By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Bundesliga Tactics Talk: Round 15

Intriguing talking points abound as the Bundesliga's traditional pre-holiday "blitz phase" kicks off in earnest. With another round just around the corner in less than 48 hours, we're pleased to get everyone caught up with the latest edition of our comprehensive recap fixture.

Bayern having made a profound statement with a surprising set of tactics means that Thomas Tuchel's FCB earn the first draw-up in this week's edition. Wolfsburg, Mainz, Union Berlin, Bochum, Dortmund, and Frankfurt also receive graphics in the penultimate post of the calendar year.

Bundesliga Tactical Banter: Round 15

"Friday Night Miscellany"

Despite netting some genuinely impressive goals, neither Marvin Ducksch nor Rocco Reitz felt much like celebrating after Friday night's 2-2 draw between SV Werder Bremen and Borussia Mönchengladbach. Fair enough. Friday night's curtain-raiser delivered consistent enough entertainment for the neutrals. It nevertheless makes sense that the lack of consistency from both teams permeated the minds of those who did reach some important personal milestones. Whilst on the pitch, Ducksch and Reitz surely experienced the sensation of being on mediocre mid-table sides. That was obvious.

Gerardo Seoane's BMG - working in the 4-4-2 bolt-lock-sweeper set up - couldn't rely upon strikers Tomas Cvancara and Jordan due to illness and injury. Robin Hack thus worked ahead of Alassane Plea on a staggered top axis. Bremen took full advantage of an incoherent attack (not to mention a deliberately quiet home fan block) to score an early goal. Ole Werner's Hanseaten then failed to build upon the early advantage and the hosts slowly turned the affair into something more evenly poised with steady midfield wins. Hack eventually set up Reitz for the 1-1 in the 45th.

Hack would again set up Reitz for the 2-1 four minutes after the restart. The foals too, however, demonstrated that they didn't have the quality to put the game away. Ducksch equalized in the 76th after Bremen steadily wrested control of the game back. The fourth goal seemed to mark the quitting point for a pair of sides content with a point. Nothing much else of note happened over the final quarter-of-an-hour. Perhaps that's precisely what irked the goal-scorers. National team aspirants on mid-table-minded sides. Few will recall this four-goal-match as time passes. Not enough shown.
"Sunday Afternoon Misery"

As expected, Freiburg-Köln proved about as competitive as Kölner mascot Hennes being forced to compete on a dog-racing-track. Steffen Baumgart's Geißböcke are honestly becoming painful to watch. A new 4-1-3-2 with Eric Martel in the holding-six position bogged Christrian Streich's Breisgauer down for a time, but Freiburg remained the only team to furnish anything offensively during the first half of play in the early Sunday afternoon kickoff. The poor Domstädter trainer can't seem to formulate a workable idea to save his life. No prayers are being answered in the cathedral city.

Unsurprisingly, Florian Kainz continued to struggle from his restored start in the ten-slot. Dejan Ljubicic - this time on the left wing - continues to look like his mind lies elsewhere. Right flank returner Jan Thielmann was mostly confined to defensive work. A double-striker set of Davie Selke and Luca Waldschmidt...does the columnist even need to finish that sentence? For "Eff's sake", the "Effzeh" are horrible. Jeff Chabot easily could have been sent off on double-yellows much earlier than he finally was. Freiburg somehow failed to pile on even after being gifted the man-advantage.

One strains to find the positives in Baumgart's squad. Mark Uth did well for Kainz after coming on at the hour-mark. One nevertheless can't reliably say that the old "hometown hero" will ever be anything other than a shadow of his former self after those prolonged public bone problems. Freiburg - though there was a huge quadruple chance in second half injury time - racked up nearly 4.6 xG against this conflagrant mess of a side. Everyone tasked with defending - including those off the bench - blew marks. The problems here run so deep that envisioning an escape rapidly becomes impossible.


The "Burning Questions": Round 15

Did Thomas Tuchel outfox Stuttgart?

He absolutely did. Three short weeks after admitting that ideas weren't coming that easy to him, the trainer of the mighty FC Bayern München has revamped the record champions in a most innovative fashion. A thoroughly convincing 3-0 win over Sebastian Hoeneß' VfB Stuttgart didn't come by chance. Tuchel shocked us all with a brilliant tactical set-up. Some will undoubtedly argue that - with Kingsley Coman and Noussair Mazraoui out injured and Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka out with the flu - Tuchel didn't have much of a choice when forming his XI.

The columnist argues differently.

Lineup—Bayern—Match 16 (4-1-3-2)

Kimmich's absence finally gave the FCB trainer the chance to deploy his "sacred" holding-six. Nineteen-year-old Aleksandr Pavlovic ended up doing a brilliant job against the supposed iron-clad Stuttgart duo of Angelo Stiller and Atakan Karazor. Moving Guerreiro up to his highest deployment (even higher than Edin Terzic dared send him) compensated for the problems Tuchel has been having with his fullbacks. Jamal Musiala and Leroy Sané had it comparatively easy all night long.

Bayern's opening half

Within seconds after kickoff, one sensed that Stuttgart would encounter difficulty attempting to sort out the positioning of their opponents. The tactically-inclined among us remained uncertain how it was meant to work when the 1-0 came in the 2nd. Thomas Müller picked off a misplaced pass from Karazor and sent Sané through. Sané, in turn, laid off easily for Kane. Not even 120 seconds had elapsed before the Bavarian hosts furnished the requisite league response from last week's drubbing.

One should probably also note that a potentially nervous Alexander Nübel didn't do himself any favors with a hasty rush-out on the play. Nübel's attempt to impersonate rival Manuel Neuer's "sweeper keeper" routine wasn't exactly on-point. Nübel compensated for his early mistake with fine saves against Sané, Kane, Musiala, and Konrad Laimer during the dominant FCB opening 45. Sané probably should have sunk the 2-0 on two separate occasions, however, taking too many touches on balls with teammate's in position.

We have the matter of the two disallowed Bayern goals to discuss. Min-Jae Kim's headed-in finish of a Pavlovic free-kick in the 25th and Müller's breakaway goal at 45+2 were both chalked off for offside. The former decision narrowly prevented Pavlovic from registering his second Bundesliga assist. An absolute monster game from the recently promoted teenage talent. Justice would be served for the youngster eventually. Pavlovic and his team secured a most deserved "lid".

Bayern's stainless clean sheet

Kane completed his scorer's brace in the 55th when Karazor failed to clear a Pavlovic free-kick. Pavlovic found himself yet again denied the assist credit after Karazor's touch. At long last, the German-Serbian and the South Korean giant received their "do-over" in the 63rd. Kim, aided slightly by a deflection from the recently subbed-on Antony Rouault, finally recorded his first Bundesliga goal. The man literally nicknamed "the monster" opened his account with some help from a "budding beast".

Stuttgart truly managed nothing offensively throughout the entire affair. VfB trainer Hoeneß stuck with the 4-4-2 he's been using since Serhou Guirassy returned to play alongside Deniz Undav. A triple substitution in the 59th (Rouault, Silas, and Jamie Leweling for Waldemar Anton, Chris Führich, and Enzo Millot) kept the plug-ins like-for-likes. Tuchel's match-plan clearly revolved around letting the Swabians keep the ball. Honeß' side kept 63 percent possession without doing anything with it.

Something different from the record champs.

Additional lessons?

The whole question as to whether Pavlovic should take Kimmich's place in the starting XI (not to mention as the team's set-piece taker) amounts to a moot point. With Tuchel's charges set to face Wolfsburg next within 72 hours, the FCB gaffer can easily claim that there's no need to chance it with his flu-striken midfielders. Tuchel could conceivably roll with the same set of tactics, maybe moving Guerreiro back to take the place of Davies, allowing Müller to take over at ten, and giving Mathys Tel a shot alongside Kane.

We'll immediately delve into the state of Bayern's upcoming opponent below. Suffice to say here that the giants have next-to-nothing to lose by rolling the dice with some of their young guns in the final fixture of the calendar year. Tuchel almost automatically stumbled onto his preferred constellation before Christoph Freund and the FCB front-office even got a chance to make up for the failed summer transfer window. A genuinely impressive performance from every last player in the XI. Matthijs de Ligt is also once again available off the bench.
How did Kovac's skin get saved?

Only just barely. Whew! Shorthanded Wolfsburg's narrow 1-0 win over last-placed Darmstadt owed much to the fact that Torsten Lieberknecht's Hessians were already severely reduced in the attacking department before a ball was even kicked. Against practically any other team in the Bundesliga, Kovac would not have enjoyed such luck. His German Wolves squared off against the only team in worse league form than them. Lieberknecht had to move Tim Skarke and Matthias Honsak into the lead positions in his 3-4-3 after Aaron Seydel and Oscar Vilhelmsson withdrew late. A lucky day for WOB.

Interesting that Lacroix has actually been the player responsible for the last five red cards. It also counts as interesting that Darmstadt have managed a record-breaking four red cards through 15 rounds this year. They seem to bring out the worst in other teams as well, drawing more bookings out of their opponents than any other top-tier side. As we move over to the ongoing saga of Niko Kovac's tactical set-ups, it's fair to say that the VfL trainer's central task remains keeping them as uninteresting as possible. He initially tried to do this to the best of his ability, rolling out the same 4-5-1 as last week. 

After the red:

Lineup—Wolfsburg—28th minute (5-3-1)

This was smart, though having a player as versatile as Joakim Maehle certainly turned rendered a successful outcome more likely. Thank goodness the Dane was on hand to clear a SV98 effort off the line in the 58th.  Aster Vranckx and Yannick Gerhardt put in their fair share of track-back work and Koen Casteels made one sparkling save on Lieberknecht's deeply-pocketed nine Luca Pfeiffer. It says quite a bit about the state of Darmstadt's attacking corps that the SV trainer was forced to turn to center back Matej Maglica as a late striker option.

Maglica proved on two occasions that he had likely never even trained as an emergency striker before. The shorthanded Lower Saxons, meanwhile, weren't really able to accomplish much beyond light pinpricks for most of the match. Eventual goalscorer Lovro Majer punched through on a pair of occasions. That was about it. Majer's actual 1-0 came on one of three quality VfL offensive chances during the afternoon. Kudos to both the Croatian and Dane Jonas Wind for a cheeky assist. All the same, the columnist will once again emphasize that this barely happened.
Should Mainz have won again?

Back to a familiar question here. Jan Siewert's Rheinhessen do seem to be developing a reputation for failing to get results even though they often furnish quality football. A narrow 0-1 home loss to Heidenheim this weekend fit the pattern. The Pfälzer topped their guests in xG by a 3:1 ratio. Optically and in most every positional battle, Mainz seemed to maintain the upper hand over their guests. FCH trainer Frank Schmidt himself admitted that his side were lucky to win the match. Siewert even did well tactically.

Lineup—Mainz—Match 16 (4-2-2-2)

The Nullfünfter in a 4-2-2-2? It actually worked rather well. Without captain Silvan Widmer (flu-like-infection), Siewert built an innovative formation that got the ball upfield smoothly. Brajan Gruda and the young starting debutant Merveille Papela got a couple of decent efforts in. Heidenheim keeper Kevin Müller had to distinguish himself with some quality saves on both Gruda and the very-much in-form Marco Richter. The home side maintained an 8-1 shot advantage after the initial 45. Siewert turned the heat up further with a half-time change.

Lineup—Mainz—46th minute (4-1-3-2)

Jae-Sung Lee in place of Krauß counted as a brilliant stroke, as evidenced by the fact that the Rheinhessen kept the pressure on. More horrible luck for Richter meant that the former Germany U21 star missed no fewer than four cracks at a goal in the second-half. As is often the case when a team gains the impression that it isn't their day, the overall caliber of the chances declined toward the end. In a freak occurrence at the start of second-half injury time, Tim Kleindienst denied Florian Pick his inaugural Bundesliga goal and Heidenheim the 2-0 by turning the ball in from an offside position.

Where Siewert failed

Coaching isn't merely about coming up with the proper tactical plan over the course of the week. Responsibility for preparing the team properly on dead balls, especially against a team like Heidenheim, occasionally needs to take precedence. Anyone following the league knows full well that someone on the training pitch needs to mimic the services of "assistmeister" Jan-Niklas Beste. Siewert clearly slacked off a bit in this regard. Mainz's first crack at set-piece defending put the team in a hole.

Patrick Mainka extended a 12th-minute Beste service over to Marvin Pieringer, with a little help from a deflection off Benedikt Gimber. Phillipp Mwene and Daniel Batz could have done without the miscommunication at the back. Dominik Kohr and Danny da Costa could have done much better than their marks. The ball ended up finding the back of the net amid the disorganized rabble. Even if Mainz were unlucky not have scored themselves, it remains far too risky to concede a set-piece against this opponent.

A more technical coach is needed here.
How was "El Plastico"?

The author doesn't have the ratings figures in front of him, but will go ahead and conjecture that most Germans skipped the Saturday evening "Top-Spiel". Leipzig-Hoffenheim on a Saturday night? Hell with that. Time to wrap up the Christmas shopping. Not even the touching Emil Forsberg farewell could save this match. Those too tired or financially taxed to get out of the house probably turned the TV-dial over to the "Schlager Hit-Parade" rather than watch these two teams. This writer found himself craving some kitsch music as well when settling in for this one.

When it became apparent that TSG trainer Pellegrino Matarazzo would compensate for the absence of his two natural strikers by deploying an ultra-conservative 5-2-3-1 formation, it almost looked as if there wouldn't be any goals at all. The RB 4-2-2-2 couldn't get much penetration against it. Nothing but lobbed ranged efforts at the Red Bull Arena over the course of the initial half-hour. Thankfully, some cleverness from Yussuf Poulsen and a mistake from his fellow Dane Robert Skov enabled Lukas Klostermann to open what German's refer to as the "ketchup bottle" in the 34th.

We received some much better chances from RB stars Xavi Simons and Christoph Baumgartner in the immediate aftermath of the opening goal. After Ozan Kabak capitalized on a Janis Blaswich goalkeeping error to level the score up at 1-1 just before the break, Xavi really cranked up the volume after the restart. Wow. Somehow, the Dutch phenom couldn't compel his side to score. We had to wait for the "Emil Forsberg Show" off the bench. Okay. That part was rather nice. At least we got a total of four goals. That's slightly better than "Holiday Schlager".

"Weekly Wortschatz": Round 15


Just in time for the Christmas season, it's time to start talking about German chocolate-naming habits. Widespread protests across the Bundesrepublik this weekend saw German footballing ultra groups throw chocolate coins onto the pitch in protest of the newly sanctioned DFL-investor deal. Some German football lovers might find themselves slightly conflicted by the fact that VfL Bochum's Takuma Asano happy accepted some such coins from the visiting 1. FC Union Berlin ultras, then proceeded to energetically rip apart their team.

Difficult to pick a side here. We love protests. We love Takuma Asano. As it turns out, we really love chocolate and the Union Berlin ultras too. There's not a natural enemy against which to rant in this story. When it comes to chocolate, perhaps the only thing Germans kids look forward to more than the "Advent's Calendar" pop-outs this time of year are those shiny coined-wrapped chocolate pieces known as the "Schokoladentaler". Oh yes. Irresistible those things are. Goldmarks. Euros. It doesn't matter what they come dressed as. They must be eaten. Asano behaved very German-like.

Why do Germans call them "taler" instead of "Münze", "Groschen", "Kleingeld", or "Prägen"? Some can easily guess that "taler", sometimes spelled "thaler" were the old German silver coin pieces. These were the most common form of currency in the Holy Roman Empire, and were later adapted by pre-German empires such as Austria-Hungary and Prussia. Since many other European kingdoms used German-minted-coins, the name proliferated everywhere. Yes, the "dollar" currency was ultimately derived from the word "taler".

Odd to think that it all originated from the German word for "valley". An early 16th century silver mine in Joachimstal produced some of the first coins. From there, we get everything from the world's reserve currency to the richest chocolate treats. The Union ultras, ironically enough, plunged their poor team deeper into a valley by pushing Takuma Asano into maximum overdrive. Yikes. Was it the chocolate or was it the new coach? Let's have a look at die Eisernen, beginning with the latest Champions' League match. 

Lineup—Union Berlin—UCL (3-5-2)

Bwaahahaha. Urs Fischer much? Nenad Bjelica quite literally brought back Urs Fischer's famed 3-5-2 "double stack" system for the team's final UCL fixture. One supposes something like this was worth a shot. After all, why not let the team have one last go with its regular "automatisms"? It came surprisingly close to working as well. Kevin Volland - occupying Sheraldo Becker's old space - even put die Eisernen in the lead against Carlo Ancelotti's Real Madrid at the Olympiastadion. Alex Kral - on later for Rani Khedira - scored as well.

"Back to the future"

An interesting facet of Union's final UCL fixture concerns the fact that two of the goal-scorers from last Saturday's 3-1 defeat of Gladbach weren't even available to Bjelica as they weren't registered for the Champions' League. Bjelica had to wait for the next league encounter before being able to call upon Benedict Hollerbach and Mikkel Kaufmann. The former was (all pun intended) "hollered back" at with a place in the starting XI. Bjelica's constellation against Bochum returned to the 4-1-4-1 from last week, replete with the slight stagger for Kevin Volland.

Lineup—Union Berlin—Match 15 (4-1-4-1)

The loss of Robin Gosens forced Hollerbach over to the left whilst Sheraldo Becker took over on the right. One failed to divine the same magic as last time, possibly due to the fact that Becker has been out for over a month. The hosting 1848ers appeared far more determined from the start. Thomas Letsch did well to bench both Mats Bero and Philipp Hofmann following subpar performances. Gonçalo Paciencia and Christopher Antwi-Adjei did much better at the nine and left wing positions, respectively.

It's no exaggeration to say that Asano absolutely played like a man possessed. Signs emerged some weeks back that the "jaguar" was in line for a very special season indeed. The 29-year-old came very close to grabbing the opening goal thrice before he ultimately did so at the tail end of the opening 45. Bochum headed into the tunnel with a completely deserved lead after Asano stuffed home the squad's 16th shot on target. Asano was also instrumental in  setting up Paciencia's 2-0 in the 54th.

A general Bochum assessment

How good is this version of Thomas Letsch's Revierklub? The trusted VfL trainer must continue to play hot-hand. Hofmann wasn't merely dropped from the starting XI, but omitted from the match-day squad altogether. That seems a mite harsh, even if the veteran has failed to score this season. Paciencia's three league goals don't necessarily look so hot when one considers his past issues with injuries. Potential laden players like Moritz Broschinski and Moritz Broni-Kwarteng (admittedly just coming back from injury) still haven't opened their league account either.

In any event, it does constitute something of a surprise that Bochum - having captured their third win of the season - are now in 13th place on 16 points. Considering the state of alarm at the beginning of the campaign, Letsch has done a remarkably solid job stabilizing this team in some most unexpected ways. Through at least five novel tactical constellations and balanced squad rotations that leave 20 outfielders with six or more league appearances this season, the VfL trainer always seems to have a well-thought-out match-day plan.

The latest:

Lineup—Bochum—Match 16 (4-2-3-1)

Kevin Stöger and Patrick Osterhage continued to deserve to have their praises sung. The pairing of the "club man" and the resurgent Germany U21 international effectively pulled the strings from their positions, with Asano and Bernardo putting in quite a great deal of deep work as well. The slightly elder Schlotterbeck brother Keven - though prone to some capricious form swings in the past - has been on a steady uptick for several weeks. Bero and Broschinski played well off the bench, drawing the penalty that would lead to the 3-0 on a nice combo.

These Westphalians are doing their bit to pull away from the relegation pack. Most of us tacitly assumed that underachievers like Mainz and Union would be on the way to overtaking them by now. While there's still plenty of time for that to happen, the importance of this result cannot be understated. Letsch's crew took a massive three points off relegation rivals and we're just two rounds away from the midway point of the season. Leverkusen before Christmas won't produce much. Bremen after the new year might still allow them to slide well into the "Rück-runde".

Chocolate coins for everyone!

Uh oh. Maybe Borussia Dortmund's slumping league form has come at a most inopportune time after all. Unlike the situation facing Edin Terzic's Schwarzgelben when the league broke for its early winter break last year, all of the slip ups in the race for the Champions' League this season will be fresh on the BVB board's mind when it comes time to conduct the traditional "Jahres-Endgespräch" ("End-of-year meeting") in the BVB front office. Big boss Acki Watzke isn't known as one to dally; not with that perpetually dour face. Will Erik ten Hag be coaching Dortmund in 2024? Maybe.

Once again exhibiting no shortage of defending issues, Terzic's troops came up two points short against Augsburg on Saturday afternoon. The surprise success in their Champions' League "Group of Death" counts for little now. One win in their last seven league encounters could soon turn into one in eight when they face "title spoilers" FSV Mainz 05 on a tight turnaround Tuesday. The basic goal of European football stands in serious danger if they can't grab three points in the final 2023 encounter. This team continues to leak goals despite rigorous focus on stabilizing the side.


What's up this time?

Lineup—Dortmund—Match 15 (4-2-3-1)

For starters, Terzic gave up on the tight shape used in the last two league rounds. The latest UCL performance apparently left the BVB trainer feeling as if his team deserved to take a few more risks. The fact that Terzic's Dortmund also put current Augsburg trainer Jess Thorup out of a job last year in the Champions' League gave him every reason to be optimistic about besting the former FC Copenhagen coach this time. For his part, Thorup vowed that his Fuggerstädter would fearlessly forgo parking the bus against the heavily-favored opponents.

A mixed opening 20 minutes

Niklas Süle and Nico Schlotterbeck both exhibited problems at the back early. The Westphalians could count themselves lucky that FCA winger Fredrik Jensen squandered an early chance at the lead. Attacking-wise, Dortmund looked fluid enough. Marco Reus and Ramy Bensebaini nevertheless needed to do significantly better with their early chances. Terzic's side could have snatched the lead several times before the now infamous Schlotterbeck stumble enabled Ermedin Demirovic to score. 

A strong response to the deficit

Reus' unlock pass and the brilliant one-two between Donyell Malen and Niclas Füllkrug on the BVB equalizer showed what talent this team does possess. Julian Brandt came forward on a couple of occasions and nearly gave Dortmund the lead shortly before the break. Malen and Bynoe-Gittens began rotating furiously before the opening 45 was out and the Dutchman found plenty of space on the left during a furious phase after the restart. Malen and Füllkrug unfortunately spurned some excellent opportunities to give their side the lead.

The final tactical push

Terzic made a pair of staggered subs as the clock continued to work against the deadlock. Gio Reyna came on for Reus in the 58th, initially switching places with Brandt. Debutant Samuel Bamba relieved Jamie Bynoe-Gittens in the 74th. Brandt then moved further up to the right wing whilst Malen dropped back to the eight-slot By that time, Thorup had Augsburg re-aligned in a 5-4-1. The late 4-3-3 - courtesy of some strong midfield work from Reyna and Emré Can - still produced plenty of chances.

Lineup—Dortmund—72nd minute (4-3-3)

FCA keeper Finn Dahmen made no fewer than three brilliant saves on Füllkrug. Bamba got into some tight spaces as well, though the 19-year-old's age was certainly apparent on the finishes. Dahmen also offered up a world-class stop on Malen and received a little help from the post on one of Füllkrug's efforts. Terzic went all in by throwing Sebastien Haller on for Can in the 89th. This led to Augsburg's second only real chance of the half. Dortmund were the clear winners in the xG battle, racking up 3.11 to the FCA's 2.42.

Odds on Terzic surviving the year?

With Mainz (covered above) seemingly poised to break out, one really needs to keep an eye on the Tuesday fixture. Terzic spoke of "heavy legs" and "strained" heads in his post-match comments. Those of us who appreciate the young trainer's flair for the poetic will agree that he painted quite the appropriate picture. Something suggests that facing a side beginning to believe in itself on a tight turnaround isn't going to end well. The BVB trainer's job shouldn't really be assigned odds. It's simple enough. A win can save him. A loss will get him canned.

The author has always wondered why the German word "Kette" ("chain") never translates literally in the English footballing context. The final defensive axis deserves the "chain" designation, yet doesn't find usage. We continentals and our counterparts on the Isle never seem to trade "chain" expressions adequately. The English "chain-of-command" phrase does have a sparsely-used German equivalent, but "Befehlsweg" and "Dienstweg" are the preferred translations. Germans don't really utilize "Kette" when it comes to other fabulous English idioms like "chain-of-thought" or "chain-of-reasoning".

And what of "Fehlerkette"? A little "chain-of-errors" isn't really commonly used in English. A "chain-reaction" mostly refers to negative events, but can have positive connotations in the proper context. English speakers generally prefer "knock-on-effect" or "domino-effect" to describe a cascading series of failures with a final catastrophic result. Perhaps it all comes down to competitive spite for the old historic channel-partitioned foes. Translate your "chain metaphors" literally? "Not a chance, my dear adversity." You deal with your prisoners in your own way. I'll take mine.

"Not a chance" happened to be the odds most of us were giving Frankfurt of replicating their performance against Bayern last weekend when squaring off against Xabi Alonso's Bayer 04 Leverkusen this round. One rarely catches lightning in a bottle twice. Xabi's preferred league XI found itself well-rested after the B-squad rolled over Molde on Thursday. SGE trainer Dino Toppmöller had to again do without his leading-goalscorer Omar Marmoush due to accumulated yellow suspension this weekend. Things didn't work out that well in Scotland a couple of days ago. 

Lineup—Frankfurt—UECL (4-1-4-1)

With Makoto Hasebe serving as a solo six, Elias Baum debuting at right-back, Jens Petter Hauge playing his fourth novel position of the season, and Eric Junior Dina Ebimbe working what felt like his fourteenth novel position assignment of the campaign, the RheinMain Adler couldn't stop Aberdeen from unleashing wave-after-wave of counter attacks. Jessic Ngankam and Niels Nkounkou supplied the only SGE offensive chances of the first half. It would be an understatement to say that they were fairly tame.

Paxten Aaronson (on for the injured Ebimbe) and Ansgar Knauff (subbed on for a very quiet Mario Götze in the 70th) both missed sitters in the second 45. A triple "chain-of-errors" from Robin Koch, Hrvoje Smolcic, and Jens Grahl (on for the injured Kevin Trapp at the half) allowed the Scots to capitalize on another counter late and seal a 2-0 victory. Some two weeks ago, we were discussing how Toppmöller fell to an adverse "chain reaction" following an Conference League result. How would he try to right matters this time?

Lineup—Frankfurt—Match 16 (4-4-2)

It never quite looked like it might work. Götze and Hugo Larsson stood too far apart to appropriately deal with the B04 midfield tandem of Granit Xhaka and Exequiel Palacios. For some reason, Toppmöller came up with a shape that accorded as much space to Florian Wirtz as possible. Dina Embimbe and Fares Chaibi - both in new positions - couldn't coordinate their off the ball press properly. It seemed only a matter of time before Xabi's Werkself would nab the opening goal. The 1-0 arrived in the 12th via a "chain-of-errors".

No one picked up Wirtz in the huge pocket of space. Tuta - looking most uncomfortable in the right-back role - lost sight of Victor Boniface. Trapp - perchance not fully recovered from his back problems and screened slightly by Robin Koch - was late in diving down to stop Boniface's effort from about 13 meters out. The Westphalian hosts pretty much had the game under control from that point forward. Only a lack of finesse in the final third kept matters from getting "lidded" until the 51st.

Boniface returned the favor with assists on a pair of quick Jeremie Frimpong and Wirtz tallies shortly after the restart. Leverkusen piled on and nearly scored thrice more before it was all over. Wirtz, Boniface, and Jonas Hofmann all found their way around the wilted SGE back ranks. Wirtz and the later subbed on Piero Hincapie even struck the goal-frame late on. Toppmöller's Eintracht might be in for another slip against Gladbach in the final round. Last week's result looks to be aberrant.

This chain breaks yet again.

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