1. Xhaka scotches Gunner talk
Heavily tipped to be on his way to Arsenal
in the summer, outstanding Borussia Mönchengladbach captain and central midfielder Granit Xhaka
thought it high time this week to set the record straight. “I’ve heard what’s being said and written and my response is that it’s all nonsense,” the 23-year-old Swiss international told top Cologne daily, Express. “There have been no negotiations with Arsene Wenger. It’s just rumours and speculation and it’s been like that for a year now. If some claim that my father has been to London for talks, they should show us the photos.” In an interview with the Funke Sport media group, Gladbach director of sport, Max Eberl, insisted there were no offers for his skipper on the table, though did admit that if the Foals did not make the Champions League cut in May, his skipper’sdeparture could not be ruled out. Xhaka, also linked with Manchester City, Liverpool and Bayern Munich, will cost a pretty penny. He has over three years of his contract left to run at Gladbach and the latter are demanding around 50 million euros for him. Not the sort of gargantuan outlay usually associated with the frugal Monsieur Wenger.
2. Ribery: the forgotten man pipes up
Bayern Munich’s 1-0 win over struggling Eintracht Frankfurt at the Allianz-Arena on Saturday might not have offered much in the way of edge-of-the-seat uncertainty or tension. But at least had one show-stopping moment in Franck Ribery’s brilliant scissor kick winner, only the Frenchman’s second strike in an injury-ravaged campaign. Written off in some quarters as yesterday’s man, the 32-year-old certainly did not cut the figure of a fading headliner against the Frankfurter, full of vitality,virtuosity, acceleration and dribbling skills. ” I haven’t scored many goals as good as that in my whole career,” smiled Ribery at the end of the game, his 201st Bundesliga fixture for Bayern. “It was a special goal and very positive for me mentally. I’m a happy man. I want to play here as long as I can. This club and me belong together.”
Franck Ribery celebrates after a brilliant scissor kick winner
3. Poles apart at the Audi-Sportpark
The scenes on the terraces following Ingolstadt’s 3-0 home victory over Schalke could not have produced a greater contrast in fan-base mood. Ecstasy for the local cognoscenti as top-flight survival was virtually if not mathematically assured. Vitriol, bitterness and invective, the language of choice of the visiting supporters, furious with their team’s chronic inconsistency and increasingly pessimistic about the Royal Blues chances of a top-four finish. With Gladbach, Leverkusen and Mainz all winning in the Bundesliga at the weekend, Schalke now find themselves on the skids in seventh-place in the table and for a squad so expensively assembled (worth around 80 million euros), that is unacceptable. Has coach Andre Breitenreiter improved them since taking over ten months ago? The answer has to be a resounding no.
4. Aubameyang’s understudy at last learns his lines
For a striker often labelled a flop during his two seasons with Dortmund and who was said to have clashed with coach Thomas Tuchel during a winter break training camp in Dubai, Adrian Ramos has been performing remarkably well of late. Normally the stunt double of star Schwarz-Gelben frontman, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the 30-year-old the Colombian international has scored four Bundesliga goals in the past five week and proved the hero in Saturday’s 3-2 victory at the Westfalenstadion against a surprisingly tenacious Bremen, heading in a late winner just two minutes after coming on as a substitute. “He [Ramos] has given us the sort of reaction we were looking for,” said Dortmund CEO, Hans Joachim Watzke. “Looking at his recent displays, it seems he’s moved on to a new dimension.” Ramos, though, remains unhappy with his bit-part role and should be making tracks soon to China or even the Premier League.
Adrian Ramos celebrates after he scored the decisive goal during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and Werder Bremen
5. Crime and punishment
Köln director of sport, Jörg Schmadtke, finds himself in the DFB disciplinary dock after being seen to throw chewing gum at the Hoffenheim bench towards the end of Sunday’s 1-1 draw. Furious that the build-up to the opposition’s injury-time equaliser had come about while Koln defender, Lukas Klunter was lying injured on the pitch and that the Hoffenheimer had not put the ball out of play, Schmadtke went into meltdown, spitting out the gum and hurling it in the direction of the home team staff. “Yes I threw it,” he admitted. It was a reaction. I’ve spoken to Hoffenheim general manager, Alexander Rosen and apologised. I’m sorry. ” The former Freiburg keeper, could be in for a stiff punishment, fined only in December for calling a referee an ‘Egghead’. Meanwhile, at rock bottom Hannover, the depths continue to be plumbed, the Lower Saxons deciding to fire coach Thomas Schaaf after just 11 matches in charge, ten of which were lost. Schaaf is a competent, attack-concious team-builder, but simply did not have the materials to build anything of worth. Hannover needed someone to turn water into wine. Schaaf’s a fine, attack-conscious coach. Not a miracle worker.