Self-doubt instead of self-confidence – the prospect of the rough european stage seems to have lamed rather than inspired the bundesliga clubs in recent weeks.
The race for the sporting and financially lucrative european cup places has become a snail race. A comparison of the performances of nine bundesliga clubs in contention for champions league and european league spots reveals some surprising facts.
FC bayern munchen, who can clinch the championship as early as easter, and the reinvigorated defending champions borussia dortmund were left behind in an analysis by the dpa news agency. For the BVB is clearly heading for the vice championship. For the chasers, the third (direct champions league qualification), fourth (champions league playoff), fifth and sixth (european league) places remain. Depending on the outcome of the DFB cup, seventh place may also be enough.
Realistically, from third-placed bayer leverkusen (45 points) to eleventh-placed 1. FC nurnberg (34) nine teams still have european cup chances. Apart from hamburger SV and schalke 04, who had a slightly better average of points in the nine round-robin matches than in the 17 first-round games, only the club improved significantly under new coach michael wiesinger.
After the first half of the season, only 14th in the table with an average of 1.17 points., as the fourth-best team in the second half of the season (1.55 points on average), the french love the relegation zone far behind them and can now even dream of europe. Despite seven games without a defeat, the professionals remain cautious. "We don’t give much thought to the europe league," said mike frantz.
While the FCN form curve is clearly pointing upward, other clubs are in free fall in 2013. First and foremost the surprise team from frankfurt. The promoted team collected an average of almost 1.8 points in the first 17 games of the season, and only nine in the last nine games. Six games without a win and only one goal – the ease with which eintracht twitched in 2012 is completely gone. Whether the unrest surrounding his unclear future is a burden on the eleven, coach armin veh does not know, but does not rule it out: "that is a hypothesis. We’ll play like we did in the preliminary round. What we are lacking at the moment, for reasons that are unclear to me, is the last bit of luck."
Second in the league at christmas (average 1.94), only eighth in the round robin (1.33) – bayer’s results crisis inevitably leads to discussions about the sascha lewandowski/sami hyypia team. The highly praised pilot project with two equal coaches suddenly threatens to fail. Although a slump in leverkusen is not a new phenomenon and sports director rudi voller noted: "we are not third for nothing, we have the two to thank for that."
This season, stuttgart and hannover were also represented on europe’s stage. But vfb – ninth after the first half of the season – has dropped out of the running after its disastrous start to the new year. And "96" sees its chances dwindling because of the fatal auswartsschwache (worst bundesliga team). "Only with a lot of luck is it possible to reach the international places," admitted mirko slomka of the table tenth on ndr television.
The development in mainz and freiburg is also a cause for concern. The fact that the rheinhessen team is in sixth place, tied with monchengladbach and hsv for a european league spot, is not so much due to their own strength as to the fact that the chasing team is also weak. Freiburg slipped from fifth to ninth place after losing to wolfsburg and dortmund by five goals each. Coach christian streich denounced not only the unrest in the surrounding area ("cattle market"), but also the exaggerated expectations.
In contrast, schalke (heldt: "we want to finish at least fourth"), hamburg and gladbach are not making any secret of their goals. Even though the pressure there also makes the legs heavy, the trio was able to keep up the level of the preliminaries. But nothing more. "If we spend to play for ninth or tenth place, i can book now and go on vacation," HSV keeper rene adler scolded after the 0:1 against augsburg.
Back in striking distance is monchengladbach. And so sports director max eberl dreams of taking part in the international championship again. "Once you’ve been to europe and licked this sublime nectar, you want to keep licking it."