Battle for European Places Keeps Bundesliga Exciting and Unpredictable in 2013

Ross Dunbar@@rossdunbar93Contributor IIJanuary 3, 2013

ZUZENHAUSEN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 19:  Newly appointed head coach Marco Kurz of TSG 1899 Hoffenheim attends a press conference at the club's training ground on December 19, 2012 in Zuzenhausen, Germany.  (Photo by Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images)
Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images

Holding a nine-point lead over nearest challengers at the top Bayer Leverkusen, FC Bayern are on course for their 23rd league championship—only they can be masters of their own downfall.

But beneath the Bavarian giants, the Bundesliga is incredibly wide-open for the three remaining UEFA Champions League positions and the three league-based UEFA Europa League spots.

Although, two clubs that have quickly had to alter the long-term goals for the season are VfL Wolfsburg and TSG Hoffenheim, who had both been fancied for a place in Europe next season and to a degree pushing for the fourth Champions League position.

Supported respectively by car giants Volkswagen and software tycoon Dietmar Hopp, Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim made some impressive additions in the summer window and a lot had been expected of both sides.

Former boss Felix Magath—recently replaced by Dieter Hecking and sporting director, Klaus Allofs—has spent reckless sums of money that has put Wolfsburg in danger of failing to meet UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations.

For the season 2011-12, the Wolves were £31 million in the red, blowing well over £50 million on transfers, adding to previous campaigns of making loss. From the start of the 2006 season, to 2010, the club lost almost £65 million on changes to the playing squad.

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Thus, expectations were high of Wolfsburg at the start of the campaign—but Hecking’s side are one place above the relegation position. Strangely, though, Wolfsburg are only seven points away from the last remaining European position. Seven points back, Hoffenheim had lured the likes of experienced Tim Wiese, Eren Derdiyok and Real Madrid’s Joselu, but they have performed well-below targets this season.

At the other end of the spectrum in the Bundesliga, the fourth, fifth and sixth spots are occupied by overachieving, Eintracht Frankfurt, SC Freiburg and FSV Mainz 05.

Frankfurt, who are one of three newly-promoted clubs, had an intriguing signing policy of adding the ‘best of the rest’ from the Bundesliga 2, which has proven to be a smart idea from coach Armin Veh. The Eagles even spent periods in the first half of the campaign playing second-fiddle to the rampant FC Bayern.

Targets are unsurprisingly being adjusted for Eintracht Frankfurt. With their Bundesliga status essentially guaranteed, they will make a fierce assault for the fourth Champions League spot, which is up for grabs.

Freiburg and Mainz have symbolised prudency and stability in recent years, coached by the impressive Christian Streich and Thomas Tuchel, respectively.

Both sides have spent modest amounts in the last few seasons, largely relying on a crop of homegrown stars, as well as, the tactical astuteness and man-management skills of their coaches. It would have not surprised many if either had been in a relegation battle this season and securing a place in the top-half at the end of the campaign would be seen as a success for both clubs in the end.

Third to 15th are separated by a mere 11 points with 17 league games still to play in the reverse fixtures, creating one of the most unpredictable leagues on the continent. Furthermore, there are only nine points between second and ninth, which will keep Leverkusen on their toes.

Not to forget those at the bottom of the Bundesliga in FC Augsburg and Greuther Fürth.

Both adrift of the leading pack but are most likely to be two of the busier teams in the January transfer window, as they hope to bring some quality to their ranks. A three-point margin to the relegation playoff spot is a beacon of hope that both will cling on to dearly.

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