Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Six Shooters

Half a dozen Bundesliga strikers who's role will be of particular importance to their respective clubs in the second half of the season.

Patrick Helmes (Bayer Leverkusen, 5 goals in 10 games)
With Stefan Kie├čling out injured his fellow German International striker has stepped in to fill the breach admirably. Helmes spent the equivalent of an entire season on the sidelines after recovering from a knee ligament injury. However, after a full pre-season and a morale boosting Cup hatrick against Pirmasens set him up for the season in good form and had been on the mark for both club and country, domestically and in Europe. Despite Dortmund's lead at the top of the table, Leverkusen are in with a decent chance of winning the title. However, they'll need to arrest the trend of tailing off towards the end of each season if they're to stand a chance. Key to this will be Helmes' goals while Kie├čling plays his way back into form.

Raul (Schalke, 9 goals in 17 games)
The symbol of Felix Magath's high risk transfer policy this season, the former Real Madrid legend was brought in at great expense but as part of an overall plan to reduce the Konigsblauen's wage bill. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the former Spain international has taken some time to bed in. However, he has impressed with some determined displays and showed the kind of tenacity and commitment that confirms that he has not come to Gelsenkirchen to draw a pension. There is also the small matter of those handy hat tricks against Bremen and Koln which have propelled him into the top scorer ranks. With Schalke six points away from sixth placed Freiburg, a Europa League spot is not out of the question and would go some way in rescuing what has been, on balance, a dismal season. Raul seems settled and happy in his new environment. He also has the pedigree to live up to the immense pressure and expectation that comes with playing in front of such a vociferous and success starved crowd. It should be an immense second half of the season for Raul.

Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund, 5 goals and 16 games)
The young Polish international has hitherto played an effective understudy to Lucas Barrios for BVB in their rise to the Winter Championship. However, with Shinji Kagawa almost certainly missing for the restart while he plays for Japan in the Asian Cup, Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp may need to adjust his tactics and bring Lewandowski in alongside Barrios or the returning Mohamed Zidan. Dortmund really only need to retain their composure to claim the Bundesliga title and in order to do that they'll need the young Pole to support his senior professionals and pop up where needed with the odd goal at crucial moments.

Srdan Lakic (Kaiserslautern, 11 goals in 16 games)
Many neutrals should be please to see 'Lautern back in the German top division and the Croatian striker hs been at the heart of everything that's been good about the Red Devils who now sit in a relatively comfortable twelfth place in 1. Bundesliga. At 27, the baby faced former Wolfsburg player is hitting the big time relatively late in his career and will, no doubt be anxious to prove that he is not a one hit wonder. His ability to chase the lost cause and take full advantage of any half chance that comes his way has been the perfect fit for 'Lautern's direct approach in a league where opportunities are very much at a premium for newly promoted clubs.

Grafite (Wolfsburg, 7 goals in 14 games)
The former rubbush bag salesman from Sao Paulo should be capable of keeping his head while everyone else at the VW Arena is losing theirs. With Edin Dzeko rocking up at Eastlands the onus on the Brazilian will be increased further, especially if Dzeko's replacement cannot the secured before the transfer window close at the end of January. Sharing this burden will be his compatriot Diego. Their relationship on the field will be key to Wolfsburg's revival in the second half of the season. Not to mention coach Steve McClaren's immediate job prospects.

Theofanis Gekas (Eintracht Frankfurt, 14 goals in 16 games)
The Greek international's good form should be a surprise to no one who has followed the Bundesliga in recent seasons. While his club form dipped following his move away from Leverkusen to Portsmouth and Berlin, Gekas remained a consistent goal scorer for his country and was sure to back in amongst things once he'd moved to the right club. Eintracht Frankfurt made steady progress under Michael Skibbe last season and bringing Gekas to the Waldstadion was a master stroke which could very well see the Frankfurt club achieve European football next season. Assuming Gekas stays fit, he should be able to continue his run and may even finish Bundesliga top scorer for the second time in his career.
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