49 years ago this weekend, Timo Konietzka scored within a minute on the opening day against Werder Bremen to give Borussia Dortmund the lead, getting the first goal of the season and the first goal in Bundesliga history.
This makes the 2012-13 season the fiftieth edition of the German National League with all the celebrations and trappings that entails.
It is an intriguing one too with Dortmund coming in chasing a third consecutive title, an achievement that outside of Bayern Munich, has only been done once by the wonderful Mӧnchengladbach team of the mid 1970’s.
The pure fact that they stayed up last year was of amazing credit to Jos Luhukay and his managerial ability. The Dutchman obviously thought so himself and resigned to take over relegated Hertha Berlin, saying he had taken Augsburg as far as he could.
Despite this, their only major loss was Axel Bellinghausen leaving to join Fortuna Dusseldorf, who he started his career with. They have brought in two strikers on loan, but to be honest, they could hardly be worse than they were up top last term.
It may be proven in the end that the main reason they stayed up last term was the ineptitude of others, rather than their own ability. But it may come to their rescue again.
Last Season – 14th
Key Signings – Ragnar Klaven (AZ), Milan Petrzela (Viktoria Plzen), Jan Moravek (Schalke), Andreas Ottl (Hertha Berlin), Giovanni Sio (Wolfsburg – loan), Knowledge Musona (Hoffenheim – loan)
Key Man – Ja-Cheol Koo
Prediction – 14th
Considering the mess that was created by the reign of Robin Dutt and the injuries and personality clashes that ensued, particularly with Michael Ballack, they will be thankful for the fifth place finish and a place straight into the Europa League.
Now the stories are about the strange situation where despite everyone knowing that Sami Hyypia is in charge, former youth team coach, Sascha Lewandowski is technically the man at the helm due to the lack of the right coaching qualifications for the Finnish legend.
A bigger issue that might dictate whether Leverkusen are even able to hold firm, let alone progress back into the Champions League will be whether Eren Derdiyok can be replaced by a mixture of better performances from Andre Schurrle, Stefan Kieβling and the hope that Junior Fernandes turns out as well as the last man that Sporting Director, Rudi Voller, pulled out of Chilean football in Arturo Vidal.
Last Season – 5th
Key Signings – Junior Fernandes (Club Universidad de Chile), Daniel Carvajal (Real Madrid), Phillip Wollscheid (Nurnburg)
Key Man – Andre Schurrle
Prediction – 5th
What a difference one Drogba goal and one penalty shoot-out can make to an entire clubs outlook of a season. At 1-0 up, a second consecutive season missing out on the Bundesliga title would be a worthwhile trade-off in order to pick up the European Cup in their own backyard. After John Terry striped off to receive it himself, it made the whole season a complete failure for the team who has won 21 of the 49 Bundesliga titles despite not even being a founder member of the league.
The reaction just proves how much of a failure it was considered to be. Sporting Director, Christian Nerlinger was gone to replace by Matthias Sammer and they were hugely active in the transfer market to boot. Dante was prized away from ‘Gladbach to solve the problems at centre-half, Xherdan Shaqiri was added to provide backup to Ribery and Robben, and Hoffenheim first choice goalkeeper, Tom Starke adds competition to Manuel Neuer between the sticks.
If that was not enough, the most expensive signing was that of Wolfsburg striker Mario Mandzukic who is also joined by consistently one of the most prolific strikers in the Bundesliga, Claudio Pizarro. Safe to say that they have enough options if Mario Gomez has an off day this term.
If they don’t manage to overhaul Dortmund now, Jupp Heynckes will have to go.
Last Season – 2nd
Key Signings – Dante (Borussia Mӧnchengladbach), Mario Mandzukic (Wolfsburg), Xherdan Shaqiri (Basel), Claudio Pizarro (Werder Bremen), Tom Starke (Hoffenheim)
Key Man – Arjen Robben
Prediction – 2nd
Usually when a side other than Bayern Munich sells two of their best midfielders to Real Madrid and Manchester United in the space of 12 months, the talent in that position would significantly weaker. Amazingly, you could make a case that Dortmund have the best midfield in Germany. To bring in Marco Reus to replace Shinji Kagawa means they do not miss a step in there and means that the likes of Jakub ‘Kuba’ Blaszczykowski and Ivan Perisic, who impressed at Euro 2012, will have to continue to settle for a place on the bench. If that was not enough, they have now decided to add Oliver Kirch from Kaiserslautern and talented youngster, Leonardo Bittencourt, purely for depth and the two holding positions behind.
Lucas Barrios leaving did mean that Robert Lewandowski was the only striker on the books, until they brought in Julian Schieber, a striker good enough to ease Jurgen Klopp worries should Lewandowski continues to sound overtures to the Premier League. All this means that, as long as they have no injuries in defence, they will be even stronger again.
Last Season – Champions
Key Signings – Marco Reus (Borussia Mӧnchengladbach), Julian Schieber (Stuttgart), Oliver Kirch (Kaiserslautern), Leanardo Bittencourt (Energie Cottbus)
Key Man – Mats Hummels
Prediction – CHAMPIONS
What do you get when a team comes from nowhere to qualify for the Champions League and then get half the team ripped apart?
Well, we are about to find out and judging by the first leg of the Champions League qualifier against Dynamo Kiev, it might turn out ugly.
To be fair, they have done what, on paper, looks like a good job in replacing them as well as they can. Alvaro Dominguez brings European experience while Granit Xhaka and Luuk de Jong were hotly chased by clubs across the continent. But de Jong cost a fee of £15 million which is a monumental outlay for the club and the pressure that comes with that will be huge, on top of the pressure of replacing Marco Reus.
The history of strikers moving on after goal scoring spells in Holland is hit and miss at best and the strength of this season will probably be on which category the former Twente man falls into.
Last Season – 4th
Key Signings – Luuk de Jong (FC Twente), Alvaro Dominguez (Atletico Madrid), Granit Xhaka (Basel), Paniel Mlapa (Hoffenheim)
Key Man – Luuk de Jong
Prediction – 7th
So Frankfurt’s stay in the second tier only lasted one season. Although the fact that their top scorers were midfielders proved that the goal scoring problem that saw them careering down towards the second division in the first place was merely covered up rather than fixed.
It is unreasonable for them to expect Alexander Meier to score anywhere near the 17 goals that made him the joint top scorer in the second tier or even by adding another scoring midfielder, Stefan Aigler, who got 11 goals for 1860 Munich.
Therefore, survival hopes may rest with the form of Canadian international striker, Olivier Occean, who beat Meier to the golden boot by virtue of more assists for the Greuther Furth side that beat Frankfurt to the title.
Last Season – 2nd (2. Bundesliga)
Key Signings – Vadim Demidov (Real Sociedad), Stefan Aigler (1860 Munich), Stefano Celozzi (Stuttgart), Kevin Trapp (Kaiserslautern), Bastian Oczipka (Bayer Leverkusen), Martin Lanig (Kӧln), Olivier Occean (Greuther Furth), Takashi Inui (Bochum)
Key Man – Olivier Occean
Prediction – 18th
Fortuna may have returned to the Bundesliga but the squad has been totally overhauled. A total of 20 players have joined since their play-off victory. Meanwhile, because of the premature pitch invasion in that game, the fans will have to wait a little while longer to see Fortuna back in the league on anything other than TV, with a behind closed doors first home game.
Yet, as much as people would say that due to such a high player turnover a lack of cohesion early will be the undoing of Fortuna, the quality of player coming in might just overturn that theory. Players like Cha Du-Ri and Stefan Reisinger know what it is like to be a key player in Bundesliga relegation scraps while the same is true of Axel Bellinghausen, who is such a Fortuna fan that he has a personalised number plate.
Elsewhere, there is real quality coming in, Leon Balogun coming in from Werder Bremen and the star name is the Bundesliga return of Andriy Voronin, on loan from Dynamo Moscow.
Last Season – 3rd (2. Bundesliga)
Key Signings – Leon Balogun (Werder Bremen), Andre Formitschow (Wolfsburg II), Nando Rafael, Axel Bellinghausen (Augsburg), Bruno Soares (Duisburg), Ivan Paurevic (Borussia Dortmund II), Gerrit Wegkamp (Osnabrück), Ronny Garbuschewski (Chemnitzer), Cha Du-Ri (Celtic), Stefan Reisinger (Freiburg), Bastian Müller (Bayern Munich II), Fabian Giefer (Leverkusen), Nikolaos Papadopoulos (Olympiakos), Andriy Voronin (Dynamo Moscow – loan)
Key Man – Andriy Voronin
Prediction – 12th
At Christmas, Freiburg were dead and buried and anyone who thought they were not would have been converted to that idea once Papiss Demba Cisse went to Newcastle.
Staying up obviously required plenty of ineptitude from elsewhere, but it also needed Christian Streich to be able to reinvest the little money they had successfully which he did, not by replacing Cisse, but by overhauling an abysmal defence instead.
Michael Lumb’s loan ending is a loss at left-back, replaced by Vegar Eggen Hedenstad. The biggest loss though is Stefan Reisinger going to Düsseldorf, as he was the man to at least find the net on a semi-regular basis after Cisse left, yet he has not been replaced at all. Someone has to step up and score if they are to survive again.
Last Season – 12th
Key Signings – Vegar Eggen Hedenstad (Stabaek), Max Kruse (St. Pauli), Marco Terrazzino (Karlsruhe), Ezequiel (Real Betis – loan)
Key Man – Cedric Makiadi
Prediction – 17th
The fairytale came true last season as little Greuther Fürth deservedly won the title in the second tier. It was an even bigger dream when the fixture list came out and first up was the might of Bayern Munich coming to the Trolli Arena (capacity 15,200 increasing to 18,000).
That will be as far as it will go though. Augsburg may have shown that small club which have won promotion are not to be underestimated however, they did not have the heart of their promotion side ripped out of them, with very little of substance coming in.
The best example of this is the fact that Occean, the golden boot winner last year, left for another promoted club rather than stay with Fürth.
It is safe to say that the side is wholly reliant on Gerald Asamoah up front now, not a great state of affairs.
Last Season – 1st (2. Bundesliga)
Key Signings – Tobias Mikkelsen (FC Nordsjaelland), Wolfgang Hesl (Dynamo Dresden), Zoltan Stieber (Mainz), Michael Hefele (Unterhaching), Baba Rehman (Asante Kotoko), Athanasios Petsos (Bayer Leverkusen), Baye Djiby Fall (Lokeren), Lasse Sobiech (Borussia Dortmund – loan)
Key Man – Gerald Asamoah
Prediction – 18th
Tags: Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Bundesliga, Marco Reus