Munich - Lothar Matthäus continues to follow the Bundesliga closely and who better than Germany's most capped player to give an honest assessment of the first half of the 2014/15 Bundesliga season while predicting what might happen in the final four months of the campaign.
'The second half of the season is going to be very exciting indeed'
bundesliga.com caught up with the 53-year-old, who currently lives in Budapest, to get his views on arguably the most exciting league on the planet.
bundesliga.com: Lothar Matthäus, which sides impressed you the most during the first half of the season?
Lothar Matthäus: Most definitely FC Augsburg, who nobody really expected to be in the position they are in. I also think that Hoffenheim deserve to be up there because they've played some really attractive, attacking football. So too have clubs like VfL Wolfsburg, Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach, all of whom have great quality in their squads. They've all shown some moments of brilliance, but none of them have been able to play with the same stability and consistency as FC Bayern München, which explains why they are all so far behind.
bundesliga.com: And how do you assess the first half of the season for FC Bayern?
Matthäus: Over the past two and a half years, FC Bayern have been consistently strong and miles ahead of all of their rivals in Germany. You can only congratulate the club on this, from [executive board chairman] Kalle Rummenigge to [president] Karl Hopfner, [sporting director] Matthias Sammer and [coach] Pep Guardiola and all the people who work there. They work in a highly professional way from day to day and when you work so well, then you get the chance to pull away from the rest over a period of years. Their sporting success then also translates into financial gains, and that is why they are also superior to their competitors financially too.
bundesliga.com: Which clubs have disappointed you the most?
Matthäus: Certainly Borussia Dortmund more than anybody. Who would have thought that BVB would be fighting against relegation come the end of the first half of the season? And then there are other clubs with rich tradition like Hamburger SV, VfB Stuttgart and SV Werder Bremen who you wouldn't necessarily have expected to see in the bottom third. But that just goes to show how exciting the Bundesliga is. It's full of surprises and the second half of the season is going to be very exciting indeed.
bundesliga.com: Do you think at least one of the aforementioned clubs might go down?
Matthäus: If you look at the standings at the midway stage of the season then I'm quite convinced one of them's not going to survive, even if you always want to see clubs like HSV, Werder and Stuttgart in the Bundesliga. If they have fewer points after 34 matches than the so-called smaller clubs, though, then that means they've done something wrong. These big names are not used to relegation battles and they're not ready for it at all.
'In a few years, the Bundesliga will be the best league in the world'
bundesliga.com: What else can we expect from the second half of the season?
Matthäus: It's going to be a gruesome battle for survival because there are so many clubs still in there fighting. It's incredibly tight down there and none of the teams are managing to put together two wins in a row. That means sides like SC Paderborn 07 or SC Freiburg have every chance of staying up. Last season, teams like Eintracht Braunschweig and 1. FC Nürnberg were simply too poor and HSV benefitted from that, but I'm certain that this year, one of the sides nobody expected to go down will do so. That's unless the likes of Freiburg, Paderborn or Mainz do one of the illustrious clubs a favour.
bundesliga.com: The Bundesliga has six teams still in Europe going into 2015. It's the second year in a row that all four Bundesliga representatives have made it into the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League. With that in mind, can the Bundesliga be considered the strongest league in the world?
Matthäus: It's certainly one of the top three, together with England and Spain. Five or six years ago, I could already see that the Bundesliga, given its support of young players, was heading in the right direction. This support which we've had in Germany for nigh on 15 years now has given us more stability. It's getting better and better and I think give it a few more years, Spain and England will have been overtaken and the Bundesliga will then be the best league in the world.
Interview by Alexis Menuge