*Last Season;’ 2.Bundesliga Champions (21-5-8)*Top Scorer; ‘Mohammadou Idrissou (13)
After a couple of nearly-ran seasons in Germany’s second tier, SC Freiburg finally secured their return to the top flight under Robin Dutt last term. Freiburg proved they were the 2.Bundesliga’s best side over 34 weeks, winning the league comfortably, which bodes well for their first season in the top flight since their woeful 18-point campaign of 2004-2005.
Disappointingly outstanding 20-year-old defender Daniel Schwaab has left for Leverkusen but most of the club’s key players remain including hitman Mohammadou Idrissou, young goalscoring midfielder Julian Schuster and Moroccan number 10 Yacine Abdessadki. They’ve also added Cedric Makiadi from Wolfsburg after the Congolese attacker scored 16 goals on loan at MSV Duisburg last season.
Freiburg are a relatively modest club in comparison to the big Bundesliga giants, yet they’ll be ambitious about survival in their return to the top flight. They’ve retained most of last season’s squad and under the impressive guidance of Dutt, should feel confident about avoiding instant relegation.
Fantasy Gun; Cedric Makiadi
*Last Season;’ 5th (19-4-11)*Top Scorer;’ Mladen Petric (12)
The slightly surprising departure of Martin Jol to Ajax shook things up in the north at Hamburg, but the subsequent appointment of Bruno Labbadia from Leverkusen and the ensuing signings will surely give HSV fans reason for optimism.
As well as securing the services of Bayern’s Brazilian veteran Ze Roberto, Hamburg have landed sought-after young talents Eljero Elia and Marcus Berg from the Eredivisie. The departure of striker Ivica Olic to Bayern is their only major on-field loss, but HSV have a wealth of quality options up front. German international Piotr Trochowski had an excellent campaign last season too and much will be expected of him.
With Hamburg claiming a Europa League spot under Jol last season, Labbadia will be expected to do the same, if not more. A spot in the UEFA Champions League isn’t out of the question for HSV.
Fantasy Gun; Mladen Petric
*Last Season; *‘11th (10-10-14)**Top Scorer;’ Jiri Stajner (8)
It was a strange old season last time out for Hannover, with superb home form combined with woeful away form leading to a midtable finish. And despite having German international stopper Robert Enke in goals, Dieter Hecking’s men conceded the most goals in the Bundesliga. In saying all that, there’s definitely room for improvement.
And Hecking has worked quickly to remedy his side’s defensive frailties with the signings of Leverkusen pair Karim Haggui and Constant Djapka. Also having Enke fit for the whole season will help. Down the other end last season, Hannover shared the goals around but couldn’t really find a reliable scoring source, so German 2006 World Cup squad member Mike Hanke needs to step up.
This season will be Hannover’s eighth in a row in the top flight and another midtable finish will be the realistic aim as Hecking tries to establish 96 in the Bundesliga. Injuries hurt them last term and with key players back, Hannover should be able to avoid a relegation battle.
Fantasy Gun; Arnold Bruggink
*Last Season;’ 4th (19-6-9)*Top Scorer;’ Andrij Voronin (11)
After giving the title a shake last term, Hertha experienced a tumultuous off-season with the purse-strings tightened and trainer Lucien Favre’s job on the line. In the end, manager Dieter Hoeneß was released and the Swiss boss rightly kept his job.
But the money issues have seen big names like Andrij Voronin, Marko Pantelic and Josip Simunic all leave the club. Polish hitman Artur Wichniarek returns for his second spell in the capital after leaving relegated Arminia Bielefeld and Hertha have lured 24-year-old defender Christoph Janker from Hoffenheim, but the departures column is significantly larger than the arrivals column at the Olympiastadion.
Nevertheless, Favre proved he is a shrewd trainer last campaign, on-loan Brazilian Cicero was a hit and Hertha were quite strong defensively with veteran Arne Friedrich leading the way, so the backbone is there. Indeed there’s reason for some optimism at Hertha, but realistically they can’t expect a campaign as successful as last year. A top-half finish would be about right.
**Fantasy Gun; **Gojko Kacar
*Last Season;’ 7th (15-10-9)*Top Scorer; ‘Vedad Ibisevic (18)
Ralf Rangnick’s Hoffenheim were one of the great stories of European football last season as the promoted club jumped out of the blocks to lead the Bundesliga at the German winter break. Unfortunately, after the knee injury to gun goalscorer Vedad Ibisevic in January, the wheels fell off and they ended up down in seventh, but the season was nevertheless a huge success.
Now the question is, can Rangnick get the Baden-Württemberg club up again playing some of the brilliant football it was prior to Christmas? Key to their brilliance were attackers Ibisevic, Demba Ba, Chinedu Obasi, Carlos Eduardo and Sejad Salihovic and Hoffenheim have kept all of them along with impressive defenders Andreas Beck and Marvin Compper. The addition of Hertha’s experienced Croatian defender Josip Simunic adds some steel to their backline too, plus they’ve also spent big on Brazilian Maicosuel and Ghanaian Prince Tagoe.
Hoffenheim’s gradual climb up the ranks in Germany may continue this term, with the side looking strong. Ibisevic’s fitness will be important to their hopes as he proved a real predator in front of goal in the first half of last season. Hoffenheim should also be better off for the experience of their first campaign in the Bundesliga and could be ready to challenge for a top 5 finish.
**Fantasy Gun; **Vedad Ibisevic
*Last Season;’ 12th (11-6-17)*Top Scorer;’ Milivoje Novakovic (16)
Germany’s yoyo club of the last few years finally looked stable in the Bundesliga last season under Christoph Daum. Plus with local hero Lukas Podolski re-joining his home club, Köln were getting excited. But that was until Daum surprisingly decided to leave for Turkish giants Fenerbahce. Caught off guard, Köln have appointed inexperienced Croatian boss Zvonimir Soldo.
But Podolski’s return has been the talk of the town recently and he’ll be greeted with plenty of optimism this season. Combining Podolski with the club’s Slovenian skipper Milivoje Novakovic up front, Köln do look dangerous. And they’ve added Portuguese international Maniche from Atletico Madrid to link up with his fellow countryman Petit in midfield. Young gun Sebastian Freis is also another good signing, joining from relegated Karlsruhe SC.
Köln though, are a mystery for Bundesliga fans this season, with nobody really knowing what to expect of them. The loss of trainer Daum is a huge blow, but Podolski’s arrival is generating huge excitement in the city of the Karneval. With a solid back pairing of Pedro Geromel and Youssef Mohamad, perhaps the yoyo club have something stable to build upon. But for a club who’ve been jumping up and down the top two German divisions for the last decade, survival would be a good result.
**Fantasy Gun; **Milivoje Novakovic