Half the season is in the books in the world's most exciting football league. While plenty of questions remain to be answered in the second half, we have enough information from which to draw a few conclusions ...
As is our custom, we'll run through the first half in "awards show" style. Feel free to critique our decisions, either in the comment section or by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, note the poll at the end of the post.
A few sides have put up impressive performances, but I think Eintracht Frankfurt is probably the most positive surprise. They had surely the most favorable/auspicious prospects of the 3 newly-promoted teams, but even their biggest fans probably wouldn't have predicted a (tied for) top-3 first-half finish. Die Adler have wins over Leverkusen, Hannover and Freiburg, and hard-fought draw vs. BVB and Schalke. A Champions League spot might seem like too high a goal to aim for; still, with Schalke and BMG struggling, anything's possible.
Well, you could certainly say that FC Augsburg has been the biggest disappointment to me personally. But, aside from me, no one really thought they were going to do much. Hoffenheim, on the other hand, is certainly under-performing expectations. After finishing in the 11 spot twice in a row, TSG was probably expected to put together a similar season. But this year has been one disaster after another for Hoffenheim.
They've allowed 4 goals in 5 different matches, all loses, including the embarrassing defeat to Berliner AK to open the year. They fired Markus Babel a few weeks ago. So far, this hasn't helped, as TSG haven't won a match since November 3, and they're looking like they might struggle to avoid the drop. Hoffenheim actually has a few decent players, though, including the young striker Joselu, who came up through Real Madrid's youth system. But they need to start earning points soon, and especially making some plays on the defensive end: TSG's 41 goals allowed are by far the worst in the league.
FIRST HALF CHAMPS
I try to be even-handed in non-Bayern-specific stories, but there's no way around it here: Die Roten are kicking ass and taking names this year. Bayern's +37 goal differential is more than any other club's total goals scored. We're getting offensive performance from several guys, seemingly bad injuries (Robben, Alaba, Gomez, Badstuber) have been overcome, and our only loss doesn't seem so bad now that we realize Leverkusen is actually decent.
Nothing is won in December, of course, but it would take a horrible collapse to end up without the title this year.
KINGS OF THE CUP
The DFB Pokal has moved on to the quarterfinals, with 6 of the 8 teams remaining from the 1. Bundesliga. But one of the biggest stories of the tournament has been Kickers Offenbach. The century-old club has fallen upon hard times in recent years, spending the last 5 years in the 3. Bundesliga. But this year, OFC has been on a good tear, scoring 3 straight upset wins in the Pokal. They drew a home match vs. Wolfsburg in the upcoming round. Every year, it seems like (at least) one team from a lower division will make a big run. Last year, it was Greuther Fuerth, who went to the semis and almost pulled a huge upset over BVB. This year, Kickers OFC have taken up the mantle.
Just some quick hitters as far as most exciting games so far in the 1.
- Hoffenheim 3-2 Schalke 04
Hoffenheim, as discussed above, has had a pretty poor run. But their win over Schalke was a high point. Die Blau und Scheiss scored a late goal to level, as Atsuto Uchida latched onto Huntelaar's back-heel, and almost took the lead a few minutes later. But Marcia just missed the target, and Hoffenheim then snagged a winner at the other end in stoppage time.
- Freiburg 1-2 Werder Bremen
The Freis took a 1-0 lead into the half, but Bremen notched 2 in the second half to take the lead. Bremen had a goal waved off for offside that would have given them a 3-1 lead; just a few minutes later, Freiburg's Daniel Caligiuri planted a dangerous shot into the post. It rattled off, though, and Werder held on for the win.
- Borussia Monchengladbach 2-3 Nuernberg
FCN took a 2-0 lead and appeared to be in complete control, as 'Gladbach's much vaunted defense struggled. But BMG fought back, with Granit Xhaka scoring the equalizer. But then, FCN calmly took the fight back to 'Gladbach, and Kiyotake scored the winner after a zig-zag dribble move. Luuk de Jong's late attempt bounced off the post, and Nuernberg held on for the win.
- Bayern Munich 1-1 Borussia Dortmund
FIRST HALF MVP
You tell me:
First Half MVP?
Stefan Kiessling - 12 goals, 1 in Leverkusen's win over Bayern, and has Leverkusen in 2d place (22 votes)
Szabolcs Huszti - 7 assists, tied for the league lead, plus several more great plays in Pokal and Europa League play (2 votes)
Alexander Meier - 11 goals, including 3 braces, as the best offensive option in Eintracht's great season (27 votes)
Vedad Ibisevic - 10 goals, out of 21 of Stuttgart's total, including several match winners (1 vote)
Thomas Mueller - 9 goals, 7 assists, consistently beating defenders match after match (82 votes)
134 total votes