The Hard Tackle presents you a complete guide to the 2020/21 Bundesliga season as football fans brace themselves for the return of football in Germany.
2020 has not been a good year so far. While the governments across the world were trying to figure out ways to best tackle the Coronavirus pandemic, the return of football was the last thing anyone had in mind. With worldwide infection rates soaring, the resumption of any sporting activity seemed inconceivable at the time.
That was, until, roughly five months ago, when German chancellor Angela Merkel gave the green light for the resumption of the Bundesliga. The various safety protocol, as well as the exclusion of fans inside the stadium, had failed to outweigh the collective joy of the return of one of world’s favourite sport.
Only a couple of months later, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admitted that he had to personally thank Bundesliga CEO Christian Seifert for setting an example, not only for football in the rest of Europe but also to sporting activities worldwide as the Premier League, and other events, followed suit.
Fast forward to September 2020, Bundesliga will become one of the last of the top leagues in Europe to kickstart the 2020/21 campaign as Bayern Munich host FC Schalke at the Allianz Arena on Friday night.
And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will continue our tradition of providing you with the ultimate Premier League-friendly and a totally unbiased rundown of everything you need to know before the best league in the world kicks off this weekend.
“The Bayernliga”/Farmers League
In the new season, fans fear that the Bundesliga title race may get just as exciting as the Premier League last season. Bayern Munich are the obvious favourites yet again, having recently secured the treble. They have also signed Leroy Sane from Manchester City, whose partnership with Serge Gnabry, Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski is going to be as unfair as it sounds.
However, it would be unfair to ignore Borussia Dortmund’s quality and the fact that they have consistently pushed Bayern to the very edge over the past couple of seasons. And this time, they are stronger than ever, having managed to keep hold of the services Jadon “look away Manchester United fans” Sancho, at least for the timebeing.
Lucien Favre’s team has also looked more competent in the defensive department since the turn of the year, which should be complemented by a world-class attack and a midfield unit strengthened by the addition of Jude Bellingham. Consistency would be the key, however, and a relatively better performance in the Ruckrunde this year would serve as a ray of hope.
RB Leipzig are the only other team capable of challenging these two giants of German football. The club has been crippled by the departures of Timo Werner and Patrik Schick, but the addition of Hwang Hee-chan was no short of a masterstroke while they have also managed to keep hold of key defenders like Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate. And under Julian Nagelsmann, aka not Scott Parker, you never know.
Is This The Season Schalke Finally Get Relegated?
From boasting the services of some of Europe’s best talents like Mesut Ozil, Ivan Rakitic and Julian Draxler, Schalke have now become a home to some of the best non-goalscoring, non-threatening strikers like Guido Burgstaller and Vedad Ibisevic.
There have been some notable departures including Weston McKennie joining Juventus FC (ew) while Alexander Nubel joined Bayern Munich. However, expecting Schalke to get relegated this season might be a stretch.
Weston McKennie has joined Juventus on loan from Schalke 🤝 pic.twitter.com/TRAEzF60jC
— Goal (@goal) August 29, 2020
Despite all their shortcomings in the attacking department, they do have a fairly solid defence, with Ozan Kabak marshalling the backline. In addition, they also boast of one of the best academies in Europe, so it won’t be surprising to see some new breakout stars at Veltins Arena next season.
The prime contenders for the relegation scrap this season are 1.FC Koln, VfB Stuttgart, Arminia Bielefeld and even SC Freiburg, having lost their two key players in Robin Koch and Gianluca Waldschmidt. They do have a knack of producing quality Bundesliga stars every season and like Schalke, they will be depending on their youth academy.
Other relegation candidates include 1.FSV Mainz and FC Augsburg, both of whom are lethal counter-attacking sides but lack consistency. On the flip side, Werder Bremen will be hoping that their defence fares better this time around (Spoiler alert: it won’t), after narrowly missing out on relegation last season.
Union Berlin might face the second season dilemma following a successful 2019/20. But they have a solid defence and a sharp attacking unit while clubs like Eintracht Frankfurt and Hertha Berlin should both be safe, despite the layer of mediocrity looming above their heads.
“Cuties” To Watch Out For
Bundesliga has so many youngsters that even Netflix would be proud (Even a Sundance award-winning film, maybe?).
Jadon Sancho, Kai Havertz and Marcus Thuram are few of the players who enjoyed exceptional campaigns last term. But this time, it could be the season for Bayer Leverkusen’s defensive figurehead Edmond Tapsoba.
The 21-year-old has become a key component in the B04 defence, alongside Sven Bender, benching Jonathan Tah in the process. He is a good all-round defender and could thrive with a little more experience at the highest level of football.
Giovanni Reyna is another prospect looking to make an impact in the Bundesliga. The Borussia Dortmund youngster has been making some waves in the pre-season, though the prolonged stay of Jadon Sancho at the club could affect his overall game-time unless Marco Reus, god forbid, once again gets injured.
✓ Jude Bellingham
✓ Giovanni Reyna
✓ Jadon Sancho
✓ Erling Haaland
Four English-born starters for Borussia Dortmund in their first game of the season. 🐝 pic.twitter.com/D2iG0lbvnf
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) September 14, 2020
Another Dortmund candidate is new signing Jude Bellingham. The Englishman has shown tremendous quality in the pre-season and also in the DFB Pokal victory over MSV Duisburg, notably becoming the cup’s youngest goalscorer. It will be interesting to see whether or not he can dethrone the likes of Thomas Delaney, Emre Can and Axel Witsel in this new season.
For Bayern Munich, they are hopeful of Joshua Zirkzee becoming the prime alternative for the ageing Robert Lewandowski. Even Mickael Cuisance is making a strong case, especially following the departure of Thiago Alcantara while Javi Martinez is facing an uncertain future at the Allianz Arena.
Other interesting candidates include Florian Wirtz (potential replacement for Havertz at Leverkusen), Noah Katterbach (Koln left-back), Ismail Jakobs (Koln’s cross merchant) and finally, Youssoufa Moukoko, the 15-year-old Borussia Dortmund wonderkid who has been stirring the pot even in the under-23s.
Bundesliga has recently changed its rule to allow 16-year-olds to feature in professional matches, meaning the forward should be eligible to play in the league in November when he turns 16. His potential partnership with Erling Haaland is something worth keeping an eye on.
Bundesliga has been gravely affected by the halt in football, resulting in millions of losses from the marketing deals. FC Schalke, in fact, were on the brink of bankruptcy, shortly before the league eventually resumed in May.
“We’ve reached a point where Bundesliga has to admit: ‘Yes, we are manufacturing a product, and if we no longer manufacture it then we cease to exist,” said Christian Seifert, the CEO of Bundesliga, back in March. And unsurprisingly, a total of 13 clubs would have faced insolvency had the league not resumed within May.
The three-month break from football was reflected even on big clubs like Borussia Dortmund, who suffered a net loss of €43 million last season. And the club made no secret of its precarious situation forced by the pandemic, managing to sign only Bellingham while Thomas Meunier was signed from PSG for free.
Schalke’s difficulties in the financial aspect have also been indicated by their performance in the market, having to settle for players like Ibisevic. The same applies for all lower mid-table clubs, including Koln, Freiburg and Mainz.
What About The Fans?
One of the few bright spots for the new Bundesliga season is that it will feature fans inside the stadium. On Tuesday, following a meeting of the federal states’ chancelleries, the body decided to allow fans, although with certain regulations.
Fans will be back in stadiums for the start of the Bundesliga season!
Well, sort of…😕🏟️ pic.twitter.com/5mkPInmtk6
— DW Sports (@dw_sports) September 16, 2020
DFL will only allow 20% of the fans inside the stadium, and there will be no away fans present. A ban has been imposed on standing, as well as alcohol while game must be played without spectators in attendance if a 7-day infection rate in a home city is above 35 per 100,000.
The 20% allowance has already created some controversy with some clubs arguing that they are at a “Wettbewerbsverzerrung” or competitive disadvantage of having to allow a considerably fewer audience when compared to Borussia Dortmund or Hertha Berlin. Christian Seifert, however, has been quick to wash those arguments.
Meanwhile, clubs need to have a definitive hygiene concept in place in order to combat the potential spread of the virus. And much like the initial resumption process of the Bundesliga earlier this year, this is going to be one long and nervy process.
Wait A Second, You Premier League Elitist!
If the return of fans, the exciting relegation battle, the pleasure of seeing Sancho playing in something other than a Manchester United kit was not enough of an incentive for you to watch the Bundesliga, the growing contingent of former Premier League players playing in Germany might.
Indeed, the chain of British players primarily plying their trade in the Premier League has been broken, and the Bundesliga has emerged as the most appealing destination. Sancho’s electric rise to prominence has already been well documented, and in this new season, there are some new faces worth keeping an eye on.
Bellingham, in particular, is pushing for a breakthrough after joining Borussia Dortmund in a big-money move from Birmingham City. His box-to-box abilities could make him a real asset for the Black and Yellows within the coming years.
Jude Bellingham, the youngest goalscorer in the 110 year history of Borussia Dortmund ⭐️ pic.twitter.com/SFLBowNAz1
— Borussia Dortmund (@BlackYellow) September 14, 2020
Elsewhere, Ademola Lookman has not had much luck since rejoining RB Leipzig but is still an intriguing option while the likes of Reece Oxford and Keanan Bennetts are hoping for a breakthrough this season.
For our American friends, with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson’s viewership eclipsing that of NBA and the NFL, Bundesliga is a curious alternative. Reyna, as discussed earlier, is poised for his breakthrough campaign, as well as USMNT international Josh Sargent. Even Tyler Adams is hoping to make his mark under Julian Nagelsmann.
Players are still kneeling for #BlackLivesMatter though.
And Now That You’re Here, A Quick Help
Bundesliga authority and its fans have done extremely well to enhance the league’s image, especially in South, South-East Asia and Africa in recent years. But that growth is facing a potential halt, with the league failing to broadcast games in some notable countries across those regions.
India, in particular, is yet to have any broadcaster, with Star Sports ending its partnership following disputes over the fees, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, leaving a country, with around 1.3 billion population, devoid of any legal means of watching the Bundesliga.
CALLING ALL BUNDESLIGA FANS IN INDIA!!!
Doesn't matter if you support Bayern Munich, Berlin, B04, Gladbach, Leipzig, or fucking even BVB
— Ryan Gibson (Bayern Ryan) (@Bayern_Ryan) September 9, 2020
The DFL has recently signed contracts with One Football, PPTV HD, StarHub, KBS ensuring the broadcast of the league in Brazil, Thailand, Singapore and South Korea respectively. Unfortunately, countries like India, Ethiopia and Bangladesh, are still left with no viable broadcasters.
Although fans, as well as experts, commentators and footballing figures across German football are virtually powerless in this matter, the #BringBuliBack hashtag on Twitter has raised a lot of awareness on social media, after the Indian Star Sports failed to renew its deal with the Bundesliga.
Spreading the word on social media, therefore, could go a long way into potentially helping Bundesliga’s broadcasting crisis in the Indian sub-continent and in Africa.
[Views, jokes and opinions represented here are that of the author and not the website. We like you Juventus. Seriously]