As the second half of the season is set to kick-off, Bavarian Football Works is taking a look at some of the top non-Bayern Munich storylines that will be prominent in the second half of the season.
1) How much can Dominik Szoboszlai impact RB Leipzig’s offense?
When Dominik Szoboszlai officially makes the jump from RB Salzburg to RB Leipzig, the youngster will be counted on to have a important role for a team that has struggled to find much offensive consistency. Die Roten Bullen has not exactly had a hard time scoring per se, but their offense has been slow to get going without Timo Werner.
Leipzig fans — and Julian Nagelsmann as well — will no doubt be hoping Szoboszlai can provide that jolt that the offense has been missing. How Nagelsmann uses Szoboszlai will also be key. Nagelsmann is flexible with his attacking set-up and could use the talented 20-year-old either out-wide or centrally.
If Szoboszlai can be that consistent spark that has been missing, this season’s edition of RB Leizpig could evolve into a legitimate threat for Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal, and Champions League glory. If not...well, there is always Angelino bombing up the flank.
2) Can Borussia Dortmund get its groove back?
With Lucien Favre no longer at the helm, Borussia Dortmund has the unique opportunity to fix itself now and make a strong charge at Bayern Munich for the league crown. Erling Haaland is set to return and has been an absolute menace to opposing defenses, but aside of Mats Hummels and a few other players, the large majority of the BVB roster has been battling consistency problems.
Jadon Sancho could make an incredible impact if he is able to get back to being the threat he has proven to be in the past, while players like Marco Reus, Julian Brandt, Axel Witsel, and Thorgan Hazard (among others) all have the potential to get back into top form and boost Borussia Dortmund back into the title race.
How Gio Reyna adapts to the second half of the season will be key. Can he prove he is worthy of a consistent starting role or can he thrive as a super-sub? Either way, interim manager Edin Terzić will need to sure up his defensive unit and remind his midfield and offense why exactly many of them are regarded as top-tier talents.
3) Who can stave off relegation?
At this stage, Schalke 04 looks like a virtual certainty to move down, while Mainz 05, Arminia Bielefeld, FC Köln, Hertha Berlin, Werder Bremen, and Hoffenheim all are at least at risk.
Mainz is in the middle of a teardown of its front office and coaching staff, while Arminia Bielefeld has proven to be spunky, but not always competitive. Those two clubs appear to be the most at risk to join Schalke in the leaderboard to drop down.
FC Köln has shown signs of life and appears to be more on the upward trend than downward, while it can be said that Hertha Berlin, Werder Bremen, and Hoffenheim all just have too much talent to be relegated.
Hoffenheim might be the one of that trio, who could fall. Former Bayern Munich II boss Sebastian Hoeneß could be on the hot seat if his team cannot turn things around.
4) Can Union Berlin keep it up?
Eisern Union has been the feel good story of the Bundesliga so far. Competitive, tough, and fearless, Union Berlin clearly is intimidated by no one. Do they have the firepower to stay in the race? I think many hope so.
There is something to be said for the underdog in any title race. In its second season back in the top division, Union Berlin probably should not even be remotely close to this position, but they have take a giant leap due to some savvy personnel moves and a relentless desire to out-score their opposition. If you are looking for fun, Union Berlin’s second half performance should be one to at least provide entertainment.
5) Will Bayer Leverkusen maintain its form?
After losing several key players including Kai Havertz and Kevin Volland — and seeing key veterans like Sven and Lars Bender battle nagging injuries — Die Werkself has shaken off those jabs and put together a knockout punch to most of the Bundesliga.
In fact, Leverkusen has only lost to Bayern Munich in the league and to Slavia Prague in the Europa League group stage. Otherwise, Die Werkself’s loss column is unblemished. The team has shown remarkable growth under the sometimes-maligned Peter Bosz and features one of the Bundesliga’s brightest young stars in Florian Wirtz.
Clearly, this will be a team to watch in the Rückrunde.