Europe's Biggest Underachieving Clubs: Manchester United and Hamburg Slumping
We’ve got a pair of debutantes in this week’s instalment of Europe’s Biggest Underachieving Clubs, and that means two sides have graduated from these inauspicious ranks—at least for now.
Borussia Dortmund, presently third in the Bundesliga, have yet to lose in 2014 and go into Saturday’s match at home to Eintracht Frankfurt on a three-game winning run. PSV Eindhoven, meanwhile, have risen to sixth in the Eredivisie following back-to-back wins against Cambuur and FC Twente.
Granted, neither are where they’d prefer to be at this juncture of their schedules, and they are still underperforming. But the clubs taking their places in this ranking have been even worse of late, and they could well find themselves in our top five for weeks to come.
Here are the biggest underachievers in European club football.
5. Werder Bremen
They may be 13th in the Bundesliga, but in an 18-team division in which relegation playoffs are part of the format, Werder Bremen find themselves just three points above the danger zone with 14 rounds remaining.
Winless since returning from the winter break, the four-time German champions have won only one of their last nine matches (a streak that goes all the way back to November 3) and are coming off a 5-1 thumping at home to Borussia Dortmund.
It’s rather surprising that manager Robin Dutt is still in his job, but another heavy defeat against Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday could see him finally ushered out of the Weserstadion.
4. Inter Milan
Inter Milan are back in the European places following Sunday’s 1-0 win at home to Sassuolo.
But the goals have dried up in 2014 for the typically high-scoring Nerazzurri, which have found the back of the net only three times in six league matches in 2014.
Meanwhile, new owner Erick Thohir has proven so unpopular that his predecessor, Massimo Moratti, has gone public with a buy-back clause, as per Ben Gladwell of ESPN FC.
3. AC Milan
AC Milan tasted defeat for the first time in Serie A under new manager Clarence Seedorf when they fell 3-1 away to Napoli last weekend, and ahead of Friday’s match at home to Bologna, they sit 11th in the Italian top flight after 23 rounds.
The Rossoneri have been especially poor away from the San Siro this season, having so far won just two matches on their travels.
Striker Mario Balotelli has scored three of Milan’s last five goals in all competitions, so if the seven-time European champions are to fight their way back up the table they’ll somehow need to find some supplementary offense.
Winners of seven German titles and the 1983 European Cup, Hamburg are presently second from bottom in the Bundesliga and looking very much like relegation fodder.
With only a single win from their previous 10 matches—a run of futility that goes all the way back to the end of October—the club have nevertheless vowed to stick with embattled manager Bert van Marwijk, even as the losses continue to mount.
Of course, that could change if Hamburg lose to promoted and last-place Eintracht Braunschweig on Saturday. And their following match will be against Borussia Dortmund, which are rounding into form.
1. Manchester United
On Tuesday, Manchester United vice chairman Ed Woodward referred to the reigning Premier League champions' on-field results as “disappointing” while also revealing record revenues for the Red Devils, according to Richard Jolly of ESPN FC.
But it’s the results on the pitch that the club’s fans will be most concerned about, and if a 2-1 loss to Stoke on February 1 came as a jolt, it was perhaps surpassed in its shock value by Sunday’s 2-2 draw at home to Fulham in which the Cottagers scored late to earn a split of the points.
Going into Wednesday’s crucial encounter away to Arsenal, United are seventh in the standings and four points back of sixth. The Champions League places are currently a pipe dream as fourth-place Liverpool are nine points above United in the table.