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The Second Tier: Season Preview

13 Jul

Hi everyone, it’s been a while. Thanks to all for being so patient for the last month whilst I’ve been away but as promised, I’m back and ready for the start of the 2.Bundesliga season on Friday. Here we go…

It’s the 13th July. In just two days time, before the extremely successful Women’s World Cup has drawn to a close, Germany’s unified second division will kick off for a 20th time. It seems a bizarre time to be starting a season – in the height of summer – but when voted on, only tiny FSV Frankfurt opposed the motion. (Although Bochum gaffer Friedhelm Funkel didn’t mince his words when more recently slating the ‘shit’ decision.)

Of course then, FSV would be one of the four teams to get the ball rolling. The other three – East German outfits.

Last season was something of a renaissance for former DDR-Oberliga sides. Although 2011/12 will be the third year running that all eighteen sides in the top tier are from the former West, both Hansa Rostock and Dynamo Dresden were promoted from the 3.Liga. With Union Berlin, Energie Cottbus and Erzgebirge Aue also there, the 2.Bundesliga will have five representatives from the former East – the most since the league was unified in 1992/1993.

Eintracht have required well since relegation

So what can we expect from this season, save for some feisty games between these Eastern sides and culture-club St. Pauli? It could be the most competitive promotion race in years. Assuming Eintracht live up to their billing – you can only get around 2/1 on them ending up champions – the fight for second and third could involve any two from around 10 teams.

The relegation battle could be equally as tense. The promoted clubs will be looking to get to around 37 points as quick as possible, and the teams that narrowly avoided the drop last season – Ingolstadt, Paderborn, Karlsruhe and the likes – are all likely to struggle again whilst teams like Union, FSV and even a side like Aachen could be dragged in.

So what do we think will happen? I’ll start with my expectations but please feel free to add to the debate below! It’s always a good laugh come May when we’ve accurately predicted nothing but our own idiocy.

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On a Different Planet…

22 Feb

Arjen Robben

Bayern Munich’s comfortable win at Mainz on Saturday evening strengthened the growing feeling around Europe that van Gaal’s side are the form team in Germany at the moment. And with their visit to Milan on Wednesday, it couldn’t come at a better time.

That trip to Mainz, like their demolition of Hoffenheim a week earlier, will be remembered for Arjen Robben’s brilliance. There isn’t anyone better at cutting in off the right wing than the Flying Dutchman (demonstrated with his two beauties at the Allianz vs 1899), but Saturday showed he’s equally adept in the box too. Bastian Schweinsteiger gave the away side the lead but credit should go to Robben who brilliantly headed Ribery’s cross back across goal, out of the reach of the goalkeeper, for Schweinsteiger to net his first header in 239 Bundesliga games. More sublime skill from Robben set up Thomas Müller in the second half, and one wonders how close Bayern would be to BVB should he have been available all season…

Two huge games lie in wait for Bayern this week (away at Inter, home to Dortmund) and Arjen Robben could be the difference maker in both.

BVB’s back four (+Weidenfeller)

Much of the hype surrounding Dortmund this season has been all about their glittering attacking verve. And why not? Nuri Sahin, Lucas Barrios, Kevin Grosskreutz and Mario Goetze have 46 scoring points (including 25 goals) between them. But the contribution towards their success made at the other end shouldn’t be forgotten, not by a long shot.

Roman Weidenfeller registered his 11th  clean sheet of the season at home to in-form St Pauli on Saturday afternoon. BVB have only conceded 13 goals all season. Their closest competitor in this department is Bayern’s 28 – more than double the figure.

With their form as it is, it is surely only a matter of time before Mats Hummels gets a starting role for DFB, perhaps replacing the out of sorts Holger Badstuber. Neven Subotić looks at complete ease as half of the long-haired centre-back duo and and was linked with moves all over the place in January. Whether or not Dortmund do go on to win the Bundesliga, Michael Zorc and Jürgen Klopp’s resolve will surely be tested in the summer with the inevitable bids that’ll be made. Marcel Schmelzer has deservedly started to pick up international recognition and Lukasz Piszczek, who has filled in admirably for the absent Patrick Owomoyela, should not have his contribution forgotten.

Borussia Mönchengladbach’s home support

To so far average 44070 in a season where you’ve been rock bottom since week 10 (with the exception of week 12) and occupying a place in the relegation zone since week 6 is quite phenomenal. Having not seen a home win in 317 days (a 2-0 win against Eintracht Frankfurt), die Fohlen’s loyal support (just the 51000 of them) deservedly bore witness to a 2-1 victory over Schalke on Sunday. Lucien Favre’s team may not be good enough to avoid the drop, but their following is as good as it gets. Surely there cannot be many teams in the whole of Europe which can boast such fantastic, unceasing support?

Fortuna Düsseldorf’s home form

8 straight home wins since a 1-0 defeat to Bochum in late September – (1-0s over Augsburg, Duisburg, Karlsruhe and Furth; 3-1s over Cottbus and Ingolstadt; 3-0 and 6-0 thumpings of RW Oberhausen and FSV Frankfurt respectively) – have set a new record for the ESPRIT Arena based club, who also boast the second highest average attendance outside the top division. The stunning run has also managed to lift Norbert Meier’s side to mid-table mediocrity when six consecutive defeats to start the season suggested they’d be heading back to 3.Liga with second season syndrome. Now, if they could just sort that shoddy away form out…

Pierre-Michel Lasogga

This 19 year-old Gladbeck born striker is one you may not have heard of just 4 months ago.

In July he signed his first professional contract – a 3-year deal with Hertha Berlin. After an impressive pre-season, his early season was disrupted by injuries. Now he has 7 goals and 2 assists in only 9 starts, including an early poacher’s effort in last night’s home draw against Cottbus.

He’s big (at around 6 foot 2, almost 14 stone), powerful and has great close control, not to mention finishing ability. Unfazed by playing in front of around 40,000 every other week at the Olympiastadion, Lasogga will surely be on Jogi Loew’s radar. The only question is which national squad he’ll be part of.

By James Challinor (@JaChallinor)