Terry Duffelen
Thu 29 January 2009

Bundesbag Extra: Konzentrat auf der Liga

There are few things we Englanders enjoy more than a good German stereotype. Efficiency, electronic music, good beer and appalling hair being the most prominent examples. Hard work being another. It's also nice to see some of these stereotypes challenged and the Bundesliga winter break certainly does that.

At the risk of repeating an old rant, it was early December when the Bundesbag last posted on SPAOTP. Now, as Easter approaches, the Bundesliga finally returns this weekend after a lengthy break. Lazy lazy Germans. By way of a precursor, the Third Round of the German Cup kicked off midweek with 16 teams looking to make another step along the road to Berlin.

It's been suggested that the the DFB Pokal has grown in prestige as a competition since the Final was moved to a permanent home, the Olympiastadion in the capital. Another factor could be the timing of the fixtures. A good competitive cup tie is just the ticket in the days before a return to League action after a sabbatical and a cursory glance of the line-ups for of the participating Bundesliga clubs seems to bear that out.

There certainly wasn't any evidence of a weakened team at Stuttgart as the home side welcomed Cup holders Bayern Munich. Both teams fielded strong line-ups and if the 5-1 scoreline is anything to go by, it's going to be a long half-season for Stuttgart and a successful one for Bayern. However, two goals from Schweinsteiger plus contributions from Ze Roberto, Luca Toni and Ribery were all overshadowed by the most hilarious penalty gaff from the Frenchman who spooned his shot into the arms of Jens Lehmann.

Bayern meet Hamburg in the Bundesliga this Friday. Martin Jol's team were in action themselves against Bayern's local rivals 1860 Munich who play in 2 Bundesliga. Ivica Olic was linked with a transfer window move to Liverpool. The Hamburgers will be looking forward to that closing with a resounding bang if this week's display is anything to go by. His whizz hat-trick dispatched the Bavarians with only a late consolation from the visitors by way of reply. Unfortunately, Olic is suspended for the game on Friday.

Last season's finalists Borussia Dortmund faced Werder Bremen but won't be repeating their journey to the Final. Werder won 2-1 with Claudio Pizzaro scoring the winner. Dortmund's big rivals Schalke faced a tricky tie away at a combative Carl Zeiss Jena of the Third Division. After a difficult first half, the Gelsenkirchen club ran out 4-1 winners in the end.

No decent cup competition would be complete without an upset and if Karlsruhe losing a football match can be regarded as such, then upset there most definitely was at the Wildparkstadion. SV Wehan Wiesbaden are currently sitting second bottom of the 2. Bundesliga. They now have the added burden of a place in the Cup quarter final after their fantastic 1-0 win thanks to a goal by Ronny Konig. Karlsruhe are left to 'concentrate on the league' as we say here in Blighty.

There was a guaranteed Second Division team in the final eight after Freiberg and Mainz were drawn together. It was the latter who won the day with an impressive 3-1 away win. The remaining lower division team were Rostock. They were dispatched 5-1 by Wolfsburg. Grafite was the rounds second hat trick hero. The final berth goes to Bayer Leverkusen who beat Energie Cottbus 3-1, Patrick Helmes was among the scorers.

That's it for the Cup. Bring on the League. It's great to be back isn't it? Shall we end with some predictions? OK then:

Top Five
Champions: Bayern Munich (nothing can stop them now)
Second: Hamburg
Third: Werder Bremen
Fourth: Bayer Leverkusen
Fifth: Hoffenheim

Cup winners
Wolfsburg

Bottom three
Karlsruhe
Bochum
Borussia Monchengladbach

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