Football fans all-over will have their eyes firmly set on the Bundesliga as it resumes this Saturday.
Bayern Munich have won seven titles on the trot but a title race is taking shape. Just eight points separate Bayern in first and Bayer Leverkusen in fifth. Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Borussia Mönchengladbach all have a shot at toppling the Bavarians.
The battle to beat the drop is as equally exciting. Only six points divide Fortuna Düsseldorf in the relegation play-off spot and Eintracht Frankfurt in 12th.
Featuring Jadon Sancho, Timo Werner and Erling Håland, the Bundesliga is a hotbed of talent. But you know all about them. So we’ve taken a look at five underrated stars to watch ahead of the league’s return.
A player who will undoubtedly benefit from a delayed UEFA European Championships, Serdar’s impressive displays have forced into the thoughts of Germany coach Joachim Löw.
Schalke‘s top scorer, coined as the beating heart of David Wagner’s reinvigorated side, Serdar has seven league goals so far this term.
The 23-year-old looks effortless on the ball, dictating the play for Die Königsblauen in the transition from defence into attack. Serdar is equally comfortable on the defensive side, not shying away from putting his foot in to kick-start a counter-attack.
Signed from Mainz in the summer of 2018 as a replacement for Leon Goretzka, Serdar struggled in his first season in Gelsenkirchen. Stuck in a relegation battle for the majority of the campaign, Schalke endured their worst league finish in eight years, finishing 14th.
However, the arrival of former Huddersfield Town boss Wagner has given Serdar a new lease of life in his role as a box-to-box midfielder. He compliments midfield partner Amine Harit perfectly in Schalke’s quest to bring European football back to the Veltins Arena.
It is straight back into the thick of things for Serdar and his Royal Blues team-mates as they face old foes Borussia Dortmund in the Revierderby in their first game back since the Bundesliga was halted.
Capable of playing as a winger or deeper at wing-back, the versatile Serbian has been a mainstay down the left flank for Eintracht Frankfurt since his move from Hamburg in the summer of 2018.
The attacking trio of Luka Jović, Sébastien Haller and Ante Rebić earned the majority of plaudits for the Eagles’ impressive 2018/19. Yet Kostić excelled at wing-back, acting as the link between defence and the prolific frontline.
The 27-year-old shone in a side which reached the UEFA Europa League semi-finals, recording ten goals and 13 assists in all competitions.
With the aforementioned forward trio all leaving Frankfurt last summer, Kostić inherited the mantle of key man at the Commerzbank-Arena.
Aware of his side’s reliance on the Serbian, head coach Adi Hutter has opted to deploy Kostić in a more advanced role this season – to great effect. The midfielder has already set a single-season personal best with 12 goals and 15 assists in 40 appearances so far this campaign.
Kostić does not shy away from his defensive duties either, tirelessly tracking back to provide additional support for the Frankfurt defence.
With fixtures still to come against Borussia Mönchengladbach, Wolfsburg and Schalke, Kostić will be pivotal as the Eagles have a huge part to play in the race for European football next season.
The stocky midfielder has been a shining light in a Mainz side which has continuously flirted with relegation this term.
Quaison currently sits fourth in the Bundesliga scoring charts with 12 goals to his name. That record is even more impressive when you consider Mainz are only one place above the relegation play-off spot. Quaison has also achieved this tally whilst playing in a midfield role, just behind striker Adam Szalai.
The Swede has been a regular starter since his move from Palermo in January 2017, scoring 14 goals in all competitions in his first two-and-a-half years at the club. However, it is this season that the once dubbed ‘Scandinavian Xavi’ has really come into his own.
With an ability to play in midfield or out wide, Quaison has tormented Bundesliga defenders with his runs from deep all season. He scored October’s Bundesliga Goal of the Month with a stunning long-range strike against Köln.
The 26-year-old also netted his first career hat-trick in a 5-0 victory over Werder Bremen in December.
Yet to sign a new contract, and with his current deal expiring in 2021, Mainz will surely be forced to cash in on their star man this coming summer.
The Bundesliga has become a breeding ground for young French defenders in recent years. Leipzig duo Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konaté, as well as Dortmund’s Dan-Axel Zagadou, have racked up more than 40 Bundesliga appearances each. All whilst under the age of 21. The latest talent off the conveyor belt is Eintracht Frankfurt’s N’Dicka.
The 20-year-old made the move to the Commerzbank-Arena in the summer of 2018 after becoming a regular starter at boyhood club Auxerre aged just 17. N’Dicka immediately established himself in Hutter’s side, operating as the left-sided centre-back in a back three.
The defender had a standout maiden campaign for the Eagles, resulting in a nomination for the Bundesliga Rookie of the Season.
A shuffle in formation at the start of this season has offered N’Dicka a chance to display his versatility, making the left-back role his own. Out of position, the Frenchman has exhibited a sense of maturity years beyond his age, comfortably dealing with some of the trickiest wingers the Bundesliga has to offer.
A coolness when bringing the ball out of defence, the 6ft 4in N’Dicka has been afforded the freedom to venture forward on marauding runs which have become a trademark of his. Reportedly an Arsenal transfer target, the Gunners could do a lot worse in their attempts to find a centre-back this summer.
Werder Bremen fans have had little to cheer about this season. Sitting in 17th, just two points off the foot of the table, relegation to the 2. Bundesliga for the first time in 40 years seems imminent. Yet Rashica’s flair and ability to grab this Bremen side by the scruff of the neck has got supporters at the Weserstadion on the edge of their seats.
The Kosovan has lit up the Bundesliga with seven goals and four assists. Capable of playing across the front three, Rashica’s tendency to drift along the opposition’s back-line has proved a nightmare for defenders.
The 23-year-old also possesses an ability to beat a man which is almost unmatched throughout Germany. With a low centre of gravity yet muscular build, it sometimes seems impossible for defenders to get the ball off him.
Rashica’s raw pace and acceleration give him the cutting edge when it comes to taking on full backs. He also has a preference for darting runs in behind the defence, setting up one-on-ones with goalkeepers which pose no problem for the Kosovan.
The attacker is ice-cool in front of goal, ranking in the top five for goals-per-minute of all non-strikers across Europe’s top five leagues in 2019.
Rashica is equally as dangerous from set-pieces, earning a nomination for Bundesliga Goal of the Month in September 2018 with a tremendous stoppage-time free-kick against Eintracht Frankfurt.
With a reported release clause of just £13million should Bremen get relegated, it is inevitable Rashica will move on in the upcoming transfer window. Indeed, Liverpool have already been linked.