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Sports

Bochum

Paul Freier

Paul Freier -- once a Bochumer, and now once again a Bochum

Bochum avoided relegation with -- for them -- relative ease last season, and that will be the goal in 2008-09 as well. Their coach, Marcel Koller, has said the squad is the best in his four years at the small, working man's club. Former Bundesliga great turned acid-tongued pundit Mario Basler, on the other hand, said Bochum is headed back to division two. So who's right?

The main offensive additions are veterans Paul Freier in midfield and striker Vahid Hashemian -- both of whom have had success with Bochum earlier in their careers. Perhaps more importantly, keeper Daniel Fernandes has been brought in to shore up the defense. He already saved Bochum form an embarrassing exit in the first round of the German Cup.

One the other hand, there's no guarantee that Freier and Hashemian -- or Bochum's top striker Stanislav Sestak, for that matter -- will be able to repeat their past performances. And with three unusually strong, newly promoted competitors, avoiding relegation will be more difficult this time round than any season in recent memory. Basler's gloom-and-doom scenario is a distinct possibility.

Major arrivals: Christian Fuchs, Paul Freier, Daniel Marcio Fernandes, Vahid Hashemian

Major departures: Benjamin Auer, Tommy Bechmann, Martin Meichelbeck, Ivo Ilicevic, Jan Lastuvka