With little argument, the German Bundesliga is more than likely not on the minds of as many Americans as the EPL, La Liga or Serie A, however the league is still one of the tops in Europe and attracting a greater number of fans and viewers. Thus far, the Germany’s top league has come up heavy on surprises and short on disappointments. One of the league’s biggest dark horses, Bayer Leverkusen, is looking to make its mark as a title contender this weekend, while a number of the country’s favorites have something to prove heading closer to the winter break. With only a month to go, each fixture is becoming increasingly important.
The biggest question when taking a cursory glance at the table is where have last year’s 3rd and 4th ranked teams fallen and why? Stuttgart and Hertha BSC Berlin have been hugely disappointing thus far, winning only three matches between them, both sides have fallen into the relegation zone and show few signs of recovering ground before Christmas. While the departure of Mario Gomez to Bayern Munich might give Stuttgart a little room for excuses, manager Markus Babbel has personally admitted that he himself is to blame for the clubs recent lack of success. One has to wonder if such a lack in confidence at the helm could spell disaster for the former Bayern man.
Last season’s winners VfL Wolsburg find themselves in a disappointing 8th as Armin Veh has taken the reins in place of Felix Magath, who has since opted to manage northern rivals Schalke 04. The spark up top that had propelled the Wolves to their first ever Bundesliga season, while ever present, has faded as of late. Surprisingly however, at this time last season, Vfl sat 9th, a whole 9 points behind then leaders Bayern Leverkusen, and had scored only 3 more goals than they have this year. Though most would attest that the VW owned side has two new goal scoring kings to which the fans can rely on, being Nigeran Obafemi Martins and Bosnian Zvjezdan Misimovic.
The leagues other question mark sits directly atop of Bayern Munich. Last season’s runner up and Germany’s most dominant club has had a Jekyll and Hyde feel to their current campaign. Sitting in a stunning 7th, the Bavarians, while making the most of their German Cup fixtures, have struggled in both the league and abroad. After a late acquisition of Arjen Robben from Real Madrid, many favored the red/whites to finish at the top at season’s end and to finish their Champions League run off strongly, though both predictions seem to have faded. Louis van Gaal’s men have a long while to prove their worth luckily, but a number of poor performances, such as two straight losses to Bordeaux and a number of draws to poorer clubs have cast doubt on the clubs management.
All told, other than a few noticeable absences from the top of the table, all seems to be business as usual in Germany. Unlike many leagues, the Bundesliga will have a midseason break during which clubs will undoubtedly make a number of transfers on the field and changes at management level. Expect the last few remaining weeks to be hard fought and highly contested.
Finally, a small personal note to all Bundesliga fans, especially those of Hannover 96. As many might have heard, the soccer world had suffered a tremendous loss when 32 year old keeper Robert Enke tragically took his own life by stepping in front of a train near his home. Being confronted for many years with the demons of depression, Enke wrestled with both the loss of his 2 year old daughter Lara in 2006 and constant fears of failure. While having been chosen as Germany’s number one keeper in the buildup to South Africa 2010, many had hoped that such an achievement would allow for the East German born keeper to move past a very difficult stage in his life. The passing of one of the game’s top sportsmen will indelibly leave a dark gash in the hearts of many.