It is always risky to make predictions after just 6 rounds of 34, but it seems that only one major change has taken place in the Bundesliga since the 2009-10 season: last year the league really had only 9 strong teams out of 18, considering the huge 14-point gap from the 9th team to the 10th, but now the league probably consists of 10 serious teams… Magdeburg seems to have joined the top group, after have won three times in five matches against very tough opponents.
And then one has to point to the quick start of the Rhein-Neckar Loewen, the only team without a loss so far, despite the turbulence that one would expect to come with a coaching change so early in the season. Kiel and Hamburg, last year’s top two teams, have lost only one time each and are clearly playing well. Kiel looked quite superior to many observers before the start of the season, but the long-term injuries to several key players cannot be just shaken off, despite the large number of top talents on the Kiel squad.
In Spain we had a similarly divided Liga ASOBAL last year, with less than half of the teams being really competitive. Like in Germany, there were two real top clubs, Ciudad Real and Barcelona, with two ‘almost’ rivals in the form of Valladolid and Leon and another three teams competing for European slots. Prior to the start of this season, there have been many stories about clubs having severe financial difficulties, with a resulting need for cutting back on their expenses and their ambitions. To some extent it seems this also affects the top clubs.
Nevertheless, after 4 rounds, precisely the top four teams from last year are again the ones showing the best form, winning all their games. The traditional powers from Granollers are next in the ranking. And at the bottom, winless, whom do we find if not the five teams who finished just above the relegation line last season. So how predictable can it get!? It goes without saying that also Montpellier in France and the new Danish ‘conglomerate’ AG are quickly at the top of their respective leagues.
So can we then find enough consolation and excitement in the current format of the Champions League? Well, perhaps on the women’s side, which is just about to start. But the first two rounds of the men’s competition show, on the one hand how fantastic a league or a format with the [u]real [/u]top teams could be, but on the other hand that in each group there are one or two teams that do not quite have the necessary strength.
So let us enjoy some really good handball matches, while we ignore that most of the results are either predictable or not so important for the final standings. And let us dream about how much more exciting it could be in a different format. Most likely, by saying that I will annoy some fanatic supporters of, for instance, Balingen and Torrevieja or AaB and Kielce; but I am sure you will continue to enjoy seeing your clubs play against first-class teams, even if they are losing.