Greetings from the Berlin bunker.
Just to give you something else to think about, and to pass away the hours until the Toon kick-off on Sunday, I’ve put together a little preview of the upcoming Bundesliga season. I’ve even got some kinda predictions there, too. All for you, my English friends.
The Top Four (in order)
FC Bayern – Don’t read too much into the loss to Dortmund in the Charity Shield – Bayern should still win the league, although probably not as convincingly as they did last season, when they had it wrapped-up by the end of March. What is worrying, though, alongside the sale of the classy Toni Kroos, are the injuries to Javi Martinez and Thiago Alcantra. Still, the team are packed with quality midfielders (with or without Philipp Lahm playing there), and have added the best Bundesliga striker to their team in the off-season (while simultaneously weakening their closest rivals).
Borussia Dortmund – will finish second. Despite losing at least one key player per year (Götze last year, Lewandowski this year, and both to Bayern), Dortmund always seem to have a replacement lined-up. They’ll close the gap on Bayern, but it won’t be enough to overtake the behemoth. They will be more of a threat in the Champions League, especially when Ilkay Gündogan and Marco Reus come back from injury. Notably, they also have Ji Dong-won on the bench, the striker who the mackems had played without properly registering.
FC Schalke 04 – much like the town that Gelsenkirchen is twinned with, Schalke are capable of free-flowing attacking, mild calamity and inept coaching. Still, the quality of players they have should see them hold-off the challenge of Leverkusen for the last automatic Champions League place, despite doubts over the competence of their manager, Jens Keller. They will better than the team we beat in pre-season, that goes without saying, with Draxler and Höwedes back from winning the World Cup, and Huntelaar back from… well, not playing too much for the Netherlands. Like him or not, though, if he stays fit, the Dutchman is a guarantee of goals, especially with exciting young attackers playing behind him.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen – The ‘Werkself’ (Works’ team) started brightly last season before falling-away towards the end. They will always score goals with Keißling and Son up front, although the loss of Sidney Sam to Schalke could stop them being as prolific. After canning Sami Hyypia towards the end of last season, they went with Sascha Lewandowski as manager (the guy who was joint manager with Hyypia up until the Finn took on the job himself). There have been a lot of comings and goings in their squad, but they should still be a class above most of the teams chasing them for the place in the Champions League qualifiers.
Pushing for Europe (in order)
VfL Wolfsburg – Traditional big spenders from the town that Volkswagen built, they have added Werder’s captain Aaron Hunt and the White Pele (Nicklas Bendtner) to the team that finished fifth last season. They should hold their ground from last year.
Borussia Mönchengladbach – I also have the Foals in the same position that they finished last season. They play quick, counter-attacking football and are capable of scoring goals. Their biggest loss, however, is probably that of their goalkeeper, Andre ter Stegen, to Barcelona. They also lost the fantastic Venezualan midfielder, Juan Arango, to Mexican football, as well as a certain Dutch striker who used to ply his trade on Barrack Road. And I’m not talking about Kluivert…
SC Freiburg – Aside from being Papiss’ last club, the other reason I have a soft-spot for Freiburg is their trainer, Christian Streich. He’s like a cross between the Duracell bunny, Brendan Rodgers, and the young lass from The Exorcist. Never a dull moment. They struggled last season managing the workload of the league and the Europa League with a small squad (sound familiar?), eventually turning it around in the second half of the season. Without the distractions, I can honestly see them pushing for European places this year. Mind, I do talk a load of shite sometimes…
SV Werder Bremen – The last few years has seen Bremen gradually fall from relevance, and they limped into twelfth place last season. They’re a team that are quite popular within my circle of friends and colleagues, so I would like to see them do well. They have lost last season’s captain, Aaron Hunt, which could be big, but I can’t see them going down. Robin Dutt, the half-Indian manager, has a good reputation (even if he imploded pretty spectacularly while in charge of Leverkusen), and going into his second season with the club should hopefully see the club stabilise.
Also-rans (in (alphabetical) order)
1. FC Köln – Promoted from the second division at the end of last season as champions, alongside Paderborn. I reckon they’ll stay up. Don’t ask me why, cos I couldn’t really give a convincing answer why…
1. FSV Mainz 05 – Mainz are a hard team to judge. They’ve lost not only Nicolai Müller to Hamburg, but also their very highly-rated manager Thomas Tuchel decided to take a break after last year’s seventh place finish. I read that, during Tuchel’s reign, the team had accumulated the fifth-most points in the Bundesliga, which is a very impressive feat. He will be a big loss, but they still have some good players, and should not be written-off.
1899 Hoffenheim – The plaything of their billionaire owner, the team have clearly over-achieved in getting to the top division, not to mention staying there the last six years. What is even more remarkable is that the village has a population (just over 3000) which would only fill 10% of the stadium. Anyway, with such an owner (who is also willing to splash the cash), they have made a few excellent signings to go alongside Roberto Firmino, who was arguably one of the best players in the league last season. They may push for Europe, but they probably won’t get there.
Eintracht Frankfurt – Despite knowing several Eintracht fans, I don’t really know much about them. Their manager – who looks a bit like my father-in-law, left after they came thirteenth last season, and they replaced him with Thomas Schaaf, a thoroughly likeable manager who spent fourteen years years at Bremen. He actually won the double with them early in his spell there, but his latter years were marked by the teams ability to concede a huge amount of goals (sound familiar?). Could be a hard season for them, but they should be ok.
FC Augsburg – They did very well to finish eighth last season, but I think the loss of Andre Hahn in midfield (to Mönchengladbach) will be quite a blow. I see them falling-away a bit this season, although without troubling the relegation places.
Hannover 96 – Hannover are a funny team. They can sometimes be really good, and sometimes really terrible. They finished tenth last season, losing more games than they won, and I can’t see that trend reversing, especially having lost a few of their good players.
VFB Stuttgart – a short term fix at manager last season (appointing Huub Stevens as a stopgap after firing their first two managers (not simultaneously)) saw them pull away from the relegation zone with a few games left. They have the makings of a good team, but something was clearly wrong last season. Now led by Armin Veh (the guy who looks like the missus’ dad), they should trouble the bottom three a lot less this season.
Hertha BSC – To be honest, I always predict them to get relegated, and usually predict that they will lose most of the games they play. Did I ever mention that I don’t really like them? They will probably be OK, to be honest, but they lost their top-scorer from last season to Dortmund (Adrian Ramos). Mind, I always thought he was shite anyway. Their manager is too good for them to go down, but let’s see! Either way, third-last leads to a relegation play-off against the third-placed team from the division below, so even if they fall this far (they were eleventh last season), there could still be Bundesliga football in the capital next season.
Hamburger SV – lots of coming and goings at the Bundesliga-Dino (so-called as the are the only team to have competed in the Bundesliga every season that it has existed), which will do nothing to bring stability. Keegan’s old club needed a play-off win against Greuther Furth (technically two draws, but with an away goal from ex-Newcastle target Pierre-Michel Lasogga) to secure their first division status. They will struggle again, mainly as they tend to fuck-up whenever they need some consistency.
SC Paderborn 07 – again, I know next to nowt about these guys. I never said I was an expert, did I!? They picked up Idir Ouali from Dynamo Dresden, who looked good (mind, that was the second division). It would be very surprising to the bookies if they beat the drop, so I’ll take my cue from those guys…
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