Frankfurt — Bayern Munich kicks off the Bundesliga season in
the familiar role of favorite for a historic fourth consecutive title despite
questions hanging over the future of coach Pep Guardiola.
No Bundesliga team has won four straight titles and if any
team can do it, it's the current Bayern side. Guardiola's team has bolstered
its already loaded squad and few expect anything but another title. In a poll
conducted by Kicker magazine, 16 of 18 Bundesliga coaches saw Bayern as
champion again, with two undecided.
Bayern finished last season 10 points ahead of Wolfsburg,
which again is likely to be the nearest challenger. Borussia Dortmund could
return to the group of pursuers again after struggling last season.
The season kicks off Friday in Munich, when Bayern hosts
Hamburger SV, a team that barely escaped relegation in a playoff and that got
eliminated from the German Cup by fourth-tier Jena last weekend. Not to mention
that Hamburg lost 8-0 the last time it visited Munich.
Bayern captain Philipp Lahm thinks his team is unstoppable.
"If the team is hungry and willing, and has enough energy, there can be no
other German champion," he said ahead of the opening match.
Also read: Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund advance in German Cup
Here are some things to know about the upcoming season:
SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?
Coach Pep Guardiola has left fans and Bayern officials
second-guessing about his future. Guardiola is in the final season of his
three-year deal and raised eyebrows recently by saying that he wasn't fully
convinced of being the "right man" in charge and that three years at
a club are a "long time." Bayern is keen to keep Guardiola but
director Matthias Sammer has said the club would not fall apart if the coach
Guardiola won the domestic double in his first season and
the Bundesliga title last season, while his team was eliminated in the
semifinals of the Champions League both seasons.
Bayern has added muscle and speed to its squad. With Arturo
Vidal in its midfield, Bayern will become more robust, while the speed of
winger Douglas Costa could be a major asset. Franck Ribery is still nursing an
ankle season and Costa will see plenty of action, at least at the start of the
The two should compensate for the departure of Bastian
Schweinsteiger for Manchester United. Mario Goetze is reportedly not entirely
happy with his limited role but he is likely to stay.
Wolfsburg enjoyed its best season since its surprise run to
the 2009 title. It beat Bayern 4-1 and finished second, while lifting the
German Cup. Sponsored by Germany's biggest car maker, Wolfsburg has been able
to assemble a strong squad and is likely to remain the No. 2 club, especially
if midfielder Kevin de Bruyne stays. De Bruyne was voted Bundesliga's top
player last season but has been linked with a move to English Premier League
side Manchester City. Wolfsburg has brought in German striker Max Kruse.
Wolfsburg angered Bayern again by lifting the domestic Super
Cup on penalties two weeks ago.
Dortmund has turned a new page with the departure of
seven-year coach Jurgen Klopp. His successor is Thomas Tuchel, was one of the
most sought-after coaches following a successful stint in Mainz, his only
Unsettled striker Ciro Immobile has been loaned away, but
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be a speedy partner for Marco Reus, if the
latter can shake off injuries.
And goal-line technology is also making its debut.
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