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Bundesliga Season Preview Part I: Title Challengers and Euro Hopefuls



Welcome, one and all, to the start of another rip roaring Bundesliga season. To get you going the Bundesbag has prepared this, in no way, comprehensive preview of each club in what pundits are calling THE MOST FINANCIALLY PRUDENT LEAGUE IN THE WORLD!!!

Let's start with the teams who fancy themselves for a place in Europe or perhaps even a crack at the title.

Bayern Munich

Coach Louis van Gaal was in the process of loading up the dreaded card board box of doom only months after taking the job at the Allianz Arena last season. However, an unlikely victory at Juventus instigated a turnaround sharp enough to have Nick Clegg nodding with approval. Consequently, the Dutchman starts this season as a League and Cup double winner and has put the Bundesliga back on the Champions League map with a roller coaster ride to the final in Madrid. Van Gaal remains committed to youth via Holger Badstuber, the returning Toni Kroos from a successful spell at Leverkusen, Diego Contento and World Cup hero Thomas Müller. Additionally the Bavarians have retained the services of Franck Ribery (who really needs a good season) and the currently injured, Arjen Robben. Up front Miroslav Klose is determined to get back in the team and while Mario Gomez is a bum on the international stage, he is a prolific goal scorer in the Bundesliga. All of which means that FC Bayern are the Bundesbag's favourites to regain the title. That's despite the continued presence of Martin DeMechelis. Why??


Schalke 04

From potless mavericks to harbour of legends, coach Felix Magath's transformation of the Gelsenkirchen club continues with the arrival of the great Raul from Real Madrid. Assuming he settles in, it is very likely that the former Spanish international will trouble many a Bundesliga scorer this season. Joining him is Christoph Metzelder who will take his place in a new look defence after the departure of Marcelo Bordon and Heiko Westermann. Other interesting arrivals include midfielder Tim Hoogland from Mainz, Japanese full back Atsuto Uchida, Greek defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Spanish full back Sergio Escudera. To keep the wage bill under control, Magath has let go no less than twenty three squad players including striker Kevin Kuranyi and veteran Gerard Asamoah. Germany's number one, Manuel Neuer, remains in goal. Schalke pushed FC Bayern pretty hard to the title and Magath's refreshed squad are even better equipped to do so again.


Bayer Leverkusen

After a record breaking twenty four game unbeaten run the Werkself were in danger of shedding their nickname, Neverkusen and replacing it with Neverlosen. However, once that record was broken against Nürnberg of all teams, Jupp Heynckes' men collapsed. They won only one from their next five, crucially losing to Championship rivals Schalke and FC Bayern. By the time they'd recovered themselves it was too late. This season, coach Heynckes welcomes Michael Ballack back to the fold to attempt to give the team that extra boost that will see them close out a season. Look out also for Sydney Sam from Hamburg and Patrick Helmes who has managed a full pre-season following a ligament injury the season before last. If he can combine with Erin Derdiyok and Stefan Kießling up front, then Bayer can include themselves among the title challengers.


Werder Bremen

Much depends on how much of Mesut Özil's transfer fee can be spent on new players for coach Thomas Schaaf. The departure of Bremen's playmaker on the eve of a Champions League qualifier and with only days remaining before the League season kicks off may undermine their title challenge. My inner pixie wonders if General Manager Klaus Allofs will make a last minute attempt to sign Özil's predecessor who is hankering for a move back to the Bundesliga (more on that later). Despite their loss, Bremen have a host of exciting an effective talent: Claudio Pizarro continues to bang them in. Per Mertesacker iremains a rock at the back and Marko Marin will continue to bomb down the wing until he's stopped by a passing feather. Who knows, maybe Schaaf will move the tricky winger inside to see how he copes with some extra responsibility. In addition, Werder opened up the mighty Bremen treasure chest to buy the Viennese whirl Marko Arnautovic from FC Twente. So there's plenty of talent to get stuck into.


Wolfsburg

Surprising yet welcome Champions in 2008/09, the Wolves are looking for a return to European football and an assault on the title after disappointing, last season. As is not uncommon for Bundesliga clubs, they have gone for the best and brightest in Holland to fill their head coaching vacancy which so happens to be an Englishman in Steve McClaren. The former England coach had barely enough time to put his Eredivisie winner's medal in his display cabinet before he was packing it up and heading for Lower Saxony in the fastest VW available. Aside from perfecting his cheesiest German accent, the Yorkshireman has wasted no time in spending any of that VW money. The defense has been significantly bolstered by the addition of the much sought after Dane Simon Kjær and German international Arne Friedrich. Striker Nassim Ben Khalifa and Mario Mandzukic join the attack which is likely to lose 20 goal a season striker Edin Dzeko and midfield playmaker Zvejden Misimovic. The latter is set to be replaced by the Brazilian Diego who is returning to the Bundesliga from a less then successful season at Juve. If McClaren can gel his new squad then Wolfsburg are in good shape for a place in the top three.


Borussia Dortmund

BVB's impressive young manager, Jurgen Klopp, is gradually transforming the Dortmund club into solid Europa League competitors following the club's financial problems and their moribund coach Thomas Doll. The introduction of youngsters Nuri Sahin, Kevin Großkreutz and Sven Bender along with Argentina born Paraguay Striker Lucas Barrios contributed to a fifth placed finish and the promise of more to come this season. Klopp has made another modest foray into the transfer market landing the young Polish striker Robert Lewandowski from Lech Poznan to partner Barrios up front. Matts Hummels and Nevan Subotic have another year's experience at the back. Australian fans will keep a close eye on the progress of young Aussie goalie Mitchell Langerak who has been brought in as cover for Roman Weidenfeller from Melbourne Victory.


Hamburg

The Hollywood signing of Ruud van Nistelrooy was not enough to paper over the cracks in Hamburg's disunited squad under coach Bruno Labbadia. Under immense pressure from the board, not only to win the Bundesliga but also the Europa League, the final of which was hosted in their very own stadium, the squad did neither. Labbadia was sacked and Hamburg's season imploded. They ended up finishing seventh without so much as a Europa League spot to show for their labours. This season, Armin Veh has has brought in to bring some stability (despite his, failings at Wolfsburg last season). Jerome Boateng has been sold for silly money to Manchester City and German international Heiko Westerman has been brought in from Schalke. Joining Westerman is Gojko Kacar from Hertha and promising young full back Dennis Diekmeier from Nürnberg. Most contensciously however is the arrival of Goalkeeper Jaroslav Drobny, also from Hertha, as a direct challenge to current custodian Frank Rost. With a renewed defense, Hamburg supporters should expect some balance to their universe and hopefully and place back in Europe.


Stuttgart

Following a disasterous start to last season (only two wins in twenty), Christian Gross was drafted in as coach to replace the inexperienced Markus Babbel. The results improved dramatically and Gross was able to steer the Reds to an impressive sixth place. Now with a full pre-season under his belt the former Tottenham Hotspur and FC Basel coach will be desperate to get off to a good start lest he go the way of his predecessors (Armin Veh was sacked after a similarly dismal start to the season before last). Of course, the biggest transfer story of the summer is the departure of Sami Khedira, another World Cup hero, to Real Madrid. A loss which may prove almost as devastating as that of the retiring Jens Lehmann.

Previous post: DFB Pokal Round 1

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