Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Preview: Bundesliga 2019/2020 Season

The new Bundesliga season is here after a summer of change across the league with various clubs changing managers and a host of new players arriving on German shores. However, one thing that remains is Bayern Munich's dominance of the Bundesliga and once again they are favourites to clinch the title heading into the new season. But they are stiff competition from Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig with both believing they can become the kings of Germany.

Bayern Munich head into the new season expecting to win the league and compete in the Champions League. It was a mixed first season under Niko Kovac with the Bavarian giants struggling to click into the gear until they rallied and eventually toppled Borussia Dortmund. However, an exit at the quarter-final stages of the Champions League didn't go down well and the pressure is on Kovac this season to improve their performances in Europe. There is a real sense of change at Bayern Munich with key players of past seasons departing the club. Long servants Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Rafinha and Mats Hummels have all left emphasising a real shift in how Bayern Munich conduct their transfer business. Initially, Bayern's business had focused on defenders with Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard's transfers to the club confirmed during the previous season. Both have real potential to be regulars in the defence week in, week out. But attacking reinforcements have been the focus ahead of the new season with Ivan Perisic and Philippe Coutinho joining the club on loan with options to buy. Perisic is well known to Kovac having worked with him during Kovac's spell as Croatia manager and Perisic is confident he can fill the big boots of Robben and Ribery. But the signing of Coutinho from Barcelona could a be a game-changer for Bayern with the fans excited to see the Brazilian in action. A disappointing 18 months at Barcelona are over for the talented Brazilian and he will be hoping to recapture the form he showed at Liverpool which made him a £100M signing. The fans are expectant this season and Kovac must deliver after a mixed campaign last time out.

Bayern Munich will face stiff competition this season with Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig aiming to topple the Bavarian giants. It was a fantastic first season in charge of Dortmund for Lucien Favre with the Swiss getting an enterprising, exciting brand of football out of his very talented squad. Marco Reus, Jadon Sancho, Paco Alcacer all found new levels last season, winning plaudits across Europe for their attacking endeavour and creative flair. However, Dortmund's big problem last season was their ability to keep goals out their own net. For all of Dortmund's brilliance going forward, their young defence was extremely fragile at times and it ultimately cost them the title. The club will believe they have solved their issue by bringing back Dortmund stalwart Mats Hummels. Hummels is back at Dortmund after his six years in Munich came to an end. Hummels is back and he will be vital this season for Dortmund's chances of success. Others to arrive this summer include Julian Brandt and Thorgen Hazard who will add even more goals and creativity. There is real excitement in Dortmund with the fans believing this is their year and they will certainly push Bayern Munich hard. But so will RB Leipzig with Julen Naglesmann finally in charge after his terrific spell at Hoffenheim came to an end. A year in the making and now the Bundesliga's youngest ever manager is ready to cause a few waves in the Bundesliga. He inherits a talented squad that performed well under Ralf Rangnick last season and Naglesmann will believe they can go one step further and pinch the title. RB Leipzig has a young, talented squad full of potential and they are only going to get better. Leipzig's philosophy is built around young players with potential and their transfer business accompanies this. Hannes Wolf, Luan, Christopher Nkunku and Ademola Lookman have all joined Die Rotenbull this summer and the fans are excited ahead of the new campaign. Could they collect a first-ever Bundesliga title? We shall wait and see.

Many of the Bundesliga clubs have changed their manager over the summer with some deciding to leave while others have felt the axe dropdown. Borussia Monchengladbach sacked Dieter Hecking despite a respectable top 6 finish last season but they proved to not to be enough. His replacement is Marco Rose who arrives after an excellent spell in charge of RB Salzburg. Rose arrives with a reputation of playing expansive, attacking football. Gladbach want Champions League football and that will be Rose's target in his first season at the club. Pal Dardai decided he needed a break from Hertha Berlin after his four years in charge. He will be back next year in a technical role at the capital club but his replacement in the dugout is Ante Covic. Covic has been promoted after running the B team at the club. He will be looking to push Hertha Berlin towards the top 6 this season and their big signing Dodi Lukebakio will be key to their chances of success this season. Julen Naglesmann's departure was known to Hoffenheim for a while and they have replaced him with former Ajax assistant Alfred Schreuder. He arrives tasked with continuing the terrific job done by Naglesmann. Bruno Labbadia departs Wolfsburg on a high after guiding them to a top 6 finish and a place in the Europa League. Labbadia left at the end of his contract with LASK manager Oliver Glasner arriving as his replacement. Glasner joins after getting LASK into the Champions League qualifying rounds. He wants to push Wolfsburg towards the Champions League after several years of underachieving. He brings Xavier Schlager with him who was instrumental in the LASK side last season. Wolfsburg fans are excited to see what he and their new manager can bring this season. Despite leading Koln to promotion from the Bundesliga 2, caretaker manager Andre Pawlak wasn't given the job full time, instead, the Billy Goats appointed Achim Beierlorzer. He arrives after two excellent seasons in charge of Jahn Regensburg. He is tasked with stabilising Koln in the Bundesliga following their promotion. It is fair to say the 2018/19 season was very disappointing for Schalke. The Gelsenkirchen club struggled with the demands of the league and Champions League and ulitmately just about survived the drop. Huub Stevens finished as caretaker manager after Domenico Tedesco's sacking. Schalke's new manager is David Wagner who arrives after a terrific spell in charge of Huddersfield but has been without a club since leaving the Terriers in January. Wagner inherits a young, unbalanced squad that needs work and an arm around the shoulders ahead of the new season. Wagner will want to push them back towards the top 6 after last season's very poor campaign.

Joining Koln in returning to the Bundesliga is Paderborn who finished 2nd in Bundesliga 2 while the Bundesliga gains a new team after Union Berlin secured their first-ever promotion to the top flight after beating Stuttgart over two legs. The capital has two Bundesliga clubs and that is a huge plus for the league and the city itself. Union Berlin have made a host of new signings to make themselves a competitive force in the league including signing experienced campaigners Anthony Ujah, Christian Gentner and Manuel Schmidebach. There is real excitement at all three promoted clubs but survival in the Bundesliga will be their sole aim this season.

The Bundesliga promises to be competitive this season with a fight for title well and truly on. Bayern Munich are favourites but could Dortmund, Leipzig or even Leverkusen, Gladbach and Eintracht Frankfurt take it away? Time will tell, but it promises to be an exciting season. The Bundesliga is growing and improving with each season. Expect quality goals, excellent football and plenty of twists and turns at both ends of the table.

My Predictions:

Champions: Borussia Dortmund
Champions League Places: Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig, Bayer Leverkusen
Europa League Places: Borussia Monchengladbach, Eintracht Frankfurt
Relegation: Union Berlin, Paderborn
Relegation Play-Off Place: FC Augsburg 

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