Terry Duffelen
Wed 6 May 2009

Bundesbag Week 30: Blood on the carpet

For the second week running the Bundesbag begins with off-the-pitch shenanigans. Last week we considered the dramatic removal of Jurgen Klinsmann as Bayern coach. This week, the Bundesliga headlines are dominated by the sensational news of league leaders Wolfsburg's manager Felix Magath who will join Schalke at the end of the season.

The Royal Blues, as mentioned in previous dispatches, recently sacked their general manager Andreas Muller, followed later by the coach Fred Rutten. At the time, the Bundesbag suggested that a strong manager was needed to sort out that Schalke dressing room. In Magath, they have precisely that. He will take on the joint role of general manager and coach at the Gelsenkirchen club, similar to his present role at Wolfsburg in which he has enjoyed great success. However, with the culmination of his work - a Bundesliga title for the Wolves - so close, you have to question whether it was sensible or not to announce this move at this time? Will the news destabilise the dressing room and cause the team to surrender their hard fought three-point lead at the top with only four fixtures remaining?

Apparently, Magath has not seen eye-to-eye with the board for some time and the news of his defection was broken by the Volkswagen club first. Presumably they are so angry with their manager that they are prepared to risk upsetting the apple cart just as it's crossing the narrowest part of the bridge.

Either way, the job represents Magath's greatest challenge. The weight of expectation at Schalke goes beyond measurement. For anyone who does not know, Gelsenkirchen is a somewhat down at heel industrial town with a passion for mullets and football, specifically Schalke 04. The stadium sits atop a big hill and looks down on everyone like an enormous palace of worship. In that respect it can be both inspiring or foreboding depending on how the results are going. Schalke is the kind of club that can break reputations. Magath will not have managed a club like Schalke because there are few clubs in Europe quite like Schalke. However, if anyone on the planet can bring the Bundesliga title to the Veltins Arena, it is he. But first, there is the small matter of winning the damn thing for his current club.

As mentioned above, Wolfsburg are three points clear at the top thanks to a very impressive win against the Hoff (whose coach Ralf Rangnick is in bother with billionaire owner Dietmar Hopp by the way). Hoffenheim kept things pretty even for most of the game until Boubacar Sanogo's deflected tackle landed at the feet of Edin Dzeko who didn't miss and put his team 1-0 up. After that, the floodgates opened. Dzeko helped himself to two more with Grafite rounding things off with a penalty.

That victory puts the leaders on 60 points with some breathing space between them and the chasing pack. They are: Bayern Munich who welcomed back Jupp Heynckes as their temporary coach (Louis Van Gaal is set to take over in the summer) and he repaid their hospitality with a home win against 'Gladbach. Schweinsteiger and Altintop did the honours at the Allianz; Hertha are third. They travelled to Hamburg who are in fifth. It was a big game and in the spirit of big games and indeed the nature of this season, it failed to produce any answers and finished 1-1. Stuttgart are between the two and they could only manage a draw as well. This was under less impressive circumstances against relegation strugglers Bielefeld. They'd had plenty of chances and even managed to take a couple of them. Then they went ahead and conceded two themselves.

So with Hertha, Stuttgart and Hamburg dropping points, the gap has stretched a little bit. This has had the unexpected consequence of letting Borussia Dortmund in with a sniff of the action. Jurgan Klopp's team have won six in a row which has whooshed them up the table to sixth on 52 points, a mere three points behind the challengers. While the title seems unlikely, BVB are handily placed for a European spot should anyone slip up.

At the bottom, the sechs punkter of the week was Karlsruhe v Cottbus which turned out to be an eins punkter and a null tore on account of it being a bore draw. 'Gladbach and Bielefeld you know about. Bochum should have beaten Hannover at home last Friday because pretty much everyone else does. Such is the statistical freak show of the Hanoverians away form that they had not won on their travels all season. Until this weekend when Dieter Hecking's famous brow took a rare upturn as he watched his charges run out 2-0 visitors in the Ruhr.

The relegation dogfight is turning into a pitch battle. Bochum's appalling result denied them the opportunity to go four points clear of the bottom four. Karlsruhe continue to hold up the rest with 23 points. 'Gladbach stand atop the final automatic trap door on 24 points. The third trap has a manual release thanks to the new rule where third bottom plays off with third top in 2 Bundesliga (currently Nurnburg) and it's Bielefeld who are in the unwanted position of having to stay behind after the final bell. However, Cottbus and Bochum are within striking distance with the latter looking particularly vulnerable as they have to go to Hertha and Hamburg before the season is out.

That's it for now. Later in the week we'll be back with Bundesbag Extra where we break out the spreadsheets and look and the fixtures as the Bundesliga approaches its climax. Results and tables here.

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