The top-flight of women’s football in Germany made its return on Friday, the first major women’s league to do so after the coronavirus outbreak saw it suspended for two months.
It is nearing its climax, with just four games remaining after another enthralling season, with plenty of twists and turns already taking place and plenty still to play for, here is the story of the season so far, including who are favourites to win it and who are destined for the dreaded drop.
Last season’s champions Wolfsburg Women currently lead the way at the top of the table, boasting an eight-point lead over nearest challengers Bayern Munich Women. They are favourites to retain their title after going unbeaten all season, winning seventeen games and drawing just one.
They began the campaign with a 1-0 win over SC Sand, before demolishing MSV Duisburg 6-1 away from home. They started September in a similar fashion, moving to top spot for the first time with a 3-0 victory at home to Hoffenheim.
Lerch’s side followed that up by securing three points against FFC Turbine Potsdam, before sending out another statement of intent with the 8-1 drubbing of FF USV Jena. She-Wolves then defeated newly promoted side FC Koln 5-0 before coasting to a 3-0 win over FFC Frankfurt.
That victory came at a cost, however, as Germany captain and star striker Alexandra Popp was forced off after suffering ankle ligament damage, which kept her out of the side for six weeks.
They powered on in her absence recording huge wins against SGS Essen (5-1) and SC Freiburg (8-0). The only points they have dropped all season were against second-place Bayern, who held them to a 1-1 draw in front of a season-high 3,245 fans.
They bounced back in style, cruising to a 7-0 away win over 04 Leverkusen and a 4-0 victory against SC Sand, before ending 2019 with three points, defeating MSV Duisburg 4-0. After the mid-season break, Wolfsburg returned in fine form, securing a 5-2 win over second-place TSG Hoffenheim to extend their lead at the top of the table to six points.
They brushed aside FFC Turbine Potsdam in their next encounter and put six past bottom side, FF USV Jena, in the following game, their last before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.
They marked their return to action with a win last week, beating FC Koln 4-0 and then triumphing 5-1 against FFC Frankfurt to move a step closer to winning the league for the sixth time in their history.
Whilst the title looks to already be decided, the race for the lucrative second Champions League spot is hotting up. Bayern Munich currently occupy second place and have a four-point cushion over nearest challengers and surprise package Hoffenheim after they managed to beat Turbine Potsdam 5-1 at the weekend.
The win, helped to extend the Bavarian outfit’s unbeaten run to twelve games, with their last loss coming in October. With their next two fixtures coming against the two bottom sides Bayern will surely fancy their chances of securing Champions League qualification for the sixth consecutive season.
Their two losses this season would prove to be costly in the context of the title race. They suffered a 1-0 reverse to TSG Hoffenheim and a 3-1 defeat to leaders Wolfsburg which ended all hopes of a title charge against the all conquering Wolfsburg.
Shock challengers TSG Hoffenheim are still in with a shout of reaching the Champions League, although they need to ensure that they win all their remaining fixtures and Bayern drop points to have any chance of clawing back the four point defecit between the sides.
They have only lost four games all season and drawn just one, a remarkable record from a side which has been languishing in mid table since its promotion to the Bundesliga in 2014.
Making up the top half of the table are FFC Frankfurt, SGS Essen and Turbine Potsdam. All three of those sides will be aiming to consolidate a top half finish, given that there are just five points between Frankfurt in fourth place and Frieburg in seventh.
Where things really start to hot up are at the bottom of the table. Newly promoted USV Jena are staring relegation in the face, having failed to win any of their games so far this season, picking up just two points along the way. Life in the top flight has been difficult, with Jena coming on the receiving end of heavy defeats to the likes of Freiburg, Wolfsburg and Turbine Potsdam.
Who will be joining Jena in the 2 Frauen Bundesliga is set to go down to the wire. FC Köln currently sit in the relegation zone, yet they are just two points off MSV Duisburg and Bayer Leverkusen, who are both hovering narrowly over the drop, with a game in hand.
To make matters more interesting, their game in hand is against bottom side Jena on Wednesday, and if they win that they will overtake both Duisburg and Leverkusen in the race for survival.
Leverkusen then entertain Köln in the penultimate matchday and definitely have the toughest run in of those jostling to stay up, facing champions-elect Wolfsburg in their final game of the season. It seems that they could also be destined for the drop.
It is set to be a fascinating end to a great season so far, especially now that BBC ALBA have committed to broadcast some of the run in.