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2017/18 Bundesliga Preview, Part 1: Contenders and Pretenders

Friday 11th August 2017
It's August. Another German season awaits. The 55th, actually.  To open IRAIW's 3-part Bundesliga preview, we'll look at the title contenders and pretenders.

Two teams are clear favourites to take home the title. But there are a few others that can upset Bayern and BvB's well-ordered plan and possibly sneak their way into the race should a few breaks go their way.

Spoiler alert! The absolute favourite is...

Bayern Munich

Can anyone doubt the Rekordmeister is the odds-on favourite to win the Bundesliga for a sixth straight season?

Die Roten had arguably the best team in Germany. Yet, they managed to improve it even further, adding James Rodriguez, Corentin Tolisso, and Niklas Süle. They lost Douglas Costa, but Carlo Ancelotti's men have enough depth on the attack to withstand any loss, providing they keep their core intact.

There is still one week left before the Bundesliga season starts and the transfer window stretches into the campaign's third week. Still, Bayern are unmatched if we analyse their squad on a man-to-man basis.

Europe's best goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer backs a stout defensive line led by Mats Hummels. Arturo Vidal is among the world's best box-to-box midfielders.  Thiago Alcantara can adapt his game to become Xabi Alonso's replacement. Tolisso should add some much-needed depth at the CM role.

Upfront, James Rodriguez will take Douglas Costa's place, adding creativity in the final third. With Robert Lewandowski on the end of the Colombian's passes, Bayern become even more dangerous.

There is no doubt the Bundesliga crown is theirs to lose once again.

Spoiler alert, part two! The defending champion's most formidable challenger will be...

Borussia Dortmund

Bayern might be odds-on favourite to win the title. That does not mean it will be a walk in the park. Several teams will try to knock them off the top but they have one huge rival in Borussia Dortmund.

The Yellow Bees will be led by former Ajax boss, Peter Bosz. There is no question BvB is a talented unit capable of going toe-to-toe with Bayern on any given day. The DFL-Super Cup contested this past weekend demonstrates as much. Bayern claimed the silverware, although it was hardly easy. The Munich side edged the shootout 5-4, following a two-goal draw.

Dortmund base their strength on three fundamental concepts: defensive organization, a creative-yet-combative midfield, and a powerful offensive unit. Of the three, there can be no doubt attack is their biggest weapon. Die Boeussen feature two world-class players.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been a constant name in the rumour mill this summer. The Bundesliga's top scorer, with 31 goals in 2016-17, the Gabonese forward almost left the club this summer. Ultimately, he decided to stay and will look to retain his scoring title. The 28-year-old has been extremely effective since joining Dortmund, contributing 121 goals in 190 matches across all competitions.

Aubameyang is not alone, though. Dortmund also have Marco Reus and Shinji Kagawa on the wings. Mario Götze should return from injury quite soon, as well.
Then there is Ousmane Dembele. The 20-year-old has been heavily linked with a move to FC Barcelona in recent days, as the Blaugrana lash out after losing Neymar, Jr to Paris Saint-Germain. If he stays at Signal Iduna Park for another year, the marauding Frenchman can be a game changer.

Who will be the party crashers?

Let's be honest. Everyone knows Dortmund and Bayern will fight for the title. It would be surprising to see another team contending after the first round of fixtures. That said, upsets can happen in any given year. Here are two teams with the potential to disrupt Bayern's reign and Dortmund's assault chances. At the very least, both will make a serious run at a Top 3 finish.

RB Leipzig

Leipzig kept Bundesliga followers surprised well past Match Day One, last season. No one thought they would reach a Champions League berth in their first Bundesliga season.

One can't help but think die Bullen are bound to regress but they kept their core intact. Traditional bias aside, nothing suggests the east German club shouldn't be as good as last year.

Naby Keita, Timo Werner, Emil Forsberg and their teammates are ready to confirm their 2016-17 campaign wasn't a fluke. One player to keep an eye on is Bruma. The 22-year-old Portuguese winger's pace has game-changing presence written all over it.

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim

If we are talking about surprises, Hoffenheim should be right up there with Leipzig.

Led by players such as Sandro Wagner and Andrej Kramaric, they are a competent squad. Havard Nordtveit and Serge Gnabry's arrival make things even tougher for any opponent. But Achtzen99's biggest strength is in the technical area.

Julian Nagelsmann is considered one of the brightest managers in Europe. With him in charge, they should be fine, especially considering the squad have not suffered many changes this summer.

Keep an eye tomorrow for the 2017-18 Bundesliga preview, part 2: Battling relegation.
Juan Pablo Aravena

29-year-old sports analyst and journalist with over three years of experience in the industry. Writes about all kinds of sports from football to golf, but there is no question his biggest passion in life is football. Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and Colo Colo fan.

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