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2. Bundesliga Championship is wide open

Wednesday 1st February 2017
The second tier of German football is plausibly more entertaining this season than the high profile top tier. With three teams at the top, level on points and so little in it, this league is looking tasty.

Whilst not widely followed outside of Germany, 2. Bundesliga is getting very interesting. There are three former Bundesliga sides all with the quest of returning to the top table of German football, making this season incredibly tight. Hannover 96, Eintracht Braunschweig and VfB Stuttgart are all sitting on thirty-five points and only separated via a fine goal difference. Whilst promotion alone would be more than acceptable, each of them will want to finish the season as the champions.

Hannover 96

Die Roten, were subject to a miserable campaign last year – finishing dead last in the Bundesliga (eighteenth) and henceforth relegated as they accumulated just twenty-five points from thirty-four games.

Although this year, it's been an unprecedented change of fortunes. Daniel Stendel was afforded the opportunity to continue the job at the HDI-Arena from last season. He earned that chance due to his status with the club and given that he only took over at the tail end of the 15/16 season; at which point relegation was a formality.

The former striker who made over one-hundred-and-eighty appearances for the club made it a priority to bring in a new forward who would carry a real presence in front of goal. Free agent and Austrian international, Martin Harnik has brought that to the side. In his first campaign for the 96ers, he's made an instant impact – becoming the club's top scorer so far.
One of Harnik's goals this season.

That and a stern backline has seen the club top the table; as they look to restore their former glory days in the Bundesliga.  

Eintracht Braunschweig

Sitting just below Hannover 96 are, Die Löwen, who were one of the founding members of the Bundesliga back in 1963. Four years later in '67, they won their only league title to date, although the good times would not last for the club from Lower Saxony.

Throughout the eighties and nineties, the team freefell through the leagues as low as the third tier. In the late noughties, the club found in the regional league; yet embroiled in financial crisis. Between the years of 2007 and 2009, the club found itself finishing very poorly and having to fight off the icy hands of relegation to the fourth tier.

Relegation fortunately never happened, and the club managed to re-sign former player Domi Kumbela. The Zaire-born forward delivered like nobody expected: scoring nineteen goals in the third tier which ultimately guided the team back to 2. Bundesliga. He would go on to be the team's top goal scorer for four seasons in a row but departed from the club once again.
An amazing goal from Kumbela, during his second tenure with the club.

This season the team are well on course for a return to the Bundesliga, currently occupying second place and thusly an automatic promotion spot. The club re-signed Kumbela in the middle of last season after he had very little success at both Karabükspor and Greuther Fürth. This season he's turned back time and scored eleven goals in eighteen games; guiding them to this very position.

VfB Stuttgart

Ten years the team were at the summit of German football, as they won their fifth Bundesliga title. Memories of Mario Gómez and Cacau smashing home twenty-seven goals between them to lift the title are distant memories, as a decade on side sit in the second division.

The Mercedes-Benz Arena isn't really accustomed to second league football, as the team has been in the top tier since the start of the 1977/78 season. Hannes Wolf is the man who's been tasked with the job of getting the club back to the Bundesliga. Wolf had previously coached at several youth and reserve levels with Borussia Dortmund. His transfer activity was incredibly astute; loaning several youth prospects from top European clubs including Takuma Asano from Arsenal and Carlos Mané from Sporting CP.

In addition to the aforementioned loan moves, Simon Terodde was brought in on a long-term basis and has proved to be a very fruitful transfer. In fact the German forward has become somewhat of an icon in the second tier of German football, having scored twenty-five goals with Bochum last year. A further sixteen the year before; and well on track this season with eleven – just half way through the campaign.

Given the winter break that German football observes, it was only last weekend that the teams kicked a competitive ball in 2017. All three of the teams got off to an unbeaten start for this half of season. It's delicately poised in the league given there's on three goals in the goal difference separating all three teams. Keep an eye on this league, as the championship is set to go down to the very end.
Warren Smith

Yokohama F•Marinos supporter. Seen it all in the J.League, relegation fights and being crowned champions. Play five-a-side, pretty good too. Once scored an overhead kick.

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