Bundesliga 2013-2014, Season Preview: Europa League in their sights

It may not be the Champions League, but the Europa League is a pretty fun competition these days.

Wolfsburg

After Felix Magath was fired in October after he got off to a poor start, Wolfsburg lured Dieter Hecking away from Nürnberg. Hecking managed to get the side into 11th place in the final table, but it was a hard fought battle to get there. It helped that Ivan Perisic joined from Borussia Dortmund.

Die Wölfe has made some really good transfers this summer. Timm Klose is a big signing for Dieter Hecking's side. Nürnberg will regret losing him, and Klose should find himself right into the starting eleven. Daniel Caligiuri is one of the many players that left Freiburg this summer, and he'll make the Wolfsburg defense a lot stronger. It will be interesting to see if Wolfsburg are able to sign Luiz Gustavo away from Bayern Munich. If the Brazilian joins, they'll be a lot strong through the center of the field.

This season will be an interesting one for Wolfsburg. The potential is there for this squad to earn a place in next season's Europa League; however, the potential that the group could fall apart is also possible. Ivica Olic is getting old, and Bas Dost didn't prove he could score goals last season. Wolfsburg's defense should be better, but the offense will be a "wait and see" issue.

Borussia Mönchengladbach

Gladbach missed out on the Europa League by only four points last season, while adjusting to life after Marco Reus. It started as a rough adventure without Reus, but Lucien Favre never let his side get too far away from the Europa League places.

The Foals signed Max Kruse from Freiburg to bolster their attack, along with Raffael who they signed from Dynamo Kyiv. Both players give them more depth up front and, especially in the case of Kruse, give them some dynamism that they lacked last season. They allowed Mike Hanke and Igor De Camargo to leave the club without much of a fight. Kruse and Raffael more than make up for that loss.

After just missing out on the Europa League last season, I expect Gladbach to get back into the competition this season. Now that they are not in the competition, they'll be fresher for Bundesliga games and should perform better.

Eintracht Frankfurt

Frankfurt were definitely one of the surprise teams last season on their way to a 6th place finish in their first season back in the top flight. Armin Veh finally has committed himself to them, and they had an absolutely brilliant summer bringing in players to add depth to their squad. They should put on a good show in this year's Europa League.

After last season's fantastic run up the table, Frankfurt managed to not lose anyone that they would deem important. Olivier Occean left after never materializing into a contributor at the Bundesliga, Oka Nikolov joined the Philadelphia Union of MLS, and Karim Matmour was a disappointing non-factor. On the good news side, Veh brought in four players that are sure to make an impact on the field this season. Johannes Flum and Jan Rosenthal joined from Freiburg, while Stephan Schröck and Joselu joined from Hoffenheim.

The depth and talent is there this year to make another run up the table and qualify for Europe once again. The depth isn't necessarily there to qualify for the Champions League, but Frankfurt can put a scare into any side when they're "on".

Stuttgart

Die Schwaben finished a disappointing 12th last season but still found their way into Europe by making the final of the DFB Pokal. They put up a good fight in the final after falling behind 3-0 to Bayern Munich, but they were unable to find the equalizer and fell 3-2.

Stuttgart added and lost some players that regularly play this summer. Konstantin Rausch and Mohammed Abdellaoue joined on transfers from Hannover 96. Gotoku Sakai's loan was made permanent, and Moritz Leitner joined on loan. In the departures, Shinji Okazaki will be felt the most, but Tamas Hajnal and Raphael Holzhauser were both solid contributors.

The key to this team will be Vedad Ibisevic. If he has a massive season, then Stuttgart will find themselves in the Europa League next season. There are easier ways that Stuttgart can get there, like fixing the defense, but their best hope right now is that the Bosnian has a huge year.

Hannover

Ninth place isn't a bad spot for Hannover, who struggled to find the same form from last year for a majority of the season. They started off like they were shot out of a canon, but injuries to key players like Leon Andreasen and Szabolcs Huszti doomed the side.

Edgar Prib and Leonardo Bittencourt are two good signings, and both players will help strengthen the midfield where Hannover struggled at times last season. Salif Sane has joined the club from France and should provide depth and competition in defense. Did any important players leave Hannover? Not really. I think they an absorb the losses and move forward.

Hannover's season is going to boil down to how healthy they are. If they can stay healthy and playing, Mirko Slomka has a team that will challenge for a spot in the Europa League. If injuries eat away at them like what happened last year, they will likely find themselves dropping into the bottom half of the table.

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