The Hard Tackle presents you a complete guide to the 2019-20 Bundesliga season as football fans brace themselves for the return of football in Europe.
From criticising the real-life Bert that is Jens Spahn to Germany emerging as a role model for dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic, the Bundesliga had a long and depressing story, prior to the announcement of its return earlier this month.
Although a couple of new Covid-19 cases at Dynamo Dresden caused an early setback, DFL CEO Christian Seifert has suggested that it won’t affect the return of the Bundesliga. The footballing authority apparently has a plan in place to make up for missed games.
Nevertheless, with the Bundesliga set to return next weekend, it will surely attract many viewers across the globe. So, here at the Hard Tackle, we have come up with a complete round-up of the stuff that has happened during the 2019-20 campaign.
Is The Title Race Any Better?
So far, Bayern Munich are leading the table by just four points, and Borussia Dortmund are surprisingly decent, thus fueling the most exciting title race Bundesliga has seen in some years. Can anything get better than this?
Absolutely. Because there are still four clubs that are somewhat still fighting for the league title, unlike in the Premier League. Hah, gotcha! (Jordan Peterson alert)
Second-placed Dortmund are leading third-placed Leipzig by just one point and fourth-placed Borussia Monchengladbach by two points. By the way, if you think Monchengladbach is too long, you can use Gladbach.
A key point to be noted in this title race is the upcoming fixtures. Bayern are set to face Dortmund in two weeks time, which means both Leipzig and Gladbach will have the opportunity to potentially recover some points if Der Klassiker ends in a draw. (Spoiler Alert: It won’t)
The league leaders also arguably have the toughest fixture list as they are due to face Dortmund, Gladbach, Leverkusen and Wolfsburg. They also have Eintracht Frankfurt, who beat them 5-1 in the reverse fixture back in November.
Leipzig, in that regard, have the easiest round of fixtures, with a home game against Borussia Dortmund in late June being their toughest test.
Although whether or not it is really a test remains uncertain, with the Black and Yellows conceding 27 goals from 13 away matches – worse than anyone in the top half of the table. Even bottom club Paderborn have attained a better record.
Who is getting relegated?
NO JACK, FC Strasbourg don’t play in the Bundesliga! And neither do Hamburger SV (hah, gotcha). And we might soon see Werder Bremen join their arch-rivals in the 2.Bundesliga next season. That is, if, Dieter Hecking leaves his post and HSV re-sign Sven Schipplock, immediately.
Nevertheless, Bremen have been quite awful and the only side who are trailing them is SC ‘never belonged to the first-division’ Paderborn. Paderborn have only 16 points on the board, two fewer than the Green and Whites, who are trailing 16th placed Fortuna Dusseldorf by four points.
1.FC Koln were also expected to be in the thick of the relegation scrap. They were 15th in the table during the halfway point of the season before Markus Gisdol happened.
The Billygoats went on to win eight out of 14 matches, scoring 29 goals (more than Bremen and Dusseldorf throughout the entire 2019-20) and bringing out the inner-Lewandowski of Jhon Cordoba. They are now tenth in the league table and are potential contenders for the sixth place that offers a ticket to the qualifying stages of the Europa League.
There is a possibility that Bremen could face Hamburger SV in the relegation playoff. Die Grun Weissen will have to finish 16th while HSV must retain their third position in the 2.Bundesliga table. It will turn out to be the most depressing Nordderby in the history of the Bundesliga. But who cares?
Thomas Muller still the best player in the league right?
No, but maybe next season? The Bayern Munich star, after all, has enjoyed a resurgence under Hansi Flick and has overall been involved in 22 goals. His tally of 16 assists is the highest in the league. Only Kevin de Bruyne has managed more assists in Europe’s top 5 leagues.
Speaking of assists, Jadon Sancho’s supposed one season wonder tag is no more. Only Lionel Messi and ex-Dortmund megaflop turned Italian football god, Ciro Immobile, have been involved in more goals than the English international in Europe’s top five leagues this campaign. He has been central to BVB’s title challenge.
Other top performers in the Bundesliga this season include Robert Lewandowski and Timo Werner, the highest scorers in the league with 25 and 21 goals, respectively. Kevin Volland had been involved in 40% of Leverkusen’s goals when he got injured earlier this year and also deserved a mention.
However, the list is incomplete without the inclusion of Erling Haaland. The always meditating, Solskjaer loving, PSG slaying, Norwegian man-child has scored nine goals in just eight matches. His form has been critical behind Dortmund’s positive form in 2020 and will remain so throughout the remainder of the campaign.
Aside from the goalscorers, there are creative players and lethal wingers like Marcus Thuram (6 goals, 8 assists), Marcel Sabitzer (8 goals, 6 assists), Christopher Nkunku (4 goals, 14 assists) and Thiago Alcantara (3 goals, 0 assists but an excellent tweet prior to the Bundesliga’s suspension).
Kai Havertz is perhaps the most exciting of them all as no Bundesliga-based German player has been involved in as many goals in all competitions as the Leverkusen man in 2020.
In the defensive department, Yann Sommer is by far the best performing goalkeeper in the league this season. He has amassed 97 saves with a save percentage of 76% – highest in the league.
Elsewhere on the defensive side of things, Achraf Hakimi, Joshua Kimmich, Denis Zakaria, Christian Gunter, Alphonso Davies, Dayot Upamecano and Christopher Trimmel have all impressed, among many others. But let’s just finish this list before a Real Madrid fan finds it.
Okay, not Muller, but surely Marco Reus then? Ermm, if he’s not injured?
No, but he is injured. He is also having arguably the worst season at Borussia Dortmund, in terms of performances. The German international has missed a plethora of golden opportunities, marked the wrong players, at times and sported a weird haircut in 2020 that made him look like a German Ned Stark.
But while Reus has still managed to score some goals this season, Roman Burki has become a liability for the Black and Yellows. The Swiss international has a save percentage rate that falls below 50%. You can learn more about his disastrous form here in this excellent analysis by Aidan Reagh.
Other surprising disappointments in this campaign include FC Schalke’s dismal form since the turn of the year. They are yet to win a single Bundesliga game since January 18 – a run that has tarnished their hopes of competing for the Champions League.
Eintracht Frankfurt, too, will now have to rely on winning the DFB Pokal if they are to qualify for Europe for a third successive time. The Eagles have endured a mixed run of form, after initially making a promising start to the campaign. They are currently 12th in the league table, with 28 points on the board.
So will the Premier League clubs target any more players?
The 2019-20 edition of the Bundesliga has seen the rapid rise to prominence of players like Denis Zakaria, Achraf Hakimi and Alphonso Davies among many others. But, a chunk of the season is still yet to be played.
Top clubs across Europe and Arsenal will surely look forward to finding new stars during the remainder of the campaign. One such player is Patrik Schick, who has enjoyed a lot of success since joining RB Leipzig last summer. The Czech Republic international has scored seven goals in 15 matches.
Bayer Leverkusen’s Edmond Tapsoba is another player worth keeping an eye on. The 21-year-old has been an ever-present figure in B04’s three-man backline alongside Sven Bender and Jonathan Tah, after initially joining the club in January.
Same can be said for his teammate Moussa Diaby while Schalke’s Jean-Clair Todibo, Koln’s Noah Katterbach are other defensive talents who could soon become household names in the Bundesliga. Giovanni Reyna is overqualified for this list.
No Manchester United don’t look at him, he’s not a good player at all. Always loses possession of the ball and surely can’t score amazing goals from outside the box. And oh! Did I tell you he’s also American? So he probably calls it soccer.
Are there are any British players?
You bet your sweet tea and Kinloss t-shirts there are! In fact, there has been an influx of British youngsters joining the Bundesliga in recent years.
Sancho was the trendsetter when he arrived at Dortmund in 2017. And since then, a host of players have followed in his footsteps.
This season, Everton star Jonjoe Kenny has enjoyed a breakthrough in the Schalke backline. He is definitely one to keep an eye on.
— Guardian sport (@guardian_sport) May 7, 2020
Another Schalke youngster to raise a lot of eyebrows is Rabbi Matondo, the Welshman who was a part of the Manchester City youth academy in 2018. He, too, has impressed the onlookers with his pace and trickery and some Dortmund slaying on the flanks.
Aside from these two, no one really has managed to stir up the pot in the league so far. The likes of Ethan Ampadu (RB Leipzig), Ademola Lookman (RB Leipzig), and Keanan Bennetts (Gladbach) are still yet to make an impression.
Which games should I watch?
Bundesliga surely starts with a bang as Borussia Dortmund play FC Schalke in the Revierderby on Saturday. It is considered as the mother of all derbies in Germany, and though the lack of fans in the stadium will be hugely disappointing, it is a game every neutral must look forward to.
Other games you should definitely check out next weekend are Borussia Monchengladbach facing Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday’s Topspiel while Bayern Munich will lock horns with Eintracht Frankfurt on 23 May.
On the same day, Gladbach face Leverkusen in a battle that could potentially have grave repercussions for the losing side. The iconic Hauptstadtderby is also on the table as the two clubs from the capital in Hertha and Union go head to head.
The biggest showdown gets underway on 26 May, when Borussia Dortmund host league leaders Bayern Munich. It will be arguably the most important Klassiker in some years and stakes will be pretty high, especially with four clubs vying for the league title.
Regardless of the fixtures, however, Bundesliga has a lot to offer, with teams providing a wide range of aesthetics to their game. And with other leagues yet to resume, the German top division is sure to attract footballing fans across the globe, although the experience of watching games without fans inside the stadium is something even the Bundesliga fans, including Walt Frazier, will be looking forward to.