The announcement of the Bundesliga’s return this weekend has cause much excitement, albeit mostly internationally.
But it is not the only league returning this weekend. The second tier, the 2. Bundesliga (“zweite Bundesliga”, or more commonly in English, Bundesliga 2) also resumes with teams having nine games left to play.
If you’re on this blog there’s a good chance you already know what delights the league holds. If you don’t though, here a brief guide to “the greatest league in the world.”
What to expect
The 2. Bundesliga works similarly to the top flight, with 18 teams playing each other home and away.
The top two go up automatically to the Bundesliga, with the third place side going into a two-legged play-off with the team finishing 16th in the Bundesliga. Likewise, at the other end, the bottom two go down to the 3. Liga, with the 16th place side playing the third-placed from the third tier.
With just 18 teams, the league is fiercely competitive. Anyone can beat anyone, with more than a few big names in the recent past tripping up to seemingly less glamorous sides. The gap between the top and bottom is rarely big – just eight points currently separate fifth top from fourth bottom – and teams in mid-table are never really safe.
Whilst not every game is a thriller, 2. Bundesliga defences are prone to disintegration, with high-scoring games commonplace. Highlights this season include a seven-goal first half between VfL Osnabrück and Wehen Wiesbaden, as well as VfL Bochum‘s frequent inability to hold onto a lead no matter how many goals they’ve scored.
As well as a destructive use of VAR, there will be plenty of banter, such as the time a goalkeeper conceded a goal when grabbing a drink, or this bizarre penalty from earlier this season:
The season so far
The season started with four big names tipped to battle for promotion. Hannover 96, 1. FC Nürnberg (Nuremburg) and VfB Stuttgart were relegated from the Bundesliga, whilst former European champions Hamburger SV faced a second season at this level having previously been ever-presents at Germany’s top table.
Only two of those teams have come close to meeting those expectations, with Hannover and Nürnberg battling at the wrong end of the table for much of the season. Yet whilst Stuttgart and Hamburg sit second and third respectively, it has been far from plain sailing for either.
Instead of the pre-season ‘big four’, it’s Arminia Bielefeld leading the way and seemingly set to return to the Bundesliga for the first time in 11 years. Not everyone has been surprised at them pushing at the top, and they have a settled side, spearheaded by top club icon and the league’s top scorer Fabian Klos.
The relegation battle promises to be very tense, as it always is. Dynamo Dresden are bottom but had been improving under Markus Kauczinski, whilst the same can be said of Wiesbaden, still under Rüdiger Rehm who brought them up last season.
Another promoted side, Karlsruher SC, are second bottom after a disastrous run of form after a decent start. Bochum have been in the mix all season too, with only slow improvements under Thomas Reis, whilst Osnabrück look set to drop into the mix having failed to win a game in 2020.
Who to support?
If you want to be sure of supporting a promotion winning side, then Stuttgart are probably your safest bet, especially if you like supporting a team with big names like Mario Gómez. But of course Bielefeld are also in an incredibly strong position. If your nerves can hack it, and you fancy burning down a stadium down or two if you don’t go up, Hamburg are for you.
You may well be tempted by the ultimate cult club FC St. Pauli, often associated with left-leaning and anarchist politics. Other clubs with long histories and big fan bases include struggling Bochum, Karlsruhe and Dresden, not to forget Hannover or Nürnberg either. If for some reason you hate Nürnberg, their bitter neighbours Greuther Fürth are playing good football and not completely out of the promotion running just yet.
Fans of the underdog will no doubt be attracted to the likes of 1. FC Heidenheim, the league’s ultimate dark horses, and SV Sandhausen, who always manage to stay up no matter how much trouble they get themselves into. Jahn Regensburg and Holstein Kiel fall into this category as well.
Fans of teams wearing purple will want to check out Erzgebirge Aue and Osnabrück, whilst if you’re looking for a great escape story, Wiesbaden are just as likely as Dresden to provide it. Last but not least, SV Darmstadt 98 have recent Bundesliga history and a charming ground, even if their much-loved Gegengerade stand has now been built over.
Big games to look forward to
With Dresden’s entire squad in isolation due to coronavirus, there will only be eight games this weekend. Sunday’s games look the more exciting, with BT Sport showing Greuther Fürth vs Hamburg in the UK, whilst there is also a derby between Bielefeld and Osnabrück, and Wiesbaden will be looking to complete an unlikely double against Stuttgart.
Next weekend, Bielefeld and Hamburg go head to head, before the last big promotion battle of the season between HSV and Stuttgart the following midweek. In fact, the big games come thick and fast for Hecking’s side, with a derby against bogey team Kiel following that.
Matchday 31, as thing stand in the middle of June, will see fierce rivals Nürnberg and Fürth meet at the Max Morlock Stadium. The only two matchdays at the end of June will be gripping as well, with plenty likely to still be at stake at both ends of the table. Dresden’s games against Sandhausen and Osnabrück potentially crucial at the bottom of the table.
With lots of exciting games to look forward, the only thing left to do is to watch. Unfortunately, coverage varies wild from country-to-country, although finding live footage is half the fun of following this league. In any case, with little else on, broadcasters have little excuse to offer up this treat of a league wherever you are.