The halfway mark of a season is always a good time to take stock of your situation. Some teams would rather not do that. The first half of the 2014-15 Bundesliga campaign has been filled with familiar sights (Bayern in Terminator mode) and strange, alternate-universe concepts (like Dortmund in danger of relegation). It’s bound to be an entertaining second half so let’s dive into three of the biggest storylines from the first.
Bayern domination… again
Ho-hum. We sit at the Bundesliga midpoint again and wouldn’t you know it, Bayern Munich leads the league by 11 points. They are comfortably in first in just about every important statistical category: possession (with over 70%), shots per game, and pass accuracy. It’s kind of ridiculous what they are doing to the rest of these German teams.
When you don’t even need Franck Ribery to start every game, you know you’re in decent shape. With 10 goals and 3 assists, Arjen Robben is on pace to have his best Bundesliga season yet, and he’s also missed a few games. Muller and Lewandowski have been sensational (14 goals, 8 assists combined), and between those two and Robben, that’s three players averaging more than 3 shots a game. All of this and I haven’t even mentioned the steady leadership (as if Bayern even needed more of that) of ex-Real man Xabi Alonso, the surprisingly excellent play of 21-year-old left back Juan Bernat, and the typically excellent play of Philipp Lahm and Manuel Neuer.
I could keep taking you through the stats to show you why Bayern are so far ahead of everyone else. Or I could just tell you that sometimes talent overwhelms everything else. Bayern have this in spades, at every position, including manager. Pep Guardiola continues to assert his will in Germany and there doesn’t look to be any challengers anytime soon.
The scuffle for Champions League position
The logjam between 3rd place Bayer Leverkusen and 7th place Hoffenheim should make for decent drama down the stretch. Karim Bellarabi (8 goals) and Leverkusen’s exciting style (just one less shot per game than Bayern) has vaulted them to top 3 status at the moment, but will the allure of Champions League success pull their attention away from the league? “Neverkusen” has a tough yet beatable Atletico Madrid side in front of them in the UCL Round of 16.
Last year at this time, Borussia Monchengladbach were sitting in third and feeling pretty good about qualifying for the Champions League. Fast forward a few months, and they almost slipped out of a 6th place Europa League spot. Despite losing young keeper Marc-André ter Stegen to FC Barcelona, their defense has been stout, only allowing more goals than Bayern (4 goals against in 17 matches – ridiculous) so far this season.
Tied with Monchengladbach at 27 points, Schalke and Augsburg will be fighting to move up into a Champions League slot. After Schalke gets bounced from this year’s UCL by Real Madrid (a foregone conclusion), they will turn their energies to the Bundesliga, where they can easily climb a couple spots in the second half. New manager Roberto Di Matteo (he of Chelsea fame) has perhaps the league’s second-most talented roster – as long as they can stay healthy.
Although they hold the final Europa League position, Augsburg could be in a months-long battle to just maintain, with Hoffenheim and Hannover breathing down their necks.
Even without Lewandowski and Marco Reus (he’s missed ten matches so far), no one could have seen this coming (we certainly didn’t). It’s been a disaster Bundesliga campaign for BVB. Forget European play next year, Dortmund needs to get out of the relegation zone.
Their first half last season wasn’t great (they sat fourth), but they still rallied to finish second behind mighty Bayern. This half season, their defense has leaked goals, letting in 26 when they only conceded 38 all of last season. Their offense has been worse. Even with the injuries, Dortmund has enough firepower to score more than 18 goals in 17 games.
And yet the thing that makes Dortmund still fascinating is their Champions League form. After topping their group, they now go up against Juventus. If they keep advancing, it’s possible that only hurts their chances to stay up in the Bundesliga. Still, Reus is a force every time he steps on the field (which admittedly, isn’t that often), Aubameyang has been productive, and Jakub Blaszczykowski and Mats Hummels are finally healthy. With things becoming more and more desperate in Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp’s side needs health right now more than ever. We’ll see if they can get it in the second half.