With the New Year just around the corner, here are some of the things that will, could, might and definitely won’t (but would be fun if they did) happen in the Bundesliga in 2017. It’s going to be a season like no other!
1899 Hoffenheim’s incredible unbeaten run comes to an end, as the men from the little village near Sinnsheim (near Heidenheim) come unstuck away to RB Leipzig. The two most hated clubs in the Bundesliga (sorry Bayern, you’re going to have to try harder to win that title!) come face to face and despite the best efforts of Julian Nagelsmann's men, Leipzig inflict the first defeat on Hoffenheim since the last day of last season.
Leipzig themselves then see their title challenge fall away in February, as the Bulls face Borussias Dortmund and Mönchengladbach away and host FC Köln at home. Dieter Hecking’s new side Gladbach have been incredible at home for a while now, whilst Dortmund didn’t lose at home in the whole of 2016. Cologne have been impressive all season and their defence frustrate Leipzig in their own backyard. Whilst Leipzig fall away, Bayern soar: Ingolstadt and Hamburg are swept aside, Hertha Berlin are overwhelmed and Schalke, at the start of the month, are also beaten.
Bayer Leverkusen are knocked out of the Champions League by Spanish giants Atletico Madrid, a result which sees Roger Schmidt sacked after his side have failed to mount a successful recovery after a disappointing first half of the season. Schmidt’s side don't offer much of a challenge to the mighty Atletico team and are overcome 3-0 on aggregate. Bayern progress against Arsenal after an intense two-legged affair, whilst Borussia Dortmund stride past Benfica. The highlight of Schalke’s season is the home derby victory over sworn rivals Dortmund (as a Schalke fan, I can dream) whilst Hamburg consider firing Markus Gisdol, their second manager of the season, as they struggle in a relegation fight once again.
Markus Gisol is sacked as Hamburg boss. Bayern Munich overcome a hugely challenging month to all but seal the title, taking points from difficult encounters with Hoffenheim, Dortmund, Leverkusen, Mainz and Wolfsburg. Carlo Ancelloti has had his sights set on another Champions League title and so far has not disappointed, taking his side towards the final in Cardiff. Borussia Dortmund have also had a nice draw, seeing them through to the semis. In the Europa League, Schalke and Gladbach have absolutely worn themselves out and get knocked out in the quarter finals and last-16 respectively.
Bayern are crowned champions. Double champions, in fact., with their eyes on a third title when they face Barcelona in the Champions League final at the start of June. Leipzig, to the joy of everybody in Germany, slip to fourth. Borussia Dortmund and surprise package Eintracht Frankfurt fill the remaining Champions League places, leaving Cologne, Hertha Berlin and Bayer Leverkusen (under the leadership of Amrin Veh) to qualify for the Europa League. Leverkusen make a late surge to grab 7th spot ahead of Mainz, Schalke and Gladbach, who’s early poor form cost them. Darmstadt and Hamburg go down automatically, sealing Hamburg’s first ever relegation from the Bundesliga and the first time in almost 100 years that the club hasn’t been in the top division of German football. Reasonably new coach Andre Schubert is relieved of his duties. In the play off, Werder Bremen star man Serge Gnabry saves his side from relegation against Hanover 96.
Bayern lose out in the Champions League final to arguably the greatest team on the planet: Barcelona. A closely fought encounter sees Ancelloti’s side take the lead through talisman Arjen Robben, but the quality of Leo Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar wins the day. A Messi goal and a Suarez tap in turn the game around in the second half. Meanwhile Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is almost certainly on his way to Real Madrid, meaning another painful and uncertain summer for Borussia Dortmund is on the way. The end of season managerial cull sees Bremen, Wolfsburg and the relegated clubs replace the men in their dugouts. Axel’s best mate Nico Kovac wins manager of the season for his heroics at Frankfurt.
Aubameyang bids a less than tearful farewell to the Westfalenstadion faithful as he rushes into the arms of Real Madrid for around £85 million. Dortmund reinvest the money wisely, bringing in Man City reject Vincent Kompany and Manchester United outcast Ander Herrera to solidify the midfield. Bayern once again steal the headlines, snatching Miralem Pjanic from Juve and Atletico defender Diego Godin in an attempt to add balance to the defence. Boateng is linked all summer with a move to the Premier League, whilst Philip Lahm delays his retirement until he has completed all his coaching badges. Ancelloti hopes Lahm is going to take years to complete them, fearing (accurately) that his job will be gone the second Lahm is ready.
The season restarts and to everyone’s surprise, Bayern race into a 3 point lead after beating Schalke on opening night. By the Christmas break they will have extended the gap to 7 points. Dortmund start well, with new striker Chicarito leading the line effectively after his transfer from Leverkusen. Julian Green’s Stuttgart make waves on their return to the Bundesliga, beating last season’s third place team Frankfurt on the opening day. Frankfurt insist they have the squad to compete on two fronts, but snap up Shaqiri from Stoke City and Jese from Real Madrid on deadline day, just to be sure.
The Bundesliga of should-have-beens continues to excite and enthral crowds around the world and in the stadiums, especially as everyone is starting to get used to RB Leipzig. Whilst they still receive hate messages at every ground the Bulls are now being respected as a footballing side, especially after offloading mercenary Timo Werner to West Brom for £30 million. The loss of Emil Forsberg to Liverpool for £27 million is the most high profile of Klopp’s raids across to Germany, but Marcel Sabitzer proves an able replacement and Scotland’s Oliver Burke really starts to prove his worth. Cologne, grateful they could hold on to Anthony Modeste, start the season in fine form and find themselves second heading into the international break at the start of October.
Newly promoted Eintracht Braunschweig are finding life tough in the Bundesliga but continue to take points off their relegation rivals. Serge Gnabry’s transfer to Leverkusen has left Bremen without any players of any notable talent at all and they sit bottom of the pile, with their manager Dirk Schuster starting to feel the pressure. Augsburg continue on their merry way, remaining in mid-table for almost the entire calendar year. A brief flirt with relegation trouble comes to nothing and the new season starts with Icelandic star Alfred Finnbogason finding the net in a number of crucial wins. Wolfsburg continue to slide towards mediocrity despite the best efforts of Fußballgott Marcel Schäfer.
Stuttgart striker Simon Terrode continues his fantastic goalscoring form in the top division of German football. After topping the scoring charts in the second division two seasons running, the German begins pushing for a place in the national squad with a fantastic start to the season. Sandro Wagner’s second dream move in as many seasons isn’t working out so well, as the big man - big man combination with Vedad Ibisevic at Hertha Berlin isn’t working out. Still, at the empty Olympiastadion it is much easier to hear his witty retorts to reporters. Hoffenheim are doing just fine without him, having recruited Fabian Reese from Schalke and giving the young striker plenty of game time. Schalke themselves are struggling after finally offloading Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Eric-Maxim Choupo-Mouting (a decision taken to reduce the cost of printing names on kits). Breel Embolo has been reasonable in his first proper season but another mid-table finish would be unacceptable to the fans and Markus Weinzierl is starting to feel the legendary pressure of the Schalke badge.
Fashionista Peter Stöger hails his avent-garde side as Cologne finish the first half of the season in third place behind the unstoppable Bayern and the attack-minded Dortmund. Gladbach, with Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen at centre back and Thorgan Hazard in midfield, look like a mini-Chelsea academy but have really progressed under Dieter Hecking, finishing strongly in fourth. Leipzig maintain their form, staying fifth, with Hoffenheim, Mainz and Leverkusen close behind. Schalke, Wolfsburg, Augsburg and Stuttgart are in contention for the European places and hope to push on in the new year. Frankfurt have struggled to balance European and domestic competitions, as have Hertha, and the rumours of high profile player departures from both leave fans uneasy. Freiburg, quietly going about their business, have managed to remain undefeated at home in 2017 in the Bundesliga (let’s not mention an embarrassing defeat to Sandhausen in the Pokal) but have struggled when playing away from their cute town in south Germany. Ingolstadt have flatlined after surviving the 2016-17 relegation battle, whilst Braunschweig have found it difficult to keep up with their rivals. The real disappointment, however, are Werder Bremen. Anchored to the foot of the table and stuggling to find any real form despite the dismissal of Schuster has led to a lot of unrest among the Bremen faithful. The former champions of Germany look like going the way of the dinosaur: not extinct; joining Hamburg in the second division.
If you disagree with me, let me know! What do you see happening in the Bundesliga in 2017?