Following the midweek matches, the German top flight enters a winter break. Now is an ideal time to check in on the Opta supercomputer’s Bundesliga predictions for the 2023-24 season.
We’re 143 matches into the 2023-24 German Bundesliga season, but now the league enters a hibernation period, with no more games being played until 12 January 2024. The Bundesliga winter break – or Die Winterpause, as it’s known in Germany – gives us an ideal opportunity to check in on how the Opta Supercomputer projects the rest of the season will play out.
It’s been a great season in Germany for fans of goals. The Bundesliga has averaged 3.36 goals per game so far in 2023-24, which is the highest rate since 1984-85 (3.51). Bayern have contributed 49 of the 480 goals so far this season, which is a league-high despite the record champions having played a game fewer than their rivals at the top.
Second in the table as we head into the winter break, Bayern have a game in hand against lowly Union Berlin in the new year, which could take them to within a point of leaders Bayer Leverkusen. As a result, Bayern – league winners in each of the last 11 seasons – are still the favourites to win the Bundesliga title this season with the Opta supercomputer. They won the title in 69.1% of the 10,000 current season simulations, but the big news is that their chance has fallen from 80.4% when we looked at the projections in the November international break.
Their solid start to the season has been fuelled by goals from summer signing Harry Kane. The England captain has already scored 21 goals this season and leads the league scoring charts ahead of Serhou Guirassy of VfB Stuttgart (17). With five assists to boot, he’s already equalled the goal involvements of Randal Kolo Muani in 2022-23, who had the most goal involvements last season (26). He’s also well on course to smash the Bundesliga record for most goals in a debut season – currently 30 by Uwe Seeler in 1963-64 – and will have his sights set on breaking the overall seasonal goal record in the Bundesliga of 41 set by Robert Lewandowski for Bayern in 2020-21.
While Bayern were the pre-season title favourites at 52.4%, the Opta supercomputer rated Bayer Leverkusen’s chances at just 0.9%. Now, after a record-breaking start to the season, which has seen them become the first German professional football club go their opening 25 games unbeaten in all competitions (W22 D3), they are involved in a tussle for the Bundesliga title. In the league, their tally of 42 points represents their best-ever start to a Bundesliga season, while it’s only been bettered four times in history – Bayern three times (2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16), Borussia Dortmund once (2010-11).
Currently top by four points but having played a game more than Bayern, they won the Bundesliga title in 29.4% of the Opta supercomputer’s current season simulations. History suggests the supercomputer is right to be slightly wary of potential title success, however. Bayer Leverkusen headed into the 2009-10 winter break top of the league but ended that campaign in fourth after a disappointing second half to the campaign. They have ended as runners-up in the German top flight five times since 1997.
But Xabi Alonso’s side certainly have individuals to lead them to their first ever Bundesliga title. Nigerian striker Victor Boniface has been a revelation since signing from Belgian side Union Saint-Gilloise, scoring 10 times and assisting seven more in his first 16 Bundesliga games. It’s likely they’ll be without him when they return to league action in mid-January, however, with his national team at the African Cup of Nations and expected to go deep in the tournament. That means that they may rely more on precocious young talent Florian Wirtz when the Bundesliga action returns.
Despite still being only 20 years old, Wirtz is the leading creator from open play in the Bundesliga so far this season (37 chances created from open play). There were worries that he may have been affected by his long-term ACL layoff of 10 months, but since his return to action in January, those worries have dispersed. Jeremie Frimpong (28) and Jonas Hoffman (22) have also weighed in with their open-play chance creation, while Spaniard Álex Grimaldo has seven goals and five assists in his 16 appearances. There is enough to suggest Alonso can do without Boniface for a few games, at least.
The Opta Power Rankings are a global team ranking system that assigns an ability score to over 13,000 domestic football teams on a scale between zero and 100, where zero is the worst-ranked team in the world and 100 is the best team in the world.
As things stand, Bayern are the top Bundesliga club, but Bayer Leverkusen are rising fast.
Stuttgart and RB Leipzig can’t be absolutely ruled out of a title challenge, but the Opta supercomputer projections don’t give them much chance of being involved.
Even if they don’t win the title – which isn’t very likely at all – Stuttgart should be looking at UEFA Champions League football next season for the first time since 2009-10. That’s if German clubs can keep their UEFA Coefficient score high enough to secure an extra spot in the new 2024-25 competition format, meaning fifth place in the Bundesliga would seal UCL qualification. The Opta supercomputer projections saw them finish inside the top four 50.7% of the time and in the top five teams 88.7% of the time.
With 34 points after 16 games, they have made their second-best start to a Bundesliga season, behind only 2003-04 (35). VfB’s 11 wins are already a new club record in the first half of a Bundesliga season, despite there still being one match left to play until we reach the 17-game halfway mark.
At the bottom of the league, it’s been not looking great for the current bottom three sides: Mainz, Köln and Darmstadt.
All three clubs have 10 points from their 16 games – this century, only three teams with 10 points or fewer at this stage of a Bundesliga season have finished above 16th place. Of course, 16th would mean a relegation playoff versus a 2. Bundesliga club, while 17th and 18th spell certain relegation to the second tier.
This is Mainz’s second-worst start to a Bundesliga season, but their worst – when they’d won seven points across 16 games in 2020-21 – saw them recover in the second half of the season and finish in 12th.
History isn’t so kind to Köln. This is the third time that they’ve won 10 points or fewer from their opening 16 games in a Bundesliga season – the other two seasons (2003-04 and 2017-18) saw them finish that campaign bottom of the league table.
The current Opta supercomputer projections make Darmstadt the favourites for direct relegation (78.6%), while they finished outside the bottom three places in just 12.4% of the 10,000 season simulations. Köln finished inside the bottom two in 40.9% of sims and inside the bottom three 59.3% of the time, while Mainz’s numbers are 33.4% and 51.7%, respectively. The next most common teams to finish in the bottom two places at the end of the season were Union Berlin (17.6%), Werder Bremen (9.8%) and Bochum (9.7%).