The German Bundesliga kicks off on Friday when reigning champions Bayern Munich takes on Hamburg SV at the Allianz Arena in Munich. Bayern has won the league three years in a row and will look to make it four.
Last season’s championship was Bayern’s 25th German league title, and the team made some key signings in the offseason to improve the squad. The club signed Arturo Vidal from Juventus and the Chilean midfielder is seen as one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the world.
They also brought in Douglas Costa from Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk. Costa is seen as the long-term replacement for Franck Ribery, as the 32-year-old Frenchman is starting to get up there in age and is injury-prone.
Bayern has an incredibly deep and talented squad with stars like Thomas Muller, Philipp Lahm, Manuel Neuer, Arjen Robben, Robert Lewandowski, Xabi Alonso, Mario Gotze and David Alaba in addition to Vidal and Costa.
They not only ran away with the Bundesliga last season, with a record of 25-4-5, they also won their group in the Champions League ahead of Manchester City, AS Roma and CSKA Moscow. Bayern went undefeated in the group stage, winning five games and drawing one. They won 7-0 on aggregate over Shakhtar Donetsk in the Round of 16 and then disposed of Porto in the quarterfinals 7-4 on aggregate. In the semifinals, they fell to future champions FC Barcelona.
Bayern is looking for revenge in the Champions League, and Vidal and Costa could be the final puzzle pieces for the Bavarians to make it all the way to the final.
Bayern’s opening day opponents Hamburg had another rough year last season, as they were forced to play in the relegation playoffs for a second straight time. The team made four signings during the summer in order to avoid meeting a similar fate this season.
They brought in Swedish international Albin Ekdal from Italian side Cagliari, and also made Lewis Holtby’s loan deal from Tottenham permanent. Those two will most likely play together in the central midfield for HSV.
They also picked up defender Emir Spahic on a free transfer after he got his contract terminated by Bayer Leverkusen after an altercation in the tunnel after a game late last season. The 34-year-old Bosnian veteran has 81 caps for Bosnia and Herzegovina. They also signed Turkish U-19 international striker Batuhan Altintas.
Wolfsburg finished runners-up, 10 points behind Bayern and three points ahead of third-placed Monchengladbach. They look to be Bayern’s main competition along with Borussia Dortmund.
Wolfsburg paid around $13 million for striker Max Kruse from Monchengladbach as they try to take up the fight with Bayern for the title once more. Wolfsburg beat Bayern in the German Super Cup after penalties. Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner was the hero for Wolfsburg as he first tied the game and then slotted home the winning penalty.
Monchengladbach made some signings in the summer as well in order to broaden the squad for the upcoming season and the team’s Champions League adventure.
Thorgan Hazard, little brother of Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, spent last season on loan at the club and impressed so much that Monchengladbach made the deal permanent. Thorgan failed to make a single appearance for Chelsea since joining the club in 2012 as he was loaned out to Zulte Waregem for two years and then to Monchengladbach. He was voted Belgian League Player of the Year in 2013-2014 after scoring 14 goals and adding 17 assists for Zulte Waregem.
The club’s other signings include Mandela Egbo (Crystal Palace), Nico Elvedi (Zurich), Lars Stindl (Hannover) and Tobias Sippel (Kaiserslautern). The club has also signed Danish defender Andreas Christensen on loan from Chelsea.
To say that Borussia Dortmund had a disappointing season would be a huge understatement. After finishing 1st, 1st, 2nd and 2nd in the previous four seasons, the Black and Yellows found themselves at the bottom of the standings for a large part of the season. They finally got things together, but a seventh place finish is not an acceptable result for a club of Dortmund’s stature.
Jurgen Klopp’s final season in charge of the club didn’t not go as planned, as the highly-touted manager left the club after seven years and two Bundesliga titles. Thomas Tuchel is the new man in charge, and it will be interesting to see how his philosophy differs from Klopp.
The club made two signings during the summer in midfielders Gonzalo Castro from Bayer Leverkusen and Julian Weigl from 1860 Munich. Castro, 28, played over 360 games for Leverkusen during his 11 seasons at the club. Weigl, 19, played for 1860 Munich in the German second division last year and is a part of the German U-20 national team.
Dortmund still have a very strong squad on paper, including stars like Mats Hummels, Shinji Kagawa, Marco Reus, Ilkay Gundogan, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. So there’s really no reason they shouldn’t be able to challenge for a top-four spot this season and a place in the Champions League next year.