Last week, Germany and Italy lined up against each other for a friendly, but the atmosphere was everything but. The reason is that, apart from Brazil, there is no one country against whom Germany has a worse record than Italy: over the last 30 games, they have only booked seven wins against the Italians, whilst drawing nine and losing a disastrous fourteen games. To make matters worse, their last win was 16 years ago, and one of the many defeats they have suffered fell at just the wrong time and in just the wrong competition.
Millions against mini-budget, record-holders against relegation candidates, favourites vs. underdogs: the contrasts s loaded up onto the game at the top of the league could not have been greater. Bayern München, a financially high-powered team who are favourites to take the title played against Mainz 05, genuine underdogs who have surprised everyone by going to the top of the table this season – and staying there.
It was the fourth match-day, and in this year’s Bundesliga, that could only mean one thing: derby time! In Wolfsburg, Gelsenkirchen and Hamburg too, neighbouring clubs lined up against each other, and it is this last local clash that really stood out. After all, it had been 48 years since the city rivals HSV and St. Pauli had met on the latter’s home turf at Millerntor. Up until this point, all meetings between the two teams had always ended up being relocated to HSV’s far bigger stadium at Volkspark.
Last week must have been difficult for all of you Bundesliga junkies: the season had just got going, and suddenly there was a pause for international games; and they weren’t even high-adrenaline games, either. We were forced into watching teams like Denmark, Belgium and Azerbaijan. That’s all over now, though: play started again on the weekend – and if you’re anything like me, you couldn’t wait!
This Saturday, 22nd May, Bayern Munich will be playing in the Champions League final against Inter Milan. Yes, you read right: on a Saturday! It’s unusual, what with Wednesday tending to be the day for European football – but the marketing whizzes from UEFA will no doubt have noticed that Saturday is far better for viewing figures. And we all know that bad TV ratings are a sure way to destroy a good competition.
Birthday-boy Arjen Robben netted the decisive goal in this weekend’s top Bundesliga match between Bremen and Bayern Munich. The free-kick, taken from some 20 meters on the far right of the penalty box was whipped in – passing friend and foe in the box – and dipped in time to stroke the underside of the bar and land in the top corner.
The Bayern winger threw his hands up in celebration and sprinted to the dug-out where Bayern coach Louis van Gaal was involuntarily lying on his back after loosing his footing in celebration. A pile-up ensued and van Gaal was left sucking an injured finger. Not that he minded – Bayern dominated the game, created chances at will and played some mouth-wateringly good football.
He lurks. He is patient. Praying on naivety, choosing the right moment, he makes him move. He rarely misses an opportunity. You might wish he were not there, but ignoring him doesn’t make him any less real.
The bogeyman is no other than the team people love to hate – Bayern Munich. The Bavarians are adept at snatching titles at the last minute. Ask Leverkusen. Or, for the crowning glory of the bogeyman’s triumphs, ask Schalke.
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However, in sixth place, with an indifferent start to the season, Munich are hardly cruising. Dutch coach Louis van Gaal has yet to have the expected impact. A 2-1 away victory this weekend was enough to see off Freiburg, but problems remain.