The Bundesliga’s winter break didn’t affect Shinji Kagawa’s play as he was obviously able to carry over his brilliant form from last year. In Sunday’s 5-1 demolition of Hamburg, who had a run of nine league undefeated games prior to the visit of Borussia Dortmund, it was the 22-year-old Japanese attacker who assisted Kevin Grosskreutz’s opener in minute 16.
Despite not having a spectacular game, Kagawa proved his worth not only with his passes into the vital area of the Northerners, but also by constantly applying pressure when not in possession. He was not granted another assist nor a goal but earned his plaudits having a hand in all goals by the reigning champions until being subbed off in the 82nd minute.
Earlier in the weekend, Atsuto Uchida found himself in Schalke’s starting formation in a 3-1 home win against a poor Stuttgart. The right-back had a decent game, defending solidly and combining fairly well with new signing Chinedu Obasi on the right side, although he did not launch into too many attacking runs.
After returning from injury sustained during Stuttgart’s winter training camp Shinji Okazaki came on as a sub after the hour mark, and became instantly one of the Swabians’ more lively players. His efforts paid off when he was in the right position to tap home the consolation goal after Tamas Hajnal hit the post in the 87th minute.
In just his second top-team call-up, Hiroshi Ibusuki made his Liga debut in seven minutes of play from the bench as his 10-man Sevilla side drew 1-1 at Real Betis. Despite unsteady play overall, the call-up in a crucial derby indicates that the 20-year-old has the confidence of his manager and could see more opportunities soon.
In Eredivisie action, Mike Havenaar made his European debut when he came off the bench for Vitesse in the 73rd minute. He was not able to create any big chances, however, and his team fell 1-0 to NEC Nijmegen.
Hajime Hosogai (Augsburg): Didn’t stand out in a poor showing of his team as Augsburg was beaten 1-0 away to the bottom side Freiburg.
Gotoku Sakai (Stuttgart): The full-back stayed an unused substitute in Stuttgart’s 3-1 loss away to Schalke.
Yuki Otsu (Borussia Monchengladbach): The 21-year-old attacker wasn’t included in the Foals’ famous 3-1 home win over Bayern Munich.
Takashi Usami (Bayern Munich): The 19-year-old was once again left out of the title contenders’ squad.
Makoto Hasebe (Wolfsburg): The Samurai Blue-captain surprisingly didn’t feature in the Wolves’ matchday squad in their 1-0 home win against FC Koln.
Kisho Yano (Freiburg): The former Albirex forward is declared surplus to requirements at the struggling side, which won 1-0 against FC Augsburg.
Eiji Kawashima (Lierse): Had some fine saves but could not keep it up as his side lost 2-0 at Lokeren.
Yuto Nagatomo (Inter): A good effort in 90 minutes of play as Inter won their seventh in a row by a 2-1 result against Lazio.
Takayuki Morimoto (Novara): Watched his team's 3-0 loss to Milan from the bench
Akihiro Ienaga (Mallorca): Was not called up for 1-0 win at Rayo Vallecano
Ryo Miyaichi (Arsenal): Not included in lineup for 2-1 loss against Manchester United
Tadanari Lee (Southampton): Was left off the lineup in club's 3-0 win at Nottingham Forest
Yuki Abe (Leicester): Is reportedly en route to Japan to finalise the terms of a deal bringing him back to Urawa Reds.
Daisuke Matsui (Dijon): Currently on trial with Polish first-division side Legia Warsaw
Robert Cullen (VVV): Watched 2-1 win against Feyenoord from the bench
Maya Yoshida (VVV): Contributed 90 minutes of steady defending in club's win against Feyenoord
Michihiro Yasuda (Vitesse): Played a full 90 minutes in 1-0 loss to NEC.
Yoshiaki Takagi (Utrecht): Warmed the bench in 1-1 draw against PSV.
Masahiko Inoha: Has severed ties with Hajduk Split over unpaid wages.