German referees are not particularly good:
Another weekend and there were several controversial decisions from officials in the Bundesliga. This follows the saga of Wolfgang Stark who will not referee Borussia Dortmund this season, a decision taken by the DFB last week, to ease the pressure on Stark.
On Friday, referees came under scrutiny again after Tobias Welz’s decision to award Gladbach a first-half penalty for an alleged handball against Jerome Boateng. There is no doubt the ball struck the Bayern defender’s arm – but was it intentional? No.
And again on Matchday 17 the referees became the centre of attention with Tobias Stieler making two very harsh calls to dismiss Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Jan Rosenthal within the space of a few minutes.
*cue debates about goal-line technology and extra officials – rather than just poor refereeing*
Schalke are bereft of confidence:
The Royal Blues slipped to seventh in the Bundesliga on Saturday following a 3-1 home defeat to SC Freiburg which eventually saw the sacking of head coach Huub Stevens. According to the club’s supervisory board, Stevens was not “connecting” with the players and change was necessary.
It has been a consistent story since their 3-2 loss at Hoffenheim in November and die Knappen have been on a downward spiral since then. With the supporters on their back, Schalke lacked leadership and inspiration with many of the so-called ‘bigger’ players shirking responsibility.
And even the likes of Lewis Holtby and Julian Draxler look simply lost at this level – despite possessing Schalke’s best talent. The new coach needs to install a belief back into the players swiftly for the second half of the campaign.
The battle for Europe is fascinating:
Seven points separate Freiburg in fifth and Wolfsburg are 15th going into the winter break, setting up one of the most enthralling battles for European positions in recent memory.
As Wolfsburg continue to make progress – albeit in small steps – the overall outcome of the Bundesliga is so unpredictable. If Hoffenheim make the right appointment in January, could they even close the gap between the relegation zone and 15th?
At the end of 2012, Freiburg and Mainz are in the driving seat for the Europa League positions with Schalke, Gladbach and Stuttgart following behind – all on 25 points. With the league championship in the hands of Bayern already, this will ensure a fantastic second half of the season for Bundesliga fans.
Fürth will be boosted by their recent capture:
It might be too little, too late for newly-promoted Greuther Fürth with a 10-point deficit keeping them in the relegation zone. In their crucial battle at the bottom on Saturday, they could only manage a 1-1 draw at home to FC Augsburg which did no favours for either.
But Fürth have shown little glimpses of quality this season. In their performances against Hoffenheim and Eintracht Frankfurt, the Bavarians looked solid and dangerous on the break. With Zoltan Stieber and Sercan Sararer, Fürth have some creative talents in wide areas that need to be utilised more in the second half of the season.
They have been active already, signing striker Nikola Djurdjic who impressed with Helsingborg in the UEFA Europa League against Hannover 96 and Celtic in the UEFA Champions League.
Hannover are struggling to deal with Europe and the Bundesliga:
Many tipped Hannover 96 to be chasing for a Champions League spot this season under their talented head coach Mirko Slomka. He handed the club a boost by penning a new contract last week – but still has to solve their conundrum of how to balance European and domestic football.
Last season, Hannover were strong at the back and very effective on the counter-attack with Mohammed Abdellaoue a fearless and clinical frontman to the system. But in the first half of this campaign, Hannover will end it in 11th place, having kept only one clean sheet in seven games.
Slomka’s side will go into the latter rounds of the Europa League in 2013 and even though they are contenders for the trophy, they will need to be aware that a strong league position is required to guarantee a place in Europe for next season.
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