Bundesliga Preview: Can anyone catch Bayern Munich?
If Bayern Munich is a sprinter, they’d probably be Usain Bolt. As it is almost useless competing with Bolt in a race, so it is with the Bavarians in the Bundesliga. Yet every season, German clubs line up hoping to be that Justin Gatlin.
For the sixth successive season, Bayern resumes as defending champions. Despite a false start under Carlo Ancelotti last term, they still romped to the title by a whopping 21 points thanks to Jupp Heynckes. The veteran has since linked up with Alex Ferguson. New boss Niko Kovac is condemned to maintain that hegemony else Heynckes may be forced out of retirement again.
Bayern may not necessarily need another Heynckes rescue mission, however. Not after he revealed to be out of touch with reality. He couldn't keep up with the new trend in Germany; that of young coaches. Schalke boss Dominico Tedesco was the most impressive of them all. Tedesco guided the club to second place, securing a return to the UEFA Champions League. It wasn’t pretty to watch, at times but it was certainly effective.
Just underneath these two, there's a potential fatal four-way battle royal for the other Champions League berths. Hoffenheim and Borussia Dortmund face a mighty task holding on to their spots. Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig, both of which will play Thursday night football, won’t relish a return.
The quest for survival could be even trickier. Newcomers Fortuna Düsseldorf and FC Nuremberg will be eager to re-establish themselves as Bundesliga regulars. For that to happen, however, they must outwit serial strugglers Wolfsburg, Freiburg, Mainz and Hannover. They would be encouraged by the achievement of predecessors.
Here's a summary of all 18 clubs' status heading into Match Day One.
Manager: Manuel Baum
Last season: 12th
Remaining needs: There isn't much change to the Augsburg team that finished 12th last term. Andre Hahn and Fredrik Jensen are the major recruits. However, with two senior left-back still injured, Manuel Baum must push for another.
Season outlook: Baum will continue what he started in December 2016. In that period, the club has improved tremendously. Last season, they sat in the top half for much of the campaign only to end up in twelfth after just one win from last eight outings. With a little more consistency this time around, they could sneak to Europe.
Manager: Heiko Herrlich
Last season: 5th
Remaining needs: Leverkusen is an exciting team in every aspect with a perfect blend of experience and youth. While the Bender brothers led the first class, Leon Bailey brings the exuberance. There could be more next term following the addition of teen Brazilian sensation Paulinho.
Season outlook: Heiko Herrlich did a decent job to qualify for the Europa League in his first season. He has enough quality to reach the next level this term.
Manager: Niko Kovac
Last season: Bundesliga Champions
Remaining needs: Even without any high-profile signing, Bayern's depth is unrivalled. Kovac's second-string side could still deliver on the domestic front. Although the Bavarians lost Arturo Vidal, Leon Goretzka, Renato Sanches and Gnabry would seem like new additions.
Season outlook: Kovac was Bayern’s nemesis last season. The Croat outsmarted his current employers to the DFB-POKAL. A similar ordeal would be disastrous for Kovac as the domestic double is perceived as Bayern’s heritage.
Manager: Lucien Favre
Last season: 4th
Remaining needs: Dortmund’s transfer business has been impressive. Although they lost the likes of Andriy Yarmolenko. Sokratis and Gonzalo Castro, Alex Witsel, Abdou Diallo, Delaney and Marius Wolf have come in. Without Michy Batshuayi, they may struggle for goals, though.
Season outlook: Lucian Favre returns to a club that has ambitions to challenge Bayern. That is very attainable should he strike the right balance to suit an attack that features Christian Pulisic, Marco Reus, Maximilian Philipp and Jadon Sancho.
Manager: Dieter Hecking
Last season: 9th
Remaining needs: Monchengladbach showed intent with Alassane Plea’s capture from OGC Nice. Plea scored a remarkable 21 goals In 48 appearances last season. That’s twice as much as Thorgan Hazard – the Foals incumbent top scorer. However, cracks in the middle are still undressed.
Season outlook: Gladbach underwhelmed under manager Dieter Hecking. A club of its pedigree with five league crowns should be a regular in Europe. Hecking must address his outdated methods for that to happen this term.
Manager: Adi Hutter
Last season: 8th
Remaining needs: The Eagles’ wings were ripped apart after a high-flying campaign. Kevin-Prince Boateng, Omar Mascarell and Wolf each took a piece. Losing manager Kovac to Bayern left bare nakedness.
Season outlook: Adi Hutter has some altitude to climb. Continental football and DFB-Pokal isn’t an often see around Commerzbank-Arena. With an impressive win ratio of almost 60 per cent at each of last four jobs, however, the 46-year-old may just carry on with Kovac’s legacy.
Manager: Friedhelm Funkel
Last season: 2.Bundesliga Champions, Promoted
Remaining needs: Unlike previous summers, Fortuna managed to keep hold of its best players. Marvin Ducksch and Benito Raman would sharpen their attack. Defensive frailty, however, may harm them. Especially on the right where Jean Zimmer is all alone.
Season outlook: Friedhelm Funkel is specialist at guiding smaller sides to the top-flight. Fortuna’s recent improbable story was his sixth – a new German record. The 64-year-old is still a novice at keeping them up.
Manager: Christian Streich
Last season: 15th
Remaining needs: Caglar Suyunku was Freiburg’s biggest piece of business this summer. But unfortunately, the Turkish defender moved away to Leicester City for around £18m. He may not be missed should new recruits Dominique Heintz and Philipp Lienhart find their feet early.
Season outlook: Freiburg’s thin squad grappled with continental and domestic rigours. The club depended mostly on 15-goal hero Nils Petersen for survival. Christian Streich is no stranger to the second tier. He could be reunited with old friends at the end of this season.
Manager: Andre Breitenreiter
Last season: 13th
Remaining needs: For every single departure, Hannover brought in a fitting replacement. Wallace, Kevin Wimmer, Genki Haraguchi and Takuma Asano would easily slot in for Salif Sane, Felix Klaus, Martin Harnik and Marius Wolf respectively. But in truth, the squad is pretty much as it was last season.
Season outlook: Andre Breitenreiter’s target in his second campaign will be European football. The 44-year-old could only stare from a distance having finished 13th. He may not even remain in the division less so Europe come May.
Manager: Pal Dardai
Last season: 10th
Remaining needs: A much taller barricade than the famous Berlin wall stood before the club’s summer dealings. There are very few buzzes around the Olympiastadion. Yet holding onto attacking trio Salomon Kalou, Davie Selke and Marvin Plattenhardt could prove the real coup.
Season outlook: Pal Dardai will be in charge for the fourth season. Like their more renowned Italian namesake, the Old Lady should be playing in Europe. They fell two places short last time and could likely it get right this term with a couple more signings.
Manager: Julian Nagelsmann
Last season: 3rd
Remaining needs: Hoffenheim would be without last season's two best players; Mark Uth and Serge Gnabry. Both plundered a combined 37 goals and assists. Trailing their paths is a tall order for new recruits Leonardo Bittencourt, Vincenzo Grifo, Ishak Belfodil and Joshua Brent.
Season outlook: Julian Nagelsmann enhanced his reputation further with another Champions League spot. Being his final campaign, he’d relish another top podium finish. But that seems doubtful with his shallow squad.
Manager: Sandro Schwarz
Last season: 14th
Remaining needs: Bolstering offensive options was Mainz’s primary target this summer. Only three surviving teams struck fewer than Sandro Schwarz’s 37. Jean-Philippe Mateta was brought in from Lyon to do the job.
Season outlook: Mainz narrowly escaped the drop in the last two seasons. The Carnival Club may run out of luck this time around. In any case, they'd keep up with the feast in the lower league.
Manager: Michael Kollner
Last season: 2nd 2.Bundesliga, Promoted
Remaining needs: Nuremberg is christened ‘The Legend’ but there’s nothing protruding about its summer business. Four newcomers have followed the club up to the Bundesliga, however, for a meagre £1m combined. That’s relegation standard.
Season outlook: As surprising as it may seem, Nuremberg is Germany’s second most successful club with nine trophies. Der Club has become famous for bouncing back and forth the Bundesliga in recent time. They could jump back to the second-tier again.
Manager: Ralf Rangnick
Last season: 6th
Remaining needs: Leipzig is yet to replace influential midfielder, Naby Keita who joined Liverpool. At the final third, Merseyside rival Ademola Lookman is doubtful about another loan spell. In defence, however, The Bulls have gotten it right.
Season outlook: With Nagelsmann set to take charge in 2019/20, Sporting Director Ralf Rangnick would act as a forerunner. Much isn’t expected from the 60-year-old. Another continental spot would be termed success.
Manager: Domenico Tedesco
Last season: 4th
Remaining needs: Bar Thilo Kehrer, Schalke have kept the spine of its squad including creative sparks Guido Burgstaller and Daniel Caligiuri. But most importantly, they held on to charismatic tactician, Tedesco.
Season outlook: Even though it would be tough replicating, Tedesco would be proud of last season’s finish. There is little doubt the 32-year-old would have a long and successful career, but this could be the toughest test yet.
Manager: Tayfun Korkut
Last season: 7th
Remaining needs: Faithful would easily overlook Daniel Ginczek’s exit to Wolfsburg should the club hold on to Benjamin Pavard. The 22-year-old has risen from German peripheral to a world champion in little above one year. Alongside some new recruits, the future looks exciting for the Reds.
Season outlook: The Bundesliga wasn't receptive for Stuttgart. Hannes Wolf paid the ultimate price for a difficult start. Tayfun Korkut took over and made an immediate impact to finish seventh. The 44-year-old can capitalise on that strong performance to reach Europe this term.
Manager: Florian Kohfeldt
Last season: 11th
Remaining needs: In Davy Klaassen, the Green-Whites have a like-for-like replacement for new Borussia Dortmund boy Thomas Delaney. Seven others followed the ex-Everton midfielder to Weserstadion including Claudio Pizarro. With three goalkeepers currently injured, the 39-year-old may be required to step in if nothing is done.
Season outlook: Berlin and Bremen may be hundreds of miles apart, however, on the pitch last season, they were separated by merely one spot. Like Juventus lost German brothers, regular European football is paramount. That should return next year.
Manager: Bruno Labbadia
Last season: 16th
Remaining needs: The Wolves required play-off to survive. Judging by their summer business, they have taken their second chance graciously. Wolfsburg has spent big; almost £40m on five players. That’s good enough to climb towards mid-table.
Season outlook: The club entrusted its destiny on experienced gaffer, Bruno Labbadia. With almost four decades in the job, the 60-year-old should know the tricks to avert the drop.