January 17, 2013 by jstevenson0804
In recent years the Bundesliga has gone from strength to strength and this season it seems like this pattern will continue. Yesterday saw the shock announcement of Pep Guardiola to take over at Bayern Munich from next season. His decision to favour the Bundesliga over the Premier League is a sign of the changing times. On the field, German teams have performed excellently in the Champions with all three teams winning their groups and standing a great chance of qualifying for the Quarter-Finals. Domestically, the Bundesliga is, according to UEFA, only behind the Premier League and La Liga. The quality of football throughout the league is brilliant and as the season is set to restart after the winter break, here is the story of the season so far…
Sat atop the pile heading into the concluding half of the season is the Bundesliga’s most famous team: Bayern Munich. Die Roten have led since the very start of the season and have looked almost unbeatable – only one domestic defeat so far. Boasting the best defence in the league Munich will be most people’s first choice to win the title, with many already assuming it will be their 23rd Bundesliga success. Manuel Neuer has been hardly-tested and nigh-on unstoppable conceding just 7 goals this season. Arguably the league’s best player so far has been French maestro Frank Ribery, who is the joint top assister (7) alongside team-mate Thomas Muller and a handful of others. A fearsome attack so far led by Mario Mandzukic could well become even more threatening as the prolific Mario Gomez returns to full fitness. The only potential stumbling block that this writer can see is a potential for fatigue; assuming Champions League progression. However, even this is unlikely to slow down the Munich machine and we could well see the European and domestic double.
The remaining Champions League qualification spots for next season are currently held by Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund and Frankfurt. These three have a tender four point gap over the chasing pack but stand nine points behind Bayern. Leverkusen are enjoying their best season for a few years and stand in good stead for a strong finish to the season. Stefan Kiessling leads the scoring charts at the halfway stage and as long as he can maintain this form, they should comfortably hold onto a Champions League spot. Two-times defending champions Dortmund have, in some eyes, been a disappointment. Successive championship wins has been followed by a somewhat below-par season. Not all is lost though as they won the so-called Group of Death and remained unbeaten in the process. They have a very strong first team with most of them being young and full of potential. Mario Götze will definitely be one to watch over the rest of the season as he will look to form a formidable partnership with Marco Reus. Currently, the remaining Champions League spot is in the hands of last season’s Bundesliga.2 champions Frankfurt. Most certainly the surprise package of the season, 11 goals from Alexander Meier has seen die Adler in a shock fourth position. Bastian Oczipka, a great prospect, has chipped in with 7 assists from the back and midfield dynamo Sebastian Rode has found himself linked with the top clubs. Whether they can continue this form for the rest of the season is the big question. It will be a difficult task, but nonetheless Frankfurt fans should be overjoyed to have had such a great start, with European football a real possibility for next season.
Currently occupying the Europa League spots are two more surprise packages in the form of Freiburg and Mainz. Last season saw both teams finish in the bottom half of the table, but have so far proved to be strong contenders. Freiburg boast the second best defence in the league and have some very solid young players to help build foundations from. French winger Jonathan Schmid and German attacker Max Kruse have been the main sources of goals and are certainly ones to watch over the remainder of the season. 18 year old Matthias Ginter is another top young talent to watch out for and could well be the next big thing. Mainz have also turned their fortunes around and although they have not impressed as much Adam Szalai has been their unsung hero with 9 goals so far. Both teams will have to work hard to maintain their current Europa spots but it is not out of the question for either.
Chasing the European spots is a group of the more well-known Bundesliga names. Leading this pack is Schalke, who until December were well in contention for the Champions League spots. Success in Europe has come at a price, but most fans will relish the prospect of a Champions League Quarter-Final – something certainly not out of reach. Disappointing form just before Christmas has seen a change of coaches and the looming departure of Lewis Holtby and also potentially Klaas-Jan Huntelaar make the rest of the season a mystery. The defence has been solid enough but with questions in the attacking area, the season could turn out to be a success or a failure: it could go either way. Monchengladbach have failed to replicate last season’s heroics having lost key players Reus and Dante in the summer. The team still holds plenty of quality and certainly possesses one of the best upcoming goalkeeping talents. Just before Christmas Marc-Andre Ter Stegen showed his immense potential with a phenomenal display to keep Bayern at bay making a string of impressive saves to enhance his reputation. At the tender age of 20 his name is already being touted for a World Cup place and could well attract the attention of Europe’s elite.
Stuttgart has always been there or thereabouts in recent years but this season represents a fairly mediocre season. In spite of 10-goal Vedad Ibisevic contending for the Golden Boot, the rest of the team has offered very little. Certainly this will need amending if die Schwaben are to make a move higher up the table. Hamburg too have had recent struggles and this season looked like it could be their worst yet. Labouring to fifteenth last season, they were rock-bottom after the first few games. Thankfully they picked themselves up and have been admirably led by former national keeper Rene Adler. Like so many in the league die Rothosen possess a world-class goalkeeper and Adler is certainly amongst the very best. His performance against Dortmund earlier in the season was pure class and had it not been for his injury prior to the last World Cup he could well have been the German number one.
Only one point behind Hamburg is Hannover. Superbly-led by Hungarian Szabolcs Huszti the club remains in contention for a higher finish. Huszti is joint top of the assist charts with 7 to his name and his form will largely determine Hannover’s finishing position. Ex-Manchester United striker Mame Diouf is enjoying a good season in front of goal with 6 to his name so far and these two will be relied upon for a top six finish. Former Champions League regulars Werder Bremen are in touch with the chasing pack but lack that cutting edge to be the force they once were. However, good news for Chelsea fans is the excellent performances of loanee Kevin De Bruyne. His form has been one of the very few bright sparks to Bremen’s season and he will look to continue this over the coming months.
Last season’s promotion playoff winners Fortuna Dusseldorf have made a solid, if unspectacular, start to their season. 9 points clear of the relegation zone they can be pleased with some solid wins with admittedly one of the weakest squads in the league. Nurnberg too has very little to shout about but again solid performances have kept them clear of the relegation fight so far. In Hiroshi Kiyotake they have one of Asia’s rising stars and any future success will definitely rely on his form. 2009 champions Wolfsburg find themselves struggling down in sixteenth position but like the above teams have a 7 point gap to the danger zone. In spite of the sub-par performances former hero Diego has returned as the heartbeat of the team and he has certainly provided some stunning performances that outrank the club’s lowly position.
Occupying the relegation playoff spot is the only real German ‘superclub’ Hoffenheim. Large investments and big transfer fees have so far failed to in the quest for success. Having lost their last six games before Christmas they will certainly need to start firing quickly otherwise their current position may well turn into their final position. In spite of such lethargic performances they do have some good young talents in the form of Japanese starlet Takashi Usami and Brazilian Roberto Firmino, however it will take more than just individual performances to change their fortunes. The actual relegation spots are dominated by two of the league’s smaller clubs Augsburg and Greuther Furth. Both are newcomers to the league having made the step up over the last two seasons (Augsburg in 2011 and Greuther last season) and both unfortunately look set for the drop. With just two wins between them (one each) things look grim and with no real standout performers either club will be happy to scrape the playoff spot, but even this seems to be out of their reach.
The 2012-2013 Bundesliga has been one of the best yet and even though the title race has not lived up to expectations, the quality of football up and down the table has been very impressive. Some of the goalkeeping is world class and there are a more than half a dozen young keepers making these saves every week. It would take a brave man to bet against Bayern Munich winning the 2013 title and it would not be out of the question to see Bayern reach the Champions League final. All three German clubs stand a great chance of progression to the Quarter-Finals. The future looks very bright for Der Bundesliga, so sit back and enjoy, auf Wiedersehen…