Frauen-Bundesliga: Title race and relegation battle heat up

German flag graphic for "Frauen-Bundesliga Buzz" by Helene Sophie Altgelt

The last two matchdays in the Bundesliga brought some top games. With five teams battling for Champions League, everything is set for an exciting finish of the season. The constellation in the relegation zone is equally interesting, with Sand looking to repeat their miracle of last year. Here, we will have a look at what happened in the Frauen-Bundesliga since the winter break. 

The Frauen-Bundesliga table

Let’s have a look at the table first. One point clear of Bayern München, Wolfsburg sit on top of the Frauen-Bundesliga. On places, three to five, a trio of Potsdam, Frankfurt, and Hoffenheim is fighting for the last UWCL spot. Bremen and Essen are five points ahead of Sand, who have been racking up points recently, while Jena is all but relegated.

1. VfL Wolfsburg1714213844
2. Bayern Munich1714115043
3. Turbine Potsdam1711332736
4. Eintracht Frankfurt1711151534
5. Hoffenheim179441531
6. SC Freiburg17728022
7. Bayer Leverkusen17638-621
8. FC Köln17548-2019
9. SGS Essen173410-1013
10. Werder Bremen173410-3313
11. SC Sand172213-238
12. FC Carl Zeiss Jena171214-535

Bayern get revenge on Frankfurt in spectacular game

Both Wolfsburg and Bayern had difficult games last weekend, and both grasped a win. In autumn, Frankfurt had beaten Bayern in a thrilling game, but Jens Scheuer’s team managed to get a revanche now.

The match was nothing short of spectacular. Goals by Schüller, Asseyi, Damnjanovic, and Rall, who on average only needs 77 minutes for one goal this season, gave them a win. A spectacular Laura Freigang strike and a goal by Anyomi weren’t enough for Frankfurt. 

The first half was probably one of the best in the entire Frauen-Bundesliga season and those two sides proved again that their clashes are always great entertainment. In their three encounters this season, an incredible 17 goals have been scored.

Wolfsburg get on top

Wolfsburg also had a score to settle with Hoffenheim, who had clinched a 2-1 win in October. This time, the Wolves didn’t have too many difficulties and scored three goals in the first half already against a Hoffenheim side that lacked sharpness and defensive cohesiveness. Against her ex-club, Lena Lattwein displayed her prowess to shoot from outside the box.

Tommy Stroot’s side also won their game in-hand against Sand with a hard-fought 2-0 win. One that will help them a lot in these games is Alexandra Popp, who recently returned from a 336-day long absence. With her strength in both offensive and defensive duels, she is irreplaceable for Wolfsburg. This weekend, they have a must-win game against Frankfurt, who will look to exploit their tiredness.

Frankfurt have good prospects for Champions League

In the battle for third place, Frankfurt is arguably in the best position. They have already played against Bayern and won against Hoffenheim. Even though the defensive worries haven’t disappeared, Niko Arnautis’ side is looking more consistent, and Laura Freigang excels in her role as the number 10. Frankfurt don’t need many chances to score a goal, and their standards and counters have become more threatening.

The dream of Champions League football is within reach now, a crucial step in the club’s plan. With the price money in the UWCL, paired with ambition, a core of players that have contracts until 2024 or longer and good facilities, Frankfurt could soon be a step ahead of their rivals.

Turbine with the pole position but without Cerci

Many would have guessed that this season, Frankfurt and Hoffenheim would be the main contender for third place. A bit surprisingly, it’s Turbine Potsdam who have the most points out of the trio, but they have to finish the season without their star player.

Selina Cerci, who played herself in the spotlight this season with 13 goals, tore her ACL. Potsdam don’t have a direct replacement for Cerci, but still boast some excellent attacking players. While Cerci took many of the plaudits, her partner in attack, Melissa Kössler, is also enjoying a breakthrough season with 16 goal involvements and has flown under the radar. Still, Cerci’s injury is a huge blow for the young striker and her club. 

This season might be a chance the club won’t get again soon. As a women-only club, getting Champions League football would be massive from a financial point of view for Potsdam.

Can Hoffenheim come back from their slump?

In December, it looked as if Hoffenheim were on the best way to repeat last season’s success. They had just beaten Arsenal with 4-1, the cherry on the top of a decent Champions League debut, and had 27 points, sitting in third.

In 2022, however, things are looking a bit different. Gabor Gallai’s team has gained only four points in the league this year and fell to fifth place. The reasons for this slump are various: sloppy passing, losing possession too easily and in dangerous positions, and passive defending. Hoffenheim’s main strength has been playing out from the back and creating chances over the wings, but they struggle to find solutions through the centre now. 

Key placers leaving — drop in quality begins to show

Since summer, Hoffenheim have lost four important players and the decrease of individual quality is beginning to show. With Jule Brand leaving for Wolfsburg at the end of the season as well, the question is what their strategy will look like in the future arises. 

Hoffenheim don’t receive a high transfer fee in most cases, which doesn’t make developing talents a profitable approach. They could invest more and become fully professional to make players stay. The alternative would be becoming a club like Freiburg or Essen, who can be the starting point for great careers but don’t have the ambition to be a top club. 

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Jena all but relegated

On the other side of the table, Jena are all but relegated from the Frauen-Bundesliga. Having picked up only five points in 17 games, Anne Pochert’s team would need a miracle to stay up. The quality of this squad is simply not on a Bundesliga level, especially defensively.

Jena recently conceded seven against Freiburg, who usually don’t have a goal-fest every week. One-third of Freiburg’s goals this season have been scored against Jena. 

Having convincingly won the 2. Bundesliga North last season, Jena’s performances in the first tier also show again that there is a huge gap of quality between the two leagues. 

Sand try to repeat last season’s miracle

For long parts of the season, it looked like SC Sand would accompany Jena on the way down. Until the tenth matchday, they only picked up one point, scoring a paltry two goals. 

As a result, Sand replaced Matthias Frieböse with Alexander Fischinger, who knows how to save them from relegation. Last season, the situation seemed hopeless but with him at the helm, Sand turned it around. And they look on track to do it again. After the winter break, the team managed to beat Leverkusen and Jena, and hope is blossoming again. 

One reason for this is that, unlike other bottom-of-the-table teams, Sand don’t park the bus. Under Fischinger, they reverted to a different style of play. The team wants to have the ball and play forward, with the creative Chiara Loos being a vital player in the attack. With a win against Bremen on Sunday, Sand would only have two points to catch up. 

Werder Bremen: goal drought but home advantage

Werder Bremen are having a season with ups and downs. They almost clinched a draw against Wolfsburg and got a massive 1-0 win against Champions League contenders Frankfurt. But on other days, the team lose 8-0 against Bayern or 7-1 against Hoffenheim. 

The matches against the likes of Freiburg or Köln, who don’t have a lot to play for anymore, will be crucial now. Bremen’s offensive struggles are clear when we look at the number of goals – only seven so far. Even more concerningly, just one of them has been scored by a forward. Bremen has good moments, but the passing accuracy in the final third is too low and the team doesn’t create enough clear-cut chances. One advantage is Bremen’s strength at home, where they have gained 10 of their 13 points.  

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Essen: talented but inexperienced

SGS Essen, the club that turned Lea Schüller and Lena Oberdorf from talents into solid Bundesliga players, are not yet saved either. With 13 points like Bremen, the young team (average age: 22.9 years) is 9th and will have to be wary. Still having to play against Bayern and Wolfsburg, Essen is under pressure to get a result against Sand and Freiburg.

However, as this isn’t a team that’s used to being in the relegation battle, their inexperience could be a disadvantage. On the other hand, Essen scored much more goals and conceded less than their competitors and their individual quality is arguably higher than Bremen’s.

More competitiveness at both sides of the table

The Frauen Bundesliga is exciting at both sides of the table and the following weeks will bring some decisive matches. Even though the season isn’t over yet, some conclusions can already be drawn. There isn’t a two-horse race anymore, as Potsdam, Frankfurt and Hoffenheim all put pressure on the two giants. While disappointing results against smaller sides could cost Hoffenheim and Frankfurt dearly, the next step for Potsdam would be better performances against the top teams.

In the bottom of the table, Jena never really stood a chance but the rest remains interesting. More teams are in the relegation battle now and the overall quality of those matches has improved as we see teams like Sand that are not scared to attack.

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