The 2020/21 Frauen-Bundesliga season kicks off this Friday, September 4, when defending champions VfL Wolfsburg take on SGS Essen in a rematch of the DFB-Pokal final. Like the men’s Bundesliga, all 12 Frauen-Bundesliga clubs will play one another home-and-away across 22 matchdays to crown the league champions. After previewing the six clubs that Bundesliga Fanatic predicted would finish in the bottom half in part 1, here is part 2 of our club season previews (listed in predicted finishes from sixth to first):
Predicted finish: 6th
2019/20 finish: 5th
Major signings: Estelle Laurier (Wake Forest University), Eleni Markou (Apollon Limassol), Selina Ostermeier (FFC Frankfurt II), Carlotta Wamser (Spvg 20 Brakel)
Major departures: Marina Hegering and Lea Schüller (Bayern Munich), Lena Oberdorf (Wolfsburg), Turid Knaak (Atlético Madrid)
SGS Essen are without a doubt Frauen-Bundesliga’s best talent factory in the contemporary era. A proud multi-sport club with women’s soccer as its public face, Essen have produced some of the current mainstays of the German national team like Linda Dallmann (Bayern Munich) and Sara Doorsoun (Wolfsburg). But even for a club whose philosophy was to develop young players and see them move on, it has been a brutal off-season for Essen. Former captain Marina Hegering and Germany’s young starting striker Lea Schüller both left for Bayern Munich; Lena Oberdorf was sold to Wolfsburg; Turid Knaak left for Atlético; Nina Brüggemann went to Leverkusen; and Ramona Petzelberger moved to newly promoted Aston Villa in England. That’s a lot of turnover that head coach Markus Högner must address immediately.
To replace Schüller, SGS Essen brought in Greek international Eleni Markou from Cypriot club Apollon Ladies. They will hope that Markou’s production translates to this level because outside of Schüller’s 16 league goals, no one else scored more than five last year. Selina Ostermeier, a 21-year-old defender whose development had stalled a bit at FFC Frankfurt, and Estelle Laurier, a French defender who just finished playing for Wake Forest University in the United States, also joined in the summer. Another young talent is 16-year-old midfielder Carlotta Wamser, this year’s Fritz Walter bronze medalist who had been playing with Spvg 20 Brakel’s U-17 men’s squad.
SGS Essen will have the youngest squad in the Frauen-Bundesliga this season with an average age of 19.8. Högner will need to integrate all the new signings quickly with existing young talents like Jacqueline Klasen and Nicole Anyomi (injured in the DFB-Pokal final) and veteran Irini Ioannidou. The season might start out quite rough for Essen, but if the youngsters gel and perform on the field a mid-table finish should be attainable.
Player to watch: Jill Baijings
Jill Baijings is a Dutch youth international who joined from SC Heerenveen this summer. A winger by trade who could also play in midfield, Baijings is following the well-trodden path of Dutch youngsters—Vivianne Miedema, Jackie Groenen, and Dominique Janssen, just to name a few—who come to Germany to establish themselves as senior players. SGS Essen need goals from anywhere they could get it, and Baijings should get plenty of playing time to show what she could do.
Predicted finish: 5th
2019/20 finish: 4th
Major signings: Selina Cerci (Werder Bremen), Melissa Kössler (University of Massachusetts – Amherst), Merle Barth and Lena Uebach (Bayer Leverkusen)
Major departures: Rahel Kiwic (FC Zürich), Lara Prašnikar (Eintracht Frankfurt), Caro Siems (Aston Villa), Sarah Zadrazil (Bayern Munich)
It has been a momentous summer in Turbine Potsdam’s history, as the former giants of German women’s soccer—still the only club, men’s or women’s from the former East to win a top-flight title after reunification—announced a cooperation with men’s club Hertha BSC and hired a full-time head coach for the first time in club history. While increased investment is long overdue, Potsdam’s on-field performance might get worse in the short-term before the increased investment trickles down. The main reason is Potsdam’s recent history of letting their best players get away to become stars elsewhere, without bringing in replacements of comparable quality and experience. After former captain Lia Wälti left for Arsenal, this summer it’s Lara Prašnikar’s and Sarah Zadrazil’s turns. Prašnikar’s 15 goals last season will be especially difficult to replace, as the young Slovene has all the tools to become a superstar, but now is at rival Frankfurt.
New reinforcements include Selina Cerci and Lena Uebach, both young players unproven at this level. Melissa Kössler, a former Potsdam youth player, returns to the first team after an excellent season in the American collegiate system. She will be counted on to contribute goals up front, alongside Austrian youngster Maria-Therese Höbinger. New coach Sofian Chahed won’t publicly admit this, but this upcoming season might be a developmental one for all the youngsters on his squad. For fans, they will hope that the cooperation with Hertha translates to recruitment of more established players like back in Potsdam’s glory days sooner rather than later.
Player to watch: Whoever becomes the midfield lynchpin after Zadrazil’s departure
I know this is cheating, but Potsdam have so much uncertainty and so many young players under 21 that it is difficult to predict what will happen. Their oldest player who played any significant minutes last season is Johanna Elsig at 26. Those contending for starting midfield spots are all 22 or younger, including Nina Ehegötz, Małgorzata Mesjasz, Luca Graf, Gina Chmielinski, and Anna Gerhardt (who’s out with a torn ACL). Without Zadrazil, who really came into her own, leading Bayern to snapping her up, Potsdam need any one of their young midfielders to step up and lead the unit.
Predicted finish: 4th
2019/20 finish: 6th
Major signings: Merle Frohms and Virginia Kirchberger (SC Freiburg), Lara Prašnikar (Turbine Potsdam), Leonie Köster (Bayern Munich II)
Major departures: Alexandra Emmerling (SV Meppen), Margarita Gidion (Werder Bremen)
Like their biggest rivals Turbine Potsdam, the former FFC Frankfurt—the most successful women’s soccer club in Germany—enter into a new era as they now compete as the women’s section of Eintracht Frankfurt. One the youngest teams last season, however, Frankfurt seem a bit further ahead than Potsdam in terms of squad development and, consequently, better positioned to take advantage of the increased investment right away. Their young core have been consistently playing together for a longer period, and Frankfurt have kept most of them, which allowed head coach Niko Arnautis to be much more selective with recruitment to upgrade certain positions rather than just plugging holes everywhere. Frankfurt should feel confident that their transactions this summer will lead them up the standings this upcoming season.
To demonstrate their squad stability, Eintracht Frankfurt had 10 players who played more than 1,600 minutes last season and all are still with the club. That core also includes a nice blend of experienced internationals like Verena Aschauer and Bryane Haeberlin and young up-and-comers like Laura Freigang, Sophia Kleinherne, and captain Tanja Pawollek. Eintracht paid to upgrade at goalkeeper, as German international Merle Frohms has started most of preseason, so now they have arguably the best 1-2 in the league except maybe Wolfsburg. Add Lara Prašnikar to the mix and Frankfurt have a real opportunity to surprise people this season.
Player to watch: Lara Prašnikar
Frankfurt will feel that extra satisfaction for having poached Slovenian forward Lara Prašnikar, a superstar in the making, directly from their rivals. Last season at age 20, Prašnikar scored 15 goals in 16 games for a young Potsdam team. This followed three seasons of steady progression in terms of playing time and goalscoring outputs. With a stronger and more mature team around her at Frankfurt, I wouldn’t be surprised if Prašnikar averages more than one goal a game over an entire season.
Predicted finish: 3rd (qualified for 2021/22 Champions League first round)
2019/20 finish: 3rd
Major signings: Celina Degen (Sturm Graz), Karla Görlitz (USV Jena)
Major departures: Lina Bürger (SC Freiburg), Jennifer Klein (St. Pölten), Sarai Linder (University of Central Florida), Leonie Pankratz (Montpellier HSC)
Having never finished higher than 6th before, TSG Hoffenheim came out of nowhere last season to finish 3rd in the Frauen-Bundesliga. As we discussed before, Hoffenheim’s solid core players gave Bayern Munich a strong challenge for the Champions League qualifying spot. Now that the top three league finishers will qualify for Europe, Hoffenheim will hope that a quiet summer with new head coach Gabor Gallai will be enough to maintain the club’s upward momentum, as opposed to standing still and letting ambitious clubs like Eintracht Frankfurt catch up to them.
Hoffenheim accomplished their biggest task by retaining Austrian Nici Billa after the 23-year-old had a breakout season with 18 goals. Coupled with young Germans Isabella Hartig (12 goals) and Tabea Waßmuth (11), Hoffenheim were the only team other Wolfsburg to have three double-digit scorers, and they will continue focusing on attacking quickly when having the ball. Only two significant contributors departed, as former captain Leonie Pankratz—a defense attorney during the day—chose one last international adventure with Montpellier in France before retirement, and youngster Sarai Linder left for university in the United States. Gallai opted for internal options, either in terms of improvement or injury returns, than signing new players. He did look to the Austrian pipeline to sign youngster Celina Degen, and Karla Görlitz joined from relegated USV Jena.
Player to watch: Tabea Waßmuth
It would have been easy to pick Nici Billa, who doubled her previous scoring output to snatch the Frauen-Bundesliga silver boot last season. But even if Billa is not a one-hit wonder, other clubs will specifically game-plan to neutralize her, and Hoffenheim need their secondary scoring options to step up. Tabea Waßmuth, who scored 11 goals last season, should aim to improve on that this year. The 23-year-old has been in and out of the German national team camps but has not received her first cap. Another consistent season in the league will force Martina Voss-Tecklenburg to give Waßmuth a longer look.
Predicted finish: 2nd (qualified for 2021/22 Champions League second round)
2019/20 finish: 2nd
Major signings: Viviane Asseyi (Bordeaux), Klara Bühl (SC Freiburg), Hanna Glas (Paris Saint-Germain), Marina Hegering and Lea Schüller (SGS Essen), Sarah Zadrazil (Turbine Potsdam)
Major departures: Kathy Hendrich (Wolfsburg), Mandy Islacker (1. FC Köln), Melanie Leupolz (Chelsea), Dominika Škorvánková (Montpellier HSC), Nicole Rolser and Verena Schweers (retirement)
Frauen-Bundesliga champions in 2015 and 2016, Bayern Munich have been in a tug of war with VfL Wolfsburg for domestic supremacy for much of the past decade. Last summer, Bayern parted ways with long-time head coach Thomas Wörle, who had succeeded his father Günther and whose sister Tanja was a former Bayern player. The club hired Jens Scheuer from SC Freiburg as his replacement. Scheuer had an uneven start, and hope of reclaiming the league crown slipped away early. But with more time, the team’s performance, especially after the restart and in the recent Champions League quarter-final, suggests that this is now finally Scheuer’s team.
Bayern have recruited well this off-season, with the new defense of Hanna Glas and Marina Hegering impressing in the Champions League restart. Scheuer also brought in his former Freiburg player Klara Bühl, although she’s currently out with a shoulder injury. In the long-term, a front line of Bühl, Lea Schüller, and Linda Dallmann should bring plenty of goals. Although former captain Melanie Leupolz left for Chelsea, the midfield of Lina Magull, Sydney Lohmann, Sarah Zadrazil, and Giulia Gwinn can match up with any German rivals. Unfortunately Jovana Damnjanović suffered an ACL injury last week, otherwise Bayern might finally have a decent chance of dethroning Wolfsburg for the German championship.
Player to watch: Linda Dallmann
My player to watch was going to be Serbian forward Jovana Damnjanović, who was quietly Bayern’s top scorer last season with 11, but since she will be out for most (if not all) of this upcoming season, I will go with another similarly under-the-radar player in Linda Dallmann. Having switched from SGS Essen last summer, Dallmann scored 10 goals and had an excellent first season in Bavaria. She also worked herself into the German national team’s regular rotation. Although there are younger options with more hype on the Bayern squad, like Bühl, Schüller, and Dutch international Lineth Beerensteyn, look for Dallmann to consistently contribute to Bayern’s attack, especially with Damnjanović out.
Predicted finish: 1st (qualified for 2021/22 Champions League group stage)
2019/20 finish: 1st
Major signings: Pauline Bremer (Manchester City), Katarzyna Kiedrzynek (Paris Saint-Germain), Kathy Hendrich (Bayern Munich), Lena Oberdorf (SGS Essen)
Major departures: Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir (Lyon), Pernille Harder (Chelsea), Hedvig Lindahl (Atlético Madrid), Noelle Maritz (Arsenal), Kristine Minde (Rosenborg), Cláudia Neto (Fiorentina)
Let’s get this out of the way first: Yes, losing a generational talent like Pernille Harder to Chelsea really hurts, especially two days after an agonizing defeat in the Champions League final. In three and half years at Wolfsburg, Harder won UEFA Player of the Year and The Guardian Best Footballer in the World in 2018, and just became the first foreigner to be named German Footballer of the Year. There is no doubt that such transfers have paradigm-shifting effects and, in this case, create the perception that Wolfsburg (and, by extension, the women’s game in Germany) are falling behind international rivals. Issues of professionalism, standards, and increasing investment plague not only Wolfsburg and are beyond the scope here. But at least in the short term, Wolfsburg are still the cream of the crop in Germany and should retain their title. But they are weaker and European glory seems farther away now.
Even without Harder, Wolfsburg have the most-fearsome attack in the Frauen-Bundesliga. Ewa Pajor, Svenja Huth, Fridolina Rolfö, Alex Popp, and new signing Pauline Bremer are all senior internationals with proven track records of scoring in this league. Bremer’s homecoming is especially exciting, as the former Potsdam player and one-time prodigy overcame injuries to score 10 goals for Manchester City last season. Still only 24 years old, Bremer should thrive again in the Frauen-Bundesliga. The defense needs work, as we saw in the Champions League against top competitions, but it should suffice for league play (though full-back depth is a worry after losing Noelle Maritz and Sara Doorsoun’s injury). Capturing Lena Oberdorf’s signature is a coup; once integrated she should be an every-game starter for Wolfsburg.
Player to watch: Ingrid Engen
Norwegian midfielder Ingrid Engen was quietly the most consistent performer for Wolfsburg in the Champions League, and she was justly rewarded with a spot in the UWCL Squad of the Season. In the past few seasons, Wolfsburg’s midfield depth has been tested as players like Sara Björk leaft for greener pastures or were phased out (like Minde and Neto). As a result, head coach Stephan Lerch has often played captain Alex Popp, normally a forward, as a defensive midfielder to mixed effect. Engen’s assured performance, along with Oberdorf’s arrival, should encourage Lerch to play everyone in their natural spots.