As the new Bundesliga season kicks off this weekend, many expect that reigning German and European champions Bayern Munich will once again come out on top. But what about at the bottom of the table?
Newly promoted clubs VfB Stuttgart and Arminia Bielefeld — who have taken the place of relegated Paderborn and Fortuna Dusseldorf — are among the favourites for the drop, according to the Bundesliga 2020 odds.
But Union Berlin and Koln both survived quite comfortably after going up last season, showing that newly promoted sides can put up a good fight.
So can this season’s new boys stay up? Let’s examine the two clubs in closer detail and see whether they stand a chance.
Arminia Bielefeld are back in the Bundesliga for the first time since the 2008/09 season. They ran away with the 2. Bundesliga title, finishing 10 points clear of second-placed Stuttgart.
Under the leadership of coach Uwe Neuhaus, Arminia lost just twice all season, six fewer than the next closest team. They also scored the most goals (65) and conceded the fewest (30) in the league, which underscored their dominance.
Club captain Fabian Klos was crucial in Arminia’s championship campaign. The 32-year-old striker led the league with 21 goals and also added seven assists.
Arminia will continue to rely heavily on Klos to get them goals in the Bundesliga this season. However, Klos has no prior experience in top-flight football, and it remains to be seen just how well he will perform in the highest level.
Realising that they need more attacking weapons to survive this season, Arminia have signed Sergio Cordova on loan from Augsburg. The 23-year-old Venezuelan forward appeared only 16 times for Augsburg last season, scoring two goals with one assist. He has scored seven goals in 62 appearances for Augsburg over the last three seasons.
However, Arminia have not done any spending to significantly strengthen their squad. They have completed just five free transfers to date, with former Premier League centre-back Mike van der Hoorn the most notable of those five.
As a result, Neuhaus will have to try and keep them up with virtually the same squad that he had last season, one with close to no Bundesliga experience within it.
In the absence of Bundesliga-level quality and experience, Arminia will have to play with much more effort, intensity, and cohesion in order to avoid heading straight back down this season. But even then, it might not be enough.
Stuttgart are back in the Bundesliga once again. Just like in 2016/17, they spent just one season in 2. Bundesliga before earning a return to the top flight.
They had a strong seventh-place finish in their first year back in 2017/18, and they will be looking to replicate that performance this season.
Despite the midseason change in manager from Tim Walter to Pellegrino Matarazzo — a former assistant of Julian Nagelsmann at Hoffenheim — Stuttgart were still inside the top three for the entire season in 2. Bundesliga. They finished second behind Arminia in the standings and were also second in both goals scored (62) and conceded (41).
Stuttgart had a balanced attack which saw five players finish with six or more goals. Nicolas Gonzalez led the team with 14 goals. The Argentine had a rough first season in the Bundesliga back in 2018/19; he had just two goals in 30 appearances as Die Schwaben were relegated.
But he was just 20 years old then and in his first year away from Argentina. He is more settled now and should provide more Bundesliga 2020 highlights this time around.
Unlike Arminia, Stuttgart have several players with Bundesliga experience. Apart from Gonzalez, forward Daniel Didavi, midfielder Gonzalo Castro, and captain Marc-Oliver Kempf have all featured in multiple Bundesliga campaigns.
However, they will be without two of their most experienced players — former Bayern Munich title-winners Mario Gomez and Holger Badstuber — for their return to the top flight. Gomez, 35, decided to retire after helping them secure promotion, while Badstuber, 31, has surprisingly been sent down to the second team.
Stuttgart have used their summer transfer business to strengthen at the back, though. Their two biggest signings were goalkeeper Gregor Kobel from Hoffenheim and centre-back Waldemar Anton from Hannover.
They’ve also brought in right-back Pascal Stenzel from Freiburg, defensive midfielder Wataru Endo from Belgium, and centre-back Konstantinos Mavropanos on loan from Arsenal.
SBOTOP odds surprisingly have Stuttgart’s odds to win their fourth Bundesliga title at 501.00, which is tied for 10th in the league. By contrast, Arminia have astronomical 2001.00 odds to win the title, which is tied for last.
But while a Stuttgart title challenge would definitely be a major shock, the possibility of them staying up wouldn’t be all that surprising considering the talent and experience they have in their squad.
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.
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