• Sunday, 31 October 2010


    The type of glove worn by outfield players, as named after Guadeloupe-born French full-back Pascal Chimbonda who wears such articles even in the middle of August.

    An update

    You've noticed, of course, the lack of action on here lately. That's because much the work done here is duplicated on the frankly wonderful In Bed With Maradona. I suggest you become a regular reader if you're not already. This means we're putting Euroballs into cold storage for now, perhaps to try and do something a bit different with it in the not too distant future. In the meantime, sister site CONMEBalls is still in full swing and you can follow the authors on here on Twitter, @dobsonjp, @cjplume and @MatthewAHorton.

    Wednesday, 6 October 2010

    Mainz equal record, but Dortmund hang on: Bundesliga reviews

    Hannover 0-1 St Pauli
    Monchengladbach 1-1 Wolfsburg
    Hamburg 2-1 Kaiserslautern
    Mainz 4-2 Hoffenheim
    Nurnberg 2-1 Schalke
    Freiburg 3-2 Cologne
    Stuttgart 1-2 Eintracht
    Leverkusen 2-2 Bremen
    Dortmund 2-0 Bayern

    Mainz remain top of the Bundesliga after beating Hoffenheim and also equal the record for consecutive wins at the start of a season. They're seven from seven now and stay three points clear of Dortmund in second, the pair of them already well clear of the pack. Lewis Holtby was in superb form once again and threaded a through ball for Adam Szalai to run onto in the second minute. He was onside, but Sami Allagui wasn't when the ball was played and the Hoffenheim defence stood still waiting for a flag. It didn't come and Szalai squared for his strike partner, back onside by this point, to sidefoot home. The Villagers were level late in the first half after Mainz uncharacteristically lost possession in centre field, Gustavo Dias going on a long run before playing Demba Ba in to level. With Jogi Low looking on, it wasn't long before Mainz were back in front, a looped ball forward for Szalai to run onto and finish. Ten minutes later, Holtby - he still qualifies for England, y'know - squared into the Hoffenheim box only for Dias to divert the ball in at the near post for 3-1. Gylfi Sigurdsson pulled one back with a stunning free-kick five minutes later, but any hope of a Hoffenheim comeback was thwarted when Josip Simunic pulled Holtby down in the box and, as last man, was sent off. Andre Schurrle put the penalty in the top corner and that was that. Dortmund stay behind after beating Bayern for whom Mario Gomez is morphing into the new Luca Toni. Three chances in the first half from a combined total of less than twelve yards were all spurned and Dortmund made them pay. Five minutes after the break, Lucas Barrios turned the ball in after a long throw caused panic in the Bayern rearguard. On the hour, Nuri Sahin curled in a wicked free-kick which gave Hans-Jorg Butt no chance and Bayern were defeated. They've been forced to forego the annual trip to the Oktoberfest in favour of extra training as a result. Ribéry and Robben can't come back quickly enough.

    Hannover stay third despite losing at home to St Pauli, just their second defeat of the season. The one goal came early, Marius Ebbers heading in at the end of a quick break in just the sixth minute. The newly promoted side were comfortable after that, moreso when Karim Haggui was sent off ten minutes from time. Third they may be, but already eight points behind the leaders. Leverkusen are up to fourth after a home draw with Bremen. A bright opening saw chances at either end, but Leverkusen took the lead through Patrick Helmes, a confident finish at the near post, after quarter of an hour. Marko Marin was proving a handful for the Leverkusen defence and he won a free-kick shortly after the break which he teed up for Hugo Almeida to blast through a crowd scene to level before Marin himself put Bremen ahead, finishing a move involving Wesley, Almeida and Aaron Hunt who provided the inch-perfect cross. An entertaining game finished with as a probably fair draw as Eren Derdiyok first ran powerfully through the defence and then showed some great footwork to get round the last couple of men before giving Tim Wiese no chance with the finish. Bremen remain marooned in 13th.

    Stuttgart stay bottom of the pile with just that one win - bizarrely or perhaps typically for the Bundesliga, a 7-0 victory - after defeat to improving Eintracht. Inevitably, Theofanis Gekas was on the scoresheet, the diminutive Greek hotshot sneaking in at the near post as the Stuttgart defence played musical statues to put the Frankfurters 1-0 up. Chris supplied the ball for that and he made it two with twenty minutes left, heading in from a corner. Stuttgart got one back through Pavel Pogrebnyak, mopping up after Eintracht keeper Ola Nikolov spilled a routine save, but that came after Stuttgart were reduced to ten, Mathieu Delpierre sent off. Schalke are still just a point above Stuttgart after yet another loss, this time away at Nurnberg. Felix Magath was defiant, placing the blame solely on his players. That may be fair enough, but he overhauled the squad himself in the summer, 15 players coming in and 21 leaving. This is his side, but no, it's not his fault. It can't be; he's brilliant. Manuel Neuer has hinted he may seek to leave with Magath responding that he's changed the squad to help him out, to offer him European football. It looks a long way off. After a goalless first half, the second started badly for the Royal Blues as Jermaine Jones picked up a second yellow for following in on the keeper and was duly sent off. The arguments threatened to boil over in the dug-outs, but Jones can have little complaint despite trying to pull out of it. He caught him, it warranted a booking and he'd already picked up a stupid one earlier in trademark fashion. Nine minutes later, Mike Frantz slid in to convert Julian Schieber's cross to put Nurnberg ahead. Jefferson Farfan set up Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for the equaliser quarter of an hour from time, but Schalke had a big hand in their own downfall ten minutes later. A woeful backpass could only be directed behind by Neuer and, from the corner, Andreas Wolf powered a header into the roof of the net. Big problems in Gelsenkirchen.

    Wolfsburg's winning run came to an end, but they did get a point from their trip to Gladbach. Thomas Kahlenberg put the opener away for Die Wolfe as Gladbach complained about a foul in the build-up, probably accurately, but Thorben Marx levelled it midway through the second half with a diving header. Hamburg got back to winning ways against Lautern who were ahead after Ivo Ilicevic was upended after a great run to the edge of the Hamburg box down the left wing. Srdjan Lakic put the free-kick in the top corner, leaving Frank Rost rooted to the spot. Chances flowed and the frames of both goals were rattled before Hamburg finally took one of the many chances presented them, Gojko Kacar with a bullet header in the 70th minute from Ze Roberto's cross. The game continued in open fashion and both keepers made excellent saves to keep it 1-1, but six minutes from time, a Lautern attack broke down, Kacar launched it long for Jonathan Pitroipa who squared for Eric Choupo-Moting to nudge in a winner. Freiburg remain fifth after a good win over Cologne who even the ever-optimistic Lukas Podolski now admits are in a relegation fight. Jan Rosenthal had Freiburg two up in little more than ten minutes, the first coming off the back of a lovely turn on the edge of the box and a fine low finish, the second a brilliant 30-yard volley as Cologne failed to clear their lines. Just eleven minutes later, Cologne were back in it as Youssef Mohamad was quickest to react to a parried save. It was all square five minutes after half-time when Adam Matuschyk latched onto a loose ball and lashed it in from twenty yards. The winner came in the 70th minute when Papiss Demba Cissé beat the offside trap and lobbed the keeper when one-on-one.

    The table still has an odd look to it as we head to the international break, but Mainz and Dortmund are already threatening to make a break for the hills.

    Monday, 4 October 2010

    Another new leader: Ligue 1 reviews

    Arles 0-4 Auxerre
    Monaco 0-1 Brest
    Nancy 2-3 Lyon
    Bordeaux 1-0 Lorient
    Sochaux 3-0 Lens
    Valenciennes 2-1 Caen
    St Etienne 1-1 Marseille
    Lille 3-1 Montpellier
    PSG 0-0 Nice
    Rennes 3-1 Toulouse

    New leaders in France where Rennes, unfashionable and unfancied Rennes, walloped fellow high-fliers Toulouse to assume the league leadership. Playing with pace and exuding confidence, Romain Danzé put them ahead in the last minute of the first half with a thunderous drive from just outside the box which served warning as to their intentions. Kader Mangane headed a second midway through the second half, some statuesque defending allowing the big Senegalese through, and Sylvain Marveaux converted a late penalty for 3-0. Toulouse have completely lost their way and slip to fourth after their fourth straight game without a win, but they did have the last word here, Moussa Sissoko starting and finishing the move which ended with him sliding the ball past the keeper for a consolation. Ex-Toulouse man André-Pierre Gignac got his first for his new club as champions Marseille held leaders St Etienne to a draw. A loose clearance was diverted back into the danger area off the ref and Gignac, as ever, was alive to it and stuck it in despite the keeper getting a strong hand to it. Les Verts levelled on the hour as Laurent Batlles converted a low cross, but it wasn't enough to maintain the lead after Rennes' exploits.

    Finally, the big boys got moving. Just one goal was enough for Bordeaux, but what a goal. A loose clearance from the Lorient keeper was swooped on by Michael Ciani who had the presence of mind to deliver a delightful lob from 40 yards which the keeper couldn't get back to. Lyon blew a two-goal lead before Jimmy Briand rescued them in Nancy. In their delightful smoking jacket style away kit, Lisandro Lopez had Les Gones in front late in the first half, a simple tap-in after great work down the right hand side. Briand doubled the advantage with a header, but André Luiz headed one back two minutes later. With twenty minutes to go, an uncharacteristic error from Hugo Lloris allowed Julien Feret to level it. Another goalkeeping error at the other end saw Gennaro Bracigliano punch weakly. Briand was on the spot to stick the loose ball away. Something had to give as the only two winless sides faced off and Auxerre came through in convincing style to leave Arles miles adrift. Alain Traore got the opener in the 18th minute after an initial fine save. A bullet header was going in the bottom corner, but Vincent Plante pushed it wide. Traore reacted quickest and slotted it in from a tight angle. The game was held up midway through the first half after Alvaro Mejia collided heavily with the post and had to be stretchered off. Hopefully there's no fracture to the skull, but he left the field strapped to a spinal board with his head taped still. Unpleasant. AJA went into half time two up as Benoit Pedretti doubled the lead thanks to a heavy deflection. Pedretti continued to run the show after the break and it was 3-0 just shy of the hour, Roy Contout with a long-range, looping header. Valter Birsa made it four just before time, a curling effort just evading Plante and finding the bottom corner. Arles... No points and a -17 goal difference already. That tells it's own story. Lille go up to third and are, along with Rennes, still unbeaten. Moussa Sow had them in front in the twentieth minute with a brave, diving header, sticking his melon where the boots were flying, but Olivier Giroud equalised with a penalty after a clumsy foul in the box. Lille were dominating though and went in ahead through Sow's second, tucked past the advancing keeper from a narrow angle. Montpellier got back into it, but couldn't find that crucial goal and were picked off ten minutes from time, Eden Hazard setting up Gervinho for the clincher. PSG couldn't find a win though, held 0-0 by Nice.

    Brest, newly promoted, have snuck under everyone's radar to find themselves in fifth, Bruno Gougi with a low shot that Stephane Ruffier allowed to sneak under his body. Sochaux are up to sixth after thumping Lens, Modibo Maiga setting the tone with a rocket-powered left-footed shot from way downtown that just about ripped the net as it thundered past the flailing keeper. Ideye Brown made it two a minute before half-time from a suspiciously offside position as the keeper parried another long-range shot into his path. Damien Perquis wrapped it up late on with another piledriver, this time from a free-kick. Lens are struggling. Caen are slipping down the table following defeat to Valenciennes who were ahead in the 25th minute through Gregory Pujol's looping header. Mamadou Samassa walked in the second moments later and though Caen pulled one back midway through the second half through Youssef El Arabi, they couldn't get back on terms.

    Utrecht storm the Ajax fortress: Eredivisie reviews

    Vitesse 0-0 Willem II
    NAC 2-0 NEC
    Excelsior 1-2 Roda JC
    Ajax 1-2 Utrecht
    Twente 4-2 Groningen
    AZ 2-1 Heracles
    De Graafschap 1-1 Feyenoord
    Heerenveen 0-0 ADO
    PSV 3-0 VVV Venlo

    A few weeks ago, Ajax got past Willem II thanks to a brace of penalties from Luis Suarez. This week, it was Ricky van Wolfswinkel who scored twice from the spot and the first came after a ludicrous handball from Suarez as Ajax were beaten by domestic opposition at the Amsterdam ArenA for the first time since January 2009. What was going through the Uruguayans mind is anybody's guess as he threw his arms way over his head to bat high cross away - yes it was even more blatant than his World Cup transgression. Van Wolfswinkel's confidence is running high and the way he put the penalty past Maarten Stekelenburg summed it up, hitting it powerfully, high and to the keeper's left. Even if he'd gone the right way, he wasn't getting there. Eight minutes later and Edouard Duplan was brought down in the box by Eyong Enoh. Up stepped van Wolfswinkel again and put it low to Stekelenburg's right. Another classy spot kick. In a season which has seen a number of players struggle from the 12-yard mark, the young striker is right up there. And so it looked like remaining until the third minute of stoppage time when Siem de Jong rattled in a 30-yarder into the top corner, but it came far too late to alter the outcome.

    There went one of the four remaining unbeaten records and another one went south as well. Not PSV's though, as they saw off VVV Venlo thanks in no small part to the Brazilian Jonathan Reis. Ten minutes into the second half, after the first 45 hadn't produced much by way of excitement, a woefully underhit backpass allowed Reis to swoop for his first, taking it round the keeper and walking it into the net and the Eindhoveners were on their way. Wilfred Bouma is back in Dutch football after an unhappy spell with Aston Villa and he leapt highest to nod in a corner six minutes later and Reis completed the win which sent PSV back to the top of the standings, benefitting from Jeremain Lens's unselfishness as he squared the ball to the back post for his buddy rather than take the shot on himself. It's not Twente's record that's gone either, it's Groningen's who went to Enschede and suffered their first defeat of the season. More penalties here too, one from Andreas Granqvist in the 28th minute after Douglas had handled. The lead lasted just two minutes before Bryan Ruiz levelled as the Groningen penalty area turned into a duck shoot for a moment, the Costa Rican keeping his cool when all around lost theirs. Luuk de Jong was brought down in the box by the keeper a couple of minutes into the second half - a quality rugby tackle, but that cut little ice with the ref. Ruiz stepped up to put Twente in front. With eighteen minutes to go, Marc Janko headed in for 3-1, but Groningen were right back in it two minutes later, Tim Matavz controlling a really difficult volley. Twente won it with two minutes left, Ruiz springing the offside trap and squaring to Theo Janssen who chipped the keeper - a party piece which is rapidly becoming his trademark. Janssen already has twice the number of goals as he had last term and an Oranje selection to go with them. He's playing the best football of his career.

    With Ajax losing, just three points cover the top five now with Roda JC drawing level with Groningen after beating Excelsior on the plastic. If the artificial surface at the Verzekringen did hold a hoodoo, it's been trashed in the last fortnight with two losses for the Rotterdam outfit. Excelsior led at half-time through Wouter Gudde's header seven minutes from the break. Pa-Modou Ka headed Roda level twenty minutes from time and a third headed goal won it two minutes from time, Anouar Hadouir with the winner. Roda have lost just once, away to Ajax in week 2. They'll have tougher tests than this, but for now they're right in there. Not so Feyenoord who are now without a win in four. Some awful defending allowed Hugo Bargas in for the opener on 20 minutes which saw De Vijverberg go mental. The Rotterdammers did escape with a point though, Giorgino Wijnaldum going down heavily in the box though contact appeared minimal. Luigi Bruijns converted the spot kick.

    Willem II are finally off the mark, albeit thanks to a drab 0-0 with Vitesse and ADO were also held to a goalless draw by Heerenveen. NAC are on the heels of the top five despite that point deduction after beating NEC. Matthew Amoah got the first as the NEC keeper came for a hopeful cross and got nowhere near it and the win was sealed two minutes from time as Fouad Idabdelhay was given the freedom of the NEC box. Heracles remain in trouble after defeat in Alkmaar while AZ are going in the right direction. Willy Overtoom had Heracles ahead four minutes from the break with a low drive from 20 yards, but the teams went in level as Kolbeinn Sigthorsson's shot was deflected in. A goalmouth scramble a couple of minutes from time ended as the ball broke to Jonathas six yards out and he lashed in the winner.

    Friday, 1 October 2010

    Internationals looming

    After this round of domestic fixtures, attentions will once again turn to matters international with another round of back-to-back Euro 2012 qualifiers. Managers around Europe have named squads and will no doubt spend the weekend hoping none of their selections pick up injuries.

    Germany face their toughest task of the qualifying campaign on Friday with a visit from Turkey to Berlin's Olympiastadion. Now under the stewardship of Guus Hiddink and with a large Turkish population in Berlin, this isn't going to be an easy one, but Joachim Low's selection shows that he's confident that Turkey need to do more worrying about Germany than the other way round. Kevin Grosskreutz's outstanding form for Dortmund has been rewarded with a call-up, but with 17 of the World Cup 23 in the squads, his chances look limited. Lewis Holtby and Andre Schurrle miss out despite great form for league leader Mainz and stay with the U21s. Holtby still qualifies for England. It might be wise to get him a senior cap sooner rather than later and with the rather more straightforward task away to Kazakhstan to follow on Tuesday, now might have been a good time to get him blooded. But for Low, consistency is more important than political shenanigans.

    Goalkeepers: Rene Adler (Leverkusen), Manuel Neuer (Schalke), Tim Wiese (Bremen)
    Defenders: Holger Badstuber (Bayern), Philipp Lahm (Bayern), Jerome Boateng (Manchester City), Marcell Jansen (Hamburg), Heiko Westermann (Hamburg), Per Mertesacker (Bremen), Sascha Riether (Wolfsburg)
    Midfielders: Kevin Grosskreutz (Dortmund), Sami Khedira (Real Madrid), Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid), Toni Kroos (Bayern), Thomas Muller (Bayern), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern), Marko Marin (Bremen), Christian Trasch (Stuttgart)
    Forwards: Lukas Podolski (Cologne), Cacau (Stuttgart), Mario Gomez (Bayern), Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich)

    Tuesday is when the Netherlands have their toughest game, on paper at least, at home to Sweden, but not until they've gone to Moldova first. Again, coming off the back of a good World Cup, it's not a surprise to see Bert van Marwijk stick with largely the same squad that got him there and with wins from both their opening qualifiers, changes are largely forced on him. Hedwiges Maduro, the Valencia defender, is out of action and is replaced by Peter Wisgerhof, the 30-year old uncapped FC Twente skipper. Vurnon Anita is included despite picking up an injury in Ajax's defeat at Internazionale in midweek, a knock which may keep him out for some time. With Robin van Persie a serial crock, Ruud van Nistelrooy continues up front with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, another Dutchman to find his touch in the Bundesliga. There's no place for Ryan Babel and is unlikely to be until he starts playing some actual football, but Ricky van Woilfswinkel can be considered unlucky not to least make the squad after a blinding start to the season with Utrecht.

    Goalkeepers: Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax), Piet Velthuizen (Hercules), Michel Vorm (FC Utrecht)
    Defenders: Khalid Boulahrouz (Stuttgart), Peter Wisgerhof (FC Twente), John Heitinga (Everton), Joris Mathijsen (Hamburg), Gregory van der Wiel (Ajax), Vurnon Anita (Ajax), Erik Pieters (PSV)
    Midfielders: Ibrahim Afellay (PSV), Mark van Bommel (Bayern), Theo Janssen (FC Twente), Nigel de Jong (Manchester City), Stijn Schaars (AZ), Wesley Sneijder (Internazionale), Rafael van der Vaart (Tottenham), Demy de Zeeuw (Ajax)
    Forwards: Eljero Elia (Hamburg), Ruud van Nistelrooy (Hamburg), Klaas Jan Huntelaar (Schalke), Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool), Jeremain Lens (PSV)

    Before a ball was kicked, Romania looked to be France's toughest opponents in Group D, but they've only managed two draws from the first set of fixtures. After defeat in the opening game to Belarus, the knives were out for the French, but a comfortable win over Bosnia seemed to be getting the press back onside. Laurent Blanc has been critical of Karim Benzema in the lead up to Saturday's game against the Romanians, saying how he is easily distracted from work and that the bubble Real Madrid players exist in is unhealthy. He also defended Yoann Gourcuff and reminded everybody that he's still a young lad - he's just 24 despite seeming to have been around for ever - and that he's still very much a work in progress. After Romania, it's Luxembourg at home and if that isn't a cricket score, Blanc is going to be under pressure once more. This is a crucial week for him and for Les Bleus. Dimitri Payet gets a call-up, the lad from Réunion has been excellent for league leaders St Etienne, and back come Samir Nasri and Lassana Diarra. There's no Jeremy Toulalan and forwards André-Pierre Gignac and Djibril Cissé are overlooked.

    Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Lyon), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Cedric Carrasso (Bordeaux)
    Defenders: Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Gael Clichy (Arsenal), Adil Rami (Lille), Philippe Mexes (Roma), Mamadou Sakho (PSG), Benoit Tremoulinas (Bordeaux)
    Midfielders: Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille), Lassana Diarra (Real Madrid), Alou Diarra (Bordeaux), Yann M'Vila (Rennes), Abou Diaby (Arsenal), Samir Nasri (Arsenal), Florent Malouda (Chelsea), Blaise Matuidi (St Etienne), Yoann Gourcuff (Lyon)
    Forwards: Kevin Gameiro (Lorient), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Loic Remy (Marseille), Guillaume Hoarau (PSG), Dimitri Payet (St Etienne)

    Ligue 1 round 8 previews

    Arles v Auxerre
    Bordeaux v Lorient
    Monaco v Brest
    Nancy v Lyon
    Sochaux v Lens
    Valenciennes v Caen
    St Etienne v Marseille
    Lille v Montpellier
    PSG v Nice
    Rennes v Toulouse

    St Etienne assumed control of Ligue 1 for the first time in a generation last week with a win over their local rivals and former big dogs Lyon. This week, they take on the champions Marseille at the Geoffroy-Guichard. It's the late Saturday game and the house full signs are expected to be out well in advance of kick-off. Centre back Sylvain Marchal has been saying in the week that without the derby atmosphere surrounding this week's game, they'll be better focused. That ought to be a worry for the rest of the league as they were magnificent last week, none moreso than Dimitri Payet who is in a rich vein of form. Marseille were beaten in London in the Champions League in midweek, but emerged without any injury concerns, so Didier Deschamps has a full hand to pick from. Win this and maybe St Etienne could be considered title challengers. The late Sunday game sees third placed Toulouse going to second placed Rennes. Expect few goals. These two have conceded just seven between them so far this season - Toulouse three to Rennes four - but neither are either side prolific in front of goal. Rennes have yet to lose - only Lille can boast that record too - and a draw is the early favourite result here.

    Lille, whilst not having lost, have drawn five of their seven games so far. They welcome Montpellier this week in what looks sure to be another share of the spoils. The two sides without a win - Arles and Auxerre - go head-to-head in Avignon, so back another draw there. Monaco are the other draw specialists, so fans of the neutral outcome want to get themselves to the Stade Louis II for the visit of Brest who make the long trip from the north-west corner of the hexagon right down to the south-east. That's a 1500km journey. One way.

    Lyon look to get their season back on track with a trip to Nancy on the back of a win in the Champions League in Israel. They needed that and will fancy carrying it on here. Bordeaux are at home to Lorient who are no pushovers and you really, really should keep an eye on Kevin Gameiro. Sochaux are up and down and, having lost last week, will probably go and win this time out at home to struggling Lens. PSG and Caen are both going nicely at the moment and the former should beat Nice at home, though we don't reckon the odds on it passing off peaceably are very big, while Caen go to Valenciennes, again looking good for a win.

    Bundesliga round 7 previews

    Hannover v St Pauli
    Hamburg v Kaiserslautern
    Mainz v Hoffenheim
    Monchengladbach v Wolfsburg
    Freiburg v Cologne
    Nurnberg v Schalke
    Stuttgart v Eintracht
    Leverkusen v Bremen
    Dortmund v Bayern

    All bow at the altar of Thomas Tuchel. Everyone really needs to stop referring to Mainz's ascendancy to the Bundesliga summit as a surprise and just deal with the reality - they're a bloody good side, a well-drilled unit who know their roles and seem to enjoy each other's company, coached by a burgeoning genius who is clearly having the time of his life. Last week, Bayern were turned over at the Allianz and the contrast between the world-weary Louis van Gaal and the carefree Tuchel could not be clearer. Even when Bayern got back level, it didn't perturb the bowl-cut merchant unduly. He knew what his side could do and had absolute faith in their ability to do the job. And they did. This week, a win over Hoffenheim - early leaders who are on a rocky run at the moment - will set a new record of wins at the start of the season. Nobody has won the first seven of a Bundesliga season before. Typically, Tuchel is downplaying that possibility. And rightly so as opposite him will be Ralf Rangnick, another wily customer. Hoffenheim still have plenty of talent, but are acquiring a knack of turning that into average results. This should be a belter. We're taking Mainz to edge it.

    Bayern face Dortmund and the other manager clearly having a whale of a time, Jurgen Klopp. His team play with a verve and a swagger and no club anywhere has spent a better €350,000 than BvB did on Shinji Kagawa. Sevilla somehow managed to beat Dortmund in midweek despite being very much second best on the night and Bayern are looking a bit sluggish just as the Spaniards have been in La Liga. Without Ribéry and Robben, Bayern struggle to create, those responsibilities falling on the unlikely shoulders of Mark van Bommel, a role that just doesn't sit well. While pretty much everyone is happy for Mainz and what they've done so far, one club must hate them - Hannover. Any other season, them being in third place after six matches would be the story. They kick off the weekend in the Friday night game, at home to St Pauli. It's been an encouraging start for the Hamburg side and their away form is pretty good. Hannover haven't just been knocking over stiffs - the thrashing of Bremen was particularly impressive. Win this, and they go second. It's hard to see them not doing that.

    Leverkusen take on Bremen without Michael Ballack and Stefan Kiessling. Eren Derdiyok has been impressive up front for Bayer in Kiessling's absence and was on target again in midweek away at Atlético Madrid. Bremen can't string two results together at the moment and were thrashed in Milan by Internazionale in the Champions League. Not the first time they've conceded four this season and, while it's unlikely to happen here, probably not the last as Bremen struggle for consistency. Schalke got a morale-boosting win in midweek as their sorry campaign staggers onward. Nurnberg are the opposition this week, but the new-look front line of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Raul are finally beginning to click for the Royal Blues. Hamburg have lost their last two, as have Lautern. Something has to give here. Wolfsburg's shift back to the trusted diamond formation and two up top - Grafite restored alongside Edin Dzeko - has seen them turn their form around. Steve McClaren had success at Twente by not changing anything. Perhaps he should have done the same here rather than impose a new system. Anyway, the error has been corrected and now they're looking like the challengers we expected them to be. They go to Gladbach this week hot favourites to make it four-in-a-row. Stuttgart remain bottom and were sent straight back to earth last week, shipping four against Leverkusen after beating Gladbach 7-0 the game before. It asks the question just to how bad Gladbach are as Stuttgart were abysmal last week. Eintracht are also struggling, but they're nowhere near as terrible as their league position suggests or as Stuttgart are. Freiburg have had a decent start and will start favourites at home to Cologne.

    Eredivisie round 8 previews

    Vitesse v Willem II
    NAC v NEC
    Excelsior v Roda JC
    Ajax v Utrecht
    Twente v Groningen
    AZ v Heracles
    De Graafschap v Feyenoord
    Heerenveen v ADO
    PSV v VVV Venlo

    Too many draws are blighting Twente's attempts to defend their title, but they got away with it to a degree last week as they drew with leaders Ajax while PSV and the fourth unbeaten side, Groningen, who are Twente's opponents this week. A humbling defeat, largely thanks to three hooky penalty decisions, in London in midweek isn't the best preparation for the game against tough opponents who had the week off. It's not unfair to describe Groningen as the surprise package of the season and came through their first real test against PSV last week with a well-earned draw. This one should be a belter. Groningen need to get something out of it while Twente really have to stop mucking about and start winning. A draw it is then.

    PSV should not have any problem in getting past VVV Venlo, but they've not been at their ruthless best so far this season. A long trip to the Ukraine saw them come away with three Europa League points in the week, so the fixture list has been kind in handing them a home tie against a side in the bottom three. VVV did get a win last week, but let's not pretend De Graafschap are anything compared to PSV. Ajax are also at home after their Champions League home draw with Milan, but against Utrecht they will face a test of their credentials. Ton du Chatinier's side drew with Liverpool and it's a sign of the ability in the Utrecht side that they can reasonably be disappointed with the result. Ricky van Wolfswinkel was an injury doubt, but played the full 90 in midweek and is good to go again here. Feyenoord are in a mess at the moment, but Mario Been and his sporting director Leo Beenhakker seem set to be given the chance to turn it round. Without Jon Dahl Tomasson or funds to bolster his squad, Been has been operating with one hand tied behind his back and it's the acceptance of that fact by fans and board that are allowing him the time. Luc Castaignos has been leading the line, but the 18-year old has yet to really convince. It may come good, but the kid is very raw. Away at De Graafschap, you'd really expect Feyenoord to win, but they've come unstuck before in games they're expected to do well in. AZ are on the up after consecutive 1-0 wins, but copped a 4-1 gubbing in Belarus in midweek against BATE Borisov. Not ideal preparation for a home game with Heracles, but the Almelo side are in rotten form. Mind, with Everton in great goal-scoring form, an upturn can only be moments away. This could be a major turning point in either club's season, so expect a draw.

    NAC are up to eighth despite that point deduction and face NEC, in seventh, this week. That should be fun. Expect goals. If you want a crazy punt, have a look at 3-3. Excelsior lost for the first time on the artificial surface at home last week, but get the chance to put that right this week as Roda JC visit the Verzekringen. ADO are up to sixth and face a trip to Heerenveen while rock bottom Willem II kick us off for the weekend with a trip to Arnhem to take on Vitesse. Lose this and you may as well stick a fork in them.