwell in their last defeat. Their next game seems like it may decide the season for 1860 Munich, as there are only five games left.

So can 1860 Munich be back in the big time? Who knows?! This is why we love the beautiful game!

Written by James Williams

Schalke 04: The Rise of the Royal Blues of Germany

Schalke 04It cannot be argued that Schalke 04 is not a major club, as this famous squad stands by its values of displaying a hard work ethic week in week out. Schalke is the second largest sports club in Germany with 100,000 members that attracts just fewer than 79,000 supporters to their famous Veltins Arena.

Schalke 04 always comes in the top 20 of the ‘Deloitte Football Money League’ in terms of annual revenue, generating a whopping €174.5 million in 2012. Some football fans must wonder how Die Königsblauen has not won the German Bundesliga, however the club itself has won a few major honors.

This account is going to explore some of Schalke’s most highlighted events over their illustrious history and examine their season so far, which may have a major impact on their next Bundesliga season.

In 1934, Schalke’s first German title arrived after beating favorites Nuremberg with the score of 2-1. This was the kick-start Schalke 04 needed as the following year they successfully defended their title against VfB Stuttgart in an entertaining 6-4 win.

Die Knappen showed their dominance in this era by acquiring this trophy again in 1937, 1939, 1940, and 1942. Three of the national finals that Schalke 04 were involved in were unbelievably against Austrian teams: Admira Vienna, Rapid Vienna, and First Vienna, which played in Germany’s Gauliga Ostmark after Austria’s incorporation into the Reich through the 1938 Anschluss.

Between the years of 1933 and 1945, Schalke won 162 out of 189 in their Gauliga Ostmark matches, losing only 6 and drawing 21 times. In this period, Schalke showed their scoring governance as they accumulated 924 goals and conceded only 145.

In the years of 1935 to 1939, Schalke did not lose a single league match to any opponent they faced. These achievements caught the eye of many, and this led them to be held up for propaganda reasons by the Nazi regime, as an example of ‘Neue Deutschland’ (New Germany). This was surprising due to many Schalke players descending from Polish immigrants, including their most influential players, Fritz Szepan and Ernst Kuzorra.

Schalke 04When Schalke entered the German Bundesliga in 1963, they have somewhat been inconsistent with their finishes in the league. During the first few years of the German Bundesliga, Schalke found it very hard to adjust to the new league.

For example, in 1965, they just missed out on relegation, only through the league increasing to eighteen teams. A number of finishes at the lower end of the league table followed after, before development started in 1972 as they acquired a second place finish to Bayern München. In the same season, Schalke won the German Cup for the second time in its history.

When looking at Schalke more recently however, they have managed to finally get some consistency in regards to winning trophies and staying towards to upper ends of the league. In 1997, they won their most coveted trophy, the UEFA Cup, beating Inter Milan on penalties.

Since this trophy, Schalke 04 has won the DFB Pokal three times, the Premiere League Cup in 2005, and the German Super Cup in 2011. However, they still have not managed to win the German Bundesliga.

When assessing Schalke’s season so far, they have had a somewhat rocky campaign as they decided to relieve Huub Stevens of his duties and appoint Jens Keller as their new head coach. Schalke has given their fans something to brag about in the Ruhr though, as they managed to gain the double over their great rivals Borussia Dortmund, beating them 2-1 on both games.

Also defeating Arsenal 2-0 away in the UEFA Champions League, that could be argued to be Schalke’s best performance of the season, as they simply played ‘The Gunners’ off the park. There have been some signs of Schalke’s potential to kick on this season, but beating Galatasaray SK was a step too far as their squad was looking bare.

Bayern Munich 4-0 Schalke 04They have also struggled with injuries this year, and this has been evident in some of their performances, most notably away at Bayern München when they were defeated 4-0. Since that defeat however, they have managed to gain some form and rise up the league by beating Fortuna Düsseldorf, VfL Wolfsburg, Borussia Dortmund, 1899 Hoffenheim, and most recently SV Werder Bremen.

This form has led them to overlap Eintracht Frankfurt in fourth place for that UEFA Champions League spot. They sit nicely with 45 points and are now looking to be favorites to claim this spot. They could even overhaul Bayer Leverkusen, as they are only four points behind, but this will be tough due to Bayer Leverkusen’s plus fifteen goal difference.

The run in for Schalke is hard, and they invite Bayer Leverkusen to the Veltins Arena next and this is simply a must win game for ‘The Royal Blues.’ Then it’s off to the founding father’s Eintracht Frankfurt, who will be looking to get back into the chase for that fourth spot, so Schalke need to be focused for the next two games as their UEFA Champions League spot could slip out of their hands.

But with five games left, they have a great opportunity to confirm UEFA Champions League football next season, and if they gain this, it may get Jens Keller a contract to take over permanently.

But this is Schalke, and anything can happen. Will Schalke 04 ever go back to playing their famous ‘Schalker Kriesel’ way of the 1920s? Who knows?! What will be, will be.

Written by James Williams