After 33 days of hibernation, many fans felt as an eternity suffering from withdrawal symptoms but the Bundesliga restarts on Friday. Where will each club finish the season?
The four months ahead will be affected by:
- The fourth consecutive title of FC Bayern and the club atmosphere under Guardiola;
- Dortmund delaying the suspense for the title decision until the end and lifting a cup or two;
- Hertha Berlin playing troublemakers near the top;
- The survival status of clubs that underwent managerial changes at the bottom;
- Injuries and fitness to key players affecting the Mannschaft before Euro 2016.
The first half of the season has brought share its fair share of surprises. I am very pleased that many predictions of German football observers went straight to the bin, making the Bundesliga as unpredictable and attractive as ever to follow.
Many clubs find themselves in a situation where two or three consecutive wins or defeats would push them into a European spot contention or into a relegation battle.
We start today with part one covering the clubs lying between 13th and 18th in the table.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
Given their comfortable financial situation, the Sinsheimer summer transfers have translated into a downward direction instead of a consolidation in mid-table.
Manager Markus Gisdol has been replaced by “savior” Huub Stevens, who this time may not pull it off as he did previously at Stuttgart.
Kevin Volland looks alone in a once prolific attack, which produced only 17 goals. The arrival of keeper Oliver Baumann has not helped the leaky defence either.
The board seems to lack vision and direction and vision, agreeing to send striker Ádám Szalai to relegation rivals Hannover, without major signings during the break.
Nobody should be surprised to see the Niedersachsen club in this position. Without resources and a weak home record (six points), manager Michael Frontzeck threw the towel in before the winter break.
Thomas Schaaf, a replacement and a motivator with a successful track record, could turn things around, bringing five new signings with him. Two of them have Bundesliga experience: Szalai (on loan from Hannover) and Hugo Almeida (from Russia, formerly at Bremen).
Without quick improvement at home, it will be Mission Impossible for Schaaf since the club has no sustainable mid- or long-term strategy.
Manager Viktor Skripnik has been pulling off miracles with the squad at hand. His trusting relationship with director Thomas Eichin provides a peaceful atmosphere off the pitch.
Given fragile finances, management has had a defensive transfer policy. Skripnik may not have another youngster at hand to save the situation like Davie Selke last season. He still hopes Zlatko Junuzović regains form to serve an appalling front line, which found the net just 17 times. He relies heavily on Anthony Ujah and Claudio Pizarro.
Verdict: Relegation playoff spot
Die Schwaben are consistent, season after season. Incompetent management, inadequate planning, bad scouting system and unsuccessful transfers. The solution: Sack the manager!
Although Alexander Zorniger may have underestimated the lacking quality of his back line, adopting a gung-ho approach and conceding more goals than ever.
The trend has gone upwards (a bit) with the arrival of new manager Jürgen Kramny, who adopted a compact approach. He has also worked with youngsters from the U23 side. The arrival of Kevin Großkreutz from Galatasaray and Artem Kravets on loan from Dynamo Kiev should bring hope for stability, as will the return of the injured Daniel Ginczek.
The squad still lacks quality and confidence, and will tremble until the end.
Verdict: Between 13th and 15th, avoiding relegation in the dying moments.
The Diva of the Main can be either the best or worst. The Eintrachter deserve credit for being the first side to steal a point against FC Bayern this season, but there is potential for Armin Veh to unlock.
Alex Meier has not met expectations so far. He should be helped by the arrival of Mexican striker Marco Fabian, by veteran Szabolcs Huszti who returns from China and by youngster Kaan Ayhan, on loan from Schalke.
Should the club go through another bad sequence, questions will arise about its situation for the next season.
Verdict: Between 11th and 13th, securing top flight status only in the last matchdays.
SV Darmstadt 98
The Cinderella story of the season so far. From the doldrums of the Regionalliga (fourth division) to the Bundesliga, they face and frustrate top guns with a shoestring budget. They lie in lower mid-table in a folkloric stadium! Hats off to manager Dirk Schuster, who has been voted as Germany’s football personality of the 2015 by Kicker.
The squad has had satisfactory winter preparations. Without new arrivals, the promoted club does benefit from a compact style, a homogeneous unit and a high level of confidence.
Still, Darmstadt will shiver until the end while receiving vocal support at home.
Verdict: Between 12th and 14th – surprising all football pundits
[su_label] Post editor: Michel[/su_label]