German Bundesliga Preview pt.3
*Last Season;’ 2 Bundesliga Runners-up (18 wins,9 draws, 7 losses)*Top Scorer;’ Aristide Bance (14 goals)
Cool Norwegian boss Jørn Andersen has guided Mainz back to the Bundesliga after two seasons in the second tier. Mainz’s superb away form lead them to promotion while they also scored the most goals in the 2.Liga with a number of players regularly getting on the scoresheet, which bodes well ahead of their return to the top flight.
And Mainz have been busy building on their squad, after losing impressive midfielder Markus Feulner to Dortmund. Andersen has brought in German youth international Eugen Polanski on loan from Spanish club Getafe as well as Austrian star Andreas Ivanschitz from Panathinaikos. With those two alongside veteran Slovakian midfielder Miroslav Karhan, Mainz look solid in the centre of the park and should be able to feed popular Burkina Faso striker Aristide Bance.
Andersen, who once almost became the national team assistant boss, would consider Mainz the biggest success in his coaching career, so the Bundesliga will be a big challenge for him. The experience of stopper Dimo Wache, Macedonian defender Nikolce Noveski and Karhan will be crucial for Mainz who may find the going tough in the top flight. Survival is the goal.
Fantasy Gun; Miroslav Karhan
*Last Season;’ 3rd in 2.Bundesliga (16-12-6), defeated Energie Cottbus 5-0 on aggregate in playoff*Top Scorer;’ Marek Mintal (16)
After a slow start to life in the second tier, Michael Oenning’s Nürnberg really got going after the turn of the year and stormed home to gain an instant return to the Bundesliga having been relegated in 2008. With veteran stopper Raphael Schäfer in good form, Nürnberg were difficult to break down at home and generally strong defensively.
Slovakian veteran Marek Mintal really inspired Nürnberg’s run to promotion with plenty of goals towards the end of the season. The likes of Peer Kluge, Isaac Boakye and Christian Eigler certainly played their part too, while young defenders like Dennis Diekmeier, Pascal Bieler and Dominic Maroh showed good signs under pressure, which bodes well for the club’s future.
Oenning hasn’t made too many changes to his side in the off-season as he hopes the club’s hot form from the end of last season continues on. And if they can maintain a strong home record like last season, they’ll have a good shot at enjoying an extended stay in the Bundesliga.
Fantasy Gun; Marek Mintal
*Last Season;’ 8th (14-8-12)*Top Scorer;’ Kevin Kuranyi (13)
The arrival of last season’s title-winning trainer Felix Magath gives plenty of belief to the loyal fans in Gelsenkirchen. Fred Rutten’s regime has moved out with his Dutch signing Orlando Engelaar also shipped out in the off-season to PSV Eindhoven. And after a woeful finish down in eighth, Magath’s arrival may be the catalyst not only for a return to European football, but perhaps a title push.
The club enjoyed the best defensive record in the Bundesliga last season with young stopper Manuel Neuer very impressive, along with Heiko Westermann, Marcelo Bordon and 21-year-old Benedikt Höwedes. And that backline will be the foundation for a strong side for Magath.
Schalke also won the race for much-sought-after youngster Lewis Holtby from Alemannia Aachen and his creativity and pace on the wing should develop another avenue to goal for Kevin Kuranyi, Halil Altintop and Jefferson Farfan. On that note, Schalke fans will hope Magath can enforce some consistency in Farfan as well as Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic.
Having lead Wolfsburg to an unprecedented title success last season, Schalke fans will be hoping Magath can do the same this campaign in the blue. Magath has a strong squad to work with and plenty of resources too. A return to European football is a minimum for Magath, but one suspects Schalke mightn’t be too far off the title this season.
Fantasy Gun; Manuel Neuer
*Last Season;’ 3rd (19-7-8)*Top Scorer;’ Mario Gomez (24)
After taking over as boss in November last year, Markus Babbel worked miracles down in Stuttgart by delivering qualification to the UEFA Champions League. With a full season to work with, Stuttgart fans will be hoping Babbel can take them further but the loss of gun striker Mario Gomez to Bayern damages those hopes.
With the money earned from the sale of Gomez, Stuttgart are working hard to find a replacement up front, with Real Madrid’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar on their radar, but that deal looks dead so Die Schwaben need to act fast. Cacau and Ciprian Marica are both handy strikers but they clearly need to add some real firepower. Improving youngster Sami Khedira will chip in with a few goals too.
But in veteran goalkeeper Jens Lehmann’s last season before retirement, Stuttgart have a good chance to press on. Obviously finding someone to replace Gomez is crucial, but should they do that, with the impressive Babbel in charge, anything is possible.
**Fantasy Gun; **Sami Khedira
*Last Season;’ 10th (12-9-13)*Top Scorer; ‘Claudio Pizarro (17)
Last season was Werder’s worst league campaign under club stalwart Thomas Schaaf during his decade-long reign at the club. Yet they reached the UEFA Cup final and won the German Cup. But the league was disappointing and following the departure of South American stars Diego and Claudio Pizarro, there is a sense of starting again at the Weserstadion.
Diego and Pizarro scored the bulk of Werder’s goals last term so somebody is going to need to step up and exciting young midfielder Mesut Ozil could be the one. The arrival of another youngster, Marko Marin, means Werder have a touch of youth about them. Also Tim Borowski returns to the club after a stint at Bayern so it’s a new look midfield, although skipper Torsten Frings is a mainstay.
Werder have also added Bolivian striker Marcelo Moreno and big Ivory Coast hitman Boubacar Sanogo returns after a loan spell at Hoffenheim, to create a rather large frontline for the Green-Whites. Down back, stopper Tim Wiese and defenders Naldo and Sebastian Boenisch had fine seasons last time out and will hope to improve their defensive record this term.
Realistically though, it seems Werder are re-building their attack and a top five finish would be a good outcome for this season. Schaaf has a proud record and he’ll no doubt be chasing Champions League football but the loss of Diego will hurt for some time yet.
**Fantasy Gun; **Mesut Ozil
*Last Season;’ Champions (21-6-7)*Top Scorer;’ Grafite (28)
Felix Magath guided Wolfsburg to their first ever Bundesliga title last season with Grafite and Edin Dzeko grabbing the headlines with the goals, while Zvjezdan Misimovic set them up and Diego Benaglio held his own down the other end. But Magath has gone for the money on offer at Schalke, meaning Wolfsburg have appointed ex-Stuttgart boss Armin Veh to defend their title.
Veh, who was sacked by Stuttgart last November after a 4-1 loss to Wolfsburg, has actually won the Bundesliga before back in 2007 with Die Schwaben. That title success was somewhat of a surprise, so Veh’s got a history of getting the best out of a squad. And with Wolfsburg retaining most of their key players ahead of the new season, Veh has plenty to work with at the Volkswagen Arena.
Dzeko has seen off interest from AC Milan to stay at Wolfsburg and his combination with Grafite in something rare in football and sure to bring many more goals this season. The addition of the likes of Karim Ziani, Thomas Kahlenberg and Fabian Johnson are likely only squad additions, which is important with the added distraction of the UEFA Champions League.
Whether or not the new boss Veh can keep alive what Magath made happen is the question. But with the bulk of the squad still together, one must think, why Wolfsburg can’t repeat their title success?
Fantasy Gun; Grafite
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