We are 20 games into the German Bundesliga campaign with Borussia Dortmund enjoying a significant advantage at the top, but Bayern Munich are coming while the relegation battle is on.>
Bayer Leverkusen> Position; 2nd’‘Grade; B+’’
Record; 11-6-3 (Home 4-4-3, Away 7-2-0) Leading scorer; Arturo Vidal (9 goals) Most assists; Arturo Vidal (7 assists) Star player; Arturo Vidal Key player; Rene Adler
Jupp Heynckes’ men have had a fine campaign so far, particularly on the road, but they have been conceding far too many goals. Sami Hyypia and goalkeeper Rene Adler need to get the defence organised. If strikers Stefan Kiessling and Patrick Helmes can come in and find their goalscoring touch then who knows.
Bayern Munich Position; 3rd’‘Grade; B-‘’
After a slow start, the Bavarians have raced up the table of late to sit third, but appear too far behind Dortmund to have a realistic shot at the title. It’s been a fairly disappointing campaign by their lofty standards but you never know with Bayern and Louis van Gaal seems to have this side coming together. The return from injury of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben will be important in the back-end of the season, but the sale of Mark van Bommel to AC Milan is an untimely blow.
Borussia Dortmund Position; 1st’‘Grade; A+’’
Record; 16-2-2 (Home 6-2-1, Away 10-0-1) Leading scorer; Lucas Barrios (9 goals) Most assists; Nuri Sahin & Mario Goetze (7 assists) Star player; Shinji Kagawa Key player; Nuri Sahin
It couldn’t have gone much better for BVB who appear destined to become 2011 German champions. Dortmund currently enjoy an 11-point advantage from their nearest rivals and with a young and exciting squad could be building towards a dynasty. The likes of Mario Goetze, Shinji Kagawa, Nuri Sahin, Lucas Barrios, Kevin Grosskreutz and Mats Hummels have all excelled this term. Klopp’s stewardship has been fine too, and they have what it takes to become champions. Keeper Roman Weidenfeller has been beaten on 12 times this season so surely there will be no hiccups from here.
Borussia Moenchengladbach Position; 18th’‘Grade; C-‘’
Die Fohlen have shown a lot of faith in trainer Michael Frontzeck this season after he took the club to 12th last term. This time out hasn’t been so impressive, conceding 50 goals in 20 matches and going winless at home. Frontzeck has brought in a number of January signings including Mike Hanke, Havard Nordtveit and Martin Stranzl who they hope can help move clear of danger. A lot of work to be done if they’re to survive.
Eintracht Frankfurt Position; 9th’‘Grade; B-‘’
Record; 8-2-10 (Home 4-1-5, Away 4-1-5) Leading scorer; Theofanis Gekas (14 goals) Most assists; Patrick Ochs & Pirmin Schwegler (3 assists) Star player; Theofanis Gekas Key player; Alexander Meier
Michael Skibbe’s Eagles appear well safe of the relegation zone, but hardly capable of pressing for Europe. Greek striker Theofanis Gekas has been largely responsible for their success, scoring over 50 per cent of their goals. Unfortunately the team has only managed nine goals at home this term and they’ll need a significant improvement in their form at Commerzbank-Arena if they’re to push for Europe. Solid enough.
SC Freiburg Position; 6th’‘Grade; A-‘’
Record; 10-3-7 (Home 6-1-3, Away 4-2-4) Leading scorer; Papiss Cisse (14 goals) Most assists; Felix Bastians (4 assists) Star player; Papiss Cisse Key player; Yacine Abdessadki
Robin Dutt continues to do a fine job at Freiburg, after winning promotion in 2009, he’s now guided the club towards the top four but a lot of credit must go to Senegal striker Papiss Cisse, who is being chased by a host of clubs.
Hamburger SV Position; 7th’‘Grade; B’’
Record; 9-3-8 (Home 5-2-2, Away 4-1-6) Leading scorer; Ruud van Nistelrooy (6 goals) Most assists; Ze Roberto (7 assists) Star player; Jonathan Pitroipa Key player; Eljero Elia
Armin Veh hasn’t taken Hamburg to any dizzying heights this season, but he’s done a stable enough to job to have them thinking about European qualification. Scoring 29 goals in 20 games probably isn’t enough from a side boasting talent like Ruud van Nistelrooy, Eljero Elia, Piotr Trochowski, Ze Roberto, Mladen Petric and Jose Paolo Guerrero. Getting key players back from injury will help but another season of relative under-achievement probably beckons for HSV.
Hannover 96 Position; 5th’‘Grade; A’’
Mirko Slomka has done a miraculous job with Die Roten this season to have them in the battle for the Champions League spots. For a club like Hannover that’s incredible success and a lot of it goes down to Ivorian attacker Didier Ya Konan who has spearheaded their forwardline. Hannover haven’t been as free-scoring as other teams, so the Ivorian’s contribution has been telling.
1899 Hoffenheim Position; 8th’‘Grade; B-‘’
Record; 7-8-5 (Home 4-3-2, Away 3-5-3) Leading scorer; Demba Ba & Gylfi Sigurddson (6 goals) Most assists; Sejad Salihovic & Sebastian Rudy (4 assists) Star player; Andreas Beck Key player; Ryan Babel
It’s a period of change in Mannheim, with long-time boss Ralf Rangnick parting ways with Hoffenheim in early January. Since then, former assistant Marco Pezzaiuoli has taken the reins but there’s significant on-field changes with the departure of Luiz Gustavo to Bayern (which triggered Rangnick’s departure), while topscorer Demba Ba has gone to West Ham. Ryan Babel arrives from Liverpool along with Edson Braafheid and David Alaba from Bayern to try find the consistency needed to challenge for the top three.
FC Kaiserlautern> Position; 13th’‘Grade; B-‘’
Record; 6-4-10 (Home 3-4-3, Away 3-0-7) Leading scorer; Srdjan Lakic (11 goals) Most assists; Christian Tiffert (10 assists) Star player; Christian Tiffert Key player; Ivo Ilicevic
Marco Kurz’s newly promoted Kaiserlautern started the season brightly, but slipped into a worrying slump only to stabilise as the campaign has wore on. The attacking options of Srdjan Lakic, Christian Tiffert and Ivo Ilicevic have been crucial to their relative success. Skipper Martin Amedick provides assurance at the back which will be important as the relegation battle heats up.
FC Koln> Position; 16th’‘Grade; C’’
The Goats looked a side destined for the drop under Zvonimir Soldo but his dismissal in October in favour of Frank Schaefer has given renewed hope. The results have picked up and Slovenia striker Milivoje Novakovic has been reinstated much to the betterment of the team who need to score more goals. Pedro Geromel remains a key in defence, while Petit’s value in midfield may be waining as he ages.
FSV Mainz Position; 4th’‘Grade; A-‘’
Record; 12-0-8 (Home 5-0-5, Away 7-0-3) Leading scorer; Andre Schurrle (9 goals) Most assists; Christian Fuchs & Lewis Holtby (6 assists) Star player; Lewis Holtby Key player; Nikolce Noveski
Mainz trainer Thomas Tuchel continues to do wonderful things at Mainz after taking over at the start of last season, before guiding the newly-promoted side to a ninth place finish. Repeating a top-half finish was probably the best expected for this term, but Tuchel’s exciting side has exceeded expectations after a wonderful start to the campaign before slowly dropping off the pace. They will inevitably slip away but they’ve shown plenty of potential and promise, and are very organised under Tuchel conceding just 21 goals so far.
[[Germany:FC Nurnberg]]> Position; 10th’‘Grade; B+’’
Record; 7-5-8 (Home 6-0-4, Away 1-5-4) Leading scorer; Julian Schieber (5 goals) Most assists; Julian Schieber (4 assists) Star player; Julian Schieber Key player; Ilkay Gundogan
Dieter Hecking appears to have stabilised Nurnberg this season, as the team are well clear of the drop zone. On-loan Stuttgart 21-year-old Julian Schieber has been their attacking star, while the backline has been solid with goalkeeper Raphael Schafer impressive along with skipper Andreas Wolf. They need more attacking threat to ensure their safety, but look okay.
Schalke 04 Position; 11th’‘Grade; D’’
It’s been a bit of a season to forget for Felix Magath’s Schalke 04, who promised so much after big-name signings such as Raul and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Schalke started the season disastrously and took their time to recover. They’ve got better, but still remain in the wrong half of the table. Creativity in midfield is where Schalke have fallen short and Magath has given up on Ivan Rakitic and Jermaine Jones who both departed in January. Youngster Julian Draxler could be the next great hope.
[[Germany:St Pauli]]> Position; 14th’‘Grade; C+’’
Record; 6-4-10 (Home 3-3-5, Away 3-1-5) Leading scorer; Gerald Asamoah (4 goals) Most assists; Gerald Asamoah (5 assists) Star player; Thomas Kessler Key player; Marius Ebbers
The newly-promoted Pirates have had a difficult return to the Bundesliga with finding a regular source of goals their biggest problem. Boss Holger Stanislawski has some issues to resolve if St Pauli are to survive, not moreso than finding some support for Gerald Asamoah in attack. Marius Ebbers was brilliant last season but is struggling, along with goal creator Deniz Naki.
VfB Stuttgart Position; 17th’‘Grade; D-‘’
Record; 4-4-12 (Home 4-1-6, Away 0-3-6) Leading scorer; Pavel Pogrebnyak (6 goals) Most assists; Ciprian Marica (6 assists) Star player; Cacau Key player; Serdar Tasci
Bruno Labbadia has taken over in Stuttgart after the disastrous back-to-back managerships of Jens Keller and Christian Gross. It’s funny to think Gross got them out of this situation last season, but it’s looking quite bleak down in the Black Forest right now. Stuttgart remain a danger in attack, but are simply shipping too many goals and could be missing retired keeper Jens Lehmann.
Werder Bremen Position; 15th’‘Grade; D’’
Record; 6-4-10 (Home 5-1-4, Away 1-3-6) Leading scorer; Hugo Almeida (9 goals) Most assists; Marko Marin (5 assists) Star player; Torsten Frings Key player; Claudio Pizarro
Werder Bremen’s disastrous season is nearing on a fail. If they continue their freefall and drop into the relegation zone, you’d suggest it will have been a major fail. This is a giant club struggling with long-term boss Thomas Schaaf’s tenure in serious jeopardy. The departure of topscorer Hugo Almeida to Besiktas in January won’t help as they’ve never recovered from Mesut Ozil’s move to Real Madrid. The main problem, though, is conceding 42 goals in 20 games.
VfL Wolfsburg Position; 12th’‘Grade; C’’
Record; 5-8-7 (Home 3-4-3, Away 2-4-4) Leading scorer; Edin Dzeko (10 goals) Most assists; Marcel Schafer (6 assists) Star player; Simon Kjaer Key player; Grafite
Steve McClaren’s Wolves continue to confuse this campaign after winning the Bundesliga two seasons ago with a strikepower firing them to the title. This season they’ve struggled for goals and with Edin Dzeko heading to Manchester City in January they’re short on quality options, leaving a burden on Brazil international Grafite. Diego needs to find his form from his Werder Bremen days, but the backline of Diego Benaglio, Simon Kjaer and captain Marcel Schafer can hold their heads high.