Bundesliga season preview III: The top teams

Justin Separator August 24, 2018

Seven up? Will FC Bayern Munich write history again? Will they really get their seventh successive title? We look at the requirements of the top five clubs which could be most dangerous to the Rekordmeister.

The first part was about the battle to stay up. The second part was more about the midfield of the league. This time it’s about the big money, the best places and the Bundesliga title.

RB Leipzig

Can Rangnick keep up with the times?

Oliver Mintzlaff, chief executive of RB Leipzig, has emphasised of late that this year doesn’t have to be a year of transition. Their ambition, he says, is too high for that, and their chances too good.

It is, however, a fact that Ralf Rangnick will take the reins at the Red Bulls for a year. Then Julian Nagelsmann begins his new job.

It’s not easy to figure out the Leipzigers right now. Hasenhüttl having to leave was also down to the fact that his side clearly had insurmountable problems in phases of possession.

Rangnick now wants to get back to the roots. “We have to make sure that we bring our football onto the pitch at 100% again,” the temporary coach told Kicker. In Kicker’s feature ahead of the new season, he is declared “father of the philosophy of aggressive (counter-)pressing and sudden transitions”.

Pace, aggression, transition moments – RB were very successful with all of that in their first Bundesliga season. The year after that, their performances weren’t consistent enough, their own game not creative enough – particularly in possession. Rangnick won’t be able to block out those experiences.

He will have to make sure that his team finds solutions with the ball. Otherwise there is the threat of a disappointment. Because the Bundesliga has adjusted to the Leipzigers. They know what counter-methods to use to pull the rug from underneath the Red Bull style.

Nagelsmann has shown in Hoffenheim that he can give his team a sensible plan in all situations. That may also be a reason why RB Leipzig chose him. Nagelsmann doesn’t just stand for a style, but for flexibility and control in all four phases of football – adapted from Louis van Gaal.

As a manager Rangnick, meanwhile, stood very long for what the Bundesliga could now sell as its brand identity: winning the ball and shooting in just a few seconds.

In Leipzig he’s now coaching a favourite for Champions League participation. The necessary space for transition football will only be available to Leipzig in a few games. With all the quality in their squad, then, the question is whether Rangnick is able to deviate from the normal approach. Can he give the team more than just lightning-quick transitions and aggressive pressing?

Rangnick was once seen as a revolutionary of German football, and in the mean-time as the head of RB Leipzig. Other coaches, though, have caught up with him, some have even overtaken him. Can he hit back and show once more in the 2018/19 season that he’s a distinctly talented strategist?

In any case it may help him that the squad has largely stayed together and had some important experiences last year. The transfer of Naby Keita, though, will certainly be disadvantageous. The midfield man would have been the perfect player around whom to develop a better way of using possession. Rangnick must now find another solution.

The result will decide what kind of conditions Nagelsmann takes over in next year. That’s precisely why “transition year” might be a good term. Because transition and ambition are not mutually exclusive.

Leipzig want to develop further footballistically. Depending on how quickly they manage that, RB will be serious competition for the league’s top sides again.

Our prediction: Leipzig will have another up-and-down season, coming in fifth this time.

Ralf Rangnick has big ambitions.
(Image: Christof Koepsel / Bongarts / Getty Images)

Expert interview

We spoke to Rotebrauseblogger about RB Leipzig.

In principle, Leipzig didn’t have such a bad season as people tried to make out. 6th place in the league, however, may not be the target. What needs to improve in particular for RB to challenge at the top again?

In their second Bundesliga season, RB Leipzig had typical growing problems. Problems competing on their fronts. Problems integrating new signings into a functioning promoted side. Problems moving forwards tactically. The task must be, then, to strengthen the internal cohesion again and also to tweak the playing philosophy so it is clearer and more consistent. Both tasks are being worked on. In particular, team chemistry and integration of new players and the dissolution of cliques (partly due to languages) are right at the top of Ralf Rangnick’s agenda in his first weeks as coach.

In Keita, a very important player departed. Are you happy enough with the transfer window so far that you don’t expect any big drop in quality in spite of that? How will Keita be replaced?

That’s hard to answer so far. A Keita replacement hasn’t been signed yet, and in terms of quality one would be impossible to get. The club really wanted to get Amadou Haidara from Salzburg, but he stayed in Austria. He is reminiscent of Keita in lots of aspects of his game and is maybe even more purposeful in his game. At the moment it doesn’t seem like RB will get a player like Keita (even forgetting the quality that such a new signing would have).

As such, variability in midfield will especially have to be compromised on, since the types of player there are very similar to one another and can’t replace Keita’s dynamism, aggression and quality in one-v-ones. Other than the question marks in central midfield, though, it has been a very good transfer window. Bringing in Cunha, Mukiele and Saracchi has improved the width and dynamic of the squad and added to the depth. Getting Lookman (or another attacker, AKA a player for the left attacking midfield position) and adding depth to central midfield (putting Laimer there again and getting someone for right-back, where Laimer has been playing recently, could happen), then everything would be perfect and we’d have a group of 20 outfielders with barely any drop in quality when subs are made. In terms of quality in the squad, we’d then be somewhere behind Bayern and Dortmund at the front of the chasing pack.

Do you expect a different strategic set-up with the new interim coach? Where does work still need to be done?

Ralf Rangnick has already made clear that he wants to go back to RB’s origins. As a result, pre-season has mostly been about pressing and counter-pressing. The first impression is that we will be attacking higher up again, much more so than under Hasenhüttl recently, which doesn’t reduce our vulnerability to counters. It feels a little bit like a step backwards, because last season’s tasks were actually to add good possession play (even if only for saving energy while maintaining a lead) to pressing and counter-pressing elements. That, at least, was Hasenhüttl’s idea, which didn’t come off in practice unfortunately.

Our future coach Nagelsmann also stands for the flexible combination of different playing styles. Wanting to tackle the coming season under Rangnick with a more radical version of pressurising and transitioning, however, is a bit astonishing. The Europa League likely adding an extra competition to the agenda only adds to that. It will be intriguing to see how that works over a long season. At least Nagelsmann should take over a team that is really well-versed in the arts of transitions upon turnovers…

Where will RB Leipzig finish and who will be champions?

RB Leipzig want to get into the Champions League and will also manage that in fourth place. Champions will be Bayern.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen

Bayer Lever-cruisin’?

In 2017, Leverkusen had a decisive year ahead of them. The club, which had been one of the league’s few consistent sides, had fallen from the top third of the table. The search for a suitable coach proved difficult, until Heike Herrlich got the opportunity to prove himself in the first division.

A decision that was discussed with great controversy. Can a coach from the third tier make the leap? He could. Herrlich made a unity once more of the talented Leverkusen squad, bringing order to their game.

Under Roger Schimdt, Bayer stood for merciless attacking football, though had mounting problems at the back. The coaches after him found it difficult to find the right mixture. Herrlich was the first to manage to find a good balance of attack and defence.

In the end it was 44 goals conceded, with 5th place resulting from that. A big flaw was the efficiency in attack. With 15 shots per game, however, Leverkusen carved out the most opportunities after Bayern. 58 goals as a yield is okay, but could be improved upon.

“We have to learn to be deadly,” Herrlich told Kicker. Volland, Bailey, Brandt, Havertz, Bellarabi, Paulinho, Alario – the potential in the attack is huge. Herrlich has got the team going defensively. Now he has to tweak in attack.

Leverkusen can only do their big ambition justice with more goals. If they don’t get into the Champions League again, it will be difficult to keep their best performers for another year.

This component can’t be underestimated. Certainly, the side is no longer starting from zero. But because of that, they’re under greater pressure. After a good season, more is expected from Bayer 04. At least Champions League qualification should be delivered.

How well can Herrlich, how well can his young players cope with that? In Leverkusen, things smell of success again. But precisely that could also block and endanger a good season. The coach impressed in a decisive year, getting his team going. Now it’s about ultimately reaping the fruits of their good work.

Our prediction: Leverkusen will have an excellent season and come third.

Not just the German FA, but Europe will also hear about Bayer Leverkusen again soon.
(Image: Adam Pretty / Bongarts / Getty Images)

Expert interview

In Frank Lussem, we have managed to win an expert from Kicker for our season preview. He gives us an overview of Bayer Leverkusen.

Leverkusen for a long time stood for incredible consistency. The Champions League spots were always made safely. Then all of a sudden there was a big drop. How optimistic are you that the club can draw on the consistency of old?

Since belonging to the Bundesliga, Bayer have been in big danger of relegation once per decade. Relegation in 1981, salvation in the last second in 1996 and 2003, big problems in 2016. Except for 1981, each time the team rallied quickly and secured European competition the following season: in 1997 and 2004 the Champions League. In 2017 Europa League. Between these problem years were long phases of consistency. In the 20 year table Bayer are second, in the 10 year table in third. Very innovative scouting, great infrastructure thanks to the Bayer syndicate, and in Calmund, Reschke and now Boldt men who knew how to use all of that. I’m sure that Bayer will also be right up there in the coming years, if not a lot goes wrong. Boldt goes about things assertively, speaking decidedly that 2nd-6th is no longer the goal, saying instead: “We want to get into the Champions League!”

Herrlich was laughed at a little a year ago, but was able to surprise. Where do Leverkusen still have to improve to continue to be successful?

If Herrlich becomes braver, his team can only profit from that. Bayer are great in every area with a versatile squad, in my eyes stronger than BVB or Schalke. Only a back-up for Alario is missing, however the attack is so talented that even the Argentinian being out wouldn’t open up a great hole. Footballistically everything is good, mentally unfortunately not. Leverkusen have to be braver, go out there with more confidence, project aggression and dominance. I’m sure that 15 of 17 opponents are worried about their games against Bayer – that needs to be felt on the pitch. Here, Herrlich is needed as a mental coach.

Players like Julian Brandt have committed to Bayer 04 quite decidedly. What makes Leverkusen better than many other top teams in the league who lose their talents early on?

Quite simple: in Leverkusen, the Tahs, Wendells, Baileys, Havertzs and all the rest play. Paulinho, the Brazilian just turned 18, is the next in this troupe. If Herrlich doesn’t wrap the players in cotton wool (key words: double load), then they could play a role that matches their potential. Dettmar Cramer once put it like this, quite prosaically: “If you want to form men, you have to foster youngsters.” It sounds stupid and pathetic, old-fashioned, but there’s something to it. Players like Tah, Havertz or Brandt obviously know that they’ll make themselves invincible if they win a title with Bayer. That drives them on more.

Where will Leverkusen finish and who will be champions?

Bayern Munich will be champions, Bayer Leverkusen ending up between 2nd and 4th. It could be more if they understand that both games against FC Bayern can be lost. But not against the weaker teams.

On the next page, it’s about Dortmund and Hoffenheim.

Lucien Favre and Julian Nagelsmann – are both not only highly qualified coaches, but have big ambitions for the upcoming season. Where will Borussia Dortmund and TSG Hoffenheim finish?

Borussia Dortmund

Tightrope act for Favre

For any artist it is a complicated act to keep the balance on the tightrope. One mistake, one moment of distraction and the artist will fall. At least in most cases they are secured from falling too deep.

Lucien Favre as well will try to keep his balance on the tightrope at Dortmund. However, the fall hight at the club is gigantic by now. After the quite successful Tuchel season BVB has declined more and more.

The reasons therefore are many-layered, but are irrelevant. In Dortmund everything is set back on start. Watzke looked ahead and signed Favre, Sammer and Kehl. The latter two are prime examples for self-criticism.

Watzke and Zorc cannot be contempt with the last few years. For them it was necessary to breathe new life into management. Kehl als head of the professional squad and Sammer as some kind of advisor are supposed to implement a change and a critical culture of discussion at the club.

Whereas Favre will be asked to balance BVB as a sports team. Neither Bosz nor Stöger were able to unite a defensive and offensive approach. With Bosz in charge the play style seemed hara-kiri, while Stöger’s tactics lacked any sort of risk.

The new coach has to find the middle ground. The Swiss left lasting impressions at each of his coaching jobs – mostly positive, only rarely negative. Favre is known as a tactician and rightfully so. Wrongly, he is often reduced on his counter attacks.

Whether in Berlin, Gladbach or Nizza, his teams always played sizeable and flexible football within their possibilities. His name is not mentioned when the best and most special coaches of Europe are discussed, but that might be because he has not joined a top-notch competitor so far.

In Dortmund he has the opportunity to prove everyone wrong. It might not be necessary for himself, but it would be a nice side note, if Favre continues to succeed. His squad is loaded both in midfield and up front, except for the lack of a true number 9 striker. In the back he will be faced with similar challenges as his predecessors.

Anyhow, Favre does not define himself by individual class. His system is the star and his team defends disciplined, passionate and resolute. Young players such as Akanji, Diallo and Zagadou could take the next step in their respective development, while Axel Witsel should stabilize the defensive midfield.

Many eyes will be on Dortmund this season. Favre, Kehl, Sammer – will the rebuilt be successful? Favre, the artist, has an enormous challenge ahead of him.

If Dortmund falls, they could become just one of many Bundesliga teams. However, if Favre can establish the necessary balance, something special could be in the making. There are high hopes in Dortmund.

Our prediction: Favre and Dortmund will fit! 2nd place.

Does Favre bring back the balance?
(Image: Christof Koepsel / Bongarts / Getty Images)

Expert interview

Stefan Buczko – writer for ESPN, Yellow Wallpod and Onefootball – with his preseason forecast for BVB.

In recent years it was all haywire at Dortmund. How optimistic are you, that Dortmund can leave behind the mixture of the bus attack and the roller coaster ride, that followed?

Of course, it is tough to tell whether the team has stomached the bus attack as the trial has not concluded wherefore the topic will still be present in the media. Concerning sports there are a few positives that can be drawn from last season, because it became obvious that radical changes are needed. Hans-Joachim Watzke and Michael Zorc have displayed a healthy portion of self-criticism in admitting to several flaws in the past. This reaction is positive in my eyes. The new position of team manager was created. A position, which allows for more contact to the squad and can help identify wrong developments early on and counteract them. With Sebastian Kehl this position was excellently staffed.

Especially Miasanrot should know, that it can only be beneficial to have Matthias Sammer on board as an expert. At least in the medium-term I would expect that the decision process will be optimized and the whole club can make the most out of their opportunities.

How contempt are you with the signing of Lucien Favre and which strategical focus do you anticipate?

Many of the things said about Favre proved themselves right during the pre-season: The practice is highly challenging and diversified. Marco Reus might have put it best when he said the 60-year-old is “obsessed with detail”.

A lot more value is attached to a clean build-up as it was the case during both Bosz and Stöger. Furthermore it was evident, that Favre and his staff watch closely whether every player executes each drill mindful and technically clean. With in the first few test matches it was obvious that the Yellow-Blacks are more compact with and without the ball as in the previous season. All things considered I would say, that the staggering of players is more precise.
Because of the big variety of midfielders the approach to a single game might vary pursuant to each opponent. As seen in pre-season Favre favors a 4-3-3- / 4-1-4-1-system, but no formation is set in stone as of now. Therefore, I can only paint a rough picture: BVB will act very sober most of the season while displaying lots of patience and applying a midfield pressing or a very deep-lying central block. The days of Dortmund tightening the screw around the opponents box are numbered. I must add, that the quick counter-attacks of Dortmund were pretty advanced in the practice matches, while they struggled to engage in their own build-up play.

Nevertheless, Favre seems to be a very good solution on the way to a more robust style of play without having to give up the football highlights altogether.

For two consecutive seasons Dortmund failed to finish as the second team in the Bundesliga. What has to change in order for BVB to again reach that spot and is this at all realistic?

Bluntly said: the defense. With 47 goals conceded Dortmund finished as just the ninth best defense in the league.

Maybe I stick my neck too far out on this one, but I claim, that this number drops below 39 goals. The protection of the back-four will improve a lot with players such as Thomas Delaney and Axel Witsel. Manuel Akanji and Abdou Diallo are a contender for the best centre back duo in the league. However, the wing defenders Marcel Schmelzer and Lukasz Piszczek remain a reason for sorrows and present a problem that should be solved rather sooner then later.

Whether it will be enough to conquer second place in the upcoming season will also depend on whether another striker will be signed prior to the transfer deadline. Marco Reus and Maximilian Philipp should provide some goals, but in tight games the individual class of a forward can be decisive. I anticipate that it will be tougher to finish second in 2018/19 than it was in 2017/18.

Where will BVB finish and will Bayern once again be crowned league champions?

Third and stop with your bullshit. (We take this as a tipp pro Bayern, ed.)

TSG Hoffenheim

Lame Duck oder Ente gut, alles gut?

Lame duck or all well that ends well?

During the world cup a then surprising news spread quickly. There were many rumors concerning Julian Nagelsmann, but only few expected, that his transfer would become official in the summer of 2018.

The timing itself was odd as well. Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig announced, that Nagelsmann would change clubs next summer and coach Leipzig from 2019 on. The discussions that followed were so big that the World Cup seemed irrelevant for a few days.

Why then? Doesn’t this create unrest in Hoffenheim? Could Nagelsmann end up as a lame duck – as someone, who lost all his credibility, charisma and impact on the team?

Just few weeks later one can predict, that this won’t be the case. Just last summer many supporters and so-called experts wrote off the young coach. His squad just lost important starters and the first leg of the league went poorly. But Hoffenheim fought back, Nagelsmann convinced everyone – again.

While other teams would have perished without their deep-lying midfielder, their best goalgetter and their biggest defensive talent, Hoffenheim managed to qualify for the Champions League. Ahead of Dortmund, ahead of Leverkusen and ahead of Leipzig – the third place was a dream result minding the conditions.

However, Nagelsmann wants even more. He strives for further development. No One can say where that journey leads his team. Too big is the distance to clubs as Bayern, Schalke, Leipzig or Dortmund. Last years results show that strategy can still provide an edge.

Nagelsmann once said that he always pursues the maximum and the maximum is nothing less than the title. Still he sees the top-6 as an realistic goal. That doesn’t sound like a lame duck. Leipzig is not on his mind, yet.

The team is excited for the start of the season against Bayern and wants to demonstrate that the third place finish wasn’t just plain luck. If the teams core can advance like it did in the last years, titles are on the horizon.

Nagelsmann formed the squad of a relegation threat into a team that can cope with extreme pressure situations on a very high technical level. It is mind-boggling how TSG can play out of situations in which they are outnumbered. Speed, dynamic, offensive approach and fast switches in both directions – Nagelsmann brought absolute flexibility and discipline to Sinsheim.

By now almost nobody talks about his upcoming move to Leipzig. In this respect the timing of the announcement was chosen wisely after all. However, once Hoffenheim hits an unsuccessful stretch, the number of articles naming him a lame duck will increase again. Only if Hoffenheim can sustain their quality of play the season can end prosperous.

Our prediction: Hoffenheim will be tough to beat. Fourth place.

Nagelsmann a “Lame Duck”? Hard to imagine.
(Image: Christian Kaspar-Bartke / Getty Images)

Expert interview

Hoffenheim-blogger and -fan Julian will tell us, how big the risk of a lame duck actually is.

The Nagelsmann-decision was quite surprising at the time of its announcement. How do you evaluate this and do you think the risk remains that Nagelsmann will end up as a lame duck?

Nagelsmann did the same as Firmino and Volland before him. When the public discussed numerous possibilities for his future, he decided to stay in Hoffenheim. Just like Firmino and Volland he leaves one or two years later not without bring in some cash. This is alright with me. Hoffenheim chose to stay a development club providing young players and coach talents as well.

Just recently Nagelsmann explained that in Hoffenheim as well as in Leipzig he is appealed by the chance to shape a club after his liking. So he himself has the least interest to be remembered as a lame duck.

For years Hoffenheim has been in the upper third despite losing important players. What is the goal for this upcoming season?

Actually, the TSG was on the top just twice in 16/17 and 17/18. And even if they aren’t in the top third this is normal and suits the self-conception, ambition and budget of the club. Within the past few years several different positions in the league and pokal legs have been issued internally as realistic and ambitious. In the dressing room a sign once read along the lines of “Humbleness – first the labour, then the fruits”.

In which areas does the team still need to improve in order to stay successful?

In 2016/17 there were several teams, which tried a half-hearted attacking pressure against Hoffenheims defensive line. These teams were quickly overpowered and in 2017/18 it were destructive forces like Braga or Stuttgart, who turned out to be the biggest challenge for Hoffenheim. A few such games were lost because of a too highly positioned back-four paired with a risky offensive approach. Additionally, chances from open-play were wasted all to often. Both those problems were gone in the last preseason games. Remaining weaknesses are defending set pieces and panic-stricken defense from time to time.

First game of the season is against FC Bayern. Are you optimistic?

In a season after a World Cup the first matchday might not be the worst matchday to meet Bayern. Only two TSG players were at the World Cup while the rest of the team could prepare for the season for almost two months at close to full strength. Bayern on the other hand had to wait on several important players, which also had less recovery. The new coach Kovac was only able to teach the second unit his style of play. Furthermore, Bayern had to travel to far away countries solely for marketing purposes. Of course Bayern has the better players, but as a team Hoffenheim should be further along.

Where will Hoffenheim end the season and who will win the league?

If you do a lot, a lot can be earned. In the German sports newspaper Kicker Nagelsmann expressed: “I always strive for the maximum that is possible, and the maximum is the title”. Therefore Hoffenheim can win the league.

On the last page we look at the runner-up Schalke and the record champion from Munich.

Schalke and Bayern – there were many points between the runner-up and the champion. Will the team from Munich become champions again? Can Schalke make the next step on the pitch?

FC Schalke 04

More than an armband

Last week Ralf Fährmann received a special present from the Ultras of FC Schalke 04. The captain was presented with an armband representing the cohesion between fans and team.

At Schalke, this connection was no longer a given. In the pot, the fans tick a little differently, a little more emotionally than the rest of Germany. That can be quite positive. But if the performance is not right, it quickly becomes unpleasant. Coping with this emotionality in good and bad times is not always easy.

After last season’s vice championship, however, everything is fine at the moment. A calm has settled around the club, which was unthinkable two or three years ago. Of course, success automatically gives peace of mind, but it was really remarkable that the club remained calm and confident even in difficult phases of the season.

Tedesco and Heidel play a large part in this. They made unpopular and courageous decisions, but were rewarded for their patience. Schalke earned his second place mainly through defensive stability and a lot of discipline.

Honestly, one has to admit in Gelsenkirchen that the competition from Dortmund and Leipzig was simply not constant enough. If Schalke wants to repeat this success, the team must take at least one step in terms of playing quality.

Too often the game was too static, too rarely there were moments of surprise from ball possession phases. Tedesco’s gonna have to work on that. Last season the royal blues were a kind of surprise. There were not many people who bet on Schalke as runner-up.

But the expectations for this season are all the higher. Internally, there is agreement that it should be the Champions League qualification – at least. Externally, the pressure is still a little bit higher.

This is precisely the challenge for the coming season. Can Tedesco now make the team more effective? Can it compensate for the departures? Can he keep the pressure so low that it stays calm on Schalke?

It will be a landmark season for a club that is sure to be in the Champions League in terms of size and charisma. The captain’s armband of the fans demonstrates solidarity. The extent to which this is also possible if things do not go as planned could become apparent in the coming year. Then, when Schalke regularly has to take part in three competitions. As every season, anything can happen on Schalke.

Our prediction: Another surprise! Schalke misses the necessary development with the ball and only finishes seventh! (They go a long way in Europe nevertheless.)

Fans and the team are moving closer together. How long is this gonna last?
(Image Christof Koepsel / Bongarts / Getty Images)

Expert interview

Hopefully Schalke expert Hassan will come back again after our prediction, because to Königsblau he always has a strong opinion! This is also the case in our expert interview.

Schalkes vice-championship was a great success, which surely makes desire for more. What does that do with the royal blue expectation?

It could well become a problem. Only the boldest optimists have reckoned with second place in the table. Schalke 04 overperformed in my eyes. They wanted to increase step by step and this plan has led to the – undoubtedly great – sporting success of the previous season a little ad absurdum. It probably won’t get any better, because in this case the German Championship would be better – and I think that would be utopian, given FC Bayern and the Borussia from Dortmund, which has probably regained strength again. Parts of the fans could be dissatisfied with a fifth or sixth place in the standings.

What are the club’s long-term goals?

Christian Heidel likes to talk about sustainability. He is now in his third year and it can be said that Schalke 04 now has a Christian Heidel squad. The goals of S04 are easy to describe, but differ from earlier days. Initially, the minimum goal is international football, but the primary goal is to enter the Champions League every year if possible.

Should this not succeed or be endangered, there should be no panic on Schalke, however, as in Horst Heldts times. With Heidel at the helm, Königsblau is already no longer seen as a nervous chaos club. The sporting success and the public image are united in seriousness. Schalke is reinventing itself and this process is already underway.

Tedesco faces a difficult second year. What will it take for him to confirm his success? Where does the team still have to improve on the pitch?

This question can be answered very simply: Schalke 04 lacked offensive power coupled with the necessary creativity. The results are usually very close. With the defense Domenico Tedesco has a real showpiece. Schalke line up tight at the back and only one punch is usually enough. However, this is also a crude situation. If the defensive gets a bad day, you can’t necessarily assume that the offensive section will make up for it. This is how Schalke lost their games last season. According to this, the transfer market was used. Whether the imbalance has given way to a playful balance will become visible.

Where will Schalke finish and who will be champion?

I see S04 between third and fifth place. German Champion will be Bayern Munich.

FC Bayern München

And once again German Champion…

New coach, young players on the move to the regular team, aging stars, the threat of saturation in national competitions – the possible reasons for a weaker season are certainly present. All of Germany longs for another champion. Well, almost all of Germany.

The fans, players and officials at FC Bayern are of course still hungry. They also want the seventh title in a row. Boredom? Maybe for the others, but not for the record champion. History is written in Munich.

But it could finally get closer again. Ribéry and Robben continue to grow older, no longer have the great influence of the past. Since the departure of Schweinsteiger, Lahm and Alonso on the six, Bayern have lost a play-making element, if not Thiago lands there by some circumstances.

Already in the last two years FCB has been vulnerable. However, there was no competitor on the scene. The opening phase of last season showed that the Bundesliga title is not a sure-fire success for the dominant Munich team either.

Kovač is to moderate a transitional year. Uli Hoeneß explained it in a similar way. It was communicated with Ribéry and Robben that they will also sit on the bench. Players like Süle, Kimmich and Coman will take the next steps to fill the big hole left by the Lahmsteiger generation.

At the latest next season there could be bigger expenses. The path makes sense in theory. The transition has long been ensured. Now is the time to finally put words into action.

Does this happen at the expense of a championship? This scenario is probably not necessarily true. But with Favre’s Dortmund, RB Leipzig, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Schalke 04 and Julian Nagelsmann there are at least five teams that will be in a position to surprise when everything is running smoothly.

And who knows? Maybe in the end it won’t be: “And once again German Champion, FCB!”

Our prediction: The song will be sung again, the competition will not be strong enough. Bayern will be the champion!

Will there be similar pictures at the end of the season?
(Image: Christof Koepsel / Bongarts / Getty Images)

Expet interview

How does Christian Nandelstädt see it? Known as texterstexte he blogs at irregular intervals about FC Bayern.

What do you expect from Niko Kovač and his trainer team?

My wish would be a greater permeability between first and second team. That more young players will be used in the Bundesliga. If Kovac does this not in the context of a total rotation, but per game with a junior player and 10 seasoned professionals around it, it should go well.

Then I hope that Kovac will manage a training regime that will save us the usual injury misery in spring.

Third, I expect him to win the German championship. In the Champions League it would be a success to make it into the last 8.

How satisfied are you with the squad for the new season and where would you have liked to buy or sell?

I am now totally satisfied with the squad. We have a great mix of experienced professionals, talents and players on the verge of a breakthrough. I have no regrets about Vidal’s departure. However, I would regret a departure of Boateng. I think it’s a lot of talk about a player who was recently considered one of the best central defenders and playmakers from the back in the world.

Qatar, populist interviews, contacts to BILD… – there’s a lot to be annoyed about at the moment as a fan of Bayern. But what are you most looking forward to in the future of our club?

I am sceptical about club policy in the near future. At present, particular attention is being paid to emulating the football corporations from Paris and Manchester. In the long term, I hope with a fresh breeze on the management level for a change towards a club policy that actually aligns its economic activities according to the values of the FCB. I have no problem with internationalisation, but it is about how. We are not dependent on money from “unsightly” sources. There’s another way. A real Bayern way.

Good, maybe you are looking forward to the coming season! Six times champion – an unbelievable series. Will Kovač and the FCB be able to continue them?

A clear yes. The Bundesliga will not have the quality to seriously endanger FC Bayern in the coming season.


This completes all our forecasts. Here’s the final table according to Miasanrot:

  1. FC Bayern München
  2. Borussia Dortmund
  3. Bayer 04 Leverkusen
  4. TSG Hoffenheim
  5. RB Leipzig
  6. VfB Stuttgart
  7. FC Schalke 04
  8. SV Werder Bremen
  9. Borussia Mönchengladbach
  10. Hertha BSC
  11. FC Augsburg
  12. Eintracht Frankfurt
  13. SC Freiburg
  14. 1. FC Nürnberg
  15. 1. FSV Mainz 05
  16. VfL Wolfsburg
  17. Fortuna Düsseldorf
  18. Hannover 96

Of course, this is all wild speculation. Maybe things will turn out very differently in the end. Maybe we’re right on target or completely off track. In the Bundesliga, small things often make the difference that it is impossible to foresee the surprises. Then they wouldn’t be surprises anymore.

As they say in Wolfsburg: Good kick! To a great season and thanks to all our guests!

Translations by Sam, Maurice and Dennis

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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