In a tip to Zach Lowe’s “Annual Tiers of the NBA,” here’s our iteration of that very column, Bundesliga-style. In this Bundesliga Preview, I will be loosely grouping all 18 of the German top-flight teams, all the way from Bayern Munich to Werder Bremen. Although the exact order of the teams is nearly impossible to predict, we will merge the teams into tiers that represent the general expectations for each club.
The high competitiveness of the Bundesliga makes it a marvelous league to indulge in, and there is much to discover among the top flight of German football. So without further ado, here are the “Tiers of the Bundesliga.”
Tier 1: The Frontrunner
FC Bayern Munich
5 consecutive 1st place finishes. I tip the Bavarians to bring home their 6th Bundesliga title in a row.
Bayern finished on top last season, with a 15-point gap separating them from runners-up Leipzig. They’ve lost both Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso to retirement, and Douglas Costa is leaving alongside Medhi Benatia; however, they’ve acquired Corentin Tolisso, Niklas Süle, and James Rodriguez this summer.
Preseason was a real concern for Bayern. 5 losses in 6 had put real pressure on the champions, but a Super Cup win against Dortmund has alleviated some of the stress. Ancelotti’s side is one of the less-convincing Bayern sides in the recent years, but their sheer quality is still unquestionable. The Italian coach has added depth to his side during the summer, but injuries remain a big question. With Alaba, Boateng, and Javi Martinez all experiencing minor ailments throughout the summer, and Bernat out until late-October, Bayern’s defensive rotation will be an interesting one to watch as the season unrolls.
With Bayern’s spine comprising of Neuer, Thiago, and Lewandowski, with Ancelotti at the helm, the former champions will be ready to fend off any competition at the top of the Bundesliga table. Things will certainly not be a breeze for Bayern, but they are without a doubt the 2017/18 favorites.
Tier 2: The Contenders
Bundesliga debutants last year, the team from Saxony gave Bayern a good run for their money in their inaugural season. Leipzig’s first season has shown that they are ready to make a genuine attempt to dethrone Bayern of their Bundesliga crown.
Leipzig has sent a resonating message during the transfer window, simultaneously adding much-needed depth to their youthful side, whilst also fending off European giants such as Liverpool, who are aggressively pursuing key midfielder Naby Keïta. The club has also retained playmaker Emil Forsberg, the figurehead of Leipzig’s eclectic attack last season. New signings Bruma, the former Galatasaray winger, and Jean-Kévin Augustin, formerly of PSG, could prove to be valuable squad players, and Ralph Hasenhüttl will certainly have an array of players to choose from, if needed.
RB Leipzig’s ability to play as a unit is one of their greatest strengths, alongside their ‘lights-out’ counterattacking football. Retaining their big stars will only help increase their chemistry, an important feature of the side. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how Hasenhüttl and Leipzig handle the dreifach Belastung, the dreaded trident of playing in the Bundesliga, the UEFA Champions League, and the DFB Pokal. It remains to be seen how the young corps at Leipzig handle the burden of playing in three competitions, and it may hinder their chances in the Bundesliga. It is vital for Leipzig’s success that the prodigal Timo Werner continues his prolific form, and that stars Naby Keïta and Emil Forsberg remain injury-free.
The Bundesliga’s new boys have embraced the title of the most universally hated club in Germany, shrugging off any insults thrown at them. Die Roten Bullen look to have a prosperous season ahead of them, hoping to challenge Bayern for the rights to the Meisterschale.
The 2016/17 season was a tumultuous season for Dortmund. Impressive contributions from young players, the genius of Thomas Tuchel, and a DFB Pokal trophy were overshadowed by the tragic bombing of Dortmund’s team bus prior to their Champions League quarterfinal. 3rd place was a respective finish for Dortmund, given the various circumstances surrounding their season.
The upcoming season marks a time of transition for BVB, with new boss Peter Bosz assuming the void left by Thomas Tuchel. Nevertheless, Dortmund still has a side capable of challenging for the Bundesliga title. A weaker Bayern side always spells good news for Dortmund; however, by no means is the league a two-horse race, especially given the rapid emergence of RB Leipzig. Injuries to key players, especially the likes of Marco Reus, Julian Weigl, and Raphaël Guerreiro, could lead to a slow start to the season. Players like Christian Pulisic and Mahmoud Dahoud will be expected to burden some of the load brought about by the injuries. Dahoud, Toprak, and Maximilian Philipp have been brought in over the summer, all 3 Bundesliga-proven acquisitions who should improve Dortmund’s quality.
Dortmund’s biggest threat is their attacking power. The club has done well to keep ahold of striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but it remains to be seen whether starlet Ousmane Dembélé will leave the club. A plethora of attacking assets should mean Dortmund’s scoring fortunes will continue, and Dortmund has respectable depth at most positions. However, injuries have historically proven to be a big thorn in Dortmund’s side, and they must hope most of the players can remain healthy. BVB’s defense continues to be a liability, and Bosz will be hoping Ömer Toprak can help solve some of the problems. Just like Bayern, Dortmund had a worrying preseason, and players are struggling to adapt to Bosz’s new system.
Anything outside the Top 3 will be a disappointing result for the BVB faithful. Even if Dembélé leaves this summer, Dortmund have substantial quality to keep them in the top 3. If Dortmund can remain relatively injury-free, and Peter Bosz can shore up the backline, Dortmund have a chance of taking the 2017/18 Bundesliga trophy back to the Signal Iduna.
Tier 3: The Dreamers
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
A 62-point total was enough to put Hoffenheim in 4th spot, only 2 points off Dortmund in 3rd, and only 5 points off Leipzig in 2nd. They suffered only 4 losses all season, and Julian Nagelsmann’s men climbed 11 places in the table compared to the prior season. With an even more competitive-looking season approaching, Nagelsmann and co. will be looking to stay in the upper echelons of the Bundesliga table.
The 29-year-old Nagelsmann took the league by storm, exceeding all possible expectations. He took a side of average Bundesliga players, and turned them into a superb Bundesliga team. A well-disciplined unit, his Hoffenheim side is composed of the likes of Kevin Vogt, Andrej Kramaric, and Sandro Wagner: all players who Nagelsmann gets the best out of. With a thrilling Champions League playoff against Liverpool approaching, it will be interesting to see how Nagelsmann fares against his managerial counterpart, Jürgen Klopp.
The departures of Sebastian Rudy and Niklas Süle will be detrimental to the unit, but the team should fare fine without them. Havard Nordtveit has returned to the Bundesliga, and his versatility will be crucial for Nagelsmann, since he is able to play as a center back and a holding midfielder. On loan Serge Gnabry will likely set off sparks in the attack, and he may be a vital aspect of Hoffenheim’s goal output. The 2nd best defense in the league should still be firing on all cylinders this year, even given the departure of Süle. However, the burden of European football could obstruct Nagelsmann’s road to the top 4 this year, and results in the Bundesliga could falter.
Julian Nagelsmann and Hoffenheim were just one of the many surprise stories in the Bundesliga last season. Whether in the Champions League or Europa League, the extra workload of Europe could hurt Hoffenheim’s Bundesliga prospects, but I predict a top 6 finish and the possibility of a top 4 challenge for Die Kraichgauer.
FC Schalke 04
Only 6 points separated Schalke from 16th place last season. For a team that had consistently finished in the top 6 since the 2011/12 season, it was a disastrous result, especially given the stature of the club. However, Die Königsblauen will be looking to rebound in the upcoming season and climb back up to the European spots of the Bundesliga table.
A bipolar start to the season witnessed Schalke lose their first 5 matches, and then return to go undefeated in their next 7. Schalke managed only 11 wins all season, a total they normally eclipse with several matchdays to go. However, they did have a successful Europa League run, losing only 2 out of 12 games, as they exited in the quarterfinals. Breel Embolo’s ankle injury and Markus Weinzierl’s unsuccessful coaching philosophy were two reasons Schalke had a poor season.
The loss of Sead Kolasinac will certainly leave a hole in Schalke’s defense, but Bastian Oczipka is likely to slot into the role nicely. Nabil Bentaleb and Yevhen Konoplyanka have signed permanently for Die Knappen, and Embolo’s return is practically a new signing in itself. Leon Goretzka impressed at the Confederations Cup this summer, which is promising for the prospect of Schalke’s midfield. Over half of Schalke’s losses last year were by only 1 goal, so better attacking efficiency could see them turn those losses into ties or wins this season. New head coach Domenico Tedesco won’t even have to worry about the burden of European football, so the 31-year-old will certainly put all his focus towards the league. A curveball appointment, Tedesco could prove to be an excellent choice to lead Schalke into the season, but also could struggle because of his inexperience.
Domenico Tedesco has been trusted to guide Schalke out of the deep hole they dug themselves into last season, and it’s a big gamble. With no European football, a fully-fit Breel Embolo, and a well-established defense, Schalke have a good chance to push for a European spot and could even sneak into the top 4.
Last season marked the first time Köln qualified for European football in a quarter-century, a 5th place finish clinching them a group stage berth over Hertha because of goal differential. Now also under the extra workload of European football, Köln have a challenging (but exciting) 2017/18 campaign ahead of them.
Last season, Köln experienced an up-and-down year, starting the season off on a good winning streak, but stuttering when goalkeeper Timo Horn suffered a meniscal tear. However, his return to the starting XI, combined with the astonishing form of Anthony Modeste, steered Koln back on track to a spot in Europe. Don’t be fooled, though: although they finished 5th, they finished closer to the relegation zone than 4th place. Clearly, there was a considerable gap in quality between the top 4 and the rest of the Bundesliga, but Köln were the best of the rest.
French striker Anthony Modeste has been shipped off to China, and the Billy Goats have spent €17M on his replacement, Jhon Cordoba. Although it is unlikely he will replicate Modeste’s 25-goal tally, Cordoba will likely find goals in this Köln side. They’ve also made an under-the-radar signing with the acquisition of Jorge Meré, a 20-year-old Spanish central defender who will solidify Koln’s backline. One area of concern for Köln is fixture congestion, the added European football possibly hindering their league form. It will be imperative to the Billy Goat’s success that Timo Horn stays healthy, Jonas Hector continues his tremendous form, and the attack can produce efficiently across the board.
Although the added European football will make things harder on Köln, they still have a promising team with plenty of experience and talent. Not a match for Dortmund and Leipzig, they will again look to be the best of the rest, and I tip them to be in the fight for a top 4 finish.
Tier 4: Pushing for Europe
49 points was enough for Hertha to finish 6th in the Bundesliga and earn a group stage spot in the Europa League; nevertheless, this points total was only 12 points above the relegation zone, indicative of the proximity within the midtable. In the upcoming season, Hertha will be hoping to replicate last season’s results, while also juggling the added workload of the Europa League.
Looking at Hertha’s statistics last year, you’d never guess that they had finished 6th. They had the 10th best offense, a negative goal differential, and were 13th in shots on target (per match). Most of Hertha’s wins are as a result of their effective yet monotonous midfield play. Vladimir Darida, their midfield engine, is the centerpiece, with manager Pál Dárdai often rotating the rest of the midfield depending on the opposition. Their defensive unit is very strong, but Hertha’s away form needs to improve if they hope to maintain their top 6 spot, winning only 12 points on the road last season, as opposed to 37 at home. With Schalke and Gladbach both having off seasons last year, Hertha may find it difficult to retain their top 6 spot.
In the offseason, Hertha lost one of their best defenders, John Anthony Brooks. A key part to Die Alte Dame’s set piece defense, Brooks will be hard to replace; however, new signing Karim Rekik and starlet Jordan Torunarigha will look to fill the void in Hertha’s defense. The club’s transfer record was broken with the signing of 22-year-old Davie Selke, and the ex-Leipzig man is just another young asset added to the Hertha side. Hertha have managed to keep the core of their squad intact, and have added much-needed depth. It is yet to be seen how Dárdai will set up the team, but reports say he may be switching to a two-striker set, a tactical tweak that could pay dividends.
The 2017/18 Bundesliga campaign could turn out to be quite the struggle for Hertha, especially if teams such as Schalke and Wolfsburg attempt to reclaim their usual spots on the table. Fused with a possible European hangover, Hertha is likely to drop a few spots in the table, unless their form improves. A top 6 finish would be a tremendous result for Dárdai and company, but a midtable finish is all the more likely for the club that hails from Berlin.
A 9th place Bundesliga finish and a group stage exit in the Champions League summed up a very frustrating 2016/17 campaign for Borussia Mönchengladbach. The arrival of manager Dieter Hecking halfway through the season salvaged some of their campaign, as Gladbach went 8-5-5 to end the season. With Hecking at the helm, Gladbach will be looking to reclaim their top 6 spot and push for Europe.
Gladbach suffered key losses in the offseason, with loanee Andreas Christensen returning to Chelsea and Mahmoud Dahoud joining Borussia Dortmund. Although the void in the defense will likely be shored up by the recently acquired Matthias Ginter, it is up for debate whether Denis Zakaria will be a worthy replacement for Dahoud. The acquisitions of Vincenzo Grifo and Reece Oxford may prove to be valuable moves, but a judgement cannot yet be formed.
Luckily, Gladbach’s potent attack has suffered almost no losses, with the club keeping Thorgan Hazard, Raffael, and Lars Stindl. It remains to be seen if Hecking will be able to mold his personnel into the disciplinary unit he favors, and Gladbach could certainly use a few more signings for the defensive side. Yann Sommer will be a key aspect in Gladbach’s defense, and their Swiss shot-stopper could prove crucial in rescuing them a few points throughout the campaign. If Gladbach’s defense performs up to scratch, we could see their resurgence in the table, especially if their attack is firing at all cylinders.
Dieter Hecking is a manager with a good track record, and Borussia Mönchengladbach are one of the historical giants in Germany. Although pushing for top 4 isn’t completely out of question, fighting for a place in Europe is a more comfortable aspiration for Die Borussen in the upcoming season.
SV Werder Bremen
Alexander Nouri’s men will be looking to improve come the 2017/18 season. Last season was a true tale of two halves; Bremen flirted with the relegation places before being salvaged by a Max Kruse-led resurrection. Although they only finished in 8th spot, it was a respectable niche in the table considering their lackluster start. They weren’t far off a European spot, but their hopes were dashed after 3 consecutive losses in the last 3 matchdays.
The departure of Serge Gnabry for Bayern Munich is a heavy blow to Bremen. He was one of their most valuable attacking assets last season, contributing 11 goals in 27 appearances. The club will also be without the recently retired Clemens Fritz and the Peruvian veteran Claudio Pizarro, both of whom will be sorely missed. Bremen will be hoping other attacking figures can chip in and fill the void created by the young Gnabry, but the side may become heavily reliant on Max Kruse’s goalscoring threat. Be on the lookout for Thomas Delaney and Zlatko Junuzovic, who are both primed to have excellent seasons as part of Bremen’s midfield.
The main issue Nouri will need to address if he wants his side to push for a European spot is the defense. They conceded the most amount of goals in the league last season (64), and they haven’t made any notable acquisitions to shore up the backline. Conceding an average of 1.88 goals per game, Bremen’s back three and goalkeeper were extremely suspect last season, and Nouri must strive to improve their Achilles heel, otherwise they will continue to be exposed.
Werder Bremen have a rough stretch of fixtures to begin the 2017/18 Bundesliga season, and their results could prove very indicative of the season to come. It is up to Bremen to prove their amazing run of form towards the back end of last season wasn’t a fluke. Werder will be looking to push for a European spot in the upcoming season, but onlookers shouldn’t be surprised if they finish in a similar position as the year prior.
Tier 5: Comfortably Mid-table
Wolfsburg left it until late to ensure their Bundesliga survival, and it was a season to forget for diehard Die Wölfe fans. They survived their relegation playoff against Eintracht Braunschweig, winning 2-0 on aggregate. It was a bittersweet victory – at least the club wasn’t relegated – but Wolfsburg fans were ashamed by the level their club had sunk to.
Almost €80M was spent last year in the transfer market by Wolfsburg, but few of the acquisitions proved to be worth their value. Bazoer, Ntep, and Bruma were lackluster, and as a consequence Wolfsburg was nearly relegated. This offseason, they’ve lost Ricardo Rodríguez, Diego Benaglio, and Luiz Gustavo, all of whom filled important roles at the club. They’ve brought in John Anthony Brooks in the center of defense and Ignacio Camacho to solidify the midfield. Although not glorious acquisitions, they could prove to be necessary improvements to a side who barely stayed afloat last season.
If Wolfsburg has any hopes of jumping up places in the table this season, they need to improve their home record, which was the second worst in the league. Much of the dead weight at the club has been removed, but it is yet to be seen how Wolfsburg will perform. If last year’s signings can perform at the expected, consistent levels (the likes of Paul-Georges Ntep, Yunus Malli, and Daniel Didavi,) then Wolfsburg will likely keep themselves above the relegation zone. Head coach Andries Jonker will need to tinker with his relatively new personnel, and fans shouldn’t be overly optimistic for the season to come.
A club of Wolfsburg’s stature and reputation should be challenging for a European place year-in and year-out, undoubtedly. However, off the back of last season, it would be more realistic for Wolfsburg to be sat comfortably midtable come the end of the 2017/18 season.
Stuttgart finished on top of the 2. Bundesliga last season with 69 points, granting them automatic passage to the top-flight. In the upcoming seaon, they will be aspiring to return to their former heights and remain in the top flight for years to come.
Although Stuttgart’s attack was extremely potent last season, their defense remained a point of question even in the second tier of German football. Despite coming top spot, they came 6th in the league for goals conceded. Young boss Hannes Wolf, formerly of Dortmund, leads Stuttgart’s resurgence. Stuttgart is extremely efficient attacking down the wings, and is comfortable controlling the majority of possession.
Stuttgart has added Bundesliga experience to their side in the offseason, bringing in Ron-Robert Zieler, Holger Badstuber, and Dennis Aogo. New sporting director Michael Reschke is well-versed with his role, and will certainly aid Stuttgart’s quest to stay in the top flight. Stuttgart won the Bundesliga just a decade ago; they are no strangers to top-flight football, and know what it takes to get the job done. Wolf will need to improve his side’s defensive efficiency, or else Stuttgart could be feasted on by Bundesliga attacks.
Experience and youth will need to fuse to help Stuttgart stay afloat. A productive midfield and attack is vital to Die Roten’s success, and an improved defense will be needed to fend off speedy Bundesliga offenses. This season will be Stuttgart’s time to establish themselves back in the Bundesliga, and a midtable spot will be a likely finish for the 2nd Bundesliga champions.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Take it back to 2008-09, the last time Leverkusen finished out of the European spots. Now it’s 2017, and Leverkusen finished 12th last season, missing out on Europe by 7 points and avoiding a relegation playoff by a mere 4 points. As catastrophic as last season was, Leverkusen will certainly be looking to recover and bounce back to their usual heights in the upper half of the Bundesliga table.
A terrible injury bug hit Leverkusen last year, with players such as Kevin Volland, Jonathan Tah, and Kevin Kampl missing a considerable amount of playing time, and an unfortunate suspension to midfielder Hakan Çalhanoğlu didn’t help either. Narrowly avoiding the drop, Leverkusen’s most frustrating season in years shows room for improvement for Die Werkself. They’ve so far been a selling club this summer, letting go of Çalhanoğlu, Toprak, and Chicharito. These 3 departures will leave hard-to-fill voids in the Leverkusen side, and scoring will be hard to come by given the ages of Admir Mehmedi and Stephan Kießling. Dwindling quality at the center back position could spell trouble for an already weak Leverkusen backline.
Leverkusen’s lack of purchases is certainly worrying, but they still have players who, if they play up to their potential, could bring them success. The bright wingers Leon Bailey and Julian Brandt could have important roles in the side, and look to Kevin Kampl and Kevin Volland to better their 2016/17 campaigns. However, a failure to address their lack of depth and a suspect backline could lead to another disastrous year for Leverkusen. Furthermore, new manager Heiko Herrlich is a bit of a gamble, considering his lack of Bundesliga experience and aggressive playing style.
With enough talent to keep themselves afloat, Leverkusen should be striving to stay above the relegation battle. However, anything more than a midtable finish would be surprising, given the lack of change during the transfer window.
Eintracht finished a mediocre 11th place last season, 5 points ahead of 16th spot. The team from Frankfurt also finished runners-up in the DFB Pokal, losing 2-1 to Dortmund in the final. Entering their 49th season in the Bundesliga, Eintracht Frankfurt will be looking to improve upon last year’s finish and move up in the table.
The first half of last season saw Eintracht only suffer 4 defeats, all away from home. A draw with Bayern and a win over Dortmund were positive results, but Die Adler were unable to keep their form consistent. In their last 18 games, they picked up just 2 victories. They had been as high as 3rd place in the table, but their bad form saw them drop out of the European spots by Matchday 27. If Frankfurt could’ve maintained form throughout the season, they could’ve clinched a berth in the Europa League. They are losing a key member of the backline that finished 7th in the league in goals conceded, center back Jesus Vallejo, and could possibly be losing first-choice keeper Lukas Hradecky to Benfica.
Eintracht has brought in some reputable names during the transfer window, including the likes of Jetro Willems and Jonathan de Gúzman. Sébastien Haller has been brought in from FC Utrecht as a possible successor to Alexander Meier. They’ve lost Bastian Oczipka, Michael Hector, and Haris Seferovic, three important players who were vital to Eintracht’s early form last season. Both Marco Fabian and Alexander Meier will miss the beginning of the season due to injuries, heavy blows that may hinder Eintracht’s attacking productivity for the time being. If Hradecky is leaving, Eintracht need to find a suitable replacement for him, or else their defensive performance will suffer.
Injuries and a few key personnel changes may mean Eintracht is unlikely to equal their impressive start to last season’s campaign. However, they certainly have the talent it takes to remain in the top flight comfortably, and the squad has a good amount of Bundesliga experience. All in all, expect Niko Kovac and company to finish midtable, in a similar position to last year’s finish.
Tier 6: The Relegation Playoff
The 2015/16 2nd Bundesliga champions had an impressive campaign in the top-tier last season, finishing on a commendable 48 points in 7th position. Capitalizing on a down year for some of Germany’s historically successful clubs, they picked up results when they needed them and even got a Europa League berth (they entered in the 3rd round qualifiers, which they lost to NK Domžale from Slovenia). It may prove to be a blessing in disguise, given Freiburg’s lack of depth.
Despite Freiburg’s promising 2016/17 season, their summer transfer market has been very poor. They lost 2 of their most important attacking prospects in Vincenzo Grifo and Maximiliam Philipp to other Bundesliga clubs whilst simultaneously not finding suitable replacements. 20-year-old Bartosz Kapustka will be forced to carry the brunt of Freiburg’s creativity, an expectation that may prove too much for the young Pole. Freiburg also had the 4th worst defense despite their high finish, conceding 60 goals over the course of their 34 Bundesliga matches. The backline had a habit of switching off minutes before the break, leading to unnecessary goals conceded.
Christian Streich’s side suffers from a lack a depth, a critical area that they’ve done little to improve upon in the transfer market. Freiburg’s attack needs reinforcement, given the departures of Philipp and Grifo, and their backline needs improvement desperately.
Although Freiburg’s first season back in the Bundesliga was a noteworthy one, the season that lies ahead will prove to be much more difficult. The possible return of Wolfsburg, Schalke, and Leverkusen poses a threat to Freiburg’s place in the table, and Christian Streich can do little more than prevent his team from dropping to the relegation zone. I predict seeing Freiburg in the relegation playoff come the end of May.
Hannover only lingered in the 2. Bundesliga for one season, winning themselves automatic promotion back to Germany’s top flight on the first time of asking. Suffering only 5 defeats all season, they finished second in the league, whilst also boasting the strongest defense. They’ve shown good ambition in the last few months, and Hannover look prepared to scrap for their place in the top flight.
Sporting director Horst Heldt displayed the side’s ambition this summer, penning contracts for 5 new signings by mid-June. The well-established club has outlined expectations for the upcoming season, demonstrating their eagerness to compete in the top flight. The team from Lower Saxony are building the foundation of a side for years to come, and they are hoping to mirror the top-flight trajectory of fellow German club, FC Köln. The club sees staying up as mandatory, and their goal is to stay as far away from the relegation scene as possible.
Although their European goal may a figment of the future, Hannover are taking the first strides towards a reformed side. New head coach Andre Breitenreiter will be spending the summer instilling his philosophy at the club, whilst simultaneously incorporating and acclimatizing the summer signings. Although their transfer market has been a quiet one, they have been adding depth to their squad. Veterans Martin Harnik, Edgar Prib, and Julian Korb provide valuable Bundesliga experience, which will be crucial in keeping the side strong throughout the entire campaign.
Even though it is always difficult to predict where a recently promoted side will end up in the table, Hannover are likely candidates for the relegation battle. Anywhere between 13th and 16th would be an expected finish, but Hannover’s ambition might see them evade relegation by a few points.
1 point stood between Hamburg and a relegation playoff last season, and it was only a last matchday win against Wolfsburg that sent Die Rothosen to 14th place, narrowly avoiding the drop once again. Coming into the approaching season, Hamburg will again be hoping to elude the perils of relegation, but they are faced with many obstacles.
Hamburg hold the title of the only team to never have been relegated from the Bundesliga, an honor they’ve nearly broken in the past couple seasons. Last season was no different: it took Hamburg until matchday 13 to finally bag their first win in the Bundesliga against Darmstadt. Only 2 wins away all season illustrated their horrific away form, and their -28 goal differential was the worst in the league. Goals came few and far between, their 33 goals scored second-worst only to last place Darmstadt. Overall, Hamburg’s side last season was really poor and miraculously managed to stave off relegation.
Notable departures include René Adler and Michael Gregoritsch, but sporting director Jens Todt has brought in a few significant signings. André Hahn has been brought in from Gladbach in hopes to increase Hamburg’s attacking output, and Kyriakos Papadopoulos has completed a full move to Hamburg. They have added depth to their backline in hopes of improving their defense, and head coach Markus Gisdol will hope to see increased efficiency from Pierre-Michel Lasogga. If Lasogga, Hahn, and Bobby Wood can contribute to the attacking force, Hamburg could have a better chance of staying up.
Markus Gisdol certainly has a big job on his hands, but luckily history favors him. Hamburg is going into the season relatively healthy, and a win against Augsburg on the first matchday could bode well for their fortunes. I predict Hamburg will be in the midst of the relegation zone, but look for them to be fighting to evade the relegation playoff at all costs.
Tier 7: Welcome to the 2. Bundesliga
FSV Mainz 05
Mainz only escaped last season’s relegation playoff based on a superior goal differential over Wolfsburg. For a team that had finished 5th the season prior and clinched a spot in the Europa League, it was certainly a fall from grace. Looking ahead, the 2017/18 season will be a challenging one for Die Nullfünfer.
Lady Luck wasn’t by Mainz’s side last season, with injuries, midseason departures, and poor results all combining to form a dismal season. The departure of Yunus Malli in January left a void in the attack, and new signing Levin Öztunali didn’t perform up to scratch. Former head coach Martin Schmidt never solidified a consistent lineup, and it was always up in the air as to how Mainz would come out. In the end, Mainz were saved from a relegation playoff due to the mess that was Wolfsburg.
The €17M sale of star-striker Jhon Córdoba has freed up some funds for Mainz, but his presence may be difficult to adequately replace. They’ve addressed their goalkeeper dilemma, bringing in Rene Adler, finally replacing Lorus Karius. They’ve also acquired youngsters Viktkor Fischer and Abdou Diallo, who will both get plenty of minutes for Mainz. New head coach Sandro Schwarz will only have a short time frame to implement his tactics and philosophy into this Mainz side, and the juvenility of the side could prove to help or harm them. Mainz’s attacking efficiency consistently hovers around the 40-goal mark, so look to Mainz’s defense as their potential saving grace – or their potential downfall.
Mainz have a difficult road ahead of them, and expectations for the upcoming season aren’t high. With a new coach and several interesting acquisitions, it’s difficult to pinpoint where Mainz will fall in the Bundesliga table. They have enough quality to potentially avoid the drop, but I predict Mainz will be locked up in a tense relegation battle come the new Bundesliga season.
13th place may seem pretty decent, but Augsburg only escaped the relegation playoff by 1 point last season. Their offense was 3rd worst in the league, and they were altogether unimpressive. 4 games unbeaten to end the season kept their heads above the water, but things don’t look promising for the upcoming season.
Halil Altintop was the club’s top scorer last year with just 6 goals, and offensively Augsburg faltered. Ji Dong-won, Raúl Bobadilla, and Alfreð Finnbogason were unable to snag more than 5 goals each throughout the entire campaign, and creativity was well and truly lacking. To make things worse, Paul Verhaegh, Dominik Kohr, and Halil Altintop have all left this summer, 3 of Augsburg’s most important squad players. Michael Gregoritsch comes in from Hamburg and Rani Khedira joins on a free, but neither of them contribute all too much to the squad.
Manuel Baum, head coach, doesn’t have much to work with for the upcoming season. The team lacks solid Bundesliga quality, even compared to some of the midtable squads. Konstantinos Stafylidis and Jeffrey Gouweleeuw were some of their best performers last year, but they certainly aren’t game changers.
A lackluster season approaches for FC Augsburg. No real changes have been made to a side that lacks Bundesliga quality, and other Bundesliga teams around them have had much better windows. Anything other than relegation would be a great result for Baum’s men, but I predict that Augsburg will be getting relegated to the 2. Bundesliga come the end of the 2017/18 season.