Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bundesliga Watch

You know, the post title would be much better if this were Switzerland, but what can you do? Since it is undoubtedly Germany Day here on UF (on Armistice Day, no less), with one, two, three stories so far, why not add another one? A quick look at the woefully-ignored-by-us Bundesliga thus far will do nicely, I think.

The story, so far, tn Germany is undoubtedly that of TSG Hoffenheim. The small-town club (and I do mean small--population 3000) is in its first season in the Bundesliga and acquitting themselves quite nicely. How nicely? Well, until a 1-0 loss at Hertha Berlin this weekend, the team was in first place. That's pretty damn swell, I think. This is not your usual small club, though. They are backed financially by Dietmar Hopp, one of the founders of SAP. Hopp used to play for the youth side of Hoffenheim, and has used his billions to build the squad up. As it stands, this is a very international club now, with players from nine countries on the squad, including three cherished Brazilians. This season is a transition season for the club, as they are moving out of their former 5000-seat stadium into a newly-built 30,000 seater. What remains to be seen is if the club can fill those seats when the newness of the Bundesliga wears off.

Sitting atop the Bundesliga at this point is Landycake's former club, Bayer Leverkusen. Leverkusen hold the slightest of leads at this point, being even on points with Hoffenheim, while holding a one goal better goal diffential. Since Hoffenheim are also the top scoring team in the league, this is a tight race. Leverkusen ascended to the top after a scrappy 3-3 draw with Karlsruhe on Saturday. High scoring games are not the norm for Leverkusen, as their four previous results had been 2-0 wins since an early October 1-0 loss to . . . Hertha Berlin. Head to head with Hoffenheim, however, Leverkusen hold the advantage having topped the small club 5-2 in the season's third week. There is also a big match upcoming with perennial favorites Bayern Munich in three week's time.

Bayern Munich sit third in the table, one point behind the top two. They must be considered the hot team right now, having run off 19 points in the last seven matches since a disappointing 2-2-2 start. Whereas Jurgen Klinsmann was probably on the early hot seat before, the team is looking much more solid now. Klinsi's big question right now must be why the hell he would care about bringing in Donovan. He is replete with attacking options to the point of Lukas Podolski--the Pole transplant who starts and scores copiously for the German national side--cannot be considered a starter for his club team. Tough times are ahead for the American.

Through the middle of the table, there are some weird issues with team's records and their goal differentials. Fourth-place Hamburg have a 7-2-3 record, but have an even goal differential despite the four more wins than losses. The fact that all three of their losses have been 3-0 definitely plays into that. On the other hand, there is Werder Bremen. This is an up and own team who, despite holding a 4-5-3 record, have a +5 GD, which leaved them 10th in the 18 team Bundesliga. It must be because they can pump in the goals at times, having put up 5 against Hoffenheim (5-4), Bayern (5-2, away!) and Hertha (5-1).

What of this Hertha team that keeps getting mentioned? They sit 5th currently, four points behind the leaders. Between 5th and 11th is pretty hotly contested with Schalke, Wolfsburg, Koln, Borussia Dortmund, and Stuttgart joining Werder and Hertha therein.

From Stuttgart, there is a gap to the third tier of the Bundesliga. Four points separate the 2007 champs from 12th place Eintracht Frankfurt who in turn hold a one point lead over Hannover 96. Borussia Moenchengladbach and Karlruhe sit a little further back in the last safe spots.

Sixteenth place in the Bundesliga goes into a two-leg playoff against the third-placed team from 2.Bundesliga. Currently, the 16th place team is VfL Bochum. The final two spots in the table are held by the woefully out of form sides Arminia Bielefeld and Energie Cottbus. When it comes down to it, Bielefeld has the better chance of surviving, while Cottbus have the look of EPL's Derby County last season. They have one win against eight losses with three draws. Who did that win come against? Hertha, of course. Who else?

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