When Park Ji-Sung signed for Manchester United in 2005, many people, including PSV Eindhoven boss Guus Hiddink, wrote the move off as a quick way for the Red Devils to sell shirts, and that he would not be a regular in Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. Time has told in that example not to under-estimate South Korean footballers, and that is never truer than in the Bundesliga right now. Matchday 18 saw the highest number of South Koreans represent Bundesliga, with seven pulling on their club’s shirt – including Sunderland flop Dong-Won Ji, who scored with his first touch against his future employers Borussia Dortmund. One of the undoubted stars of Mmatchday was Bayer Leverkusen’s Heung-Min Son. The 21-year-old was courted heavily by Manchester United before choosing to join Sami Hyypia from Hamburg last summer, and his delightful winner against Borussia Monchengladbach on Friday night means he will be attracting the attentions of many clubs across Europe again in the coming months.
Hamburg are second from bottom, without a win in six, not scored since Ruckrunde began, and the last bastion of support – the fans – turned on them on Saturday. The 3-0 home loss to Hertha Berlin was the final straw for most HSV fans, who confronted the players outside the Imtech Arena after the game. Hamburg have never been relegated from the Bundesliga, but after surrending nine goals without reply – losing 3-0 in each game since the season came back – the Northerners are in dire straits. Bert van Marwijk looks beleaguered, the players look disinterested and with a DFB Pokal quarter-final against Bayern Munich on Wednesday night, Hamburg will need the biggest of victories to turn this around. It can be done – both Hoffenheim and Augsburg have reached mid-table from this position. But the negativity and gloom around Hamburg could prove to be too heavy around their necks. On Sunday night, there was a meeting of management boards. This story could move on quite quickly this week.
One can only imagine that Jurgen Klopp got one of those chain mail things on Facebook and thought ‘nah, I don’t believe in them!’ before pressing delete and going back to his ‘Selfridges’ DVD…..anyway, the point is, the Borussia Dortmund boss has had some luck this season. The black and yellows thrashed struggling Werder Bremen 5-1 away on Saturday, with Robert Lewandowski and Henrikh Mkhitaryan grabbing two each. However, after losing defensive rock Mats Hummels to injury, Klopp has now lost Marco Reus and Sven Bender, both with thigh injuries. If Dortmund lost Lewandowski to injury in the next few weeks, that is an outfield spine gone. The injuries are all short-term, but this period is crucial for Klopp’s men. They are chasing second-spot behind Leverkusen, but have Pokal and Champions League ambitions too, and with three crucial players missing, their season could still end very abruptly. Away from that, Klopp’s men looked back to their best at the Weserstadion. While the title is out of the question, don’t rule out them chasing down Hyypia’s Werkself.
When he was Tranmere Rovers manager, Jonny King once described the Wirral club as a ‘deadly submarine’. It’s worth mentioning because it still amuses this columnist, and well…basically shoehorning it into this segment. But there is a link – since matchday 18, Schalke have recorded three straight victories. The last time they did this was 12 months ago. They have their main man back in Klass-Jan Huntelaar, have kept hold of Julian Draxler and have a potential matchwinner in Kevin-Prince Boateng. Add in another star in the making Max Meyer and Jefferson Farfan, and you have another side with second-place ambitions. The Veltins Arena is an imposing place to go to, and the style of football Jens Keller wants to play i.e. swamping forward and also delivering crosses, makes it very difficult for sides to play their own way. Hannover – who were one of four form teams in Matchday 20 – were simply outclassed by the Royal Blues. One downside for Keller – Roman Neustadter was stretchered off and taken off to hospital, while Japanese defender Atsuto Uchida also hobbled off. Keller will need everyone fit and ready as Real Madrid come closer in the Champions League.
Matchday 20 results: Monchengladbach 0-1 Leverkusen, Werder Bremen 1-5 Borussia Dortmund, FC Nurnberg 0-2 Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg 3-0 Mainz 05, Freiburg 1-1 Hoffenheim, Eintrach Frankfurt 3-0 Eintrach Braunschweig, Hamburg 0-3 Hertha Berlin, Stuttgart 1-4 Augsburg, Schalke 2-0 Hannover.
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