Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Germany: A tale of West and East this weekend

Posted in European Football by peterbein on February 3, 2011
BVB - S04

Dortmund v Schalke is arguably the fiercest derby in German football

Two games take place in Germany this weekend with local pride as well as three points at stake. The games in question, however, highlight the differing fortunes between football in the west and east of the country. The 1. Bundesliga on Friday night sees the biggest derby in German football between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 whilst Saturday afternoon, in contrast, witnesses a very different contest in the country’s second division between capital clubs 1. FC Union and Hertha Berlin.

The Ruhr Valley in western Germany, known to many as the Ruhrpott, is one of German football’s hotbeds with a multitude of teams occupying the area. The two that stand out above all others are the giants of Borussia Dortmund, currently in pole position to claim a seventh German championship title, and Schalke 04 who, having been the powerhouse of the region for many decades in the first half of the 20th century, have had to get used to playing second fiddle to their rivals for most of the last few decades. This Friday night sees the latest meeting between the Ruhrpott’s finest with both teams having won 27 times against their rivals since the inception of the Bundesliga in 1963. Recent history shows that this will be a fiery encounter full of goals (31 in the last ten meetings) and with no love lost (five red cards in the last seven games) in a fixture which is arguably the most competitive and aggressive in the league.

The last meeting saw the Schwarzgelben from Dortmund win 3-1 in enemy territory with Shinji Kagawa scoring twice in Gelsenkirchen in a game which caught many a headline around the world, not for the football but for the hardline stance taken by thousands of Dortmund fans who refused to travel to the game on the back of what they saw as an extraordinary price hike by their neighbours. The price of a ticket? 19 Euro – English fans take note!!

1. BUNDESLIGA: Borussia Dortmund v Schalke 04 (Friday 20:30 CET)

Hertha - Union

The capital derby between Hertha and Union is a more friendly affair

In the east of the country there’s a very different encounter taking place on Saturday between capital clubs Hertha Berlin and 1.FC Union in the former’s Olympiastadion home. Unlike many countries around the world Germany, whether you talk about the situation before or after re-unification, has never had a capital city with a vibrant footballing culture. Having a divided city for four decades certainly didn’t help matters but, even before Berlin became rather more famous for political tensions, the city never had a club of which to be truly proud. Hertha BSC, undoubtedly the biggest club in the capital, have only ever savoured two championships in their history but for those one must go back to the turn of the 1930s. Since then Hertha has had its moments in the spotlight – three DFB Pokal final appearances (all lost) and a 1999-2000 UEFA Champions League campaign – but has failed to give the capital the footballing spotlight that a city of its size and importance truly deserves.

This will be highlighted all the more on Saturday afternoon when they face off against local neighbours Union in the latest tussle for points in the second division. Their meeting earlier in the season was their first ever league derby encounter and, perhaps fittingly, finished in a 1-1 draw between two teams who have never allowed a city rivalry to develop due to constantly playing in different divisions before this season. Hertha BSC currently lie on top of the 2nd division with a five point gap over the next three teams in the race for promotion whilst Union occupy 13th place and could do with a win to aid their fight against relegation. At least the signs are good that the Olympiastadion could enjoy a great crowd for its first capital derby with a sold-out stadium expected.

2. BUNDESLIGA: Hertha BSC v 1. FC Union Berlin (Saturday 13:00 CET)

Europe: Derby Days Preview

Posted in European Football by peterbein on September 18, 2010
Stadion De Kuip

Feyenoord's De Kuip Stadion plays host to Sunday's Klassieker

The word “Superclásico” has come into footballing lexicon in recent years as a way of describing those games which are amongst the biggest and most widely anticipated in world football. Sunday sees five such encounters taking place all over Europe and Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews them all here (all times given are local):

FEYENOORD ROTTERDAM v AJAX AMSTERDAM (12:30)

A repeat of last season’s KNVB Beker (Dutch Cup) final, these two oldest and bitterest of enemies meet again in the first Klassieker of the new season. Home team Feyenoord last won this fixture in the 2005-06 season and their success starved supporters will feel that a victory over Ajax is long overdue. They start the game in eighth place, six points behind Martin Jol’s Ajax who, in turn, lie in joint second place with PSV Eindhoven and have the chance to go top of the table this weekend. Ajax have won five out of the last eight matches between the two sides in the Eredivisie and are favourites to win again on Sunday.

MANCHESTER UNITED v LIVERPOOL (13:30)

The most decorated fixture in English football takes place at Old Trafford with both clubs experiencing different fortunes. Manchester United are in third place and unbeaten in the 2010-11 season so far going into this game whilst Liverpool, under new coach Roy Hodgson, have had some teething problems and have only won one of their four matches and lie in 16th place before kick-off. Manchester United still has the whip hand in this fixture having won 59 games to 52 with 43 draws (league game stats only) but Liverpool’s recent record against United is pretty good having won three of the last four matches. The odds, though, are certainly more favourable towards the Red Devils with United expected to gain all three points.

SCHALKE 04 v BORUSSIA DORTMUND (17:30)

Die Königsblauen (Royal Blues) of Schalke 04 have caused controversy ahead of this game by significantly raising prices for visiting Borussia Dortmund fans who, in turn, have threatened to boycott the game in large numbers in protest. On the pitch Dortmund are in good form and have won two of their three Bundesliga matches so far in stark contrast to Schalke 04 who have lost all three of their matches and lie rooted to the bottom of the table. The head-to-head record between these two arch-rivals is close with just one Schalke win (27 wins) separating them from Dortmund (26) and it’s the Gelsenkirchen club who have had the better of it in recent times with six wins in the most recent ten league matches, die Schwarzgelben (Yellow and Blacks) from Dortmund last winning in 2007.

S04 - BVB
Schalke 04 v Borussia Dortmund is Germany’s biggest derby

FENERBAHÇE v BEŞIKTAŞ (19:00)

OK, so many people would argue that the true Superclásico of Turkish football is the game between Fener and Galatasaray but the statistics show that games involving Beşiktaş are every bit as important as those involving the original Big Two. Beşiktaş go into Sunday’s game three points better off having won three and lost one of their four games thus far in the Süper Lig whilst Fenerbahçe have won two and lost two. In recent years honours have been even in these games with each team winning one each in the last two seasons but the picture overall favours Fener who have won 122 of the 326 matches between them (all competitions) with Beşiktaş just three wins behind.

SPORTING v SL BENFICA (21:15)

Champions Benfica have struggled domestically this season with just one win and three defeats in their first four matches of the new campaign whilst local rivals Sporting lie in sixth place with seven points. The head-to-head record between these arch local rivals – despite FC Porto’s recent dominance this is still regarded as the biggest derby fixture in Portugal – goes in Benfica’s favour with 168 wins in 401 official matches (all competitions) compared to 153 for Sporting. Last season Benfica got four points from the two league derbies whilst Sporting last had the better of this fixture in 2005-06 when they did the ‘double’ over the Águias (Eagles).

FCK v Brøndby

FC København play Brøndby IF in the New Firm derby on Sunday

Two more important league derbies which take place on Sunday but are not quite of Superclásico status involve the derby of Hamburg between newly-promoted St Pauli and the traditional giants of the city Hamburger SV (kick-off 15:30) whilst across the border in Denmark an important derby in the capital city of Copenhagen sees the defending SAS Superliga champions FC København take on arguably the country’s most famous club Brøndby IF (kick-off 18:00). St Pauli won their opening match of the new Bundesliga campaign away in Freiburg but have lost both their subsequent games whilst HSV hope to jump into second place with a win against their local rivals from the local district of the same name. In Denmark the New Firm take centre stage with Brøndby IF needing a win away from home to stay in touch with their neighbours FC København who come back to domestic action following their 1-0 home win over Russian champions Rubin Kazan in the UEFA Champions League.

TV: ESPN ruins my weekend

Posted in European Football by peterbein on September 17, 2010
Eintracht Frankfurt

In case ESPN don't know - this is what Eintracht Frankfurt look like

No doubt that not a lot of people will know, nor actually care, about what I’m going to write but I shall do it anyway. During the current Bundesliga campaign this season there has been a live game shown every Friday night. FC Bayern v VfL Wolfsburg opened the 2010-11 campaign a little under a month ago and each of the Friday night games to have graced each matchday in the German league has been shown on the sports TV station ESPN in the UK. So why is it that just as my favourite team Eintracht Frankfurt is about to play in its first Friday night match of the season against SC Freiburg has ESPN decided to show live rugby union? Bloody typical!!!

Rugby Union

The oval ball dominates on ESPN tonight - much to my annoyance!

This isn’t the first time that I’ve endured such disappointment amongst the schedules. ESPN’s predecessor as Sky Sports’ chief broadcasting rival, Setanta Sports, also used to show live Friday night German football and they used to make a point of leaving the Eintracht games off the list so long as they could put live rugby or something else supposedly more exciting on in its place. Now, just when I thought that my faith in Friday night sporting TV was restored, ESPN has decided to follow suit in dropping the Friday night game. You may say that I wouldn’t be here slagging off ESPN if they cancelled a game involving any other teams but that would be nonsense. I’ve been following the Bundesliga for a few years now and have come to regard it as preferable to the overblown, over-hyped coverage of England’s Premier League that prevails on Sky Sports. However I just think it’s an amazing coincidence that people in “TV-land” (wherever that is) always seem to drop these games whenever Eintracht Frankfurt are involved. In my opinion all of the teams in the league should be given as much coverage as everybody else, whether it be FC Bayern, Eintracht Frankfurt or whoever.

ESPN: It’s Good To Be Here. Except, of course, when they’re in Frankfurt 😦

PS – A critique and an advertisement in the same piece. That’s quite an achievement from my good self 🙂  However I shall recommend ESPN for Sunday’s live game involving Germany’s biggest derby Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund. Schalke 04, the home team, have decided to significantly raise the prices for standing areas for away supporters to €20 which goes against the spirit of cheap ticket prices for people from all sectors of society. Many Borussia Dortmund fans have decided to boycott this fixture and I support such fans who hope to keep the Bundesliga the most affordable and best attended league in the world. Hopefully many other fans will hold their own boycott in the future should other clubs begin to adopt the modern day “English disease” of ripping off the fans.

UPDATE: Since yesterday’s blog was written I’ve since found out that ESPN are only showing the second half of the biggest derby in German football. What will they be showing during the first half? Yes, you’ve guessed it: more rugby!!! Either show 90 minutes of the football or don’t pretend to make the effort. A disappointing show this weekend………

Super Cup: Bayern, Porto and Trabzonspor lift early season silver (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on August 8, 2010

The domestic showpiece Super Cup match has been played in three countries this weekend and Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews events in Germany, Portugal and Turkey.

After a fourteen year break the DFB Supercup was re-instated back into the German football calendar and it was no surprise to see last season’s League and Cup double winners FC Bayern München lift the first silverware of the 2010-11 season. The game, played in Augsburg, saw the double winners face Schalke 04 who qualified for this match as last season’s league runners-up and who had a new high profile signing in the form of Real Madrid legend Raúl playing for the Königsblauen for the first time. Alas it was FC Bayern who would seal the deal in the last fifteen minutes of the match. Thomas Müller and Miroslav Klose scored the crucial goals which gave the Munich side their first official Super Cup title since 1990.

WATCH DFB SUPERCUP 2010 GOALS HERE:

In Portugal league champions SL Benfica met cup winners FC Porto in the 32nd edition of the Super Cup in the Estádio Municipal de Aveiro which has played host to the two most recent editions of this trophy. FC Porto took the lead very early when Rolando put them ahead after just three minutes with a header just a couple of yards in front of goal. Falcao secured the trophy for FC Porto midway through the second half after he hit the ball home on the half volley following a cross from Silvestre Varela after he’d produced some good work down the left. The victory meant that FC Porto lift the Portuguese Super Cup for the 17th time in the club’s history, ten more than their nearest rivals Sporting Clube.

WATCH HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PORTUGUESE SUPER CUP HERE:

In Turkey Bursaspor, who won their maiden Süper Lig title last season, met cup winners Trabzonspor to determine who would win the first trophy of the new season. The match was held in the Atatürk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul and it was to be a good day for the team from Trabzon who would run out easy winners of this match by three goals to nil. A hat-trick from Colombian striker Teófilo Gutierrez ensured that the team from Turkey’s Black Sea coast would win their eighth Super Cup title, fifteen years after winning their last one. Bursaspor, however, have a 100% losing record in this competition after losing in their only other appreance in 1986 where they lost to Istanbul giants Beşiktaş. For Trabzonspor the game serves as a confidence booster ahead of their UEFA Europa League play-off round match against English giants Liverpool FC.

WATCH HIGHLIGHTS OF THE TURKISH SUPER CUP HERE:

Bundesliga Preview: FC Bayern not such big fans of The Hoff

Posted in European Football by peterbein on January 15, 2010
FC Bayern v TSG 1899 Hoffenheim

Ivica Olic quietens the crowd as he scores in the 1-1 draw between Hoffenheim and FC Bayern on the opening day of the 2009-10 Bundesliga

Thankfully, for all fans of Baywatch, FC Bayern have not taken a dislike to cult hero David Hasselhoff. After a shorter than usual winter break the German Bundesliga returns tonight with a modern day rivalry between FC Bayern and nouveau riche club TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.

Since the promotion of the latter into the First League in 2008 there has been no love lost between the two clubs who indulged in public spats last season as both teams were hoping to challenge for the title. Despite winning the unofficial “Herbstmeister” (Autumn champion) title, upstarts Hoffenheim gradually fell away in the second half of the 2008-09 season but, generally, had given the Bundesliga a shot in the arm. Ultimately both clubs had to take a back seat while surprise team VfL Wolfsburg won the title. However, after a slow start this season, both clubs are in a healthy position going into the “Rückrunde” (latter half of the season). The bad blood from last season has been replaced with words of respect from both coaches Louis van Gaal (Bayern) and Ralf Rangnick in a game both teams must win if they’re to build on any hopes of a title challenge. FC Bayern could go top for the first time in 51 matchday rounds (since May 2008) whilst a win for Hoffenheim would see them go into joint sixth with Werder Bremen (seven points behind leaders Leverkusen) before the weekend’s other games.

On Saturday the current “Herbstmeister” Leverkusen will hope to retain the unbeaten record they had at the midway point of the season (Played 17, won 9, drawn 8, points 35) but will have it tough against the league’s surprise package 1.FSV Mainz 05 who have hopes of fighting it out for a European spot. Fourth place Hamburger SV are looking for a third consecutive victory as they face lowly SC Freiburg whilst Werder Bremen will hope to gain revenge for an opening day defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt whose coach, Michael Skibbe, has threatened to quit the club at the end of the season after he accused his employers of lacking ambition due to the lack of funds available for new players during the January transfer window. Ex-Frankfurt coach Friedhelm Funkel has his work cut out at bottom club Hertha BSC who accumulated the lowest number of points ever after 17 games (a measly six) and is up against Hannover 96, a team still suffering from the death of goalkeeper Robert Enke, and who are in danger of being dragged into the “Tabellenkellar” (relegation zone) as they lie in 14th place, five points away from 1.FC Nürnberg in the second automatic relegation spot. Borussia Mönchengladbach will hope to keep up their good form, 13 points from the last seven games, against a VfL Bochum side who currently lie in the relegation play off 16th spot. In the Saturday night game Armin Veh, who has a mixed record since taking over at champions VfL Wolfsburg, will hope for three points at his old stomping ground in Stuttgart, who he led to the 2006-07 championship. Now under new management following the dismissal of Markus Babbel, Stuttgart and their new coach Christian Gross will hope to start ascending up the league to the relative safety of mid-table.

In the Sunday games Felix Magath will hope to keep up the pressure on the top teams as his Schalke 04 side play at home against struggling 1.FC Nürnberg whilst Jürgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund travel to 1.FC Köln, for whom local hero Lukas Podolski has only scored one goal in the Bundesliga following his much publicised return from FC Bayern at the start of the season. No wonder then that “Die Geißböcke” (Billy Goats) find themselves as the league’s least prolific team in front of goal having only scored ten times in 17 games.

European Leagues: Winter Break Round-up

Posted in European Football by peterbein on December 22, 2009
Samuel Eto'o

Samuel Eto'o is all smiles as his club Internazionale lead Italy's Serie A

With the exception of England, Scotland and France, most of the league championships in Europe have taken a well earned break for Christmas time. “Stoppage Time” reviews the season so far in Europe’s top leagues:

SPAIN

This looks like it will be a two horse race between arch-rivals FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. The Spanish, European and World champions FC Barcelona (39 points from 15 games) hold a slim two point advantage over ‘El Real’ whose performances haven’t always been great but whose capability of getting results has improved. Sevilla looked for a while like a potential ‘stalking horse’ candidate for the title, keeping close to the top but they have slipped off the pace in recent weeks. At the bottom of the table newly promoted sides such as Xerez (7 points from 15 games) and Real Zaragoza have found the going tough. A traditional giant of the Spanish game, Atlético Madrid find themselves just one point from the cellar after a string of poor displays.

ITALY

FC Internazionale of Milan (39 points from 17 games), including striker Samuel Eto’o (pictured) find themselves in charge of Serie A yet again. Going for a fifth consecutive championship, the Nerazzurri’s only challengers to date appear to be local enemies AC Milan, who are eight points behind with a game in hand. The Rossoneri have come back strongly after a really poor start under the stewardship of Leonardo. Juventus appeared to be going well under new coach Ciro Ferrara but have lost their last three games and remain a point further behind Milan having played a game more. At the bottom of the league six points separate Udinese in 14th place from AC Siena in last place (12 points after 17 games), signalling that a tight relegation battle could be just around the corner.

GERMANY

Bayer 04 Leverkusen (35 points from 17 games) remain unbeaten to be crowned the unofficial “Herbstmeister” (autumn champions) in the Bundesliga. However the ‘Werkself’ (Work’s Eleven) have drawn a lot a games meaning that their lead is a narrow one point margin from nearest challengers Schalke 04, who have done well considering their financial troubles. Despite Bayern Munich’s less than impressive start to the season the Bavarian giants are a further point behind Schalke. Louis Van Gaal has withstood the criticism and has guided Bayern to third place at the halfway stage with 33 points. The surprise of the season so far is 1. FSV Mainz 05, who were promoted from the second division last season, who have a respectable eighth place finish after 17 games. Hertha Berlin is the surprise team at the bottom of the table (6 points/17 games), all the more surprising considering they won on the opening day against Hannover 96. Other big clubs close to the bottom are 1. FC Nürnberg, who sacked their coach Michael Oenning on Monday, and VfB Stuttgart, who replaced Markus Babbel with former Tottenham Hotspur coach Christian Gross in early December.

PORTUGAL

The Portuguese Superliga normally has three contenders for the title but one of this year’s contenders is an unfamiliar one: Sporting Braga. They lead the table jointly with SL Benfica (33 points from 14 games) with perennial champions FC Porto four points behind. Many hope that Braga can keep up with the big two especially since the tradional third power of Portuguese football, Sporting, are struggling domestically (21 points/14 games) but performing well in Europe. Also many remember last season’s surprise package Leixões, who led the table early on in 2008-09, falling away late in the season. Could Braga really become only the sixth club (after Benfica, Porto, Sporting, Belenenses and Boavista) to win the Portuguese championship? At the bottome Leixões’ glory days from last season are well and truly behind them as they now are fighting against relegation lying just one point above the bottom two clubs Olhanense and Belenenses (10 points/14 games).

HOLLAND

Steve McClaren has done an impressive job at FC Twente (47 points/17 games) thus far and he’s already hoping to go one better than last season. The club from Enschede were runners-up in both league and cup in 2008-09 but McClaren’s men currently lead the Eredivisie by two points from PSV Eindhoven. PSV’s coach Fred Rutten has given new purpose to the Philips owned club after they lost direction last season under Huub Stevens which led to them weakly giving up their run of four consecutive titles. Ajax, coached by Martin Jol, have suffered a few defeats and are nine points off the pace. Their arch-rivals Feyenoord Rotterdam have also been rejuvenated under new coach Mario Been and a further point behind having played a game more. At the bottom RKC Waalwijk (12 points/18 games) will hope to avoid the automatic relegation spot at the end of the season as they are not far off the teams above NEC Nijmegen, ADO Den Haag and Willem II Tilburg.

GREECE

It’s the same old story in Greece as champions Olympiakos Piraeus are involved in a two-way tussle with league leaders Panathinaikos (38 points/15 games) for the championship. As usual PAOK Thessaloniki threaten to make a fight of it but end up dropping too many points but they should easily get a place in Europe. Athen’s third club AEK have struggled for form and consistency in both Greek and European competition thus far and lie in eighth place on 21 points. At the bottom of the table it’s been a dreadful time for promoted Panthrakikos who remain without a win after fifteen games. They have only two points at this stage and are dead certs for the drop. Above them the likes of Giannina, Levadiakos (14 points), Larissa and Iraklis (15 points) will hope to avoid joining them in the second division next season.

TURKEY

The Turkish Superlig could be one of the most exciting for years. Fenerbahçe (37 points/17 games) lead at the halfway stage by just one point from eternal rivals Galatasaray. Then there are two unexpected title chasers in Bursaspor and Kayserispor (35 and 34 points respectively) as well as last season’s champions Beşiktaş (32 points). “Fener” will miss on the services of Roberto Carlos after the winter break as he heads back to Brazil to finish his career at Corinithians. Last season’s surprise package Sivasspor struggled in the early weeks of the season but will hope that they can take recent good form into the second half of the season. They are ten points ahead of second bottom Denizlispor (7 points/17 games) and seventeen ahead of Ankaraspor who are pointless (numerically speaking, of course) at the halfway stage and look certain for the drop.