Thanks for coming back for another instalment of my attempt at Doctor Benjy’s Glory Hunter challenge. If you need to catch up on the last chapter then please click here to do so. If you’re completely new to this series then here is a link to introduction post.
This season is all about fighting for the Bundesliga title after the massive amount of money I spent over the summer, before we get into how we got on lets quickly look at my two main rivals.
Dortmund kept hold of Haaland.
In fact they kept hold of all their best players. They also added Januzaj from ourselves, Mikkel Damsgaard, Tommy St. Jago and Mario Vušković. Their young players were going to be getting better, again they’d be the team to beat.
As I mentioned in the last chapter Bayern had sacked Nagelsmann, they replaced him with Diego Simeone, a great appointment on paper! Nagelsmann ended up replacing Simeone at Atlético so essentially the two clubs had just swapped managers but Bayern had paid a lot of money to do so…not that money really matters to them! They lost Jamal Musiala to Liverpool, Luiz Felipe to Real Madrid and Luka Jović to Shakhtar. They did bring in Pablo Maffeo and Brenden Aaronson but I’d say they were slightly weaker than they had been, having said that you can never underestimate a Simeone side.
The season curtain raiser is the DFL-Supercup between the winners of the league and the cup, as we’d won the cup we were in it against league winners Dortmund. The game was at their ground but we won it 3-1 and 2 new boys scored in Olmo and Aouar, its not part of the challenge but its always nice to win a trophy and it sent a message out to our rivals that we weren’t to be messed with this year.
I made the decision that the league was my sole focus this year, that meant I’d be making multiple changes in Europe and in the cup. I still had the two European trophies to tick off but I didn’t feel that we were ready to win the Champions League yet so all my eggs were going into the Bundesliga basket. How did that go? Well I’m going to cover it off competition by competition and lets get straight to it by starting with the main one first.
The Bundesliga 2023/24
To be successful in our aim of winning the title this year I had to cut out dropping points against lesser sides and ensure that we didn’t lose to our rivals. We faced both Dortmund and Bayern in our opening 7 games giving us some real tests early on. Dortmund were first, we played them away in game week 2, we were unable to get another win like in the Supercup but a 2-2 draw wasn’t a bad result. The Bayern game was at home, as we headed into the 90th minute we were holding onto a 2-1 victory but 2 goals were scored in extra time. No need to panic! They were both scored by us, a 4-1 win over Bayern, what a result and a statement that we weren’t to be messed with. We went unbeaten in the first half of the season however we did drop a few silly points. Away draws at Stuttgart, Fortuna Düsseldorf and Bochum were far from ideal, we also dropped a couple of points at home against Wolfsburg however they had started the season well so that didn’t frustrate me as much. This left us in 2nd place behind Dortmund who had lost twice but only drawn the once. We were only 2 points behind, Bayern were way back in 5th place. We had another two horse title race but this time we were in it!
Last season we’d relied so heavily on Belotti, he was still doing well but not anyway near to the level he had done the year before. This wasn’t an issue though as we were now much more of a team, midfield were contributing with more goals and there wasn’t the reliance on a certain few individuals to perform every week like there had been previously.
To win the title we needed to cut these draws out, stay unbeaten and make sure we didn’t lose points when we played Dortmund. The game against them was the second after the restart following the winter break and it was another draw, this time finishing 1-1. We cut out the silly point dropping habit and went on a good winning run, in the 11 games played in January to March we won 9, the only other game we didn’t win was Bayern away that finished 0-0. In that time Dortmund kept their form going to however they drew 1 more game than us meaning we were neck and neck points wise with 6 games to go. They however had a better goal difference, we’d have to hope they slipped up in order to overtake them, all we could do was keep on winning.
Dortmund then beat Gladbach and Stuttgart, they put 7 past the latter building their goal difference advantage further. We beat Freiburg and Bochum but both by a single goal advantage, there was no way we could overtake their goal difference, they would have to slip up. There was no sign of that happening, they even beat Bayern 7-0 in the second leg of the Champions League Quarter Final which saw Simeone sacked. Haaland scored 4 of them! Fortunately he has finally agreed a deal to leave Dortmund, his contract is up in the summer and he is signing for Man City. They have signed Mbappé and Haaland without paying a penny, they also have Vlahović. Whatever happens here I need to make sure I don’t go to England till the end of this challenge and hope their legs have gone! Simeone was replaced by Pep meaning that it was even more important that we won the league this year as Bayern would be back to their best the year after.
There were just 4 games left now and it was really down to the wire. Dortmund played next beating Hertha Berlin 3-1 at home which put the pressure on us to win away at Wolfsburg who were much improved under Filippo Inzaghi. We managed it with a hard fought 2-1 victory, 3 to go and still it was all to play for.
This time we were both playing on the Saturday but Dortmund were kicking off 3 hours before us away at Darmstadt. They survived an early scare where they went 2-1 down to come back to win 4-2. We responded in emphatic style putting 4 past Frankfurt who had no response. 2 to go!
Dortmund again went first, they were at home to Bayern who had started to pick up since Pep had come back. An early Nnamdi Collins goal put Dortmund in front but by half time Bayern had turned the game on its head and led 2-1. Could they hold on and put the title in our own hands? They could! Not only did they hold on, they added a third. The celebrations in Leverkusen were wild but it meant nothing if we didn’t win away at Augsburg the following day.
Dortmund were still top on goal difference but we had our game in hand. Augsburg were no mugs but an early Ângelo goal helped settle the nerves, just before half time Iago was sent off putting them down to 10 men. The lads were pumped now and in the second half laid siege to the Augsburg goal, putting 4 past them to secure a 5-0 victory and send us top with a game to go. We were now 3 points clear with 1 game to go. Could we wrap the title up and tick off Germany in just 3 seasons?
Our final game was at home to Hoffenheim whilst Dortmund were away at Düsseldorf. We were a bag of nerves, sloppy passing, poor decision making, we just weren’t ourselves. We rarely threatened their goal during the first half but fortunately they looked like they’d already gone on their holidays so they offered little in terms of a response. At the other game their had been a huge goal, Taiwo Awoniyi had Düsseldorf ahead at the break, were both of us bottling it at the final hurdle?
Dortmund weren’t, they scored 2 and moved just 1 point behind us, a Hoffenheim goal now and they’d be champions! The next major event wasn’t a goal, it was a red card and fortunately for us it was a Hoffenheim player who got it. Silvan Widmer sent off for a wild two footed lunge, clearly he wanted a few extra weeks break over the summer! The good news continued as Taiwo Awoniyi got his second drawing Düsseldorf level with 15 minutes to play. Both games were tied making us champions as things stood. It stayed this way as both games hit 90 minutes before 2 major events occurred. Firstly Haaland scored making it 3-2 Dortmund with his final league goal for the club. Just as the news filtered through, 10 man Hoffenheim got a corner, they couldn’t could they? It was floated into the middle and met by former Liverpool man Ibrahima Konaté who bulleted a header towards goal, it smashed off the crossbar before Belotti hacked it away! With that the referee blew for full time and we’d done it, we’d almost made an absolute meal out of it but we’d got over the line. We were Bundesliga champions and Germany was complete! What’s more we’d done it as invincibles, not losing a league game all year although we had drawn 8 times.
I mentioned earlier that I’d be making changes to the starting 11 for this competition as we’d already won it and therefore it wasn’t a priority. It worked a treat against lower league Bergisch Gladbach but when we came up against Hoffenheim we were found out and knocked out of the cup 1-0. RB Leipzig would go on to lift the trophy beating Borussia Mönchengladbach 1-0 in the final thanks to a goal from our former striker Patrik Schick.
Champions League 2023/24
Seeded 3rd again we weren’t as fortunate with our draw this time around. Manchester United, AC Milan and Dynamo Kyiv were in our group, I expected Kyiv to come bottom but with our focus on the league it would be hard to pick up points against the other two.
We started well beating the Ukrainians 4-1 at home but successive defeats away to United and at home to Milan meant that we would be facing an uphill battle to qualify. We then made things interesting by beating Milan away followed by United at home. A final group game victory away at Dynamo Kyiv meant that the big 3 sides all had 12 points, so who went through? United and Milan unfortunately, we had the best goal difference but were done on the head to head rule which meant we dropped into the Europa League. Having made changes to my 11 for all of the games it shows how far we have come, if we’d have played our best side surely we’d have won the group.
Europa League 2023/24
Being in the Europa League gave us a better opportunity of winning a European competition but our focus was still on the Bundesliga. I decided I’d continue to make changes, not as many as before however and see how we got on, if we made it to the quarter finals I’d start to play my best 11.
Up first we had Valencia a side who are a shadow of the team that were managed by Rafa Benítez prior to him moving to Liverpool. We beat them 3-1 in Germany before finishing the job with a 3-0 win in Spain. This set up a second knockout round match with Roma and a chance to pit my wits against José Mourinho. Again we were at home first, it was a tight cagey first leg which we won 1-0 meaning that as we headed to Italy there was still plenty to play for. Roma have a front 2 of Tammy Abraham and Raúl Jiménez, its got them plenty of goals in Serie A but they couldn’t get any against us. We in fact ran out 3-0 winners and comfortably breezed into the quarter finals.
Now it was time to start picking my best 11 when available, I mentioned Rafa Benítez before and it was his Everton side that stood in our way between a place in the semi final. A nice draw and like with Roma they couldn’t score against us, a 1-0 win in Germany was followed by a 2-0 win on Merseyside and we were into the semis. I was starting to think we could go on and win it!
In the semis it was back to Merseyside and this time to face Steven Gerrard’s Liverpool side. Pep left Man City at the end of last season and despite Liverpool having finished 5th in successive seasons Klopp got the Man City job. Stevie G was rewarded for getting Aston Villa into the Champions League with the gig in the reds hot seat. This was our toughest draw so far and we were away from home in the first leg. As Liverpool tend to do on European nights at Anfield they flew out of the blocks and were 2-0 up inside 25 minutes thanks to Bobby Firmino and Mo Salah goals. We were then able to catch our breath and before half time it was 2-1 thanks to that man Andrea Belotti and that’s how it would stay. Into the second leg and were up against it but this time it was ourselves who started on the front foot and were 2-0 up at half time thanks to a Belotti double. We had 45 minutes to hold on but Liverpool couldn’t find an answer sending us into the Europa League final, what a fantastic effort it had been!
Like ourselves Real Madrid had dropped from the Champions League into the Europa League and that is who we would face in the final, a daunting proposition! How did we get on? Find out next time.
Cheers for reading,
The Last Throw.