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Schalke 04 - Points 0, Games 4. That's the story for Felix Magath's men at the end of matchday four in the Bundesliga. As they had done previously on matchday three against 1899 Hoffenheim, the Royal Blues once again lost against what many people assumed to be lesser opponents in Borussia Dortmund on Sunday.
This time, however, at home inside their imposing Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen. Despite a lavish spending spree in the summer, with superstar names Raúl and Klaas Jan Hunterlaar – as well as a certain Christoph Metzelder – all brought to the club amid great expectation, Felix Magath must already be feeling the pressure.
The Bavarian has seen his team amass a mere three goals in four games, with nine already having been fired past poor Manuel Neuer at the other end. Time to panic? Probably not. Should Magath be concerned? Certainly. After all, this is supposed to be an improved Schalke, a team with the intention and ability to dethrone Bayern this year. Out with players such as Kuranyi and Rafinha, and in with proven internationals Hunterlaar, Raúl and Metzelder.
Whatever way it is dressed up, the facts show they've now already shipped in just under a third of the goals they did during the whole of 2009/10. Their next game is away to a rapidly-improving SC Freiburg, and the Fundesliga would suggests it isn't one to put down as an away win on your accumulator!
Joining Schalke in the relegation zone at the end of matchday four is Steve McClaren's VfL Wolfsburg – despite beating Hannover 96 at the weekend. They, again, are a team who splashed the cash rather heavily in the summer, but seem to be struggling to find fluidity in their starting XI.
New signing Simon Kjaer has been the target of plenty of criticism over the past couple of weeks, but following a relatively straightforward 2-0 win over Hannover 96 this weekend, Stevie Mac told how the Dane had “stood up and shown what he is made of”.
Indeed he did, as did Diego, the little Brazilian signed for a modest €15 million from Juventus in the summer. His well-taken overhead kick was accompanied by a Edin Dzeko goal to dismiss the 96ers. See Diego's effort here:
1899 Hoffenheim have made a splendid start to the season. With the backing of billionaire Dietmar Hopp, they rose from Regionalliga obscurity to Bundesliga also-rans in the space of a few short seasons. Their defeat of Schalke on matchday three put them top of the Bundesliga – a feeling which will have evoked fond memories of their maiden Bundesliga season during which they went into the winter break looking proudly down on the 19 other teams in the league.
This weekend they faced Kaiserslautern, a side still hurting after a 2-1 matchday three defeat by Mainz. The Red Devils, as they are known in Germany, had failed to take the performance levels from their stunning victory over Bayern into the third matchday, and one can't help but feel they are going to have a very up-and-down campaign.
Despite taking a half time lead through Luiz Gustavo’s first goal for the club, Hoffenheim, without their first choice central defenders, failed to extend their lead, and instead conceded two goals to Erwin Hoffer.
But for a magical managerial decision from head coach Ralf Rangnick, Hoffenheim could have been staring at their first league defeat of the season. Instead Rangnick, who after the match said he was “about to bring all three subs on, but decided on just sending Gylfi on on his own”, sent ex-Reading man Gylfi Sigurdsson onto the field of play with his side about to take a free kick 20 yards out. The Icelander's masterful free kick earned his side a share of the spoils – just a matter of seconds after he entered the match.
A pair of teams who can't be accused of attempting to buy success are FSV Mainz 05 and SC Freiburg. The latter, having won two games on the bounce, played away at Eintracht Frankfurt, and came out of the encounter with a 0-1 victory. Freiburg had escaped a relegation dogfight by a mere four points last season, and their promising start to this campaign will be music to the ears of their fans.
Mainz, on the other hand, managed to dig out yet another victory, and now sit proudly atop the Bundesliga. An away game against Werder Bremen is never a game you're going to relish when it crops up, but Mainz's gritty determination and organisation ensured they came out of the game with three valuable points.
Tim Borowski missed a gilt-edged chance for the home side on 52 minutes, before two goals in 10 minutes settled the game. First Marcel Risse, then Andrea Schürrle with his third of the season. The latter's goal must have been incredibly bittersweet for Mainz, though, as Schürrle last week signed a five-year pre-contract with Bayer Leverkusen, set to begin new summer.
As for Bremen, a lot of hard work is ahead for Thomas Schaaf's men as we go into matchday five. Can they successfully handle a season with four competitions on the roster? I am sceptical...
Bayern München, as you might expect due to them not featuring so far in this blog, are hardly setting the league on fire at the moment. Four games played, five points in the bag. It must be said, though, that two consecutive nil-nil draws - both at their wonderful Allianz Arena – is very un-Bayern München like.
There are real fears in and around the club that Oranje superstar Arjen Robben's injury is much worse than first anticipated, and whispers have been heard that the club is preparing for a season without their talented wing man.
Proof, were it needed, of how much he makes them tick can be displayed by the team's performances in his absence. Matchday 3's 0-0 result against Bremen can be counted as very lucky, particularly with Hans-Jorg Butt's unbelievably fluky save (see below) - while Saturday's 0-0 result against FC Köln was just poor.
St Pauli welcomed Hamburger SV (their fans have their own particular style of welcoming opponents, if you didn't know...) for a crunch Hamburg derby on Sunday. St Pauli hadn't beaten their fierce rivals for 33 years, and the game was set to be the first Bundesliga game to be played at the host's Millerntor-Stadion. With a victory in sight – and celebrations set to commence like only St Pauli know how – Mladen Petric decided to act the party pooper with a lovely 15-yard curling effort from the edge of the area to settle the scores and ensure no maiden Bundesliga victory was to be had for the hosts.
While there was a distinct lack of goals in the Leverkusen-Nürnberg game at the weekend, with the match ending a boring 0-0 affair (to make matters worse for the Werkself they also lost Stefan Kießling and Patrick Helmes to injury – the former set to be out for some time), the same can't be said for VfB Stuttgart.
Bottom of the table after matchday three, Christian Gross' side produced an absolutely sumptuous display to blow away Borussia Mönchengladbach. Five different scorers for the hosts, including a marvellous hat-trick from Russian Pavel Pogrebnyak scraped Gross' men from the foot of the table and finally gave their fans plenty of reason for optimism going into matchday five.
Wonder if Schalke can make it a magic five when they face Freiburg on Wednesday?
BUNDESLIGA RESULTS Fri 17 Sept Eintracht Frankfurt 0-1 SC Freiburg Sat 18 Sept Bayern München 0-0 FC Köln, Werder Bremen 0-2 Mainz, VfB Stuttgart 7-0 Borussia M'gladbach, VfL Wolfsburg 2-0 Hannover 96, Kaiserslautern 2-2 1899 Hoffenheim Sun 19 Sept St Pauli 1-1 Hamburger SV, Schalke 04 1-3 Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen 0-0 FC Nürnberg.
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Yeah, it's strange to see Schalke at the very bottom; and the way they play do not boost the confidence of the fans for sure. It's clear that their new squad needs time to gel, but what the heck was Magath thinking bringing in 15 new players?
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