After two months without football, the Bundesliga is set to return to action this weekend. The German top-flight will be the first of the major European leagues to resume football amidst the coronavirus crisis.
Naturally, there is a lot of excitement over the return of football. At the same time, there is a lot of concern as well, given that recently, players of 2. Bundesliga side Dynamo Dresden recently tested positive for the virus. However, Bundesliga CEO Christian Seifert has confirmed that the incident will not affect the return plans of the top-flight, with the future of a number of clubs at stake.
As we gear up for a return of the Bundesliga, here are a few things that you should know before tuning into action.
When will Bundesliga return?
The German domestic football season will get back underway this weekend after all clubs formalised the fixture schedule last week.
It has been decided that matches will resume from May 16, restarting from Gameweek 26 and playing through to a final round of matches on the weekend of June 27. The first game will see Borussia Dortmund face off against arch-rivals FC Schalke in the Revierderby.
As per the German government’s rules, all matches will be played behind closed doors.
Safety protocols in place
The German Football League (DFL) announced last week they had taken 1,724 tests of players and staff, and only ten tested positive for coronavirus. In order to ensure everyone’s safety, players will be tested twice a week, three-team buses will be used for social distancing, while the players will enter the field separately. There will also be no handshakes.
For the rest of the campaign, anyone staying in a player's household is subject to voluntary testing. Footballers are not allowed to have physical contact with neighbours or the public and are also not allowed to have visitors at home. They are also prohibited from using public transport and have been instructed to keep note of everyone they come in contact with.
Around 100 referees will be tested prior to the resumption of the league. If anyone tests positive, a replacement will be announced. Furthermore, all match officials will be tested a day before the matches.
A maximum of 322 people will be permitted in and around the stadiums for Bundesliga matches. This includes players, coaches, referees, camera crews, anti-doping officials, stewards, security, ground staff and ball boys. Everyone’s temperature will be checked on arrival.
Managers and other staff on the touchlines will have to wear masks, along with the fourth official. The players on the field, the referee and his assistants are exempted from this stipulation. However, players have been instructed not to celebrate together, exchange high fives or embrace. They have also been asked not to spit except during rehydration.
The title race
The 2019/20 Bundesliga title race is one of the most exciting ones in recent years, with as many as four teams battling for top honours.
Bayern Munich are sitting at the top of the table, but have just a four-point lead over second-placed Borussia Dortmund. RB Leipzig are just a point worse in third, with Borussia Monchengladbach sitting in fourth, two points below Dortmund. Furthermore, Bayer Leverkusen are two points behind Gladbach in fifth.
With Bayern yet to face Dortmund, Leipzig, Gladbach and fifth-placed Leverkusen, expect for an entertaining battle at the top end of the table.
The relegation battle
SC Paderborn are rock bottom with 16 points from 25 matches and look certain to be relegated. Werder Bremen are just two points better off in the 17th position and seem like the most likely candidate to join Paderborn in the 2. Bundesliga next season.
Just six points separate 16th placed Fortuna Dusseldorf from 13th placed Hertha Berlin, so there could be a battle for the relegation playoff spot as well.
As mentioned previously, the top five positions are pretty much locked in. Currently, Schalke are in the sixth place, i.e., the final European qualification spot, with 37 points from 25 matches. But only five points separate them from tenth-placed 1. FC Koln, with Wolfsburg, Freiburg and TSG Hoffenheim, who sit in between the race for the final European football spot.
Most exciting match-ups
Here are some of the noteworthy match-ups that one should keep an eye out for:
- 16 May: Borussia Dortmund vs Schalke
- 26 May: Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich
- 07 June: Bayer Leverkusen vs Bayern Munich
- 13 June: Bayern Munich vs Borussia Monchengladbach
- 20 June: RB Leipzig vs Borussia Dortmund
Race for the ‘Torjägerkanone’
The battle for the top goalscorer trophy or the ‘Torjägerkanone’ is a two-horse race between Robert Lewandowski of Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner. The Bayern No. 9 has bagged 25 goals already in the Bundesliga this term, while Werner has scored 21.
The next best goalscorer on the list is Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho with 14.
Players to watch out for
Jadon Sancho is one of the most exciting young talents in Europe and has been the chief driving force behind Dortmund’s title push. With it looking like he will be on his way out of the club in the next transfer window, he will want to deliver the title to BVB.
Kai Havertz is another young Bundesliga sensation that is on the radars of several top clubs across Europe. The Bayer Leverkusen star has been in brilliant form this season and will be integral to his side’s challenge for a Champions League spot.
Thomas Mueller has enjoyed a sensational renaissance under new Bayern Munich manager Hansi Flick. The veteran German is leading the chart for most assists in the season. He will be intent on ending the season on a strong note.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Christof Stache