Two giants of German football, Schalke 04 and Werder Bremen have returned to the Bundesliga at the first attempt. They replace Greuther Fürth and Arminia Bielefeld.
FC Schalke 04
Schalke’s relegation last season was one of the biggest shocks in European football, an occurrence which even led to riots by supporters. It was indeed a surprising fall from grace from a club boasting seven Bundesliga titles and several other triumphs during their 118-year history. The club is also one of the most popular ones in Germany – considering their over 160,000 official members, they are the second-largest football club in the country and the fourth in the world in terms of membership.
Consistently weak performances and a high turnover in the dugouts (with Schalke having had five different head coaches in 2020/21) meant that Schalke collected only 16 points over the course of the full season and dropped down to the second tier. Failure to bounce back immediately from the second division would have been unacceptable, and the team duly delivered: they won 20 out of 34 games and finished first. 34-year-old striker Simon Terodde scored 30 goals in 30 games, winning the league’s golden boot. Their defence, however, conceded 44 goals, which showed that there is room for improvements. Expensive signings are difficult to pull off, as the club’s financial situation has worsened in recent years. This spring the club cut ties with their long-standing sponsor, Russian natural gas giant Gazprom, in the wake of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine.
The team hopes to draw strength from their large fanbase that regularly fills the 62,000-seater Veltins Arena for home games.
Did you know? The "04" in the club's name refers to its formation in 1904.
SV Werder Bremen
Another historic club, Werder Bremen have also rejoined Germany’s first division only after one year in the second tier. Although it was Werder’s first 2. Bundesliga campaign in 40 years, their relegation in the 2020-21 season was less of a surprise than for Schalke, because they barely escaped dropping down a year earlier.
Werder boast the most seasons played in the Bundesliga (58), the same as that achieved by Bayern Münich. They have won the Bundesliga four times and the DFB-Pokal six times. Moreover, they collected the European Cup Winners' Cup (the predecessor of today’ UEFA Europa League) trophy in 1992, beating AS Monaco in the final. Those years in the early 1990s saw numerous star players in the squad, including Mario Basler, Karl-Heinz Riedle, and Rudi Völler. In later years the club featured the likes of Mesut Özil, Miroslav Klose and Torsten Frings among others.
In the new season, Werder will look to build on their dangerous attacking duo: Marvin Ducksch and Niclas Füllkrug scored almost 40 goals combined, helping the club’s promotion in the last season. Recent signings aim to strengthen mainly the defensive lines: four defenders were recruited on free transfers, including 27-year-old Niklas Stark (the club’s most valuable player, worth EUR 8m) joining from Hertha Berlin, and 24-year-old Amos Pieper (EUR 6.6m) from Arminia Bielefeld.
Did you know? Regarding points collected in the Bundesliga, Werder are third, behind only Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.