It was a superb start to this season in the Bundesliga, but what 3 questions need answering in the second half, heading into 2014 and a World Cup summer?
Can Nürnberg win and stay up?
There have been two clubs in Bavaria breaking records this season, sadly at opposite ends of the table. Nürnberg became the first side in the Bundesliga’s 51-year history to end the Hinrunde without a win; 11 draws and 6 losses have left them in 17th place at the end of 2013.
After the success that came to the Grundig Stadion last season with the side’s tenth-placed finish, fans were expecting an attempt at European football in the coming seasons. For now, the Nürnberg faithful will have to hope their side can fend off the immediate threat of relegation; an added piece of (false) hope for them is that in the last seven years, the side that has gone into the winter break in 17th place has stayed up.
The Rückrunde was a relative success for Nürnberg last season, as they picked up 24 points from 17 games played, including 6 wins. They’ll be hoping for the same again this season if they hope to stay in the Bundesliga. A lack of goals has been Nürnberg’s main downfall, with just six players in the squad scoring in the first half of the season and 6 of the 17 they have scored came from frontman Josip Drmić.
Nürnberg’s only addition to their squad during the winter break so far is Ondřej Petrák, a defensive midfielder signed for just under €1m from Slavia Prague. Nürnberg have a tough start in the second half of the season, with home games against Hoffenheim and Bayern, in between of away trips to Hertha Berlin and Augsburg. It’s simple for Nürnberg though: score more than your opposition.
Can Wolfsburg get into the Champions League?
With Wolfsburg in as strong a position as they’ve ever been going into the Rückrunde, hopes of them reaching the final Champions League spot are growing strong.
The addition of Kevin de Bruyne during the winter break is the latest piece of news that has brought these hopes to Wolfsburg fans. The current squad of talented young stars, combined with vastly experienced Bundesliga players, is the perfect mix to send Wolfsburg back to the bright lights of Champions League football.
Since their incredible title win in 2009, Wolfsburg have struggled to put together a squad that can challenge at the top of the league like they did five years ago. However, with the exciting squad they have developed, Germany is talking about the possibility of a European return for the Volkswagen-owned club. Fresh investment from the clubs ever-present owners has given reason to think that Wolfsburg will spend and big in the summer.
With de Bruyne already signing for €18m on a long-term contract, the expectations of potential signings is growing by the day within the Wolfsburg camp. Various reports are suggesting that with the sales of some of their current players, along with the departure of Diego at the end of his contract in the summer, which will free up wage room, Wolfsburg could be looking at a summer transfer budget of around €100m.
But in the here and now, Wolfsburg have proven their ability to compete with the best teams, especially after they won against Dortmund and Schalke earlier in the season. It’s likely that if Wolfsburg want to reach the Champions League this season, they will have to be able to beat at least two of the teams above them. The Wolves still face home games against Bayern Munich, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach, as well as big away trips to Schalke and Dortmund. It’ll be tough for Wolfsburg, but what this proves is that anyone who says that the Bundesliga isn’t competitive is very, very wrong.
Can Bayern go unbeaten?
It’s hard to find anything that Bayern haven’t achieved in their illustrious history, as is to find something they haven’t conquered during the last 12 months. However, there is a record that turns a great squad into an invincible squad, a record that Bayern Munich are 18 games away from accomplishing and which they are looking more and more likely to achieve: an unbeaten season.
There’s really nothing more to say about Bayern Munich that hasn’t already been said. Being the best club side in the world, five trophies in the 2013 calendar year and another Bundesliga title creeping closer and closer already, it seems reasonable that Bayern will conquer the only achievement would add any more hype to their squad
It could be argued that Bayern have already faced the toughest fixtures of this season’s Bundesliga. They have come away from trips to Dortmund, Schalke and Leverkusen with two wins and a draw respectively. Bayern do however still have to travel to four of the other seven teams in the top 8 of the Bundesliga during the Rückrunde. Trips to M’Gladbach, Wolfsburg, Berlin and Augsburg are the biggest tests that Bayern will have to face away from home.
After a successful winter training camp in Qatar, Bayern expect to welcome back Arjen Robben and Bastian Schweinsteiger for their first game of the Rückrunde at Borussia Park next Friday. Their return allows Guardiola to pick from the full squad that they began the season with, as no new injuries have threatened to stall their tight grip on the top of the Bundesliga.
An unbeaten season is something that only the greatest of squads have been able to achieve over the years. If Bayern were to join that great list of teams, the names in the current squad would go down in history forever, as if they weren’t going to already.
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