Alpine duo sitting pretty
Going into the international break, Germany’s top-flight teams have played eight matches in 2011/12, but the season in Austria and Switzerland is already ten and 11 games old respectively. Bang in line with expert predictions, Bayern Munich have opened up a three-point gap at the top of the Bundesliga, but in the neighbouring Alpine republics, the pre-season punditry has gone out the window with the usual suspects making below-par starts. Instead, promoted Trenkwalder Admira have hit the headlines in Austria, with Lucerne setting a hot pace in Switzerland. FIFA.com reviews the state of play in the two leagues.
Swiss champions struggling for form
Champions FC Basel made a poor start to the Swiss campaign, as Thorsten Fink’s men collected just six points from their first six matches, FCB’s worst opening run since the introduction of the current ten-team format. A crisis, the media trumpeted, but Fink never lost faith in his players.
"I’m certain we’ll soon set off on a good run, and confirm our intention of winning the league again," he exclusively told FIFA.com a few weeks ago. Subsequent events have proved him right, as FCB have taken 13 of the 15 points on offer in their last five matches and are now up to fourth on 19 points.
Basel’s resurgence is closely linked with Alexander Frei’s return to form. The former Swiss national captain tops the Super League scoring chart with eight goals, including a brace in Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Servette Geneva. His namesake Fabian Frei is also on a roll after exploding onto the scene against Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League. The senior Frei scored twice and the junior once at Old Trafford, as Fink’s men came within an ace of a shock victory. The match ended 3-3, but was still regarded as a huge result for the Swiss underdogs, confirming their domestic revival is likely to be no flash in the pan.
Valley of tears for Zurich pair
The quest for a revival is now an urgent one at FC Zurich and city rivals Grasshoppers. FCZ lie eighth on ten points, with Grasshopper Club ninth on seven, kept off the bottom only by Lausanne Sport with just five points. "The fight against relegation starts right now, and we’re up for the fight. I’ll give everything for this football club, a club which has given me so much both as a player and coach. I’m full of energy, and I’m hopeful we can achieve our goal,” GC boss Ciriaco Sforza told the club website in the wake of a 1-0 defeat to Neuchatel Xamax on Matchday 10.
By contrast, it has been an excellent season so far for FC Lucerne, with seven wins, three draws and just one defeat taking new coach Murat Yakin’s men all the way to the top of the standings. However, that first loss came last Sunday, a 1-0 reverse against Young Boys Berne. "We weren’t rewarded for our efforts today, but a first defeat after 11 matches isn’t going to throw us off track,” the Lucerne coach said afterwards. The leaders will need to go out and prove their boss right when they face Xamax in the first match after the international break.
New boys in the ascendant
In Austria, the established order is being given a thorough shaking up by new arrivals Trenkwalder Admira, who beat mighty Rapid Vienna 4-3 at the Trenkwalder Arena to go top of the pile for the first time since October 1993. Dietmar Kuhbauer’s side have taken 21 points from their first ten matches.
However, the promoted side are just a point ahead of Austria Vienna, and three clear of Red Bull Salzburg (18). The pursuing pair went head-to-head on Sunday in the capital, with the Bulls falling to a second away defeat on the bounce. That directly led to the reshuffle at the top, with Admira seizing the lead, Austria climbing to second, and Salzburg slipping to third.
Champions Sturm Graz would happily swap places with any of the trio, as Franco Foda’s side are fully eight points off Admira at present. However, there are positive signs emanating from Graz now, as the champions reversed a poor run of two defeats and a draw with a 1-0 victory over SV Josko Ried.
SV Mattersburg halted an even worse streak of five defeats and four draws with a first win of the campaign, simultaneously handing the dubious honour of last place to Kapfenberger SV, albeit only on goal difference. Mattersburg beat Wiener Neustadt 2-1, prompting coach Franz Lederer to declare after the game, "We absolutely deserved to win. We’ve actually been playing really well recently, but we were out of luck. Things went our way this time. My team was fantastic in the first half, and we can build from here." The Austrian Bundesliga now takes a 14-day breather before the action recommences on 15 October.