With the international break in full flow (anyone else getting withdrawal symptoms yet?) Scott McKenzie (@scottmckenzie81) produces the first of his monthly pieces on the Binge focusing on all things Bundesliga. In this edition, he examines Germany's woeful Champions League record this season, and who the one hope for continental success are from the land of beer and sausage. Enjoy!
The last 16 of the Champions League has been nothing short of a disaster for the clubs in the Bundesliga all three remaining representatives exiting the competition where two of the clubs in my view being humiliated & Bayern being knocked out to a club in Liverpool which it believes it is its equal. However these events is really bad news for the league in general as it shows the standard in the Bundesliga is competitive from top to bottom but this also shows the massive gap between the Bundesliga & the Premier League plus a selection of other European clubs such as Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Juventus & PSG who all have access to larger resources and they are not afraid to spend the cash compared to the more frugal Bundesliga including Bayern although they will outspend everyone domestically are more conservative when it comes to the accusation of superstars or in Florentino Perez speak Galacticos.
So back to the humiliation where I will go into a bit more detail each clubs fortunes & I shall start with the disaster that is Schalke 04 currently. This season has been a total disaster from start to finish over managing to get out of their Champions League group which to be fair was a group I would expect any team that qualifies from the Bundesliga to get out of considering they only had Galatasaray & Lokomotiv Moscow. To be fair many expected City to put them out especially as City took a 3-2 advantage to the Etihad but even I wasn't expecting to see the result that I have seen bearing in mind how many of us were angry including myself coming out of Ibrox that night. I expected maybe City to field a weaker team & maybe to put 2 or 3 past on the night but never seen seven coming as any competent team would close the door even for professional pride but the defending for each goal was disastrous. It wasn't surprising that Domenico Tedesco was fired the surprise was that he was not fired sooner especially as Schalke had lost every Bundesliga game before that second leg in Manchester & eyebrows were raised when he was not fired after losing at home to newly promoted Fortuna Düsseldorf who are fighting for their Bundesliga status along with Schalke 4-0 on Matchday 24.
It has been that bad this season particularly in recent games it would not be a surprise if they ended up in the relegation playoff or relegated automatically as they lost again in Leipzig on Saturday. Like from our perspective being bears this is seen in Germany as simply not acceptable for the size of the club they are. It was not that long ago when you saw the big name signings of Raul & Hunterlaar but that is just not happening where the biggest signings over the summer were Mark Uth from Hoffenheim & Sebastian Rudy from Bayern which simply have not worked out along with the rest of the squad just not being of the standard that you would expect. However, there is some hope as the club are still in the DFB Pokal where they are home to Werder Bremen but the downside is that they only lost 4-0 to Bremen on Matchday 25 only last Friday at the time of writing.
Now let’s move the other team in the Ruhr region & Schalke 04’s biggest enemies which of course is Borussia Dortmund who didn’t get humiliated like Schalke but still lost badly for team who is meant be challenging Bayern for the Bundesliga crown when they lost to Spurs aka the second best team in North London but that’s my Arsenal leanings talking. Although they only lost 1-0 at the Westfalenstadion but the tie was lost at Wembley where they were dominated & it really should have been more but it came during a period that started after the winter break which saw them drawing against Eintracht Frankfurt, Hoffenheim & relegation-threatened Nuremberg as well as going out of the DFB Pokal to Werder Bremen. Then a loss away to Augsburg on Matchday 24 which saw their lead on top of the Bundesliga disappear & saw Bayern go top on goal difference so they really have Hibsed it. However, if I was a fan of BVB I would still be optimistic as they have won their last couple of games against Stuttgart & Hertha Berlin plus they play Bayern granted in Munich on Matchday 28 a couple of weeks after the (pointless) international break.
As for Bayern now this season has been like a soap where there has been crisis after crisis this season but there is still every chance they will end up with league & cup double despite how poor they have been but that sadly says more about the standard of the Bundesliga rather than Bayern. Their exit at the hands of Liverpool wasn’t bad in my view as for me they are one of the best Europe currently as by their position in the Premier League & being so close last season in the Champions League. However, Bayern was lucky to be at this stage due to their opposition other than Ajax being Benfica & AEK Athens (I wonder where I have heard of them from?). However, this appears to be a period of transition at the Allianz Arena with a number of players coming to their natural end with the likes of Robben & Ribéry already announced their intentions to retire at the end of the season. I also believe & other experts have came to the same conclusion that Thomas Müller has not been the same player that has won so so much in the game for a couple of seasons but if another club took him he would still be a superstar but that just says everything about the standard he has set for himself over the last decade or so. There is also that Manuel Neuer has not been himself since he got over those injury issues for the World Cup but there are players who are just not good enough for Bayern such as Renato Sanchez & Rafinha. Also, it’s unlikely that James Rodríguez will stay after the end of his loan. Frankly, they haven’t been the same since Philipp Lahm hung up his boots.
There does seem to be signs of change with the likes of Alphonso Davies arriving from Vancouver & the ongoing pursuit of Callum Hudson-Odoi but I believe there is work to be done in the background as I just can’t see Niko Kovac surviving the summer despite his former teammate Hasan Salihamidžić being the Sporting Director at the club but then again it could be easily argued he isn’t doing his job well either. On the upside, their commercial side is doing well with BMW coming on board as a club sponsor which will dwarf the amount coming from Audi so the finances as always will be there but will they choose to use them in the way many think they should. Only time will tell on this huge work in progress.
However, despite the doom & gloom of the exits in the Champions League, there is one silver lining in the form of Eintracht Frankfurt successes this season which at the beginning of the season no one seen coming. Let’s face it I don’t think after winning last seasons DFB Pokal final against Bayern it could get any better especially as their coach one Niko Kovac was leaving to take the hot seat at Bayern. However the season couldn't have started any more badly under new coach Adi Hütter who had arrived from winning the Swiss Super League with Young Boys ( no jokes please as we may have “Football Fans” reading this) when they lost the Super Cup against Bayern then went out of the DFB Pokal first round to SSV Ulm who play in the fourth tier of German football & all of this before the Bundesliga season started. This poor form other winning their opening game against SC Freiburg also continued till the end of September when they seven-game unbeaten run where they won six out of those seven games with the other being a draw against 1. FC Nürnberg who were newly promoted from the 2. Bundesliga. This fantastic form also coincided with their form in the Europa League group stages where they won six out of six & fairly impressively as well as they qualified to the knockout stages with ease. Their form since the winter break has also been as impressive as they are still unbeaten in domestically & Europe including an impressive win in the San Siro against Inter Milan thanks to a fantastic Luka Jović strike who has been fantastic all season long which has attracted the likes of Barcelona for signature & he will be hopefully lining up to play against his parent club when Frankfurt play Benfica in the quarterfinals of the Europa League after the boring international break which sounds like a fantastic tie to watch & of course thanks to their decent form they are very much in the hunt for the Champions League next season which would be a fantastic achievement.
Thanks to Scott for taking a deep dive into Bavaria and Beyond this week, looking forward to next months entry. No domestic football on the continent to keep an eye on this weekend, this seems like the kind of weekend to finally clear out that garage that your promised you would do since November. So rather than my usual sign off of "Happy Watching" I shall close with...