Never Mind The Ballacks

  • Wheels come off Bayern machine

    Bayern after crashing to defeat in Basle

    Ancient Mayans prophesied an apocalyptic 2012, when a 5,126 year-era of humanity would end with unrivalled chaos and destruction.

    Bayern Munich fans aren't known as a superstitious bunch but they could be forgiven for starting to believe in the predictions of the ancient South American culture, which was brought to a cinema near you by Mel Gibson's 2006 film, Apocalpyto.

    At Christmas, life could hardly have been rosier for Jupp Heynckes' men.

    Having dominated Napoli, Villarreal and Manchester City in a tough Champions League group, the Bavarians led the Bundesliga in style.

    Their new,

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  • Hertha in dis-Graceland, Hanke in state of grace

    There was Hertha-break Hotel for Michael Skibbe, Arjen Robben was 'All Shook Up' on the Bayern bench, Poldi told us what has always been on his mind since re-joining Cologne, and 'Loew Me Tender' was the theme tune to Mike Hanke's Schalke-show-stopping performance in Week 21.

    It had all the ingredients of a disaster, and so it proved. Four league matches and as many defeats was all Michael Skibbe lasted at Hertha — a Bundesliga record, 'beating' Rudolf Kroener at Nuremberg and Horst Hrubesch at Dynamo Dresden, who had a whole five league games in charge — and the capital's premier club are a

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  • Stale SolbakkenIf Fabio Capello felt insulted from interference from the English FA, the sensitive Italian is best advised to turn down any job offers from the Bundesliga, where coaches are used to regular doses of meddling, big egos and snipes at key players from above.

    This is a nervy time of the season. Mid-table security can quickly turn into a relegation dogfight. Coaches from Cologne in the west, Hoffenheim in the south, Hanover 96 in the north and Hertha Berlin in the east are feeling the heat from nervy sports directors and presidents.

    A successful coach-sporting director relationship is key to

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  • That old Magath magic

    Wolfsburg manager Felix MagathPatrick Herrmann left Mönchengladbach fans asking 'Marco who?', 'Kuba' got his first brace since medieval times, Leverkusen somehow turned a 3-2 win into a snore-fest, and Felix Magath learned the value of home-grown talent as the Bundesliga returned. Bayern Munich weren't the only ones who had to kneel before Patrick Herrmann's brilliance last Friday.

    You could have expected Marco Reus to have a few fears as he stepped out into a packed Borussia Park with the fans' reaction to his move to Dortmund to be tested for the first time. The 'Gladbach supporters seemed happy enough with 'Danke Marco'

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  • Cisse shows size isn’t everything

    Papiss Cisse: Ready to make a big impact at NewcastleWhile Lionel Messi is proving that being very short is no bar to success, the Bundesliga transfer window shows that being skinny needn't stop a player fulfilling his dreams.

    Two moves have dominated Germany this winter: Papiss Cisse's 12 million euro switch from Freiburg to Premier League Newcastle and Borussia Dortmund's acquisition of Borussia Moenchengladbach star Marco Reus for 17m euros.

    As youngsters, both centre forwards were told that they were too lightweight to make it at the top level, and were left to ply their trade in European lower leagues. But both have proved their erstwhile

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  • Who can stop Bayern?

    Manuel NeuerMirko Slomka this week gave his Hannover squad a 128-question survey that poked its nose into every nook and cranny of their lives, asking for their opinions on a wide range of subjects from nutrition and their family to their sex lives.

    "Through these tests I know how best I can get through to each player," said Slomka, though exactly what sort of insight he gained from the response to the statement: 'I'm proud of my erotic experiences' is anyone's guess.

    Peter Boltersdorf, the club's 'motivation consultant', added: "There is a sense to it. You could motivate someone who likes scoring goals

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  • Brilliant Podolski can play anywhere

    Ahead of Friday's game between Cologne and Bayern Munich, I have a confession to make: I have something of a soft spot for your above-average left-footed footballing genius.

    Lukas Podolski in actionLukas Podolski in action

    Mention Gheorghe Hagi or Hristo Stoichkov and I swoon, the mere thought of Davor Suker in his pomp at EURO 96 has me scrambling for his goose-bump-inducing 'Best of' on YouTube while a recent in-the-flesh sighting of Dejan Savicevic provoked the sort of jelly-limbed, slack-jawed reaction in me that you would associate with a teenage female fan of Justin Bieber, minus the screaming.

    Those four names are relics of a bygone

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  • Just how super is Mario Gomez?

    Mario GomezgomezBayern's centre-forward visits his old club Stuttgart on Sunday in the midst of a goalscoring drought that has seen him go 344 minutes without finding the net and raise more questions about his worth to Germany's biggest club.

    Few players divide opinion like Mario Gomez.

    For some, Super Mario is the perfect front man: powerful, hard working and scorer of an impressive 114 goals in 196 Bundesliga matches, including a remarkable 39 goals in all competitions last season.

    Here's respected coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, not a man prone to hyperbole: "Gomez is extremely important for Bayern and you could

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  • Bundesliga boosted by European success

    After years of watching rivals from England, Spain and Italy grab the limelight, German clubs can be forgiven for believing they have finally cracked the Champions League.

    Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich both won this week to book places in the last 16 of Europe's top competition. And though Borussia Dortmund lost again after seeing talisman Mario Goetze limp off against Arsenal, they still have an outside chance of going through.

    Bayer Leverkusen's qualification with a match to play has surprised everyone at the club. Their 2-1 victory against Chelsea means that whatever happens in the

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  • Do Dortmund measure up to Bayern challenge?

    With
    a five-point lead over Dortmund at the top and a squad that is more formidable
    than your average mother-in-law, Bayern Munich are already many people's
    champions elect.

    Last
    February, Dortmund took a big step towards the title with a mightily impressive
    3-1 victory in Munich, they now have to - for everyone else's sake as much as
    their own - repeat that performance to keep Bayern within reach. It's ein
    Hammerspiel
    as the Germans brand their biggest matches - we look at the
    nuts and bolts of the respective well-oiled 4-2-3-1 machines to see if Dortmund
    have the tools to dismantle Bayern.

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