A Goal.com study revealed last week that out of Europe’s elite divisions, the Bundesliga was the most competitive. So was there evidence to further prove this theory at the weekend? Well, let’s focus on both the glitzy top and the unfashionable nether regions to scrutinize this claim further.
Whilst there is only a point still separating the sides in the Champions League places, the race to avoid relegation is also very tight. As is being highlighted, there is no tighter title race out of Europe’s elite divisions than the Bundesliga. After Matchday 19 in Germany, there is still only a point separating the top four sides as they all recorded victories. Three of the four score lines were a little misleading though.
Only Borussia Dortmund were very comfortable in their 3-1 victory against Hoffenheim. Bayern Munich were made to work hard by Wolfsburg for their 2-0 success at the Allianz Arena with Mario Gomez netting once again whilst it took a late surge from Schalke and Gladbach to give their victories a gloss. The latter, leading by a goal, caught Stuttgart twice on the counter attack late on to secure a 3-0 win. The Royal Blues meanwhile came back from 1-0 down to smash four past Cologne, a side who are being drawn into a tight relegation scrap.
Even though the basement battle isn’t quite as close as the race for the title, there are only 7 points between 8th placed Hoffenheim and last placed Freiburg, who looked to have turned a corner last weekend with their win against Augsburg. Within 20 minutes of Sunday’s game at Mainz, they were three goals behind and a man down. Streich’s team may have managed to reduce arrears by bagging a consolation in the second half but there is a long road to survival for the club in the deep south west of Germany.
Their two nearest rivals, Augsburg and Kaiserslautern, played out an exciting 2-2 draw although the result will be of no consolation to either Jos Luhukay or Marco Kurz who will feel an opportunity has been missed to move away from relegation troubles. Kaiserslautern are two points ahead of the bottom two, Augsburg and Freiburg, and currently occupy the relegation play-off spot. Look slightly further up and there’s a clutch of sides that’ll be very wary. Two sides in this group worth highlighting are Cologne and Hertha Berlin.
Cologne, who collapsed dramatically against Schalke, have now lost Lukas Podolski for a few weeks to injury. Many have accused the Billy Goats of being overly reliant on the German international. The exciting prospect that Stale Solbakken was proving as manager earlier in the season is starting to turn sour. There is still plenty of time for a turnaround. They can take comfort that there are weaker teams around them – Hertha Berlin for example.
Markus Babbel’s ignominious departure from the club in December hasn’t helped Hertha at all. Michael Skibbe has only had two cracks at the whip so far but both have been defeats. The momentum is against the new coach. Including Saturday’s 2-1 reverse against upwardly mobile Hamburg, the side from the capital city have only one win from their last 11.
Such is the close nature of the table though, a run of back-to-back wins for a side in the relegation scrap will ease the pressure significantly. Equally a run of draws for a team in the title race will lead to much lost ground on rivals, judging by the ruthless nature of the four contenders at this moment in time.
The finely poised Bundesliga does indeed look the most competitive elite division in Europe as it stands unless you can find a league where there are four teams at the top separated by a point and the bottom ten clubs only seven points apart. It’s settled then!
For more Bundesliga musings, follow @arhindtutt
Matchday 19 Results:
Hannover 1-0 Nuremberg
Augsburg 2-2 Kaiserslautern
Bayern Munich 2-0 Wolfsburg
Borussia Dortmund 3-1 Hoffenheim
Hertha Berlin 1-2 Hamburg
Werder Bremen 1-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Cologne 1-4 Schalke
Mainz 3-1 Freiburg
Stuttgart 0-3 Gladbach
|1||FC Bayern Munich||19||13||1||5||46:13||+33||40||CL*|
|3||FC Schalke 04||19||13||1||5||45:24||+21||40||CL*|
|4||Borussia Mönchengladbach||19||12||3||4||31:12||+19||39||CL* Qual.|
|5||SV Werder Bremen||19||9||4||6||31:32||-1||31||EL* Qual.|
|6||Bayer 04 Leverkusen||19||8||6||5||26:25||+1||30||EL* Qual.|
|12||1. FSV Mainz 05||19||5||6||8||27:33||-6||21|
|13||1. FC Nuremberg||19||6||3||10||19:29||-10||21|
|14||1. FC Köln||19||6||3||10||28:40||-12||21|
|15||Hertha BSC Berlin||19||4||8||7||25:30||-5||20|
|16||1. FC Kaiserslautern||19||3||9||7||15:23||-8||18||Play-offs|
Table thanks to Official Bundesliga site