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Bundesliga 2008-09: a look back at the Hinrunde
By Robby Branom
December 23, 2008

         As winter falls upon us, the German Bundesliga has concluded its first half of the season and has entered into a six week break in action.  This season’s championship has been one of the most entertaining and surprising in recent memory, with upstarts 1899 Hoffenheim at the top of the table in its first ever season in the top flight.  But with only 3 points separating Hoffenheim with 5th-place Bayer Leverkusen, the race for the championship is far from over and the 2nd half promises to be full of entertainment, drama, and tons of goals – an astonishing 462 goals were scored in the Hinrunde, giving an average of over 3 goals per game.

          With the financial backing of SAP co-founder Dietmar Hopp, Hoffenheim has spent millions of Euros on transfers, in fact more money on transfers since 2005 than any other German club except defending champions Bayern Munich.  With their new, youthful squad, they have played very attacking and entertaining football on the pitch, and lead the league with 42 goals scored.  Eighteen of those goals have come from the Bundesliga’s leading goal-scorer Vedad Ibisevic.  The Bosnian (who spent 2003-04 in St. Louis and Chicago) was not even originally slated for the starting 11 at the start of the season, due to an injury to a teammate, but after scoring two goals in Hoffenheim’s 3:0 win over Energie Cottbus in Round 1, he has remained the club’s first-choice striker ever since, and has rewarded them with goal after goal. 

But in Round 16, defending champion FC Bayern Munich was able to beat Hoffenheim 2:1 to draw level on points with the leaders.  Bayern struggled mightily at the beginning of the season, finding themselves even as low as 11th place after 8 matches (which included an embarrassing 3:3 draw at home against VfL Bochum, where they conceded two goals in the last 10 minutes to throw away 2 points).  With many fans calling for the head of trainer Jürgen Klinsmann, Bayern were blessed with the return of French winger Franck Ribery, who immediately proved how important to the club he is.  His form has been magnificent, having scored in 6 of the 11 matches he has taken part in as well as setting up numerous others.  Bayern have won 8 of their last 10, and look like strong contenders – perhaps even favorites – once again for the championship. 

One of the biggest surprises of the season is the position of Werder Bremen at the break.  A consistent finisher in the top 3 in each of the past 5 seasons, and champions in 2004, Bremen have put together a very inconsistent run of form this term, leaving them currently in 8th place.  They have played fantastic football at times, including a 5:2 demolition of FC Bayern – even more impressive since it was away at the Allianz Arena in Munich – but they have also struggled mightily against teams they should easily beat.  Playmaking genius Diego, the most important player at the club, will miss the restart of the season in January, serving a four-match ban after he choked Christian Eichner of Karlsruhe on Matchday 16.  In the same match, leading goal-scorer Claudio Pizarro was sent off for punching opponent Martin Stoll in the face, and will also miss the start of the Rückrunde after being handed a three-match ban.  Whether Bremen will be able to turn things around remains to be seen – if they keep up their current sporadic form, they may miss out on Europe altogether for the first time in ages.

At the bottom of the table, the only surprise is that 1. FC Köln is not in it – they rest in the very comfortable position of 11th, 9 points above the relegation zone.  This is due in part to the reliable play of new midfielder Petit (from Portugal) and the efforts of their Slovenian captain and leading goal-scorer (11 goals) Milivoje Novakovic.  It is, however, no shock that the table is rounded out by perennial relegation fighters Energie Cottbus, VfL Bochum (with only one win on the season) and Borussia Mönchengladbach.  Despite the talents of Wunderkind Marko Marin, it seems like there is nothing trainer Hans Meyer can do to save Gladbach from a prompt return to the 2nd Bundesliga.

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© 2006 All content property of European Weekly unless where otherwise accredited




© 2006 All content property of European Weekly unless where otherwise accredited