Three Burning Questions about whether anyone else can challenge Bayern Munich this season

Last season, Bavarian giants Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga title for a record sixth-consecutive time. By now, the narrative of this latest success is well known: Bayern stuttered initially, dismissed coaching giant Carlo Ancelotti before the winter break, and Willy Sagnol took over as caretaker manager until the legendary Jupp Heynckes was once again called back to arrest Bayern’s slide.

And arrest it he did.

After Heynckes took over, Bayern grew from strength-to-strength and ended up winning the title comfortably, thanks to a imposing 21-point gap between them and second-place FC Schalke 04. The difference in points signifies the dominant style in which Bayern has come to utterly control the German domestic crown during this six-title run, further underscoring the gulf between their football scores and those of the rest of the Bundesliga.

Borussia Dortmund were the last side to win the Bundesliga before the Bayern Munich monopoly took control. Clubs like VfL Wolfsburg and RB Leipzig have tried to challenge Bayern, but to no avail.

However, with widespread changes happening at Bayern and at other clubs in the Bundesliga, the gulf between them may reduce.

So, with the start of the 2018-19 Bundesliga season only weeks away, it’s time to pose three burning questions that will define the season’s three biggest narratives.

1. How will Bayern’s new management fare?

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Bayern will be led into the 2018-19 season by new manager Niko Kovac. The Croatian was formerly in charge of Eintracht Frankfurt, whom he guided to a DFB Pokal title with a win in the finals over his then-future employers.

Kovac will look to settle down quickly at Bayern. He will also look to get the confidence of German players like Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng, Niklas Sule, and Thomas Mueller up and running after a disastrous 2018 FIFA World Cup. Even star striker Robert Lewandowski had a poor World Cup with Poland, while all the players were in the sports news for negative reasons.

Another challenge for Kovac will be handling gracefully the integration of fresher talent into the ranks without rankling Bayern’s veterans. While modern club legends like Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben still have more than enough to delight fans on any given day, they are closer to the end of their productivity on the biggest stages than they are to their prime. Kovac has much to do to keep his elder statesmen healthy, happy, and rested for times when their presence is needed, while also getting vital experience for Bayern’s loaded roster of younger talents. His ability to remain coach at Bayern will be determined by the skill he shows in balancing all these variables—par for the course when coaching a “megaclub” like Bayern. Kovac’s fate will be one of the most exciting storylines this season. Keep up with its twists and turns by following his fate on the betting market.

2. Which Dortmund will turn up?

In recent years, Borussia Dortmund has been a side infected with a multiple personality disorder. Even before Jürgen Klopp left for Liverpool, the BVB started showing signs of being a little too Jeckyll-and-Hyde in nature to deal with Bayern’s consistent quality.

Last season, Dortmund started brilliantly under manager Peter Bosz, but soon went into a long winless run which saw Bosz eventually being fired. Peter Stöger was hired immediately on the heels of his dismissal from 1. FC Köln and was even more-immediately decried for putting the brakes on Dortmund’s favored attacking style and turning outings at Signal Iduna Park into sluggish defensive bores.

Over the years, Dortmund have scored goals quite effortlessly in some matches, but have often failed to find the net even after dominating large stretches of the game in others.

One of  the biggest problems with Dortmund has been their defence often leaking goals, putting the attack under pressure to take greater risks in order to score more. Now the BVB will need to replace at least one long-serving member of the defensive ranks. Sokratis Papastathopoulos left the club during the ongoing transfer window. New manager Lucien Favre has brought Abdou Diallo from 1. FSV Mainz 05 to replace him.

Dortmund also have to find a new striker before their season starts. After signing Michy Batshuayi on loan from Chelsea last season, the club failed to make the deal permanent. Andriy Yarmolenko has also left Dortmund for West Ham United. Maximilian Philipp, used almost exclusively on the wings in his first season in Dortmund last year, has been featured at striker in some of the BVB’s summer test matches.

3. Can Nagelsmann make history one more time at Hoffenheim?

Julian Nagelsmann has already signed a deal to take over at RB Leipzig from the 2019-20 season. The 2018-19 season will be his last at TSG Hoffenheim 1899, helping the club take on the best of Europe in the UEFA Champions League.

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Hoffenheim has already lost the services of the impressive Serge Gnabry and striker Mark Uth. Gnabry has returned to Bayern Munich following the expiration of his loan, and Uth has moved to Schalke. However, Hoffenheim management has moved quickly to sign Leonardo Bittencourt from Cologne, Vincenzo Grifo from Borussia Monchengladbach, and Ishak Belfodil from Standard Liege.

Nagelsmann will be looking to integrate the new signings quickly into his squad and make one consolidated challenge towards dethroning Bayern from the Bundesliga throne as his crowning achievement before moving to Leipzig.

Verdict

It is hard to see any club other than Bayern lifting the Bundesliga shield come the end of the season in May. Bayern have a better squad than anything you’d create from picking through the other 17 Bundesliga clubs. The squad has a good mix of youth and experience with depth in all departments. It will take a very good side to prevent Bayern from extending their current record.

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