The dinosaur finished just outside of the Europa League places after struggling for much of last season. There was nothing about that Hamburg side that really stood out to impress you.
Hamburg are hoping that Johan Djourou and Lasse Sobiech can strengthen their defense after last season's poor defensive record that included an embarrassing 9-2 loss to Bayern Munich. Their biggest signing to date has been Jacques Zoua from FC Basel. The forward has been the only signing thus far in an attempt to replace the departing Heung Min Son. That doesn't cut it. Hamburg's lack of activity in the transfer window is one of the reason that they're in the group that I don't expect to really matter this season.
We still don't know if Thorsten Fink can cut it at a club like Hamburg, but I don't think he'll be in charge after this season if the club fails to qualify for Europa once again. There's not enough depth in the squad to qualify for Europe.
Finishing midtable was the objective last season for Nürnberg, and they accomplished it with a 10th place finish. They were 7 points out of Europe and 12 points out of the relegation zone. Stability is the key for this season.
Nürnberg sold Timmy Simmons and Timm Klose and have brought in several players to hopefully replace them. Daniel Ginczek has joined from Borussia Dortmund after spending all of last season at St. Pauli. Josip Drmic, Martin Angha, and Mariusz Stepinski will add some depth to the side. They also signed Emanuel Pogatetz in an attempt to bolster the defense. We'll see how that works out. Probably not too good, but let's wait.
The goal for the 2013-14 season for Nürnberg will be another solid midtable finish. With the talent on the squad, they could finish anywhere from 8th to 15th. It's really a tossup dependent mostly on how the remaining clubs do. In other words, don't expect Europe or relegation, Nürnberg. You're safe.
Die Nullfünfer's up-and-down season last year ended with them finishing in 13th place. They were the bottom club in the list of clubs far enough away from the relegation zone that they weren't really threatened. That's okay for Mainz. Right?
Mainz has been active this window in bringing in players to strengthen and rebuild a squad with so many players leaving the club. Jan Kirchhoff has gone to Bayern Munich and Adam Szalai has headed off to Schalke. The players that they've brought into the club aren't as good but will be adequate replacements. Christoph Moritz, Julian Koch, Shinji Okazaki, Dani Schahin, and Park Joo-Ho have been purchased. I like Okazaki --- I've always liked Okazaki. --- and I think Mortiz can produce.
This season will be another one for Mainz where they finish midtable without any legitimate threats to Europe or a threat from relegation.
Last season was a remarkable one for Freiburg. They were in the running for a Champions League place until the very last day of the season when Schalke took it from them. That was a great season and was only rivaled by Bayern Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt for greatness.
Freiburg has been more active in the transfer window than any other club. They've had to say goodbye to Cedric Makiadi, Jan Rosenthal, Johannes Flum, Max Kruse, and Daniel Caligiuri. These players were the stars of last season's fantastically entertaining Freiburg side. They've chosen to replace them with Gelson Fernandes, Christopher Jullien, Vaclav Pilar, Mike Hanke, Admir Mehmedi, and Francis Coquelin. We'll have to wait and see if these players can adequately replace the departing players.
Freiburg were going to struggle this season even with the same team the had last year with having to deal with the Bundesliga and Europa League. Christian Streich proved himself to be a great coach, but it has yet to be seen if he can successfully navigate two competitions while trying to rebuild a squad.