The 5 Bundesliga Teams That Will Underachieve This Season
The 2014-15 Bundesliga season kicks off this Friday and all eyes will be on the likes of Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Schalke and more as they battle it out for the German league title. But at the top and further down the table there could be some real surprises this season, with several teams making big moves in the transfer market.
Some have addressed real weaknesses, others have spent their money less wisely and some have hardly invested at all. And heading into the season, it's predictable that some proud teams will not reach their targets.
Click "Begin Slideshow" for a closer look at five teams that are in danger of failing to live up to expectations in 2014-15.
Hamburg generally did quite well in the transfer market this summer. Although they parted ways with their biggest star, Hakan Calhanoglu, they cut their squad of many bit-part players and replaced them with the likes of Valon Behrami and Nicolai Muller, and made Pierre-Michel Lasogga's loan move from Hertha BSC a permanent deal.
Looking at their probable best starting lineup (Bild recently made a good graphic to represent it), HSV look to have one of the strongest first teams in the German top flight. And they ought to be targeting a finish that would put them in the Europa League next season. But that still might be a bit of a stretch.
Hamburg's problem is that there is somewhat of a mental stigma at the club. They had a good squad last season, yet (albeit partly due to a blight of injuries) narrowly avoided relegation. And although they can't expect similarly poor luck with injuries this season, whatever can happen probably will.
HSV have limited depth and continue to have a very suspect back line. And it's well known that once things start to go bad at Hamburg, the misery compounds quickly. After limping past 3. Liga side Energie Cottbus in penalties in their DFB-Pokal opener, HSV are already off to a poor start.
Having signed a great coach in Roger Schmidt and brought in the likes of Hakan Calhanoglu, Josip Drmic, Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Tin Jedvaj this summer, Leverkusen should be targeting even a top two finish. But they may not even finish in a Champions League spot.
Leverkusen's weaknesses are in midfield, where the loss of Emre Can will be significant, as well as defense. Lars Bender is an excellent option but one who is often injured. Gonzalo Castro is good in possession but perhaps does not possess all the ball-winning qualities one would hope for in a two-man defensive midfield system. Simon Rolfes and Stefan Reinartz are good ball-winners but offer less linking between the midfield and attack.
Schmidt's high-pressing system is exciting and enjoyable to watch, but it can be a bit of a disaster at the back. Kobenhavn created an unsettling number of chances in their Champions League play-off on Tuesday and scored twice from set pieces. Giulio Donati was so poor he was substituted at half-time.
Up front, there are some more question marks. Drmic and Calhanoglu are obviously huge talents, but neither could save their clubs from finishing in the relegation zone last season. Both will need to step up their game in their first season at the BayArena.
Like Hamburg, Leverkusen are also a team that in recent history have struggled to regain form once thing have started going against them. They have repeatedly capitulated in the Champions League in depressingly emphatic manner and seem to carry an inferiority complex. This mental barrier will be a big one to overcome. Having only finished a point ahead of Wolfsburg, Leverkuen will have to be wary of the likes of the Lower Saxony side, Gladbach and perhaps even Hoffenheim behind them.
The transfer window has been a mixed bag for Hertha BSC, who managed to sign some good players like Valentin Stocker and John Heitinga, but they also lost Adrian Ramos and Pierre-Michel Lasogga. Their replacement, it seems, will be ex-Dortmund bench-warmer Julian Schieber.
There just doesn't appear to be a great and reliable source of goals at Hertha, which could be hugely costly to their aspirations of even staying in the Bundesliga. They've been relegated multiple times in recent years and know what's at stake.
Having a reliable source of goals is hugely important for any team aiming to stay up; since the rule change that resulted in wins being worth three points and not two, there has been a bias in favor of attacking football. Hertha may need a hero to emerge if they are to avoid the drop.
Expectations at Werder Bremen have dropped off significantly since the mid-2000s. The northern Germans have diminished from title-winners and regular contenders to a mid-table side at best. But heading into the 2014-15 campaign, they could find themselves in danger of being relegated.
Bremen finished 12th last season, which was as many points as they ended up above the drop zone. But they've hardly strengthened their squad this summer and lost longstanding star midfielder Aaron Hunt. They have some serious deficiencies in both defense and attack.
There is talent in the Bremen squad, but the players seem to lack passion and the drive that is needed to lift a team from mid-table mediocrity back to the big stage. Eljero Elia was a Netherlands international and a Juventus player not long ago, but he has stagnated since moving to the Weserstadion. The club hasn't catalyzed the progress of Mehmet Ekici, Nils Petersen and others, either.
Bremen began their season in underwhelming manner, edging fourth-tier side Illertissen in the DFB-Pokal after extra time. The club's labored progress doesn't bode well for their future.
The story of Mainz's progress from a 2. Bundesliga side to consistent mid-to-upper-table finishers is quite remarkable. They benefited hugely from the brilliance of Jurgen Klopp and later Thomas Tuchel as head coaches. And just as Klopp left in 2008, Tuchel also parted ways with the club this summer.
Mainz finished seventh in the Bundesliga table last season and had a chance to qualify for the Europa League, but they were eliminated in their qualifier by Asteras Tripoli. It was a wake-up call for a club that has suffered some big losses over the summer and not done much to replace the departures.
Star attackers Nicolai Muller and Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting were sold to Hamburg and Schalke, respectively, and even young talent Shawn Parker left for Augsburg. Mainz did well to sign defender Gonzalo Jara, but their replacements in attack leave something to be desired. Filip Duricic and Nikita Rukavytsya as replacements for the scorers of 19 of the team's 52 goals may raise a critical eyebrow.
The season began poorly for Mainz, who were beaten on penalties by 3. Liga side Chemnitz in the DFB-Pokal. Based on that result and their overall squad quality, FSV face a huge challenge this season if they are to finish in a Europa League spot, or even in the top 10 this season.