Coronavirus / Europe

The Bundesliga returns: The Europa League

Photo: Paul Rudderow

As we all know, the Bundesliga will be returning to our television sets on Saturday morning, resuming a season that has tight battles in every position of the table. With the relegation battle already covered, we take a look at the teams with European ambitions, fighting for the Bundesliga’s 2 Europa League spots. In the Bundesliga, the 5th place team is guaranteed a Europa League spot, much like the Premier League. The difference comes with 6th place in Germany, with that club having to go through Europa League qualifying, creating a shorter offseason for next year. The German Cup adds a wrinkle to this, usually the winner already occupies a Champions or Europa League spot, creating 2 guaranteed spots and 7th place going through qualifying. There are 5  clubs with European goals, with only a 2 point difference between 6th and 9th. With 9 games remaining, everything is still up in the air for these clubs.

TSG Hoffenheim (35 points, -8GD)

Hoffenheim have been a team on the rise the last few years, thanks in part to owner Dietmar Hopp (who has been the target of fan protests before the season was halted). In the past 3 seasons, Hoffenheim reached the Champions League twice, in 2017 and 2018, finishing 4th in 2017 and 3rd in 2018. A big part of their rise was leading goalscorer Roberto Firmino, who now shines at Liverpool. One of the best young coaches in Europe also helped, with Julian Nagelsmann leading the team. Lack of squad depth came to haunt Hoffenheim in 2019 when they finished 9th (exactly where they sit now), missing out on European soccer all together. To add insult to injury, Nagelsmann left the club to take the reigns at RB Leipzig, leaving the club fighting in the middle of the table.

Why to watch: Hoffenheim is that team that usually punches above their weight with no big household names lining their roster, and has a habit of developing big names in the past few years. You may not know their players now, but you’ll hear their names soon.

SC Freiburg (36 points, -1GD)

Freiburg is the newest member to the Bundesliga in this group, earning promotion in 2016. Their first season back in the Bundesliga saw them finish 7th, earning a trip to the Europa League. In 2018 their form took a dip, finishing 15th and 3 points above the relegation playoff, with 2019 not being much better with a 13th place finish. This year Freiburg looks to recapture the magic of their 2017 season and return to European competition. Top scorer Nils Petersen is the name to match leading the line for Freiburg.

Why to watch: Much like Hoffenheim, Freiburg have been punching above their weight this year, and want something to show for their effort this year. Another side who doesn’t have much star power, but plays a strong team game.

VFL Wolfsburg (36 points, +4GD)

Wolfsburg has had the epitome of an up and down decade, In 2014 the team had the likes of Andre Schurrle. Kevin De Bryune and Ivan Perisic and was a consistent champions league side. Then Die Wolfe sold their stars and found themselves in a relegation battle for 2017 and 2018, winning the relegation playoff both years to stay in the Bundesliga. They surged again in 2019, finishing 6th and heading to the Europa League, thanks to new striker Wout Weghorst and an improving midfield. This year Wolfsburg is back in the hunt and boasts one of the best defenses in the league, led by American John Brooks.

Why to watch: Wolfsburg is a team that likes to build talent, boasting some young midfielders like Maximillian Arnold and Josip Brekalo. It doesn’t hurt that John Brooks is a constant starter and Uly Llanez is coming through their youth system now.

Schalke 04 (37 points, -3GD) 

Another club in this group that has strong American ties is Schalke. The royal blues currently have Weston McKennie in their midfield and German-American coach David Wagner on the touchlines. Schalke have been looking for some consistency in the past years, they finished second the league in 2018, but fell from grace and finished 14th in 2019. Schalke also brings a unique blend of younger stars and veterans, making them a strong team on paper to keep pushing for a Europa League spot.

Why to watch: A fun team that blends youth and veterans and a playing style much like Liverpool is always easy to root for, it makes it easier to be able to see how Weston McKennie is playing on a weekly basis in games that really matter to his club.

Bayer Leverkusen (47 points, +15GD)

Leverkusen is actually closer to a Champions League spot but are in the drivers seat for the a Europa League spot at the moment. Leverkusen is much like Schalke, bringing a good mix of youth and veterans to the mix, which could be vital in the last weeks of this season. Leon Bailey should be a familiar name, as the Jamaican has been progressing nicely alongside star Kai Havertz who is looking to be the next German star striker. Leverkusen also has Lars and Sven Bender, who helped lead Germany in the 2016 Olympics, and the leaders of the side.

Why to watch: Another exciting team who gives youth a chance. Leverkusen plays a smilar style to Liverpool and probably has the most pressure on their team now that they can push for a Champions League spot.

2 Comments

  1. Tim Jones says:

    Appreciate the series, Sean.
    .
    I could do with a reminder of when and how to watch.

  2. In Tanner We Trust says:

    I’ve been a mostly casual Wolfsburg fan for a little while now. Maybe a lack of Union games will make me take more time with Bundesliga.

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