Bundesliga 2019/20 – The Story So Far
After months without any live sport, the German authorities have given the green light for both the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga to return this weekend. Cameron Wanstall has taken a look at the season so far for the clubs in the top flight, as they gear up for a return.
With the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga restarting behind closed doors on May 16th, professional football at the top level is finally back. The season will continue from Matchday 26 and all remaining league (and potentially domestic cup) fixtures will be completed by July.
New viewers of German football are in for a treat, as the heated Revierderby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke is the welcoming fixture on Saturday. There has been further rejoice, as BT Sport are showing every single game until the end of the season to fill the football shaped hole in every football fan’s heart.
With that in mind, allow this article to take you through the teams of the moment and show you how they’ve been getting on this season, as many of us will be selecting a German team to cheer on in the absence of our other favourite leagues. Auf geht’s!
The reigning champions sit in first place and are four points clear of their nearest title challengers in Borussia Dortmund. Germany’s most successful – and most detested – club suffered a shaky start to the season, but rival fans could not rejoice for long. Manager Niko Kovac was replaced by his assistant Hans-Dieter Flick, after a humiliating 5-1 thumping from Frankfurt and the Bavarians have excelled under their new manager.
Surprising nobody, Robert Lewandowski leads the division’s goal scoring chart. The commanding forward has an incredible 25 goals in 23 league appearances and is indisputably Bayern’s most important player. Attacking trio Philippe Coutinho, Serge Gnabry and Thomas Muller have continued to gel as a group, while Canadian youngster Alphonso Davies is shining at left back since David Alaba’s shift to centre-back.
The reigning champions were cruising in all competitions before the shutdown. A postponed semi-final tie in the DFB-Pokal and a 3-0 lead over Chelsea in the Champions League round of 16 had the Bavarians dreaming of a treble. In the league, Bayern have won nine of their last ten games and not even the coronavirus can stop the giants on their quest for eight consecutive Bundesliga championships.
Aiming to stop Bayern from winning their eighth straight title are archrivals Borussia Dortmund. The loveable underdogs have the most exciting young squad in Europe this season and to stop Bayern’s incredible Bundesliga run would be an incredible accomplishment. Lucien Favre’s side struggled for consistency in the past but frequent defensive errors are still dragging them down.
English wonderkid Jadon Sancho has been breathtaking this season, contributing 14 goals and 16 assists in just 23 league appearances, sparking serious transfer speculation linking the winger to Barcelona, Manchester United and any other top European club you can name. Superb performances from loanee Achraf Hakimi and club legend Marco Reus have almost been forgotten since the January arrival of Erling Haaland.
Haaland signed from Red Bull Salzburg for €20 million (with hindsight, a paltry fee), and the 19-year-old has immediately exceeded expectations. The Norwegian international has a league goal or assist every 46 minutes and has been integral to Dortmund’s form as they have won seven of their eight post-winter break fixtures. However, Der BVB are not the only side in touching distance of top spot.
Red Bull Leipzig
Red Bull’s German franchise are the second side hunting down the title holders. One of the few east German clubs in the league, Die Roten Bullen have potentially the second most exciting young squad in Europe behind Dortmund. However, the branded subsidiary club are incredibly unloved in their home nation, due to their unique re-branding and ownership from the energy drink company. The hatred from opposition fans will only make it sweeter for them if they grab their first Bundesliga title within just 11 years of existence.
Liverpool target Timo Werner has made all the headlines this season. He has 27 goals in all competitions and is an extremely exciting forward to watch tear opposition defences apart. Furthermore, Christopher Nkunku, Dayot Upamecano and Nordi Mukiele have also been essential in Leipzig’s thrilling campaign, each receiving hefty praise and, like Werner, have naturally all been linked with moves away to other European powerhouses.
Julian Nagelsmann, only 32 years old, is the manager of Leipzig and has improved their already brilliant playing style further. Stimulating, high tempo football with an emphasis on aggressive pressing is a basic summary of the tactics employed by the youthful coach. This style of play was on display as they breezed past Tottenham in the Champions League and has allowed them to form their strongest title challenge since promotion in 2016.
Fourth-place Borussia Monchengladbach would be delighted with a place in next season’s Champions League but with nine games to play, they find themselves only six points behind Bayern and vying for a shock championship. Despite being knocked out of the DFB-Pokal and Europa League at early stages, Gladbach’s squad of B-listers have thrived this season.
Marco Rose’s counter-pressing side sat in first place for over two months from October to December before only one win in four games saw them drop to third. This caused concern after the club imploded last season at the same stage, but Rose has managed to pull the club out of their deja vu ridden nosedive and keep his side in contention. Gladbach’s position is even more impressive as they sold their most-prized assets Mickael Cuisance and Thorgan Hazard to league rivals Bayern and Dortmund, respectively.
Bayer Leverkusen are just two points behind Gladbach, in the DFB-Pokal semi-final versus fourth division side Saarbrucken and lead Rangers in their Europa League round of 16 tie. Qualification for the Champions League alongside a cup victory would be a great achievement in an already excellent season for Peter Bosz’s men.
Kai Havertz is perhaps the most eye-catching name in the squad – the 20-year-old attacking midfielder is the youngest player to make 100 Bundesliga appearances, and is quickly becoming one of the highest-rated prospects in Europe’s top five leagues. An exciting side is rounded off with keeper Lukas Hradecky, defender Jonathan Tah and forward Kevin Volland – with both Bender brothers, Lars and Sven, playing a starring role.
Former Huddersfield boss David Wagner took charge of Schalke in the summer, after a disastrous 2018/19 season. The club flirted with relegation all campaign before a late resurgence saved them from ridicule and a chance to redeem themselves this time around. A busy transfer window and a solid start (13 points from 18) to the season has been spoiled by a lack natural goal scorers as well as a winless streak beginning in January. Schalke’s first game this weekend is against their local rivals Dortmund, a shock win there could really boost morale and push Schalke towards Europa League qualification.
Two teams have 36 points and are looking to secure a potential European place by finishing seventh. Freiburg started strong, sitting third in the table for a large portion of the first half of the season, but their defensive, patient tactics have failed them as of late. Meanwhile, Wolfsburg have relied on the goal scoring exploits of towering forward Wout Weghorst, who has 15 league goals, to fire them towards a second consecutive top-half finish. Should a top six side win the DFB-Pokal, seventh place will qualify for the Europa League qualifiers.
Ninth place Hoffenheim lost first team regulars Joelinton, Kerem Demirbay, Nico Schulz and Nadiem Amiri in the summer after Leipzig snapped up their beloved head coach Julian Nagelsmann. Former Twente boss Alfred Schreuder is now in charge. The loss of Nagelsmann, as well as numerous key players who brought the small village side Champions League football has dampened spirits around the club, with a finish inside the top half of the table being seen as a success as the club begins to rebuild.
The 2. Bundesliga champions and last season’s Europa League semi-finalists are both sitting mid-table. Köln striker Simon Terrode has failed to replicate his outstanding goal scoring from last season in the second tier but with Timo Horn in goal, Die Geißböcke have slowly creeped up the table into a resepectable position. Eintracht Frankfurt have lost the three forwards who helped bring cup glory in 2018; Ante Rebic, Luka Jovic and Sebastian Haller were all picked off by AC Milan, Real Madrid and West Ham respectively. The sales brought in over €100 million in cash but new signings Bas Dost and Andre Silva (on loan) have failed to reach the high standards set by those before them.
The Berlin Derby returned to the top flight of German football for the first time in over 40 years this season. Hertha Berlin and Union Berlin hadn’t faced each other competitively in over six years before their first fixture this season. The rivalry, infamous for East and West German politics, as well as the clubs being separated by the Berlin Wall, has always been surprisingly friendly but signs of that changing were noticeable – flare attacks, pitch invasions and suspension of play were just a few incidents during the first derby in November – in which Union won 1-0.
Union, historically a much smaller side than their West Berlin rivals, are currently two places above Hertha in the league. Chris Trimmel and Sebastian Anderssen have been the key performers as the club has exceeded expectations and gained fans from across the globe. Whereas Hertha continue to underwhelm supporters. Despite having a talented squad including former Milan forward Krzysztof Piatek, Belgian international Dedryck Boyata and Liverpool loanee Marko Grujic, Hertha look likely to finish in the lower half of the table again. The second Berlin derby will now be played on May 23rd.
Augsburg managed to go six matches unbeaten from matchday 11 through to 16 and it has seemingly kept them safe from relegation. The Bavarian club has been slowly dropping in quality since their 5th place finish in 2015. Mainz, also dropping in quality, are seriously underachieving this season, picking up only 26 points and needing to pull away before they are dragged into a relegation scrap. Key players such as first choice goalkeeper Florian Muller, solid centre-back Jerry St. Juste and leading goal scorer Robin Quaison would all surely leave the club if they do go down, so Mainz must not let that happen.
Despite finishing in a respectable tenth place in 2018/19, Fortuna Dusseldorf were always likely to be battling relegation this season. The club had brought in several loan signings to plug gaps in the squad, but Dusseldorf simply do not have enough quality to deal with the Bundesliga. Even a potential DFB-Pokal triumph was ruined by a humiliating penalty defeat to fourth division Saarbrucken in the quarter finals. The club currently occupies 16th spot – which is a relegation play-off spot – four points behind Mainz, and four points ahead of Werder Bremen.
Werder Bremen were a dominant force in the early 21st century; winning the league and cup in 2004 and continued to be a Champions League calibre side featuring Ivan Klasnic, Miroslav Klose and Mesut Ozil but in the past decade, the club has been mediocre, failing to break back into the top seven. Young manager Florian Kohfeldt had been praised for his side’s exciting, unusual tactical set-up in the past, but now the club are fearing their first relegation since 1980.
With those exciting tactics failing them this season, Werder have only picked up four wins and now the unthinkable may happen. Davy Klaasen and Nuri Sahin have struggled to lead the squad to safety, while highly rated young Kosovan midfielder Milot Rashica and promising American striker Josh Sargeant are likely to leave in the summer. 41-year-old Claudio Pizarro, a club icon, could retire under the worst possible circumstances if the club can’t turn things around.
Paderborn have been through a great deal in the past six years. The small club reached the Bundesliga for the first time in the 2014/15 season. The club were unfortunate to go straight back down in 18th spot and were expected to challenge to come back up again. However, they finished 18th in 2. Bundesliga and were relegated, again, to 3. Liga. A third consecutive 18th place finish saw them relegated, again, to Regionalliga. But fate intervened, 1860 Munich’s expulsion from 2. Bundesliga saw them relegated a further division and Paderborn were spared.
Paderborn finally got their act in gear and immediately won two consecutive promotions straight back to the Bundesliga. Like relegation rivals Werder Bremen, Paderborn have only four wins and are ten points from safety with nine games to play. The yo-yo club are likely to go down but are certainly exciting to follow and watch. Expect the unexpected from the plucky underdogs.
All eighteen clubs have something to fight for: a championship, bragging rights or survival. At first, it may be difficult for players to compete at their best without fans in the stadium, but there is still everything to play for and they will not forget it.
The Bundesliga will still have its dramatic moments, entertaining football and will have new followers from all around the world.
2:30pm. This Saturday. Live football is back. Danke Gott.