As sports slowly begin to return to television, the ones earliest to resume play will be getting unprecedented attention, but that doesn’t mean people will necessarily know anything about what they’re watching. And for those tuning in for the first time, NESN is here to inform and educate you with the league’s biggest storylines, athletes and how to tune in to its return or postponed start.
Saturday, May 16 marks a special day, as one of Europe’s major soccer leagues resumes its season after a two-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Meaning sports are back.
Germany’s Bundesliga has nine matchdays left in its season, and its governing body is adamant on squeezing it all in before June 30.
So for those who may not like soccer (or never have given it a chance) but still plan to wake up early and tune in because they’re feigning to watch real competition, the Bundesliga offers perhaps one of the best products of soccer there is. There’s a reason people are loyal to German manufacturing for appliances and cars, but that quality spreads to the pitch, as well.
The typical American complaints about soccer are that it’s boring and the players are crybabies who spend too much time trying to get penalty calls. But guess what, desperate times call for desperate measures and some of those haters will be tuning in. And they might be pleasantly surprised by the German league.
Of the five top major European soccer leagues the Bundesliga offers the most goals scored, most shots on goals and assists, the lowest average possession time, lowest save percentage and second-fewest yellow cards.
So before you read more about the state of the league, let’s first teach you how to pronounce it: Boon-das-lee-ga.
Where was the Bundesliga at before the shutdown?
The season typically runs from August to May, with 34 matchdays throughout the season. There are 18 teams, which operate on a system of promotion and relegation with the second division of German professional soccer, the 2. Bundesliga. That means, teams are bumped down or up based on their performance, and teams at the bottom at the end of a season get relegated. Meanwhile, the four top teams qualify for the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League, one of the most prestigious soccer competitions in the world. Teams that place fifth or sixth settle for the Europa League.
When the Bundesliga suspended all fixtures (that’s what us futebol fans call games sometimes) March 13, there were nine matchdays left, with the Top 5 teams in a pretty close race to avoid the five-spot:
- Bayern Munich (55 points)
- Borussia Dortmund (51)
- RB Leipzig (50)
- Borussia Mönchengladbach (49)
- Bayer Leverkusen (47).
With the action set to get underway again this weekend, here's a quick primer on where we left off ⚽️🇩🇪
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) May 15, 2020
Here is a complete forecast of the standings with each team’s chance at finishing in the Top 4. According to FiveThirtyEight’s club ratings, Borussia Mönchengladbach (more commonly referred to as Gladbach) and Leverkusen (shortened from Bayer Leverkusen) will be a toss up for the last Champions League Spot.
There’s a lot at stake in a little stretch of season.
Here are some storylines circulating around the league
— Bayern Munich, essentially the New England Patriots or UConn women’s basketball team of the Bundesliga, is in familiar territory in first place. They’re the 29-time league champion and currently look to defend their seven-straight titles.
They’re in better shape to do it now, too, given that star Robert Lewandowski, the league’s leading scorer, has had more time to recover from a fracture in his left tibia. Thanks to COVID-19, he didn’t have to miss a match. The rich stay rich.
And Bayern coach, Hansi Flick, made it known that his team plans to impress the world when they tune in, with Bundesliga being the first league back.
Some gambling advice: Bet your stimulus check on Bayern over Union Berlin.
— That being said, Bayern has a tough road ahead. They still have to play Dortmund, Gladbach, and Leverkusen, and any upset will certainly shake things up. Not to mention, Leipzig sitting in third place could be dangerous. Their one of the most exciting teams to watch thanks to a relentless, high-pressure press.
— And upsets probably are likely, given that home field advantage won’t offer the same perks in normal times. The Bundesliga is typically considered one of the most fan-friendly and accessible leagues in the world. The tickets aren’t outrageous and the crowds are awesome, but none of that will matter. Apparently, Gladbach plans to toss out cardboard cutouts of fans in the seats, but it obviously won’t be the same.
— Did we mention some coronavirus cases almost threw a wrench in everything?
In the Bundesliga’s first round of testing of more than 1,700 individuals from all 36 teams, 10 players tested positive for the virus.
Dynamo Dresden, a second division team, had to deal with a two-week quarantine after some of its players were found to have it. Fortunately, it didn’t further postpone the league’s return.
— The match with the most implications this weekend will be Dortmund versus FC Schalke 04.
This is one of Germany’s biggest rivalries and both teams can’t afford to drop any points. Dortmund wants to maintain its spot in the Top 4 of the standings, and a loss for Schalke almost certainly means the club will fall from sixth and miss out on the final Europa qualifying spot.
Players to watch
— Dortmund’s Jardon Sancho is just 20-years-old but has made quite the splash, scoring 14 goals coupled with 15 assists in the league to this point, and Premier League clubs are lining up to throw big money at him.
— Bayern’s Lewandowski, as mentioned, leads the league with 25 goals this season, followed by Leipzig’s Timo Werner (21). Sancho falls behind them in third.
— Erling Haaland was on a tear for Dortmund before the hiatus, scoring nine goals in eight matches. Hopefully the break hasn’t killed his momentum.
— Alphonso Davies really has demanded attention with his speed and ball control, and the 21-year-old is a Canadian refugee with a pretty interesting story.
— One of the best goalies in the world plays in the Bundesliga. Manuel Neuer, the captain of both Bayern and the German national squad, has won the IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper award four times.
He’s nicknamed the “Sweeper Keeper” and you can check out why here.
— There are plenty of American stars from the United States men’s national team playing in the Bundesliga to keep an eye on too. They include: Tyler Adams (Leipzig), Gio Reyna (Dortmund), Weston McKennie (Schalke), John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Timothy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Fabian Johnson (Gladbach), Zack Steffen (Fortuna Dusseldorf) and Alfredo Morales (Fortuna Dusseldorf.
This weekend’s fixtures
9:30 a.m. ET: Augsburg v. Wolfsburg
9:30 a.m. ET: Borussia Dortmund v. Schalke
9:30 a.m. ET: Fortuna Dusseldorf v. Paderborn
9:30 a.m. ET: Hoffenheim v. Hertha Berlin
9:30 a.m. ET: RB Leipzig v. SC Freiburg
12:30 p.m. ET: Eintracht Frankfurt v. Borussia Monchengladbach
9:30 a.m. ET: Cologne v. Mainz
12 p.m. ET: Union Berlin v. Bayern Munich
2:30 p.m. ET: Werder Bremen v. Bayer Leverkusen
How to tune in
Television: FOX Sports, FS1, FS2, TUDN
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Images