Rückrunde begins (soon) and I thought we should bring up a few interesting things and themes to look for during the spring. You can use this as a guide. Believe me, we've been correct before. We've also been terribly wrong, but there's no need to discuss that now...
Let us begin.
Yes, die Fohlen have a desperately important spring ahead and a change has been needed since last summer. Right before christmas, they did finally sack the terrible André Schubert and brought in Dieter Hecking who has a history of bringing clbs back to where they perhaps belong. Not too many signings have been made in the January transfer window by hecking, but one defender has been brought in and while his name s even harder n´to pronouncs than Blaszczykowski's, he will most probably bring some stability to the abysmal defence of Elf vom Niederrhein.
Moreover, even though Borussia have spent quite some time in the top tier of Bundesliga and have reached multiple European tournaments, their general result in the 21th century hasn't been potent or enlightening and a drop down to the lower parts of the table might be what the club needs, even though the club itself and its stature obviously belongs in the top tier. Before Marco Reus, they were placed in the bottom and were very close to getting relegated a few years in a row, but Reus' influence changed things and the money received from his transfer made the club from Westphalia even more potent, in the transfer market and on the pitch. We can be sure of one thing this season however, they won't reach Europe, but I would keep an eye out for their form, because it should rise like a a rocket on its way to Mars
The performance of newly acquired Timothee Kolodziejczak and attackers Hazard and Raffael is extremely important for die Fohlen if they are going to avoide a relegation battle. However, Hecking knows how to get the best out of his stars so I do really think Borussia will prevail without a struggle.
Martin Schmidt's task at Mainz is harder than it may look. They could easily get dragged into a relegation battle and with Malli gone, their obvious star man and main attacking threat is no more. Without Malli, Mainz will struggle and I would not be even slightly surprised if Hamburg finish above Mainz this spring. While key players like Danny Latza and Stefan Bell have been injured and underperforming respectively, some others have been playing at the peak of their ability, among these are the defender Alexander Hack and short midfielder Pablo de Blasis. Can Bell and Latza reach the heights of last seasons wonders, then Mainz will orevail without a struggle, I'm sure. However, if they continue to struggle and Hack's form goes down together with De Blasis, mainz won't have much to do than accept a relegation battle, which would be a real surprise too most, considering their manager and their team.
Goalkeeper Jonas Lössl hasn't done too well and there are certainly young keepers below him in the rank who will be given a shot, will he not improve. It is of course hard to replace such a telented keeper like Loris Karius, but Lössl certainly hasn't shown he's capable of doing it. The loss of midfielder Julian Baumgartlinger before the season left Nullfünfer shorthanded in midfield and after bringing in Gbamin from Lens, it looked well again. However, Gbamin hasn't yet reached the heights of Baumgartlinger and hasn't replaced him at all, even though I'm sure he has the potential to do so in the long run. But Mainz haven't got the patience to wait, nor can they afford it. They need stability in midfield and they need another talisman in attack or this spring could easily turn ugly for them.
The autumn looked dire and one can understand why Julian Draxler left and due to Draxler's ego, one can also understand why die Wölfe let him go. But, unlike before-mentioned Mainz, Wolfsburg have replaced their loss very very very well. Of course, Wolfsburg have got the money to do so as well, while Mainz perhaps haven't so its an unfair comparison. Three key players have been brought in by Wolfsburg and the inexperienced and insecure Ismael have got his hands on a few top talents.
Riechedly Bazoer has done wonders at Ajax as a 18-year old and the central midfielder, who can play both as a box-to-box creative midfielder and as a defensively minded playmaker. has the potential to become a real key player for Wolfsburg and will be pivotal for them, if not this season then next. Yunus Malli was acquired from Mainz and while I feel bad for Mainz, I can certainly say that this might be the signing of the season by any team in Bundesliga. Malli is a truly underrated playmaker who almost always delivers enchanting plays when you expect him to. Wolfsburg's attack will hopefully flourish with the playmaking Malli instead of the big ego that is Draxler. Add former Rennes-winger Paul-Georges Ntep to the mix and you've got yourself an attack good enough for Europe. Will they reach Europe? No, probably not, but rest assured that Wolfsburg will enjoy a better Rückrunde than Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Surprises are overrated. As a Frankfurt-fan, I have to include Eintracht, mostly due to their amazing season and the prospect of SGEuropa. Eintracht's season has been better than amazing, it's been worthy of a movie. Kovac has transformed my dear Hesse-darling into a pressing monster, prepared to do anything to win. This exact mentality and the usage of tiny funds to buy unknown and promising players might just be what will bring European class back to Waldstadion in the heart of Europe.
Having signed two players in Max Besuschkow and Andersson Ordóñez, they look even syronger than before and while Stendera and Russ are out due to different reasons, their return in February-March will be a fantastic boost to the club. How far can Frankfurt go? No one knows, but our dear editor Ali seems to think that they will finish third and reach Champion's League. I, on the other hand, believe and crave Europa League. Europa Leeague is realistic and possible, and it would be a very welcome sight and a sign of improvement and hope in Hessen.
Erbarmen - zu spät
die Hesse komme!
HSV have had a dreadful season, but somehow its doesn't look all bad for them. Due to Darmstadt's terrible season and squad and Gisdol's ways, they've climbed up the table and now find themself sitting above relegation, which is a fantastic achievement if you take a lok at their start to the Hinrunde, which was the worst since more or less forever in Bundesliga. Even the absolutely horrible Tasmania Berlin has a better result after ten games than HSV had this season. However, their form is positive and having sacked the sporting director and havibg signed two defenders, things are really looking quite decent for them. Mergim Mavraj and Kyriakos Papadopolous seem like two sensible and clever signings, made by Heribert Bruchhagen, the former sporting director of Eintracht Frankfurt. Their defence needed desperate strengthening and that's exactly what they've done.
Hamburg need to imporve their home results. Their amazing home crowd can be truly destructive in times of agony, but if the team improves even more, then the fans at Volksparkstadion can carry them to safety. They just need to keep on fighting and the fans need to keep believing. Things are looking up and they could survive and will probably survive as well. The clock in the Kurve keeps ticking, when will it stop, if ever?
editor and teutophiliac.