My German soccer predictions for 2013
The Black and Yellows are taking on Bayern in the quarterfinal of the DFB Cup on Feb. 27. A defeat for Jupp Heynckes' men on their own pitch would open old wounds -- Bayern hasn't beaten Dortmund in six attempts -- and cast more doubt over the complex managerial issue. Heynckes' contract is up in the summer, but he might have to be persuaded to continue if Bayern's No. 1 target, Pep Guardiola, chooses to coach elsewhere.
There's also the possibility that the cup game could unsettle Bayern before the second leg of its last 16 Champions League tie with Arsenal. And even if Bayern does make it through the DFB Cup match unscathed, there's still a small but real chance that the worst-case scenario will come to pass: a Champions League elimination by Jürgen Klopp's outfit, followed by a Borussia Wembley final triumph.
Dortmund goal-getter Robert Lewandowski is likely to move to the Premier League, for starters, and Borussia will do well to hold on to defenders Neven Subotic, Mats Hummels and Lukasz Piszczek as well as to super talent Mario Götze when the world's biggest and wealthiest clubs come knocking.
While Serie A might not be in a position to bid for too many stars of the German league, Spain's big two and the English clubs flush with money from the new TV deal will undoubtedly target the likes of Andé Schürrle, Lars Bender and Stefan Kiessling (all Leverkusen) as well as the odd Bayern player and mid-range players like Werder Bremen's Marko Arnautovic. The Bundesliga clubs need to try and resist the urge to cash in on their assets if the current purple patch on the pitch is meant to continue.
"Our aim for the new year is to keep our concentration and to get ready for 2014," Löw said this week.
The biggest task is to get out of the rut that has beset the team since the Italy defeat at Euro 2012. Germany needs it groove back. It's imperative that the feel-good factor will return well ahead of World Cup finals in Brazil. Jürgen Klinsmann's U.S. team will also feature in this equation. Löw will come up against his predecessor in May.
Even at its very best, Schaaf's Bremen always looked top heavy. But his ultra-offensive 4-1-4-1 lineup has arguably exacerbated the fragility at the back. In order to make meaningful additions in the summer, Werder has to qualify for European competition. Money is tight. Should the 51-year-old former midfielder fail to make a push for the top side of the table, the mood for a change at the helm will grow. And in Klaus Allofs, the newly appointed sporting director at Wolfsburg, Schaaf has lost his staunchest ally.
Freiburg and Mainz, who also operate with a fraction of the budgets of their bigger rivals, are poster boys for the value of having strong, tactically gifted managers. Christian Streich and Thomas Tuchel are both disciples of a high-pressing style. The sheer intensity of their game plan makes continued success difficult. Nevertheless, it would be fascinating to see what happened if any of the trio manage to crash the Champions League party of the big boys.