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2017/18 Bundesliga Preview, Part 2: Battling Relegation

Saturday 12th August 2017
Part 1 of IRAIW's Bundesliga preview looked at contenders and pretenders. Now, we examine clubs battling relegation in the German top flight's 55th season.

The two newly-promoted sides will have their work cut out to remain in the Bundesliga beyond 2017-18. Yet, certain other sides can't afford to take their demise for granted. A few bad results here and there could complicate matters in a league that has become increasingly competitive in the last 10 years.

Newly-Promoted Sides

What's old is new again. Both promoted sides are very familiar with Germany's top flight. VfB Stuttgart and Hannover 96 dominated the 2. Bundesliga last season to escape their exile. Things will be tougher in their return. The pair must be better next season if they don't want to be banished again.

VfB Stuttgart

Stuttgart are 2. Bundesliga champions. Die Schwaben didn't exactly make a splash in the transfer market. Manager Hans Wolfe will have to hope the club's frugal investments also prove astute.

His defence should be quite improved. Keeper Ron-Robert Zieler, fullback Dennis Aogo and centre-half Holger Badstuber have been recruited from Leicester City, Schalke, and Bayern respectively.

Chadrac Akolo and Anastasios Donis are two names to watch on the attack. Donis, in particular, could be a decent addition. He should easily grab a starting spot based on his tutelage at Juventus.

Other than Alexandru Maxim and Toni Sunjic, the rest of the squad from 2. Bundesliga remains in place. Maxim signed with Mainz. Sunjic joined Dinamo Moskva in the Russian Premier League.

Hannover 96

Hannover chose a similar route to Stuttgart's, keeping last season's core intact while adding a few reinforcements.

Again, the new recruits will bolster the defensive line. Julian Korb and Michael Esser arrived from Borussia Monchengladbach and SV Darmsdadt 98, respectively. Esser was one of the few bright spots fro bottom-table Darmsdadt. Korb should provide some much-needed experience at the back.

Scoring goals will be a problem, though. Forwards Babacar Gueye and Melvüt Erdinc left the squad. Hannover's remaining options are quite limited and, like its crest, green. Andre Bretenreiter will rely on his squad's defensive strength to survive their first season on the Bundesliga. Will it be enough to catch the Bundesliga's weaker sides?

Three Teams That Must Improve Quickly

Vfl Wolfsburg

Die Wolfe were the most disappointing Bundesliga team last season by a wide margin. They were expected to contend for a UEFA Europa League berth but injuries took a toll on three managers. Dieter Hecking was sacked in October. Valerien Ismail followed in February. Andries Jonker only avoided relegation by defeating Eintracht Braunschweig in a promotion/relegation playoff.

The Lower Saxony side survived thanks to Mario Gomez's scoring prowess. Jonker has much work to do ahead of the coming season to take some pressure off the 32-year-old.

Activity to date in the transfer market suggests they will finish near the bottom of the standings for a second straight year. Diego Benaglio, Luiz Gustavo, Ricardo Rodriguez and Jannes Horn all left the side this summer. John Brooks and Ignacio Camacho should boslter the team defensively but the math in comings and goings indicates this will be a long year at Volkswagen-Arena. Again.

Hamburger SV

Hamburg saved themselves from a potential relegation playoff in the campaign's final week. Things won't get easier for them in 2017-18.

Die Rothosen's biggest problem was lacking a proven goalscorer. It was goal by committee. Top scorers Bobby Wood, Michael Gregoritsch and Nicolai Müller only netted five goals apiece. Gregoritsch left the squad to join Augsburg for €5.5 million. It would seem Markus Gisdol let him go on the cheap. Then again, €1.1 million per goal seems a bit steep. Gisdol's main bet to improve his attack will be Andre Hahn, who (sigh) brings five goals and four assists with him from Borussia Monchengladbach.

Like the two promoted clubs, Hamburg added to its defence to stave off relegation. Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Christian Mathenia should lead the way again but Rick van Drongelen and Jonas Behounek will provide depth. Again, will it be enough? It is difficult to tell. Fans should definitely temper their expectations.

FSV Mainz 05

The Karnevalsverein (Carnival club) round out the trio of teams that should be wary about relegation. The reasoning behind this is quite simple. After finishing last season in 16th place, their prospects for improvement do not look promising.

Mainz lost its best attacking players in Florian Niederlechner, Bojan Krkic, and Jhon Cordoba. Jonas Lössl and Pierre Bengtsson also left the squad.

Their replacements are, to be honest, not exciting. Alexandru Maxim should become a starter fairly easily. He's the lone bright spot. Kenan Kodro struggled to perform at Osasuna. Unlike when Thomas Tuchel strode the technical area, Rouven Schroder's 0-Fives will struggle to score goals on a regular basis.

As elsewhere, the back line should improve thanks to Rene Adler and Abdou Diallo's additions. Still, Mainz look weaker than last year. Not a good sign when there is one week remaining before the campaign starts.

Keep an eye tomorrow for the 2017-18 Bundesliga preview, part 3: Best of the rest.
Juan Pablo Aravena

29-year-old sports analyst and journalist with over three years of experience in the industry. Writes about all kinds of sports from football to golf, but there is no question his biggest passion in life is football. Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and Colo Colo fan.

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