The new Bundesliga season gets underway on August 24 and Bayern Munich are long odds-on to win the title for a seventh successive time. Bayern finished 21 points clear of Schalke last term and it’s difficult to imagine them not finishing top of the pile once again this season, even with a new coach in Niko Kovac. However, there is a likely to be an almighty battle to claim a place in the top four, with numerous clubs holding a genuine chance of qualifying for the Champions League. We take a look at some of the main, top four contenders.
Dortmund finished fourth last season, but they are 13/2 second favourites at https://www.toals.com to win the title this time around. New manager Lucien Favre has done well over the past few years with the likes of Hertha Berlin, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Nice, sparking talk that he is the man who can help to break Bayern’s dominance in Germany. With Marco Reus, Christian Pulisic, Jadon Sancho, Maximilian Philipp and new signing Marius Wolf to call on in the forward areas, Dortmund could be a force to be reckoned with next season. In addition, the Black and Yellows have spent a fortune on upgrading their defense (28m on Abdou Diallo – the most so far this summer, plus Manuel Akanji in the winter and loaning Achraf Hakimi from Real Madrid) and midfield – 40m combined for Thomas Delaney and Axel Witsel.
It could be a strange year for Leipzig as the club waits for Julian Nagelsmann to take over as manager in 2019. Ralf Rangnick will combine his role as the club’s director of football with first-team coaching duties for next season, as Nagelsmann completes his final year at Hoffenheim. This will be Rangnick’s second spell in charge of the Leipzig first team, having guided them to promotion in 2015/16, but it will be interesting to see whether the interim nature of his role has any impact on performances. Still, Leipzig have spent on fullbacks and expect bounce back seasons from the likes of Emil Forsberg, Timo Werner and Jean-Kevin Augustin.
The departures of Leon Goretzka, Thilo Kehrer (37m to PSG) and Max Meyer this summer leaves Schalke’s squad looking weaker for the upcoming campaign. Mark Uth, Suat Serdar, Omar Mascarell and Salif Sane appear useful additions, but the club could find it difficult to repeat last season’s runners-up finish. Schalke scored the fewest goals of any of the top six sides in 2017/18 and they will need to improve on that if they are to finish in the top four again.
Nagelsmann’s departure at the end of the season could be an unwelcome distraction (though sporting director Alexander Rosen categorically denied it) as the club bids to build on last season’s third place finish. Serge Gnabry and Mark Uth have both left the club, but Hoffenheim have added some exciting players including wingers Leonardo Bittencourt and Vincenzo Grifo – who came back to TSG after a spell 6 years ago. Ishak Belfodil and Kasim Adams Nuhu could also provide depth for the Champions League/Europa League games, which Hoffenheim will look to improve on. Nagelsmann will be eager to end his time at Hoffenheim on a high note, but his side faces a huge fight to hang on to a top four spot.
Leverkusen missed out on Champions League qualification last season, but they are fancied to break into the top four in 2018/19. Winger Paulinho’s arrival from Vasco da Gama for £16.5 million looks good business, while Mitchell Weiser is a quality addition at right-back. With the club retaining the services of Julian Brandt, Kai Havertz and Leon Bailey, Leverkusen look well-placed to kick on next season.
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