The 50th Season of the Bundesliga ended with a Munich treble, in record breaking fashion sweeping all those before them and also winning in record time. The FC Hollywood machine was in over drive with Jupp Heychenks signing off in style and leaving rivals Dortmund wondering how it happened. A new era starts for the Bavarian giants with a high profile manager at the helm; expectation remains very high to maintain or surpass or at least equal the success of last season. It is not a huge task to ask of Pep Guardiola, he’s being here before managed a treble winning team and even raising the stakes even high; by ending a year with 6 trophies. Piece of Cake right? Well, it seems like it should be all things being equal; unfortunately, they never are.
Going into the 51st season of the highly exciting and attractive Bundesliga; we take a look at the title contenders those to chase a Europa League ticket and also likely relegation candidates. This promises to be another exciting and explosive season in the German elite division.
The Title Contenders : Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke
Without a shadow of a doubt, Bayern Munich are title favorites by a country mile, however you have a wounded Lion in Dortmund lying in wait; there is a huge score to settle here. A number of people have tried to undermine the psychological advantage that Dortmund already have with their Super Cup triumph over the Bavarians; the yellow and black army have laid a huge marker and I can assure you they will run Bayern very close. Every manager needs a bedding in period; unfortunately Pep Guardiola does not have any; he has inherited a winning team; if you ask me there’s nothing more he needs to do nor change in this team. When he took over at Barca; it was a team in some kind of transistion; much did not change asides getting rid of Guily and Ronaldinho; the system was more or less the same, all he did was make minor adjustments; he did not have not make any wholesale changes; until the following season when he started to instil his identity and philosophy; and this process was gradual. Already there seems to be some discontent from part of the playing staff on his obsession at making different changes during training, he has brought Thiago in to add his mark on the team; already this has altered the recognised Bayern style of 4-2-3-1 to more like a 4-1-4-1 with Lahm stepping into the right side of midfield, Thiago acting as a pivot in front of the back four, hence dropping German player of the year; Bastian Schweinsteiger and moving Javier Martinez to a position in the heart of the defense, that the player has publicly stated his dislike for. We also saw his obsession for playing the false 9 system at Barcelona; but you’ve got to understand that not everyone is Messi and it was a gradual process in implementing the system to good effect at the Catalans. Mario Mandzukic had a stellar season last time around; he finally has the chance to make that top striker role his; since the depature of Mario Gomez; i am sure he never envisaged losing his slot to a change in system.
For Guardiola, he should not be too eager to stamp his playing philosophy on this team; the process should be gradual; that way you do not alienate your adoring public and eager playing and non playing personnel; retaining the league is priority, not retaining the Champions League may be permitted; the European Super Cup and World Club Cup must be won as well. Borussia Dortmund are in a great position; they go into the new season with no pressure at all; the pressure is on Bayern to repeat their record breaking season. Jurgen Kloop’s Dortmund have a huge score to settle with Bayern; not only for losing the title to them; but the way and manner Bayern signed Mario Gotze and their continued sniffing around on Robert Lewandoski. Bayern’s overwhelming desire to weaken their major rival Dortmund, should give this side the drive and motivation to reclaim the title. Kloop has invested well in the market with the signings of Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan and Papastatouplous but have let 8 players off their books especially Felipe Santana leaving for Schalke; with these Dortmud are still short, needing at least 3 additional signings to get to that level where they can truly battle Bayern’s considerable strength in depth. Bayer Leverkusen are a very interesting proposition going into this season; keeping Stefan Kiesling last season’s topscorer was really important; however the loses of Andre Schurrle, David Carvajal, Michal Kadlec and Junior Fernandez may be too much; but in Son Heung Min they have a star to light up the big stage supported by a number of experienced campaingers like Andre Pulop from Seville. They can cause a lot of trouble for the established sides, its how they cope with those below them that will determine the kind of season they intend to have. Schlake 04 have also undergone some kind of surgical change, bringing in Felipe Santana to shore up their defense and replace retiring Christoph Metzelder also adding Christian Clemens from Koln to bolster their attacking line even though they had to let go Jose Manuel Jurado. In Huntelaar, Ogbuke, Far Fan and Draxler Schlake are a scary proposition for any team as long as they keep their heads down to do the business.
Europa League Contenders : Hamburg SV, Frankfurt, Vfb Stuttgart, Frieburg
In Son Hueng Min, Hamburg has lost a star but then they still have Van Der Vaart, captain and leader of the park; looking to push Hamburg to occupy the position it deserves to fill in the Bundesliga hierachy. Hamburg have disappointed over the years, they have made good acquisitions in the market year in year out, but it has failed to materialize into a sustaining campaign for laurels; this season they have recruited reasonably bringing in Johan Djourou from Arsenal and Jacques Zoua from Basel to add to its fire power. Frankfurt rolled back the years last seaso, having a superb season that culmunated in qualification for the Europa League; bringing in a striker was very important to the team with the added commitments this season; so the loan deal for Joselu from Hoffeinheim was imperative; six new faces in total to consolidate their position as members of German Football elite. Freiburg’s board, management and players would be forgiven for wanting to pinch themselves just to be sure that last season’s great performance wasn’t actually a dream as participation in the Europa League is a reality. Going into this season, they have being busy bringing in quality in Gelson Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon and also adding eight other new faces to their squad. VFB Stuggart’s run to the final of the German Cup and the latter rounds of the Europa league last season were quite commendable; unfortunately in the final of the cup they were up against the Bayern treble chasing machine and there was absolutely nothing they could do to stop the Bayern Machine. Eight new faces coming in including Norweigan striker Mohammed Abdellaoue.
Relegation Candidates :
The likes of Augsburg , Hoffenheim and Werder Bremen barely escaped relegation, it is always difficult to shake off the effect of a previous relegation campaign; so I will have these three as there or there abouts. Bremen have changed managers, so we expect some fresh ideas; the newly promoted teams would also be in huge danger. It is always difficult to get into the top division and maintain a steady campaign. Herta Berlin make a return along with Braunschweig to the top flight; its going to be a long and hard season for both sides; but I believe Herta may just survive.
Verdict Champions: Borussia Dortmund
Why? I feel the bedding process may take a toll on Bayern at the start and they may not get into their groove early enough to win the title.
Relegation : Braunschweig and Augsburg
Others: Lets not rule out the likes of Wolfsburg, Mainz and Nurenburg who would cause an upset every now and then,