The 2011/12 seasons are kicking off all round Europe. The Premier League in England starts today and the leagues in Germany and Scotland are already underway. I called together the talents of some of the best writers around to give you a glimpse into their predictions for the season ahead.


Terry Duffelen is one half of the excellent “Bundesliga Show” podcast and the fantastic new website “Bundesliga Lounge” be sure to check it out. Here are Terry’s predictions for new Bundesliga season.

Who do you think is the favourite for the title in your respective league and why?

I’m placing my fiver on FC Bayern Munich for the title. Mainly because they rarely go two seasons without winning it but also because I think they have finally addressed their defensive problems with the recruitment of Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng and Rafinha to their ranks. I think Bayern could win the league by ten points or more.

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“So many people have said by now that I’m competent and that I play as if I’ve been to many World Cup championships. But that’s simply what I consider my responsibility; it’s what a goalkeeper has to be like”

–Manuel Neuer

Manuel Neuer, previously of Schalke 04 and currently Bayern Munich’s number 1 goalkeeper, has certainly enjoyed his spotlight since last year’s brilliant performances for his club and country. Much is expected of this young German shot stopper since taking up the number 1 role in the 2010 World Cup. Dubbed as the “German Casillas”, Neuer was a contender for the Golden Glove award along with Netherland’s Stekelenburg and the eventual winner, Casillas of Spain. He played for only 540 minutes yet made 22 impressive saves, more than the other two goalkeepers and conceded just 2 goals.

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Tattoos are a big deal in sports and it has been a staple in football culture among players and fans. Its rise in popularity can be credited to footballers showing off some skin on the pitch and displaying numerous body ink markings. It is indeed rare to find athletes without tattoos. It can be painful but it displays a statement of machismo or of something significant for the player. Clubs have allowed players to have tattoos. As long as it does not harm them, they can have as many as they desire.

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The excellent Saurabh Ananth from fouraddedon.com takes a look at the new generation of youngster about to take on the Bundesliga big boys

A new, talented generation of German footballers is coming through the ranks from Hamburg to Munich and everywhere in between. Demand for homegrown talent within Germany is at an all time high with clubs in Germany much more willing to give young talents from lower leagues a chance than in most other countries.

Many academies have played a big part in this revolution. 1860 Munich, for example, have already made their mark on German football and many current Bundesliga players have come through the ranks there. And the German national team prospers from some of the most talented young players in the world. It was one of the youngest squads in the 2010 World Cup and pundits were rightfully questioning Germany’s chances. They were proven so wrong however and there’s no doubt that the 2014 World Cup in Brazil will feature even more young Germans.

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Another new writer makes his debut for gibfootballshow – Saurabh Ananth or better known as @TheHoffside looks at the teams that just didn’t cut it this season in the Bundesliga.

2010/11 brought out one of the best Bundesliga seasons ever, with a lot of stories throughout the season. Dortmund winning the league while stamping their brand of football on the league was one, Hannover and Mainz’ brave and eventually successful battle for European football was another big one. We could go down to the lower end of the table with Eintracht Frankfurt’s relegation after being 7th in December or Gladbach’s miracle comeback after being firm favourites for relegation. While all those were very interesting, the underachievement of perennial contenders Werder Bremen, Stuttgart and Schalke were surprising and it’s what this will focus on. And as they prepared for their seasons in the summer of 2010 none of these teams thought they would be where they were.

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Marcus Urban

Making her gibfootballshow debut is Carma Alicaya a fan of German football – She tells us of the problem and the actions surrounding homophobia in German football culture.

On the pitch there are 22 strong physical men. There are two teams, and on each, 10 kick the ball around the field, one stays between the posts. The whistle blows, a red card is given. But to what you may ask?

To homophobia.

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The season’s around Europe are all coming to an end and Lee Garrity has his finger on the pulse of the lower leagues. In a series of posts letting us know who’s going up and who’s going down from Europe’s lower leagues we start in Deutschland.

Hertha Berlin made an immediate return to the Bundesliga finishing 9 points clear of 2nd placed Augsburg in their 1st season out of the top flight in 13 years. A strong beginning and end to the season cemented an early return for the club affectionately known in Germany as the old lady.

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A repeat of last year’s final. Both teams not where they want to be in the league. Chance to put domestic chors to one side and relive the final from May. Secret Interista Gav Stone famed editor of the Les Rosbifs website looks at how the Nerazzurri will fare.

It is a different Inter side who will be up against Bayern Munich this time around in the Champions League, compared to the one who beat The German side in the final last May. In between the Mourinho/Milito masterclass in Madrid and the first leg of this last 16 fixture, the nerazzurri have also been through a soul-sapping stint in the hands of Rafa Benitez, which did the club nor the coach any favours.

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Another huge match this evening as two teams that on their day can either excite or frustrate. Schalke have put their league form to one side and impressed in the Champions League group stage Kevin McCauley from World Soccer Reader looks at their chances against Valencia.

As most people know, Schalke 04 have been two different sides between the Bundesliga and European competition. Though they have climbed out of the basement domestically, Schalke are still in a mid-table position in Bundesliga when they were believed to be a title contender in the preseason. Meanwhile, they skated through the Champions League group stages, easily qualifying for the knockout round, where they drew Valencia.

However, this is not exactly the same Schalke side that qualified for the Round of 16. Two of the team’s key pieces are gone. One through contract issues, and one through personal issues. Ivan Rakitic has moved on to Sevilla in La Liga after being sold in the January transfer window. The attacking midfielder’s contract was up in January, and Schalke were keen to get some sort of compensation as opposed to letting him walk for free.

Under completely different circumstances, defensive midfielder Jermaine Jones has gone to Blackburn Rovers on a loan with an option to buy after falling out with Felix Magath. These players have been replaced with Iranian attacking midfielder Ali Karimi and Ghanaian defensive midfielder Anthony Annan. It remains to be seen what kind of an impact they’ll make, but Annan was very good in his first outing for the club in the Revierderby against Borussia Dortmund.

However, Anthony Annan will have to wait to play in the Champions leage for Schalke, as he is cup tied. Young Cameroonian international Joel Matip came in for Annan as a substitute in Schalke’s win over Freiburg, and I like him to start the first leg. Valencia could play with a 4-4-2 formation, starting both Aritz Aduriz and Roberto Soldado up top, which would lessen Annan’s responsibilities. However, it seems much more likely that Valencia will line up in a 4-2-3-1 shape with three of Juan Mata, Pablo, Vicente, Joaquin, and Jordi Alba making up that band of three.

Felix Magath will probably be hoping that Unai Emery opts to go with two strikers instead. Or, Magath could throw a wrench in things by starting someone else in that spot, but in the event that Valencia go 4-2-3-1, With Annan unavailable, Matip is the best man for the job of breaking up Valencia’s attacks.

On the other end of the pitch, the matchup between Schalke’s attacking players and Valencia’s back line seems like a favorable one for Die Königsblauen. It took a while for Klass-Jan Huntelaar and Raul to settle in with the club, but they’ve turned into a dangerous pair. Additionally, with Ivan Rakitic gone, Jefferson Farfan is now almost certainly Schalke’s most dangerous player and he seems the most likely man to wreak havoc on Valencia’s defense.
Talent-wise, the gap between these two teams doesn’t seem that large, so it might come down to luck and tactics. In the luck department, Valencia are certainly kicking Schalke’s tails this season. In the tactics department, it’s tough to separate Magath and Emery.

For now, I like Valencia to win the tie on away goals or penalty kicks, but I could easily see it swinging either way. To me, it seems too close to call.

Faced with the thankless task of trying to catch Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga, Valencia will be looking forward to the oppurtunity of a run in this competition. David Cartlidge from Spanishfootball.info fills us in on their chances.

Valencia come into the game on a fantastic run of form, having won six of their last eight games and are sitting pretty in 3rd place in La Liga. Many however, would say that form and placing doesn’t tell the full story.

A good amount of the victories have come in the very last moments in games, and they’ve also benefited from some fortuitous officiating as well as poor lapses in judgement by the opposition at crucial times – though it could be argued they’ve been proficient enough to capitalize on such errors.

The thing with Valencia has been their inability to blow opponents away as such, and they’ve never really looked in control throughout any game. There is always a decent period within the 90 minutes that they’ll switch and off give away 4 or 5 very decent chances to the opposition, purely down to the fact they like to coast all too often.

There are many factors to this, one being Unai Emery’s fascinating, albeit frustrating pragmatism when it comes to setting up his side. Emery likes to tinker with his formations and personnel, and while many acknowledge his obvious talents as a manager there are some questionable features of his management style.

Valencia at one time or another has played with at least five different formations this season, though Emery perhaps favours his 4-2-3-1 over any of the others due to its stability at the back while at the same time focusing on the side’s main strength – wide play.

In midfield Los Che contain a lot more depth, and the most impressive player this campaign has been Tino Costa. The Argentinean signed from Montpellier in the summer and hit the ground running, becoming an integral part of any system which Emery employs, operating well in midfield by showing good ball retention as well as distributing it to more advanced players as he sits deep in the central areas ‘pulling the strings’.

Costa’s job is one seemingly vacated by Ever Banega, who was the star of last season but he’s failed to shine this season, perhaps finding unease with constant chopping and changing of systems as well as having ongoing off the field problems with Emery.

Juan Mata looks set to miss out the first leg through an injury, and this is of great benefit to Schalke as Mata has become the star of the team since David Silva and David Villa both departed for new pastures. Despite playing through of his career so far predominantly as a left-sided winger, Mata has found a new lease of life in an almost free-role operating all across the front line and has supported the lone striker well when in the team.

In a nutshell I’d say Valencia are a team who are vulnerable at the back and whom can be opened up when put under pressure, but must be watched incredibly closely on the counter attack when taking into account the quality they have in wide areas. The central hub of Costa and Banega is also a key facet, to let them keep the ball and dictate would be mistake of the German side’s part – and could be the difference between qualification and having their European trip cut short.

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Before kick off, this game had the look of a potential banana skin for the league leaders, and after Leverkusen’s win against Hannover last night, it was important that the away side left the Volkswagen Arena with all three points.

In what turned out to be a comfortable first half for BvB it could have easily been a nightmare start. Lukasz Piczczek brought down Mario Mandzukic just outside the box. Diego stepped up and curled a wicked free kick towards goal, in an attempt to catch Roman Weidenfeller cold, the keeper would have been happy to see the ball fly just past the post.

Dortmund were awoken from their slumber and instantly went on the attack. Overloading the play on the right hand side, Mario Götze was sent clear down the flank, the Wolfsburg defence had been sliced open and Götze had the easy task of squaring the ball to Lucas Barrios and he gave the Champions elect the best possible start.

With most of Dortmund’s attacks coming down the right and left full back Marcel Schmelzer playing well in front of the half way line there was acres of space for Ashkan Dejagah to attack. Too often in the half the midfielder showed a lack of quality and Weidenfeller was never troubled. Grafite was calling out for some service but it never came.

The closest Wolfsburg came to a goal was through the efforts of Brazilian Diego, easily Die Wölfe’s brightest player. Halfway through the first half he hit a fizzing shot from 30 yards, Weidenfeller had to be alert to get his hands to it, the rebound fell to Grafite but the angle was tight and the keeper saved with ease.

Weathering the Wolfsburg storm with ease, Dortmund were in control. Patiently playing the ball around the Volkswagen Arena, Wolfsburg failed to put any great pressure on the ball, and Dortmund would go into the break two goals to the good.

Mario Götze again was the architect and the Wolfsburg defence had learnt nothing from the first goal. Leaving Barrios in the box unmarked, Götze found him with the pass, the Paraguayan’s shot was blocked but Nuri Sahin was alert and following up the play, his lunging shot swept the ball into the net.

Plenty of work for Steve McLaren to do at half time, however if your defence are going to leave a top International striker alone in the box you are never going to give your forward line the chance to win you the game.

Whatever McLaren said at the interval did have a slight impact. For 25 minutes they had plenty of possession and did a good job holding onto the ball, however for all the play they still couldn’t find a way to trouble Weidenfeller’s goal. Alexander Madlung’s long range effort that went high was the closet that Wolfsburg came to finding the net.

There is an old cliché that is peddled out for games like this, “When you have plenty of the ball, you have to make it count, or you will be punished”. And punished they were. Dortmund won a corner and although the first attempt was blocked it was the mercurial Nuri Sahin that collected the loose ball. The Turkish midfielder then swung in a teasing cross with his magical left foot, the ball was allowed to make its way to the back post, no one had picked up Mats Hummels and he had the easiest job to make it 3-0, game over.

In the end Dortmund as expected had too much for Wolfsburg, the constant movement of Götze, Barrios and Grosskreutz was too much for the poor Wolfsburg defence. At times it was embarrassing to watch, and too often the BvB frontline had acres of time and space to punish their opponents.

After the third goal Jurgen Klopp’s side put the big yellow bus into cruise control, they never looked like adding a fourth, but Wolfsburg never looked like getting past the excellent back line.

New signing Dieumerci Mbokani came on in place of Grafite, and he had a half chance late on, getting his head onto Dejagah’s cross, but he couldn’t direct the header and it glanced safely over the bar.

Constant images of Steve McLaren showed he was at a lose, apart from the defence it wasn’t an entirely poor performance, Diego tried but went missing in the second half, and Grafite hardly had a sniff at goal.

The big yellow machine that is BVB rolls on. Eleven points clear at the top of the table, the loss of Shinji Kagawa – out for the season with a broken metatarsal – doesn’t seem to have knocked them off their stride. Without a Europa League game to worry about it’s looking very unlikely that anyone will catch Klopp’s side. It’s Dortmund’s title to lose.

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