The Bundesliga was Europe’s best league of last season, with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund reaching the Champions League final, and it is hard to see anyone being able to challenge either in the league this season.
Bayern have brought in Pep Guardiola as their new coach, and the signing of Mario Gotze will boost their forward options significantly, while Thiago Alcantara should also give them more quality in midfield. The loss of Mario Gomez should not be keenly felt. If anyone knows how to build on a team who have just won the treble, it is surely Guardiola. But a 4-2 defeat to Dortmund in the season’s curtain raiser was a warning to Bayern that they will not have it all their own way.
For Dortmund, they need to avoid the slip ups against the league’s lesser likes. When they meet Bayern, the two are well matched, but the Bavarians are more ruthless against the other 16 teams in the league. The signing of Pierre Emerick Aubameyang from St Etienne gives them another option up front, and he could be a long term replacement for Robert Lewandowski, who Dortmund resisted selling. But Lewandowksi only has one season left on his contract.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan was also signed in the summer, and he is a superb playmaker. The Armenian should add guile and he is the perfect replacement for Gotze. Dortmund’s talent and spirit means they should be able to push Bayern closer than last year.
Schalke 04 have bolstered their squad well this summer, signing Christian Clemens and Adam Szalai. They give them attacking options alongside Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Julian Draxler, the immensely talented young playmaker. Schalke can build on the uncertainty of last year, when they changed coach mid season, and a more consistent campaign can see them push closer to the top two. Bayer Leverkusen have been weakened after an impressive season last time. They lost Dani Carvajal to Real Madrid and Andre Schurrle to Chelsea. Lars Bender has been retained though, whilst the signings of Giulio Donati, Andres Palop, Son Heung Min and Emir Spahic are intelligent captures.
Freiburg will do remarkably well to repeat their fifth place finish after losing many key players to rivals. They have brought in a number of reinforcements but the instability will be damaging. Eintracht Frankfurt did remarkably too after promotion to finish sixth, and for a while they looked like they could finish in the top four. Some smart signings have been made and they can do well again.
Borussia Moenchengladbach failed to build on the previous season’s fourth place finish, but then again they had lost Dante and Marco Reus. Lucien Favre’s side have been circumspect in the Max Kruse from Freiburg and Raffael to boost their midfield. They have a talented squad though which can challenge.
Hamburg recovered from two poor seasons to finish seventh, inspired by Rafael van der Vaart, and they can push for Europe once again this time around, although they have lost the talented Son to Leverkusen. Hanover and Nuremberg will be hoping to continue their impressive recent campaigns with top 10 finishes, ensuring they continue to build.
Fallen giants in the shape of 2007 champions Stuttgart and 2009 winners Wolfsburg are looking to recover this year. Their approaches could not be more different. Stuttgart have invested in a number of players as they look to catapult up the league, whilst Wolfsburg’s building has been quieter as they look for much needed stability under Dieter Hecking. Werder Bremen, who won the league in 2004, have lost Thomas Schaaf, their coach of 14 years, and sporting director Klaus Allofs.
The battle against the drop could come down to newly promoted Hertha Berlin, who have been a yo yo club in the last four years, Hoffenheim, who underperformed badly last year and almost went down, newly promoted Braunschweig, whose lack of experience at this level could be evened out by their tactical intelligence, and Augsburg, who produced a miraculous run to survive last year after looking dead and buried at Christmas.