￼Bundesliga title holders for the last three seasons, Bayern Munich dropped off their wholly imperious form towards the end of their last campaign. Injury hit over large swathes of three competitions, the Bavarians allowed Wolfsburg to get relatively close — just ten points back in second place, which was a far cry from the two years previous when they won the league by 25 and 19 points, respectively.
A new season (see Bundesliga TV schedule) brings a new set of challenges as Bayern looks to become the first Bundesliga side to win the league for four consecutive years, but the runners-up have made some shrewd summer transfer moves as they look to overcome or, at least, keep pace with the Munich juggernaut.
The aforementioned Wolfsburg are Munich’s most recent title challengers, and look to retain that place going forward in to this season. Coach Dieter Hecking will be thankful Germany’s player of the year, midfielder Kevin de Bruyne, is staying at the Volkswagen outfit despite suitors across Europe’s biggest teams.
New point man, Max Kruse, joins the Wolves from Borussia Monchengladbach; giving de Bruyne another fine target up top (11 goals, 10 assists in 201415), but Hecking’s men might find it hard going involved in Champions League competition for the first time in five years. He’ll look to veterans Luiz Gustavo, Ricardo Rodriguez, Naldo, Timm Klose and captain Diego Benaglio to keep a handle on the defensive end of business.
Monchengladbach’s trainer Lucien Favre somehow manages to keep his team ever threatening despite losing top talent every season. This year is no different. Though Kruse left for Wolfsburg, and Christoph Kramer’s loan spell ended, Favre secured the services of forward Josip Drmic from Bayer Leverkusen to adeptly take Kruse’s place, along with former Hannover captain Lars Stindl, a complete box to box midfielder. Chelsea’s young talent Thorgan Hazard, on loan to the Foals last season, is now a permanent fixture at the club, but Favre like Hecking may find it difficult going with a smallish squad size (25) and added European fixtures.
Leverkusen’s summer is likely not quite finished as they still look to replace Gonzalo Castro (Borussia Dortmund), but they will heartily welcome back Kramer who turned into a complete midfield threat during his two years at ‘Gladbach, and Admir Mehmedi from Mainz — a second striker to pair with Stefan Kiessling. Coach Roger Schmidt’s vision of how he would like his team to play has come along quite nicely over the last year, highlighted by an ever threatening midfield of Heung Min Son, Karim Bellarabi, young Julian Brandt and freekick specialist Hakan Calhanoglu.
Though Schalke 04’s front office dealings have often been shambolic, they still managed to snap up 21-year-old Johannes Geis from Mainz 05 and Junior Caicara from Ludogorets Razgrad, with Matija Nastasic returning from Manchester City. New trainer Andre Breitenreiter replacing Roberto di Matteo will hope to improve on last season’s sixth-placed finish, but will have to do so without the experience of Jefferson Farfan and Christian Fuchs. Luckily, he’s got a squad chock full of young talent at his disposal, and one or two players coming in before the close of the window.
Last season, Borussia Dortmund dramatically crawled out of the relegation zone to secure a Europa League playoff spot as everybody’s favorite football manager Juergen Klopp said goodbye to the club. In comes tactical master Thomas Tuchel (also Klopp’s replacement at Mainz), veteran midfielder Castro from Leverkusen and shot stopper Roman Buerki from relegated SC Freiburg (152 saves in 34 matches). Castro shores up the midfield in front of a back four that were not quite what they should have been, while Buerki takes over Mitch Langerak’s mantle in goal as Roman Weidenfeller slowly makes way. Tuchel has some work to do to get the swagger back in the Black and Yellows with speedster Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and uber-talented Marco Reus leading the way.
Though Augsburg find themselves in Europa League competition after their highest ever Bundesliga finish (5th), this season with the added pressure of Europe and travel may see them slip up. Their massive squad size has swelled to 32 with the signings of ‘Kusen youth product Dominik Kohr and Gruether Fuerth’s wing back Ronny Philp, but Markus Weinzierl faces his biggest challenge yet as he tries to keep FCA in three competitions.
Mainz 05 might make some waves towards the top seven places with their signing of Basel’s Fabian Frei. The Swiss midfielder comes in cool as a cucumber with plenty of Champions League experience.
1899 Hoffenheim have been busier than most this summer. Trainer Markus Gisdol’s squad has been strengthened with the signings of Fabian Schaer (Basel), midfielder Jonathan Schmid (Freiburg) and forward Mark Uth (Heerenveen), but losing Roberto Firmino to Liverpool is a hole that is not easily replaced.
Eintracht Frankfurt’s veteran goal talisman, Alexander Meier, will still miss the first couple of months of the new season due to injury, so Luc Castaignos was brought in from FC Twente. Stefan Reinartz (Leverkusen) also stabilizes the defensive midfield position for Armin Veh’s Eagles.
SEE MORE: Read all of the details about FOX Sports’ Bundesliga coverage on US TV.
Werder Bremen coach Viktor Skripnik just failed to qualify for Europe after sitting bottom of the league alongside Dortmund, but will be hard pressed to stay mid-table this year after losing Sebastian Proedl to Watford and Davie Selke to RB Leipzig.
FC Koeln’s forward Anthony Ujah comes in with ten goals in 32 matches. Koeln, meanwhile, build on a solid defensive campaign with the offensive additions of Leonardo Bittencourt (Hannover), Anthony Modeste (Hoffenheim) and Serbian Milos Jojic (Dortmund).
VfB Stuttgart look to improve on their inexorable years long slide down the Bundesliga table (14th last season) by bringing in new trainer Alexander Zorniger and Dortmund’s ‘keeper Mitch Langerak, but let talented youth Joshua Kimmich escape to Bayern Munich alongside Sven Ulreich.
￼Hertha Berlin picked up some wide talent with young and versatile Mitchell Weiser from Bayern, but that will not be enough to keep the Old Lady out of the relegation zone this year.
Bruno Labbadia’s Hamburger SV looks to improve on a league worst 25 goals in 2015. Forward Batuhan Altintas, at just 19 years old, is yet unproven, but HSV did get rid of some dead weight, losing Rafael van der Vaart, Marcel Jansen and Heiko Westermann.
Debutants FC Ingolstadt 04 cruised through the 2. Bundesliga last season to gain promotion this year and have bolstered a somewhat light squad with the signing of fellow debutant SV Darmstadt 98’s Romain Bregerie and left back Markus Suttner (FK Austria Wien). Darmstadt, winning promotion through playoff, added experienced left back Konstantin Rausch and Mario Vrancic (Stuttgart and Paderborn, respectively.)
All of these teams will be looking to get one over on Bayern Munich. While there was a slight hint of blood in the water at the end of the 2015 season, Bayern have also boosted their chances going forward with the adroit signings of speedy winger Douglas Costa (Shakhtar Donetsk), box to box midfielder Arturo Vidal (Juventus FC) and young Kimmich.
Costa, brought in to replace the aging Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, has mightily impressed preseason, as Vidal adds a defensive oomph missing from Bayern since Mark van Bommel left. Kimmich will be learning behind Xabi Alonso as the squad looks to move on from the emotional loss of Bastian Schweinsteiger to Manchester United.
Many still see Bayern as the clear cut champions heading in to this 201516 Bundesliga season, but how do you think it all shakes out?
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