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Opinion: The Bundesliga will be exciting — just not at the top

  • August 05, 2022

Does anybody really think that Bayern Munich won’t win the Bundesliga again this season? That there’s genuinely going to be a title race? That Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig or any other club really has what it takes to challenge Bayern over the course of an entire season?

You’d either have to admire their optimism, or feel sorry for their naivety.

OK, Bayern have lost Robert Lewandowski, but that’s not going to even things out much. The hole left behind in Dortmund by Erling Haaland’s departure is much bigger than that left by Lewandowski in Munich.

If there even is a hole. Bayern’s ultimately convincing performance in the Super Cup curtain-raiser was an initial sign that there’s no cause for concern up front. There’s still room for improvement at the back, but that was the case last season and it had no effect on the title race.

And in Sadio Mane and Matthijs de Ligt, sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic has been rightly taking the plaudits for boosting Bayern’s capabilities – although his signings will ultimately be judged on Bayern’s progress in the Champions League, rather than the Bundesliga.

In Europe, the aim remains the final. Such are the expectations at Bayern. There can be no repeat of last season’s embarrassing quarterfinal exit to relative minnows Villarreal.

And if Julian Nagelsmann should pick up his second Bundesliga title – and Bayern’s eleventh in a row – the club bosses will happily take that, too. Or perhaps just shrug their shoulders.

DW’s Andreas Sten-Ziemons

Will the Qatar World Cup have an impact?

If there is something which could potentially knock Bayern off their stride, it won’t come from Germany, but from further afield: the winter World Cup in Qatar.

There have been occasions in the far distant past where Bayern, having provided the spine of the national team, have stumbled a bit in the wake of a World Cup, opening a slither of opportunity for a challenger.

How ironic would it be if the likes of Joshua Kimmich, Serge Gnabry, Leon Goretzka, Thomas Müller and Manuel Neuer suffer a drop-off in form due to the exertions of a World Cup being played in the desert in the middle of the season in a nation state which with Bayern themselves maintain controversial sponsorship links?

But even if they do slip up, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen will all lose players to their national teams, too.

European and relegation battles

Still, it might be boring at the top again, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the Bundesliga is one big yawn.

Beyond Bayern, the competition for the Champions League places is more open than ever, with Borussia Mönchengladbach and new coach Daniel Farke hoping to challenge the usual suspects.

And with Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt having strengthened even further with World Cup winner Mario Götze and Leverkusen’s Lucas Alario, they’ll be hoping that this season’s maiden Champion Leagues campaign won’t be their only one.

As for the other European competitions, no league has provided more different Europa League and Conference League participants in recent years than the Bundesliga, with the likes of Freiburg, Cologne, Union Berlin, Hoffenheim and Wolfsburg all with some degree of expectation.

At the other end, the relegation battle is once again expected to go down to the wire. In Schalke and Werder Bremen, the Bundesliga has regained two big clubs who very much intend to stay, but the relegation battle has a habit of sucking in big names.

Hertha Berlin and VfB Stuttgart will be hoping to avoid the unwanted drama of last season but, with relative minnows Bielefeld and Fürth no longer in the division, staying up will be tougher than ever.

The Bundesliga absolutely has its selling points this season, just not necessarily at the very top.

This article was originally written in German and translated by Matt Ford.

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