Grading the Bundesliga teams in UEFA competitions

The draws have been made for the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League.

Since the adoption of the last 16 knockout phase in the Champions League, the Bundesliga have four teams qualified for the knockouts for only the second time. 

The first, in 2013-14, came the immediate season after the only all-German Champions League final where, of course, Bayern Munich prevailed over Borussia Dortmund.

Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund, 2013 Champions League Final: Robben is  the hero - Bavarian Football Works

There has been a total of 41 different Bundesliga entrants make the knockout phase in the previous 18 seasons, producing just 5 finalists (Bayern in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2020 and Borussia Dortmund in 2013).

Comparing the Bundesliga to the other top 5 European leagues, England have had the most knockout phase entrants from 2003 to 2020 with 59, followed closely behind by Spain with 54 and then Italy edging slightly ahead of Germany 41 to 37, with France on 26.

Of these entrants, 13.5% of the Bundesliga’s knockout stage entrants make the final, ahead of Italy’s 12.2%, whilst England and Spain are split 18.6% and 18.52%, with France the lowest of the five, with only 7.7% of their knockout stage entrants making the final (that’s Monaco in 2004 and PSG in 2020).

Having the maximum of 4 should give Bundesliga clubs the greatest chance at making the final, and winning it. However, the only previous time 4 Bundesliga sides made the knockouts, two were eliminated at the last 16 phase, Dortmund bowed out in the quarter finals and Bayern Munich went out in the semi-finals, as Real Madrid eliminated 3 Bundesliga teams on the way to La Decima. 

When we received our only all-Bundesliga final, Schalke joined Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich in the last 16, only to bow out to Galatasaray as the Der Klassiker clubs beat the likes of Milan, PSG, Real Madrid and Bayern to face-off at Wembley.

The Europa League has received even less attention from Bundesliga clubs. 2 out of the 3 initial entrants will play in the knockout phase next year, with Wolfsburg’s time in the tournament ended in qualification thanks to AEK Athens. 

In the same period as the Bundesliga’s 13.5% knockout stage to finalist conversion rate in Europe’s premier competition, on the ‘B’ show we called the UEFA Cup and later called the UEFA Europa League, a grand total of 2.1% of Bundesliga clubs graduated from the knockouts to the final: Werder Bremen in 2009, in a losing effort to Shakhtar Donetsk.

Infact, only 7 semi-finalists between 2004 to 2020 have emanated from Germany. 

What do these numbers mean?

It means the Bundesliga has generally improved, as it boasts 10 teams in the knockout phase over the previous 3 years, only one less than La Liga and the Premier League. 

However, only Eintracht Frankfurt and Hamburg have made the semi-finals of the Europa League since Bundesliga last boasted a finalist in 2009, proving that many might not take that competition too seriously. 

So with all of these numbers cobbled together and thrown into an arbitrary equation, we spit them out at a C+, with the average brought down by the lack of Europa League winner emanating from Germany since 1997, when Schalke bested Inter Milan.

But by teams this season, let’s run through the class. 

Wolfsburg: F

Wolfsburg did the bare minimum in that they showed up and wrote their name at the top of the test paper. Albanian side Kukesi were dispatched 4-0 in the second qualifying round, with Ukraine’s Desna Chernihiv beaten 2-0 in the following stage. AEK Athens claimed the German scalp on the first day of October, with a stoppage time winner courtesy of Karim Ansarifard in a 2-1 win for the Greeks. Still, Wolfsburg remain the only German team eliminated from UEFA competition this season.

Bayer Leverkusen: A-

Die Werkself get a minus tacked onto the end of their grade because of a defeat in one of their games. Leverkusen are currently undefeated in the Bundesliga, admittedly along with Wolfsburg, but are top and still in Europe, and they did score by being the goaliest team in the competition. Leverkusen were one goal shy of Napoli’s record from 2015 with their tally of 21, which equals RB Salzburg of 2014 and Shakhtar Donetsk of 2016. Their only loss came in Prague at the hands of Slavia in a 1-0 defeat, but managed to put 9 beyond Nice and 8 beyond Hapoel Be’er Sheva, as well as four against Slavia Prague in the reverse at the BayArena. They will play the Young Boys in the last 32.

Highlights: Leverkusen 6-2 Nice - UEFA Europa League | UEFA.com

Hoffenheim: A

The team from Sinsheim weren’t far behind Leverkusen in the goalscoring stakes, with 17 from six games, the fourth highest in the group stages, less than Arsenal’s 20 and Benfica’s 18. Hoffenheim did so with the second best defensive record in the group stages, only conceding in a pair of 4-1 thrashings of Gent, Group L’s whipping boys. Hoffenheim’s only dropped points were in a 0-0 draw in Belgrade against Red Star, with clean sheets gleaned home and away against Slovan Liberec and at home to Red Star on opening night. They will face Molde in the last 32, in their first ever European knockout stage match. 

Bayern Munich: A

Stepping up to the Champions League and to the current German and European champions, Bayern Munich did everything that was expected of them. They dropped just two points in what was a dead rubber away at Atletico Madrid. Their 18 goals, strung together with 4 more goals past Atletico, 9 beyond Salzburg home and away and 4 in wins over Lokomotiv Moscow, Bayern’s undefeated run in the Champions League stretches back 17 matches and to the last 16 showdown with Liverpool in March 2019, when they lost 3-1 to the eventual champions. Bayern face another team beginning with ‘L’ in the last 16 this season, but it is Lazio, in the Italian side’s first Champions League knockout game for 21 years.

Borussia Monchengladbach: B+

Die Fohlen made their first ever Champions League knockout phase thanks to the work of others. After four games, Monchengladbach looked to be coasting into the last 16 with an aggregate of 10-0 against Shakhtar Donetsk and a couple of 2-2 draws against Inter Milan and Real Madrid – the favourites to qualify. However, that didn’t tell the whole story as Gladbach were penned back in the final minute by Romelu Lukaku and Inter Milan on matchday 1 and then by two late away goals from Real at Borussia-Park. Lukaku and Benzema got doubles in wins over the Bundesliga club in the final two matches but a goalless stalemate between Inter and Shakhtar meant Gladbach will play in the last 16 against Manchester City. 

Karim Benzema and Casemiro strike late to rescue point for Real Madrid -  Eurosport

Borussia Dortmund: B

The fate of Borussia Dortmund’s season currently hangs in the balance following the 5-1 humbling at home to newly-promoted Stuttgart and the firing of Lucien Favre this week. Their Champions League campaign had poor beginnings thanks to Lazio and their talisman Ciro Immobile. They were defeated 3-1 in Rome but thankfully lucked out on a favourable group, and 8 goals without reply in the following three matches against Zenit St. Petersburg and Club Brugge left a point needed at home to Lazio. Dortmund toiled to a 1-1 against the Italian club, who would remain undefeated and qualify beside Dortmund. For their troubles and their final matchday 2-1 win over Zenit, Dortmund will be paired off with Europa League champions Sevilla in the last 16.

RB Leipzig: B+

Leipzig were out to prove that they weren’t a one-off from last season’s deep delve into the semi-finals, where they were eliminated by Paris Saint-Germain. The French champions were one of the opponents for Leipzig in the group stage, alongside fellow European semi-finalists from the Europa last season in Manchester United. Angelino’s league form translated onto the biggest stage of them all in gameweek 1 with a comfortable 2-0 win over Turkish champions Istanbul Baseksehir, before humiliation in Manchester was paired off with a comeback win over PSG, with the assistance of VAR. Leipzig proved strong in the final three matches, only defeated by Neymar’s penalty in Paris and doing what Man Utd couldn’t do in Turkey and win. Alexander Sorloth’s stoppage time goal forced a final showdown in Leipzig with Manchester United, knowing a win would allow them to take United’s place in the last 16. They destroyed United but still had Peter Gulasci to thank for a last-ditch save from his own defender in stoppage time to stop a 3-0 win becoming a 3-3 draw and elimination. Leipzig face more English opposition in February with Liverpool, where they will need to be more resolute defensively in order to equal last season’s semi-final performance.

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