My opportunity. What do you think?

27. September 2010

Millions against mini-budget, record-holders against relegation candidates, favourites vs. underdogs: the contrasts s loaded up onto the game at the top of the league could not have been greater. Bayern München, a financially high-powered team who are favourites to take the title played against Mainz 05, genuine underdogs who have surprised everyone by going to the top of the table this season – and staying there.

And not even the hitting power of Bayern München a.k.a. Croesus was enough to take them down, with the shoe-string-budget team taking down the giants 2:1. That’s six games, six wins for Mainz, who play down the field as if they are on some kind of football wonder-drug and who take coach Thomas Tuchel at his word when he says “offense is the best form of defence”. Bayern’s tackling was poor, leaving Mainz to shine with their fitness, single-mindedness and will to win. Bayern president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge at least had the decency to congratulate Mainz, and even if it was through gritted teeth, I think it was great of him to do so.

The Ruhr area saw another David-and-Goliath-clash, at least in financial terms, and few observers would have predicted that Borussia Dortmund would make it to the top this year, unlike their rich rivals Schalke04. Yet Dortmund are in second place and doing well; after losing the first game of the season, they’ve won the last five, seeing to FC St. Pauli with a 3:1 defeat this time round. Just five years after nearly going bankrupt, they are once again dreaming of the Championship, and much of this is thanks to the Japanese player Shinji Kagawa, who cost just 350,000 Euro and arrived from the second league in his home country to become, within weeks, the bulwark of the Dortmund attack; his partners in crime are Mario Götze and Kevin Großkreutz from the Dortmund youth team.

In crass contrast to Dortmund’s team-on-a-shoestring are the rivals Schalke04, who are throwing money around like nobody’s business. Despite this, they drew 2:2 with Mönchengladbach after a disastrous start to the game that saw the behemoth Schalke 0:2 behind at one point. The money wasn’t entirely wasted, though; the goals came from Huntelaar and Raul, both of whom cost figures with seven digits.

Now that one fifth of the season has been played, the league table is starting to take on form, even if it is a surprising one. Mainz and Dortmund are right at the top, but I wouldn’t have reckoned with Hannover being in third place and Bayern in ninth, nor with seeing Schalke and Stuttgart right down at 17 and 18 either. Nevertheless, here’s my opportunity to show you what an expert I am and to give a few predictions.

Mainz, currently in first place, will probably end up at the top of the mid-range between 6 and 8. They may have some great strikers but, if you ask me, they will start to get out of breath soon. Dortmund, currently number 2, has definitely got the potential to qualify for the Champions’ League, whilst Hannover (3) will probably slip back to 8 or 10, without going anywhere near the relegation zone, though. Hoffenheim (4), Leverkusen (5) and Wolfsburg (6) are, in my opinion, already in the spots they will be occupying in eight months’ time. They might even go up one or two. Freiburg (7) will slip down to around 13, but without worrying about relegation; HSV at 8 are where they should be. They’re too strong for the bottom of the table, not strong enough to beat ambitious teams.

Bayern, meanwhile, at 9, will soon be back on top; Robben and Ribéry will drive the assault in the next round of play. St. Pauli (10), Kaiserslautern (11), Frankfurt (13), Nürnberg (14), Cologne (15) and Mönchengladbach (16) are, however, not going to be joining them are about where they will remain for the rest of the season; they will be suffering from latent fear of relegation. Bremen, however, belongs higher up than 12, although I don’t see them as being particularly strong in terms of competition for entry into the European cup. They are lacking genuine creativity, too (see Özil). Schalke (17) and Stuttgart (18) meanwhile, will soon start their march towards the top of the table, too, although I see this taking longer for Stuttgart than for Schalke. But neither of them will make into the top 3.

Then again, I could be wrong. What do you think?

(Stefan Reichart/Brian Melican)

Results Matchday 6:
1. FC Köln – 1899 Hoffenheim 1:1
Bayern München – 1. FSV Mainz 05 1:2
FC Schalke 04 – Borussia Mönchengladbach 2:2
VfB Stuttgart – Bayer Leverkusen 1:4
Eintracht Frankfurt – 1. FC Nürnberg 2:0
FC St. Pauli – Borussia Dortmund 1:3
Werder Bremen – Hamburger SV 3:2
VfL Wolfsburg – SC Freiburg 2:1
1. FC Kaiserslautern – Hannover 96 0:1

Table
1 1. FSV Mainz 05 18 P
2 Borussia Dortmund 15 P
3 Hannover 96 13 P
4 1899 Hoffenheim 11 P
5 Bayer Leverkusen 11 P
6 VfL Wolfsburg 9 P
7 SC Freiburg 9 P
8 Hamburger SV 8 P
9 Bayern München 8 P
10 FC St. Pauli 7 P
11 1. FC Kaiserslautern 7 P
12 Werder Bremen 7 P
13 Eintracht Frankfurt 6 P
14 1. FC Nürnberg 6 P
15 1. FC Köln 5 P
16 Borussia Mönchengladbach 5 P
17 FC Schalke 04 4 P
18 VfB Stuttgart 3 P