Monday, August 06, 2007

Bundesliga Preview

While you may not get the quality of play you would expect from the EPL or the other continental leagues, the German Bundesliga is a top performer in European football, averaging over 40,500 per game. Germany is a populous country, but to put this in perspective, this average per game attendance is second only to the NFL in America, where the population over three and a half times larger.

Last year's campaign was exciting in the respect that it came down to the penultimate week, with Stuttgart pipping a choking Schalke for first place. The story of the upcoming season has to be the potential resurgence of Bayern Munich, who did not even qualify for the Champions League last year. Here's how I think it'll end up.

1. Bayern Munich - With no Champions League campaign to wear out an already sparkling squad, this year should be Bayern's year to bounce back to the top. Out are Roy Makaay, Owen Hargreaves, Hasan Salihamidzic, Claudio Pizarro, Ali Karimi, and Mehmet Scholl. If you had an opportunity to watch any of the LigaPokal preseason tournament, you can see the impact new players have had already. The influx of new players to Munich is like a who's who of top flight footie: Franck Ribery, Luca Toni, Miroslav Klose, Hamit Altintop and Ze Roberto have redefined FC Hollywood, in addition to the players they already have, including Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philip Lahm and Daniel van Buyten. Last year, it felt like the championship was anyone's to take among a handful of teams. I expect Die Roten to run away with it.

2. VFB Stuttgart - Were it not for the departure of Miroslav Klose, I'd be picking Werder Bremen. Sure, the poacher may have only scored 13 goals last year, but I don't see Boubacar Sanogo being able to match Klose's impact on the team this year. As young as they are, I like Stuttgart's chances in snagging another Champions League spot, although this year's involvement in the European competition may make things difficult for Armin Veh's club over the course of the season. Although I'm putting my faith in Veh and the potential of squad, I feel this is Schalke's spot to lose, as they seem a bit more experienced. And the loss of Timo Hildebrand to Valencia is key, as Stuttgart's goal differential was merely one better than third-place Schalke. But for some reason, I see Armin Veh getting it done.

3. Schalke - I don't see Schalke improving at all from last year, considering they've lost Altintop to Bayern and Brazilian midfielder Lincoln to Galatasaray. Perennial chokers, I'm putting them at third just because I don't think the Champions League campaign will do anything to help their chances for domestic success. Just another case of too many transfer outs and not enough big names coming in. Essentially the only reason I'm picking them 3rd is because I'm sure at some point, the championship will be theirs to lose, and they will.

4. Werder Bremen - I'd love to put this club higher than 4th, just because of their attacking style last year, but the departure of Miroslav Klose may be too much to bear. Sure, they still have Brazilian Diego and skipper Torsten Frings, but I think Klose was too much of the team for them to do well without him, barring any new players in. I'd like to see them continue their style, though.


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