The first major football league to snap out of the covid lockdown is the German Bundesliga which returns to action this weekend (all be it played out in empty stadiums and behind closed doors for safety measures) after initially cutting halt to the campaign following the 25th round of matches which were played all the way back in early March.
As if you hadn’t guessed Bayern Munich are top, looking to extend their record run of successive titles to eight in a row but the nations favourite Borussia Dortmund are just four points behind with that pesky much hated Red Bull franchise in third, five points adrift of the almost as equally least loved Stern des Sudens (the Stars of the South) from Bavaria.
The sensible money will no doubt be put on Bayern, predicted to have ‘enough’ in the tank to see out the remaining nine games to take the glory of yet another German title but stranger things have happened, and none stranger than a two month period of lockdown ending almost every competitive sporting activity across the world.
Getting back to business has been the light at the end of a miserable tunnel for many Bundesliga players locked in their homes with nothing more than FIFA time and basic exercise and dieting routines planned for them by the clubs technical coaching staffs over Skype (they still use that?), now back on the training pitch and raring to go, but it will be no doubt strange playing their football in huge modern acoustic-purpose stadiums without their fans.
Round 26 opens up on Saturday with the 2:30pm kick offs (UK time) and what better way to watch it on BT Sports (I don’t work for them I’m just excited) as Borussia Dortmund host their bitterest of local rivals Schalke in the Ruhr derby, one of the biggest and most hostile derby matches in the country, but without fans in the huge Signal Iduna Park it will be one with the strangest of atmospheres too, one that will feel more like a ‘training game’ than one that is supposed to rival the biggest and best match day pairings on the planet.
As well as the lack of atmosphere they’ll also most likely be a lack of fitness, but whilst we might not get the players at their very best just yet, I’m sure that will come in time and at least we can be clear that no team has a particular advantage (other than the home side not being pushed on by its usual 80,000 plus in yellow that is).
For what it’s worth, the lack of match sharpness and strange atmosphere I think will spur the players on to yet another feisty contest, the empty stands may help Schalke more than Dortmund though and I would sit on the fence and opt for a draw in order to bump up my first Betfair accumulator in over 8 weeks.
Dortmund have their doubts with injury as Zagadou, Reus, Axel Witsel and Emre Can won’t feature but their star youngsters Sancho, Haaland and Hazard will although Schalke, who had a disastrous season in 2018/19 were much improved in 2019/20 prior to lockdown under the stewardship of former Huddersfield supremo David Wagner who Terriers fans might remember, can make things tricky for opponents (and his own team) when setting up how ‘not to get beat’.
Another game to look out for on Saturday afternoon includes third place RB Leipzig at home to eighth place Freiburg with the Red Bull franchise perhaps worth an outside punt to even end Bayern’s title winning reign at 8/1.
Coached by the exciting young dynamic former Hoffenheim boss Julian Nagelsman, Leipzig have a number of the leagues best young players in their squad with 21 goal top scorer Timo Werner in attack, hotly sought after (interesting Bayern & Liverpool to name two) with the likes of midfielder Christopher Nkunku and centre half Dayot Upamecano also attracting interest from the world’s elite.
On Saturday evening, two more big boys clash as those cult 70’s icons Eintracht Frankfurt host Borussia Monchengladbach in another game aired LIVE on BT Sports at 5:30pm. Twelfth placed Frankfurt have largely and predictably been off par this season following the sales of Luka Jovic, Ante Rebic and Sebastien Haller who all left in the summer whilst Monchengladbach in fourth have fared much better. Coached by the highly rated Marco Rose they have the exciting Frenchman Marcus Thuram in attack with fellow compatriot Allasane Plea pulling the strings as well as leading the charts as the teams top scorer.
A Dortmund/Schalke draw and a routine Leipzig home win with Monchengladbach taking the spoils away will give you a nice 14/1 treble on Saturday… A good way to get back on the betting saddle should those come in on your £10 stake.
On Sunday champions Bayern Munich face what would have looked a more tricky trip to plucky promoted Union Berlin if it went ahead with fans… Without them I see only one winner as the likes of Lewandowski and Gnabry look to add to their already impressive goalscoring tally’s.
Whoever you decide to back, whatever team in Germany you choose to support, football will be strange this weekend but at least football will be played… Whether you think football should be played with the fans, or whether you are content to watch it without, well that opinion might change over the coming weeks, but what we will have ‘finally’ is something to look forward to, world class sport, some of the top footballers in the world, the Bundesliga shining its light on world football, the competition that everybody will be watching this weekend because there is no other competition to watch.
So why not at least be happy, try and enjoy it… Because football… Is finally BACK.