In the wake of Bayern Munich’s record-breaking 2012/13 campaign, which culminated in triumph in an all-German UEFA Champions League final - having also won a domestic league and cup double - expectations going into the 2013/14 season were huge. Under a new head coach, the Bavarians immediately continued where they had left off under previous boss Jupp Heynckes.
While Bayern wasted little time in cruising to the 2013/14 title, there were surprises aplenty at the opposite end of the table, with several Bundesliga mainstays embroiled in the battle against the drop. FIFA.com looks back at the recently-ended season.
Fastest title in history
Prior to the start of the campaign in Germany, many observers wondered whether Bayern would be able to build on their trophy-laden haul of the previous season and how new coach Pep Guardiola would go about improving the side. The Spaniard repeatedly insisted that the Bundesliga was the “most important” competition and Bayern went on to dominate the league from the off, eventually earning 90 of 102 possible points to finish just one short of their tally in 2012/13. The champions also went unbeaten in 29 consecutive games and wrapped up the title after Matchday 27.
A 3-1 victory away to Hertha Berlin on 25 March ensured Bayern a second successive league crown and also sealed the fastest championship triumph in Bundesliga history. Berlin native Jerome Boateng could not hide his delight after the final whistle in the capital: “We’re over the moon and I think everyone just saw that! A lot of hard work went into winning this.”
The club put their full-scale celebrations on hold until after the final round of matches. Team captain Philipp Lahm declared himself happy to have won another piece of silverware, although his thoughts immediately turned to the next opportunity to stock his trophy cabinet: “We’ve got one title under our belts, but now we want a second one.” Bayern have the chance to record their tenth domestic double in the DFB Cup final against Borussia Dortmund on 17 May.
Lewandowski on top
Having narrowly missed out on becoming the league’s top marksman last year, Robert Lewandowski went one better in 2014 to ensure it was his name engraved on the top goalscorer’s cannon. The Polish forward announced in January that he would be joining Bayern in the new season but still continued gave his all for Dortmund, where his 20 goals went a long way to helping the club finish as runners-up. The 25-year-old hit a brace on Matchday 34 to top the pile ahead of Bayern’s Mario Mandzukic, who grabbed 18 goals, and Nuremberg’s Josip Drmic, on 17.
“I’m very proud to have won this,” said Lewandowski upon being confirmed as top scorer. “It’s something only won by those who play in a very strong team.” Nevertheless, it was a bittersweet moment for Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp, who could not hide his frustration at losing his star striker: “We’re going to have to make do without his quality in future and that’s a big blow.”
After finishing the 2012/13 season in 15th place thanks an excellent run of form after the winter break, Augsburg confirmed their status as a side to be reckoned with in 2013/14. On a shoestring budget, sporting director Stefan Reuter and the team’s young head coach Markus Weinzierl have formed a fiercely competitive outfit that only narrowly missed out on qualifying for the UEFA Europa League this time around, ending up just a point adrift in eighth. Despite that disappointment, Augsburg were keen to focus on the positives. “We don’t want any long faces now,” said Weinzierl. “We got 52 points and that is truly sensational.” No less of an achievement was the team’s display on 5 April to beat a seemingly invincible Bayern Munich side and end their run of 53 Bundesliga matches without defeat.
Mainz finished in seventh to grab the final ticket to the Europa League, where they will join Borussia Monchengladbach and Wolfsburg. “We’re satisfied with fifth and a place in Europe,” said Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking, whose joy was echoed by his Gladbach counterpart Lucien Favre: “Three years ago Gladbach were dead. Now, with a different team, we’re all very happy.”
Next season the Bundesliga’s Champions League representatives will be Bayern, Dortmund, Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen, who will start in the qualifying rounds.
Relegation tussle with a difference
Given that Eintracht Braunschweig were in the top flight for the first time since 1985 it was no great surprise to see the Lions involved in the battle against the drop. Far more unexpected, however, was the presence of well-established Bundesliga sides struggling at the wrong end of the table. Werder Bremen eventually managed to pull clear to finish 12th, Stuttgart secured safety on the penultimate matchday and ended up in 15th, while Hamburg are not yet clear of danger. The latter, known as the ‘Bundesliga dinosaur’ thanks to their status as the only side to have played in every season since the league’s inception, failed to click during a campaign that brought them 21 defeats and just seven wins.
Thorsten Fink was dismissed as head coach after just five rounds of matches and his successor Bert van Marwijk suffered the same fate after Matchday 21. Mirko Slomka took charge of the north German club for the remainder of the season and steered them into the relegation play-off spot. “It was a small step but we’re still able to achieve our principal objective of staying up,” said Slomka after Hamburg’s last regular fixture. They will face Greuther Furth, who finished third in Bundesliga 2, in the decisive two-legged play-off tie.
Nurnberg’s unwanted records
Braunschweig were relegated as the league’s bottom club and return to the second tier after a solitary campaign in the big time. Coach Thorsten Lieberknecht was understandably downbeat but drew strength from the experience gained in the top flight: “We’re a very close-knit club and we’ve achieved great things with limited resources. It’s been very special to be part of all that.”
They will be joined in the second division by Nurnberg, who finished one spot higher in 17th. The Franconians became the first club to be relegated from the Bundesliga eight times and are also the first side in the league’s 51-year history not to win a single match in the first half of a season, having drawn 11 and lost six.
Schalke’s campaign will be remembered as one where youth made its mark, with several players from the club’s own academy playing a key part in the first team. Max Meyer, Kaan Ayhan and Julian Draxler were all vital, while other youngsters such as Leon Goretzka also helped Schalke take third place and qualify for the Champions League group stages.
Bremen captain Aaron Hunt showed that there is still room for Fair Play in the winner-takes-all world of professional football. On Matchday 24 Bremen were in Nuremberg for a crunch game in the battle for survival when Hunt went to ground in the penalty area, only to immediately inform the referee that he should not be awarded a spot-kick. Hunt received widespread praise for his actions and Bremen still managed to win the match and avoid relegation.