This piece is part of a preview series where we speak to journalists covering Europe’s top leagues. In this edition, we talk to Goal.com’s Ronan Murphy as he shares his thoughts on the upcoming Bundesliga season.
Title winners and Champions League qualifiers:
Bayern Munich will once again win the title, and win it easily. Other teams have strengthened, but still won’t come close to challenging Bayern. Borussia Dortmund’s new signings should help them return to second spot, while Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen can finish in the top four, ahead of RB Leipzig, Stuttgart, and Hoffenheim. The battle for first won’t be interesting, but the top four race will go down to the wire, just like last season.
Best player and Golden Boot winner:
Bayern’s dominance should see them win all the individual prizes as well as the league title itself. After an impressive debut season in Germany, James Rodriguez can continue to improve and show his world-class talent for Bayern. He’s currently on loan from Real Madrid, but they won’t have any doubts about making the deal permanent thanks to another stellar season. Robert Lewandowski has no rivals left for the golden boot now that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is at Arsenal, and could even finish with double the goal tally of his nearest rival for top scorer.
Best players under the age of 23 to watch out for and those who could have a breakout campaign:
Kai Havertz – Bayer Leverkusen – Leon Bailey is the best-known Leverkusen young star outside Germany, but Leverkusenhave an abundance of young talent, with head coach Heiko Herrlich always willing to give youth a chance. Havertz became the youngest player to reach 50 Bundesliga appearances earlier this year, and is already in his third full campaign, despite being just 19.
Santiago Ascacibar – Stuttgart – A revelation since joining Stuttgart from Estudiantes, the 21-year-old Argentine shows a maturity in midfield far beyond his age. He is short and sturdy and almost impossible to budge off the ball. Ascacibar is a tough tackler and is relentless off the ball, but is also a clever passer when he wins it back.
Josh Sargent – Werder Bremen – Forced to wait until he turned 18 to make his Bundesliga debut, the United States striker is ready to make an impact with Bremen this season. He’s shown his talent in front of goal for Werder’s second side, and can follow Christian Pulisic’s example and become another American star in Germany.
Davy Klaassen – Werder Bremen – Thomas Delaney looked like he would leave a big void in the Bremen midfield after transferring to Borussia Dortmund, but Werder have already found a cheaper replacement in Netherlands international Klaassen. The 25-year-old was never really given a chance at Everton despite a big money move from Ajax, but can re-ignite his career in Germany after the Toffees decided to take a €10m loss after just one season.
Nurnberg and Fortuna Dusseldorf have their work cut out for them to stay up after being promoted into the top flight. The bottom half of the Bundesliga usually consists of the same teams, who are used to battling it out at the bottom and should have the wherewithal to ensure their safety once more. Of the existing Bundesliga teams, Mainz could be in for a difficult season after losing a number of key players and failing to adequately replace them.
Possible over and under achievers:
Stuttgart are likely overachievers if they can continue the form of the latter stage of last season. They have signed well during the summer, bringing in Gonzalo Castro from Borussia Dortmund, who has shown in the past that he has more than enough talent to be a Champions League contender. Daniel Didavi returns to the club where he had his best season and should provide further strength to support the attack.
Eintracht Frankfurt will find it difficult to recreate their success of last season, which saw them lift the DFB-Pokal and qualify for the Europa League. Coach Niko Kovač left for Bayern Munich as a result, with many of their key players departing during the transfer window. Kevin-Prince Boateng headed for Italy, Marius Wolf joined Dortmund, and goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky left for Leverkusen. They were able to ward off Manchester United’s advances for Ante Rebić, but that may not be enough for them to finish in a European spot.
Possible managerial revelation:
Lucien Favre – Borussia Dortmund – After the failures of the two Peters at Borussia Dortmund last season, the club finally got the man they wanted by hiring former Borussia Mönchengladbach coach Favre. He knows the league and knows how to get the best out of his players. With some astute signings during the summer, Dortmund can return to the top two in the table, and although they do not have the assets to challenge Bayern Munich for the title, this season should prove a successful one as they look to build a new dynasty in Dortmund.