With all of the action that has surrounded this seasons Bundesliga newsboys Freiburg and Leipzig, it’s easy to forget about the second tiers new boys — VFB Stuttgart and Hannover 96 — who were both automatically relegated last season. After the entire summer and over a dozen games of this season, they’ve both had time to adjust to a new division. After Freiburg went down and subsequently won the 2.Bundesliga last term, the expectations were high for both clubs. Well, how have they managed the expectations thus far?
Let’s start with Hannover, who were the first club to be relegated from last seasons Bundesliga. Just like many relegated clubs, Hannover had a rough summer with several notable departures. These included longtime goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler who left for English side Leicester City, and Japanese stars Hiroshi Kiyotake and Hiroki Sakai who went to Sevilla and Marseille respectively. Other departures included Adam Szalai and Allan Saint-Maximin whose loan deals expired, along with Marcelo who went to Besiktas. These departures helped Hannover make money for summer buys that they would make.
With the money made from some of these departures, H96 made some notable signings. They brought in Martin Harnik from Stuttgart, Stefan Strandberg from Krasnodar and Niclas Füllkrug from Nürnberg. These players joined returning key players Salif Sane, Waldemar Anton and Artur Sobiech from last season. This core group of new players and old players has led Hannover’s charge this 2.Bundesliga season. H96 find themselves in third in the league with 25 points, which would guarantee them a spot in the promotion playoff. Even though they sit at third right now, H96 will definitely be in the race for the top 2 spots with their form. The form that Hannover has been in recently indicates that they’ll be contenders to the end.
The Lower Saxony side drew with the leaders Eintracht Braunschweig and drew with 6th place Fortuna Dusseldorf this past weekend. H96 recently beat Wurzburger Kickers 3-1 and they beat Erzgebirge Aue 2-0 as well. Combine those victories with 2-0 wins over 1860 Munich and St.Pauli and Hannover’s goal difference this season stands at +10, which is second best in the division at the moment.
While the team has played well as a whole, several star players have stood out for H96 so far this season. The main star has been 20-year-old defender Anton, whose match rating of 7.37 leads the team and is tied for 13th best in the entire division. Anton’s 7.37 mark is also the third best among defenders, which displays how good he’s been for Hannover so far. Another star for Hannover is Miiko Albornoz, who has a match rating of 7.36 this season. His mark is 16th best in the division and 4th best among defenders. Albornoz and Anton has been arguably the best defensive partnership in the 2.Bundesliga this season. On the attacking side, Harnik has been the best goalscorer in Lower Saxony so far with 6 goals. Combine that with his rating of 7.10 and an assist and the Austrian has delivered thus far this season.
Just like Hannover, Stuttgart suffered a lot of losses this summer after being relegated. These losses include Leipzig’s talisman Timo Werner, Filip Kostic, Lukas Rupp, Daniel Didavi, Daniel Schwaab, Harnik and Artem Kravets. Other departures included Serey Die and Georg Niedermeier who left for Basel and Freiburg respectively. VFB suffered even more losses than Hannover, which occurred because of the players that left for free. These include Schwaab, Didavi, Niedermeier and Harnik.
With the 29 million euros received for Werner, Kostic and Rupp, Stuttgart were able to bring in some big names from the 2.Bundesliga. The main new signing was Bochum’s 25 goal scorer and golden boot winner Simon Terodde, but other new boys include Jean Zimmer from Kaiserslautern, Tobias Werner from Augsburg, Carlos Mane on loan from Sporting, Takuma Asano on loan from Arsenal and Benjamin Pavard from Lille. These newcomers, along with the players who stayed including Toni Sunjic, Christian Gentner, Alexandru Maxim, and Mitchell Langerak, have led the Swabians to second in the table thus far. VFB are only 1 point off of the top spot, and they have the third best goal difference in the 2.Bundesliga at +9.
The Swabians have been very consistent thus far in the 2.Bundesliga, with some solid results along the way. These include their last game, Monday’s MatchDay 14 3-1 win over a Nürnberg that saw them score twice within 35 minutes. VFB also put 4 goals path Greuther Fürth in a 4-0 win, and they beat Karlsruher SC and Arminia by scores of 3-1. But the most impressive result of the season came in a 2-0 win against Eintracht Braunschweig, who stand atop the league at the moment.
But these results wouldn’t be possible without some of the shining stars from Stuttgart’s season so far. The main star for Stuttgart has been the big signing they made in the summer in Terodde. The German has 10 goals this season, which is second in the division even though he’s only played in 11 of the 14 games. He’s also won two man of the match awards, wins 4 aerial duels per game, he has a 5 game goal scoring streak and the 10th best match rating in the 2.Bundesliga at 7.46. With his blistering form, Stuttgart may be able to ride Terodde’s goals all the way to promotion.
Besides Terodde, Mane, Pavard and Maxim have stepped up as well. Pavard leads the team in match rating with a mark of 7.48, while Mane’s rating is also outstanding as his mark is 7.43. Mane is also second on the team in assists with 4, while Pavard wins almost 3 aerial duels per game at the back. Maxim has stood out as well, as leads the team with 5 assists and he’s scored twice so far. The Romanian has also won 2 motm awards, which shows how decisive he’s been this season.
With the two relegated boys sitting in promotion spots 14 games into the season, it’s safe to say that they’ve both lived up to the expectations so far. Even though tough summers saw Hannover and Stuttgart lose many stars, both teams have picked up new players that have led them to solid results. Though it’s relatively early, both sides looked primed for a short stay in the second tier.
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