Previously, in the Bundesliga...
After an audacious Hinrunde, which saw Julian Nagelsmann and company chase Union Berlin and ultimately reclaim the top spot, fans are looking forward to the second half of the season coming Friday, January 20th. Here are some of the biggest question marks heading into the second half:
What’s ahead in the back-half of the Bundesliga season?
Will Union Berlin continue to spiral, appearing as but a “special guest” in the first half of the season? Will the sudden loss of Bayern star, Manuel Neuer expose plot hole in their 22/23 storyline? Will dark horse SC Freiburg emerge as this season’s fan-favorite and claim the title? Will Schalke and Bochum continue to face being put on recurring status, to the delight of BVB fans? And who will be the latest cast additions for the 23/24 season? All these questions, and more will be answered soon enough.
Who are the front runners?
When we last saw the Bundesliga, a handful of teams were in the midst of winning streaks after the last 5 matches: Wolfsburg (4 wins), Leipzig (4 wins), Eintracht Frankfurt (1 draw, 2 wins), and Bayern (of course...with 5 wins). On the opposite end of the spectrum, several teams welcomed the break as they were plagued by losing streaks (BVB, Union Berlin, Werder Bremen). So...what does this mean for what lies ahead? We’ve seen breaks work wonders and cause harm to teams; with the extended break, it will be interesting to see which teams and players flourish or flounder.
The foremost question on everyone’s mind is will Bayern win...again? The news of Neuer’s season ending injury could prove to be the difference making chink in the armor that allows a team like Freiburg, Frankfurt or Leipzig (cringe) to move ahead of the pack and stay there. Reported Yann Sommer transfer from Borussia Mönchengladbach to Bayern Munich is certainly news, but Neuer leaves big boots to fill and a mere 4 points separate Freiburg from Bayern while the 3rd - 6th place squads are lurking so don’t count them out just yet. The top third of the table is still playing for more than just Champions/Europa League qualification.
Meanwhile, at the bottom of the table...
With the exception of Schalke (who has a laughable 9 points after 17 matches), the relegation race is too close to call. Köln (13th) and Augsburg (14th) have 17 and 15 points respectively, and both were in the midst of losing streaks at the break. Hertha and Stuttgart each have 14 points while Bochum sits with 13. What might be more intriguing, is who could be promoted from Bundesliga 2. It’s a tight race at the the top of that table with Darmstadt (1st with 36 points), Hamburger SV (2nd with 34 points) and Heidenheim (3rd with 33 points) leading the way.
Darmstadt and Hamburger are a couple of vets who starred in previous top flight Bundesliga seasons but, Heidenheim is an unknown. New faces and names tend to shakeup the league and breathe new life into it. They flirted with promotion last season so if they secure a 1st or 2nd place finish, that could end up being a most welcome plot device.
What will happen?
There are many moving parts and subplots in action that could have a big impact so it’s anyone’s guess.
Will this season end with a predictable and tired finale or will fans be surprised with a fresh outcome? Be sure to tune in to watch the action unfold over the next 19 matchdays!