Bundesliga winners last term, Borussia Dortmund are also table-toppers when it comes to modesty. In their refusal to make bold claims about defending their crown, the German champions are recalling a familiar scenario from 2010/11 when reporters tried in vain to get somebody in a Dortmund shirt to utter the words: "Yes, we want to win the Bundesliga."
Ahead of the new campaign, which starts on Friday when Dortmund host Hamburger SV, something similar is happening again. "If the goals are set too high, you will never be happy. And usually we cannot keep up with Bayern," said BVB coach Jürgen Klopp, whose side finished ten points above third-placed FC Bayern München in May. Winning the league again, added the 44-year-old, would be like "Christmas and Easter all in one day".
Certainly it does not help that the youngest Bundesliga champions have lost midfield maestro Nuri Şahin to Real Madrid CF. There is also a question mark over their ability to cope with UEFA Champions League commitments given their failure last season to perform in the UEFA Europa League as they did in the Bundesliga − and exit after the group stage.
Given the "challenging season" ahead, Klopp has added depth to his squad, bringing in midfielders Ilkay Gündogan, Moritz Leitner and Marvin Bakalorz, striker Ivan Perišić and left-back Chris Löwe. "We have two players for every position, that's what we wanted. I have not yet decided who will be playing," said the coach, who nonetheless is frustrated that striker Lucas Barrios will be missing until mid-September with a thigh muscle tear.
Klopp has been quoted as saying that Bayern will win the league and while that could be mind games, many observers would agree. The Bavarians' response to last season, when they outscored Dortmund by 14 goals but conceded 18 more, was a defensive makeover led by the introduction of a world-class goalkeeper in Manuel Neuer.
Fellow newcomer Jerome Boateng is expected to command the back four while, with neither Diego Contento nor Danijel Pranjić meeting Bayern's expectations at left-back, Philipp Lahm will revert to that role with Rafinha − another arrival − filling the void on the right.
That the 22-times German champions spent €41m on that trio (of a total €44m) underlines their priorities. "
Attack wins you games, defence championships," said returning coach Jupp Heynckes, who captured the 1989 and 1990 Bundesliga titles with Bayern.
His charges defeated second-tier side TSV Eintracht Braunschweig 3-0 on Monday in the first round of the German Cup in a manner that was as unspectacular as it was effective. Despite star wingers Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben once again missing out with injuries, it looked like Bayern were back to their old ruthless ways. "Our game without the ball works better and better − we played well in defence," Heynckes said.
Of the rest, Bayer 04 Leverkusen may be the best outside bet for the title, even if they have lost arguably their best player of last season, Arturo Vidal, to Juventus. The dark horses of 2010/11 – Hannover 96, 1. FSV Mainz 05 and 1. FC Nürnberg − have lost key players and could struggle to maintain those high standards, yet there may be other surprises.
Around 15% of today's Bundesliga players are 21 or younger (double the number of ten years ago), and with these well-trained youngsters distributed fairly evenly around the league, who knows which team could benefit from a blossoming crop?
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