Having dominated the last two seasons, FC Bayern München will fear nobody in their quest to defend the Bundesliga title, but given they provided the backbone of Germany's FIFA World Cup-winning team, things may not fall into place quite so easily this time. Indeed, there are other contenders lurking who have been doing their homework should the Munich giants slip up.
FC Bayern München
Coach Josep Guardiola appeared set to implement a 3-4-2-1 formation this term, yet the severe knee injury suffered by Javi Martínez – considered a key component of the system – threatens to thwart those plans somewhat. Guardiola must also deal with the departure of midfield dynamo Toni Kroos, while Mario Mandžukić has made way for Robert Lewandowski.
The squad still oozes quality in every department, though eight players – including six German World Cup winners – only returned two weeks before the Bundesliga kick-off. "We are behind schedule," Guardiola admitted after the 2-0 defeat by Borussia Dortmund in the German Super Cup. "
We will struggle until the winter break."
Having finished a distant second in the past two campaigns, Dortmund will want to show they can cut the gap this season. Losing Lewandowski to their biggest rivals will impact on their goalscoring, but by adding Ciro Immobile and Adrian Ramos, Jürgen Klopp will be less predictable in his formation and tactics.
"We would like to cause the maximum amount of trouble for opponents," the coach said, meaning fans of fast-paced football can still look forward to Dortmund's signature high-intensity pressing. The new elements – which include the new forward duo, more freedom for Marco Reus, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan's improved form in pre-season – will all have to work if BVB are to mount a serious challenge.
FC Schalke 04
Their first competitive match of 2014/15 saw Schalke humbled in the first round of the German Cup by third-division SG Dynamo Dresden, hence many commentators' reluctance to predict big things for the notoriously erratic starters.
It would be foolhardy, however, to completely write them off in the chase for silverware after their attacking department was reinforced by Sidney Sam (from Bayer 04 Leverkusen) and Eric Choupo-Moting (1. FSV Mainz 05) over the summer, while a whole armada of youngsters from their excellent youth section is capable of making the breakthrough this term.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen
The UEFA Champions League play-off hopefuls have snatched Hakan Çalhanoğlu, one of the Bundesliga's most promising youngsters, away from Hamburger SV to further boost their forward options, although the most important arrival at the club is, without doubt, coach Roger Schmidt, with the former FC Salzburg boss tasked with installing the ultra-aggressive style that made him so successful in Austria these last two years. "We will play completely differently this season," striker Stefan Kiessling said. "We will be putting in more sprints, more pressing and will aim to win the ball earlier."
VfL Wolfsburg have invested significantly and are expected to vie for UEFA Champions League qualification, while VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach and their innovative coach Lucien Favre will surely find ways to take points from the top sides. The division will also embrace the return of 1. FC Köln with their rich tradition and colourful supporters, while fellow newcomers SC Paderborn will not lack motivation despite seemingly having the odds against them in their quest to escape relegation.
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