The 2018-19 Bundesliga season kicks off in a few days, and the excitement is building throughout Germany and the world. Finally, the European game is back! You can take your Premier League or La Liga or Serie A, but everyone knows that they don’t stand up to the absolute joy that is the Bundesliga!
Can Bayern Munich maintain their place on top of the world? Will Schalke or Borussia Dortmund figure out a way to pip them for the crown? Will Bayer Leverkusen or RB Leipzig find a way into the Champions League? Who is getting relegated?
We polled all of our writers to rank how the Bundesliga table will finish this season, and we’ve combined them into one master table. Let’s go!
1- Bayern Munich (Bundesliga Winners, Champions League)
It feels as if we have been previewing Bayern’s upcoming season literally all summer. As you could guess from its position here, we are virtually unanimous in anticipating Bayern to clinch its seventh consecutive Bundesliga title. The strength of the squad, Kovac’s serious approach, and the relative weakness of Bayern’s Bundesliga competition all inspire confidence that this season will proceed much as the last after Jupp Heynckes took over.
The year will undoubtedly be a year of transition. Robben and Ribery must make way for the youth at some point. In the midfield, the successor to Arturo Vidal remains to be determined. (Corentin Tolisso?) And in Bayern’s defense, the front office seems eager to move on from Jerome Boateng in favor of Niklas Süle. As Bayern contends on three fronts, the club’s chronic injury proneness remains worrying — one of Robbery’s anticipated replacements, Serge Gnabry, has already missed time to injury, among other players.
All these changes could make Bayern slightly vulnerable, but only slightly. The league still looks like Bayern’s to lose. As for the Champions League... well, that’s another story.
Player to watch: Kingsley Coman. Will it at last be Kingsley’s year? Coman seemed to be coming into his own last season, and coming into a permanent place on Bayern’s starting lineup, but a devastating injury left his season half-finished. As Ribery and Robben slow down ever more, Kovac’s first choice to replace either of them should be Coman, who can play on both wings. Coman has looked very dangerous in Bayern’s preseason matches. His blistering pace and dribbling prowess show world-class potential. This should be the season when Bayern at last taps Coman’s full potential.
-John N. Dillon
2- Schalke (Champions League)
Die Königsblauen look to reclaim second place after an interesting summer transfer window which saw them lose former captain Benedikt Höwedes, as well as promising players like Max Meyer, Thilo Kehrer, and Leon Goretzka. However, they have young talent and depth to replace them all. They also have a pretty balanced first half schedule, but face a tougher second half when they play away to Leverkusen and Dortmund in their final four games.
Player to watch: Weston McKennie. The 19-year old American is one of the most hyped yanks playing abroad. The young defensive midfielder should play a key role in front of Schalke’s back line and has shown good passing skills in his time with the USMNT. This season could be his coming out party.
3- Borussia Dortmund (Champions League)
Dortmund has talent. There’s no denying that a core group of Marco Reus, Christian Pulisic, Mario Gotze, Thomas Delaney, Julian Weigl, Max Philipp, Axel Witsel, Abdou Diallo, and Marius Wolf among others, will have BVB competing for a spot at the top of the table. Right now, however, BVB is not happy with Philipp as its first team option at striker and is scouring the transfer wire to see if it can find a more permanent solution. With Reus leading the way and tough-as-nails midfielder Delaney in tow, Dortmund should be able to at least put a threat into Bayern despite any uneasiness it may have about its production at the “9.”
Player to watch: Marco Reus. Reus, when healthy, is a dynamic and lethal offensive presence. Arguably, he was Germany’s best attacker in its brief World Cup stint this summer. Reus’ foot skills and ability to beat a defender not only differentiate his own offensive game, but also help his Dortmund mates as the 29-year old has a unique ability to create offense and draw the opposition’s attention. It is easy to think that at the top of his game, Reus can help carry Dortmund to contention if the squad around him can achieve any level of consistency.
4- Bayer Leverkusen (Champions League)
Bayer Leverkusen look poised for a massive season. Under Heiko Herrlich, Leverkusen again played like one of the big clubs of the Bundesliga after their disappointing 12th-place finish the year before. Herrlich led them to 6th place and European competition, but they could achieve even more if things go their way. And they may well. Leverkusen boast one of the youngest, fastest, in short most intimidating front four in the Bundesliga: Leon Bailey (21) on the left, Julian Brandt (22) on the right, Kai Havertz (19!) at CAM, and Kevin Volland (26) as striker. These four can tear it up, and Leverkusen just made another potentially spectacular signing in the young Brazilian Paulinho, who turned 18 last month. Paulinho is a versatile attacking midfielder who could relieve any of them as he develops.
Of course, Leverkusen have some trouble in the defensive midfield: they just lost Julian Baumgartlinger to a torn ACL, and Charles Aranguiz has not been able to train on account of various injuries. But captain Lars Bender will likely steer the ship with his brother Sven in tow. Another note: erstwhile Bayern prospect and Hertha Berlin success story Mitchell Weiser joined the ‘Kusen this summer. He will take over at right-back, as Benjamin Henrichs wishes to leave, after a disappointing 2017-2018 campaign saw his star dim.
Player to watch: Leon Bailey. Bailey dazzled the Bundesliga for much of last season, netting 12 goals in the league and the Pokal and assisting another six. Widely courted abroad — and allegedly even piquing Bayern Munich’s interest, if not for this season — Bailey just extended his contract with Leverkusen an additional year until 2023, giving the club still more leverage to contend with potential suitors. But Bailey’s production for Leverkusen last season fizzled from February to May, raising doubts about his true potential. Now that his potential replacement has already been acquired in the even younger youngster, Paulinho, Bailey has to rekindle the dynamism that made him a fan favorite in last season’s Hinrunde.
-John N Dillon
5- RB Leipzig (Europa League)
Despite a disappointing collapse that saw them miss out on the Champions League places, Rasenballsport Leipzig is loaded with quality (and caffeine) and have been known to topple Bundesliga giants for fun. If they can fill the Naby Keita-sized hole in the midfield (potentially with Sebastian Rudy), they could challenge for top-4 and even put a little pressure on the Bavarians as they did when they first stormed onto the scene in 2016/17.
This may be a season of transition, however, as they await the imminent arrival of Julian Nagelsmann from Hoffenheim in the 2019/20 campaign. The ousting of Ralph Hasenhuttl was curious as relationships at the club deteriorated, but Ralf Rangnick will offer a steady pair of hands and tactical consistency for a young side that continues to improve with experience. Coming into the campaign veterans such as Emil Forsberg, Willi Orban and Kevin Kampl will lead a team with promising talents, such as Bruma, Jean Kevin-Augustin and Dayot Upemecano. Their aggressive pressing and lethal counter-attack make them a formidable foe for a team like the Rekordmeister who like to get forward in numbers.
Player to watch: Timo Werner. Werner will be expected to take the next step to being an elite goalscorer. After a mediocre World Cup, in which he played out of position and in a system that didn’t fit his skill set, the German hitman will be looking to prove a point this campaign. After a solid output of 21 goals and 10 assists in all competitions, Werner is primed to have the prolific season he is capable of. Look for him to challenge Robert Lewandowski for the golden boot and show why many Bayern fans believe he will eventually ply his trade at the Allianz. If he is able to, Leipzig may be within striking distance of Die Roten come the end of the campaign.
6- Borussia Mönchengladbach (Europa League)
Die Fohlen are one of the more enigmatic teams in the Bundesliga. On some days M’Gladbach looks like one the offensive powerhouses of the league, while on others the squad looks apathetic toward its opposition. Truly, Borussia Monchengladbach can be frustrating, but perhaps things will take a turn for The Foals. Losing center back Jannik Vestergaard to a transfer will surely hurt, but if M’Gladbach is going to win, it will be with its offense led by Thorgan Hazard, Lars Stindl (when he returns), and Raffael. Matthias Ginter will anchor the defense, but the German international will likely find himself scrambling cover a lot of space for the sometimes defensively-challenged M’Gladbach midfielders and forwards. To compete for a berth in European play, The Foals will need to achieve better balance and consistency on both sides of the field.
Player to watch: Thorgan Hazard. The 25-year old brother of Chelsea stalwart Eden Hazard, Thorgan Hazard can be electric at times, but has often found his biggest struggles with consistency. Skill-wise, Thorgan Hazard is able to frustrate the opposition with frequency using an array of footwork and explosive movements to create space and offense for Die Fohlen. If the Belgian international is going to make that leap forward into the top of the Bundesliga class, now should be the year as the Belgian international can leverage the experience he has gained to help compliment his impressive skill-set.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim is in a very odd position. Its coach, Julian Nagesmann, is already booked to leave for RB Leipzig in 2019 and two of its top offensive performers (Serge Gnabry to Bayern Munich; Mark Uth to Schalke 04) skipped town over the summer, just a year after stalwarts Sebastian Rudy and Niklas Süle bolted for Bavaria. That is a lot of talent to lose in a two-year span, but Nagelsmann’s cupboard is not bare. With Andrej Kramarić piloting the teams offense, Austrian Florian Grillitsch bossing the midfield, and Pavel Kaderabeck, Nico Schulz, and Kevin Vogt securing the defense, Hoffenheim will be competitive. It is more a matter of depth that any anything for Hoffenheim, but Nagelsmann has proven to be able to maximize the talent on his previous rosters and that should not change during his final year at Rhein-Neckar-Arena.
Player to watch: Andrej Kramarić. The 27-year old Croatian will be counted on to lead the Hoffenheim offense after a solid showing last season in the Bundesliga and during the World Cup. Kramaric had 15 goals and six assists across all competitions last season, but will have to carry a heavier burden this season if Hoffenheim is to compete for a top-six position in the league.
It certainly has not been a banner start for Adi Hütter after Die Adler got smoked by Bayern in the DFL-Supercup and were eliminated from the DFB Pokal by Ulm. That said, everyone KNEW the transition from Niko Kovač would be difficult. While Eintracht Frankfurt held on to Ante Rebić, it did lose several players like Kevin-Prince Boateng and Omar Mascarell among others. Frankfurt, however, still has the likes of Sebastian Haller, Luka Jović, Mijat Gaćinović to power the offense and a veteran crew with Nicolai Müller, Jonathan de Guzmán, David Abraham, and Marco Russ to help guide the team through what could be a roller coaster ride under Hütter until the team settles in under the new leadership.
Player to watch: Ante Rebić. The Croatian dynamo is fast, skilled, and physical; and has attracted the attention of many of the world’s power clubs. The reputation Rebić has built over the past year will undoubtedly draw more attention his way on the pitch and they key will be how he responds to being the focal point of opponent’s defense.
VfB Stuttgart enjoyed a strong finish to last season, as the Swabians closed the 2017/2018 campaign much stronger than they had opened it, having taken 31 points from their last 14 matches, only losing once in that stretch of time away to Borussia Dortmund (3-0). Spearheaded by Mario Gomez in the front of attack, Stuttgart will look to pick up exactly where they left off and look to shake off some of the rust they showed in their shock DFB-Pokal exit at the hands of Hansa Rostock. The addition of both Gonzalo Castro from Dortmund and Daniel Didavi from VfL Wolfsburg will help solidify and give balance to the Swabian’s midfield ahead of a back line that rarely give up more than a goal per match. The protection of the dual pivot between Castro and Christian Gentner could prove to be one of the best in the Bundesliga this season. If both Gomez and new signing Nicolas Gonzalez can crack into the double-digit goal tally, Stuttgart should have no problem either equalling or improving upon their 7th place finish last season.
Player to watch: Benjamin Pavard. Coming off a strong season with Stuttgart followed by a World Cup championship with France, the bar will be set quite high for Pavard this season. The defender was linked with a potential move to Bayern Munich during the summer, but decided that it was best for him to stay with Stuttgart for at least another season. His performances with Stuttgart last season and for France this summer have put him on center stage in the Bundesliga and everyone will surely be keeping their eyes peeled on the 22-year old to see if he can produce another strong campaign for the Swabians.
10- Hertha Berlin
Hertha Berlin had a terrible start to the second half of the 2017-18 season, and it kept them ten points from challenging for a Europa League spot. How bad was their start? They didn’t pick up their first win in 2018 until their tenth game! If they have a run of games like that during this season, they could find themselves in the bottom half of the table trying to figure out what happened. However, we’ve picked them to finish in the exact same spot they did last season. Coincidence?
Player to watch: Matthew Leckie. The Australian midfielder found the back of the net 5 times in only 23 appearances last season for Hertha and is going to be a key component on how they finish in the upcoming season. Leckie started last season white hot, but as Hertha’s season struggled to really take off, Leckie cooled off. If Leckie can push his number of goals and assists each close to 10 this season, Hertha could find themselves making a late push for a Europa League spot.
11- Werder Bremen
Werder Bremen has an exciting mix of veterans and youth, which could make it one of the surprise teams in the league this season. With established players like Max Kruse, Caludio Pizzaro, Yuya Osako, Martin Harnik, and Aron Jóhannsson among others, Die Werderaner should be able to avoid stumbling out of the gates like it did last season. In addition, with youngsters like Marco Friedl, Florian Kainz, Maximilian Eggestein, and USMNT prodigy Josh Sargent all competing and pushing for playing time, Werder Bremen should sharp throughout the year and could be poised to play the role of spoiler to many of the league heavyweights.
Player to watch: Marco Friedl. There are several quality players to keep an eye on with Werder Bremen, but Frieldl is one who is posed to make the leap this season. After being loaned from Bayern to Bremen last season, Friedl began to establish himself. Gaining experience, Friedl now looks ready to be an impact player in the league.
FC Augsburg has a unique, talented, and fun core group of players led by Germany’s Philipp Max, Iceland’s Alfred Finnbogason (12 goals, three assists last season), and Austria’s Michael Gregoritsch (13 goals, 4 assists last season). The trio are often the primary reason why Augsburg games often have a solid entertainment value. Unfortunately for Fuggerstädter, it takes more than three to compete for a top-six position in the Bundesliga. With the league top-heavy, Augsburg will probably not be among the league leaders, but also won’t be fighting to stave off relegation either. If only Augsburg could supplement its highly productive trio with a better supporting cast.
Player to watch: Philipp Max. Max is one of the players who might have been a valuable resource for the German national team as it struggled to create offense in the Word Cup. An offensive-minded left back, Max had two goals and 13 assists last season and should be poised to have a similarly successful campaign as he looks to power the Augsburg offense.
13- Hannover 96
After a 13th-placed finish last season, Hannover will surely be looking for more than just Bundesliga survival this season. They got off to a flying start under Andre Breitenreiter last season in his first full campaign in charge of the club, having gone unbeaten in their first six matches. They recorded impressive wins at home against both Schalke (1-0) and Borussia Dortmund (4-2) within their opening 10 matches, but it was their form away from the HDI Arena when they really struggled the most - they only won once away from home.
This season, if Hannover can improve their away form, they can be a true force to be reckonned with. Their back line might not look as solid without the towering Salif Sane, who joined Schalke, but bringing in reinforcements in the form of Kevin Wimmer from Stoke City and Josip Elez from HNK Rijeka should help compensate for Sane’s absence. Hannover also strengthened their midfield by bringing in Walace Souza Silva from Hamburg and Genki Haraguchi from Hertha Berlin. Battles are won and lost in midfield and bringing in a strong #6 like Walace and a creative spark like Haraguchi could help Hannover’s midfield that struggled with consistency last season.
Player to watch: Bobby Wood/Genki Haraguchi
Spearheaded by striker Niclas Fullkrug, Hannover have also added Bobby Wood on loan from Hamburg to the front lines, who’ll be looking to improve upon his lackluster form last season with the [now] relegated side. Hannover have also acquired industrious midfielder Genki Haraguchi from Hertha Berlin, whom Bayern fans will remember well from the 2-2 draw at the Olympiastadion in week 7 last season. He’s got such potent ability when it comes to trickery and pace on the ball and he can really run at defenses, causing loads of problems. With Wood, his pace can give Hannover a more direct option, too, as he’ll look to run in behind defenses and look to beat the high lines.
It was a minor miracle last season that 1. FSV Mainz 04 escaped relegation. They were under the gun down to the wire, but Köln’s fate had been sealed, and Hamburg and Wolfsburg did them the favor of being worse. But last season exacted a major toll: after a string of disappointing games, partly the result of chance, the club panicked and dismissed Martin Schmidt, who is in my humble opinion an outstanding coach, and one who bedeviled Bayern Munich repeatedly during in time with the club. His replacement, Sandro Schwarz, did not look like an improvement. But Mainz lived to play first-tier Fußball another day, and here we are.
This season they hope to be more stable. Schwarz is no longer a Bundesliga newcomer, but his team has changed yet again. Abdou Diallo and Leon Balogun are both gone. Diallo’s replacement, Moussa Niakhaté earned himself a red card three minutes into Mainz’s first DFB-Pokal match (they won anyway). Let’s just say he’s pretty raw. But if Mainz’s best player, Jean-Philippe Gbamin can hold down the midfield, they will be in reasonably good shape. Of course, that still means they will be fighting relegation all season.
Player to watch: Jean-Philippe Mateta. Mateta joined the team from Olympique Lyon this summer to replace Muto, Mainz’s leading goalscorer last season (10 goals, 5 assists). It’s a tall order for the young man, who scored 17 goals for AC Le Havre, where he was on loan, in Ligue 2 last season.
-John N Dillon
The Volkswagen-backed club’s fall to the bottom of the table has occurred about as rapidly as their meteoric rise to the top of the Bundesliga. This is not due to a lack of quality, but more to a lack of consistency and turmoil within the club between fans, owners, players and coaching staff. Turnover has been catastrophic for a club that has boasted the likes of Julian Draxler, Kevin De Bruyne and Ivan Perisic. Wolves have decided to opt for consistency, sticking with Bruno Labbadia who, despite his abysmal record in charge, helped them barely stave off relegation. Injuries and an under-performing arsenal of talent almost spelled doom for the 16th-placed club. Thanks to the backing of the German car manufacturer, Labbadia will have no shortage of talent to select.
Wolfsburg has been active in the transfer market this summer, bringing in 6 new players with emphasis on adding a little more firepower to the attack. New boys Daniel Ginczek, Wout Weghorst, and Felix Klaus will be expected to pair with veterans Yunus Malli and Admir Mehmedi in the attack, while the green and whites return Koen Casteels, John Brooks (back from injury), Josuha Guilavogui and Jeffrey Bruma who form a strong defensive spine. Die Wolfe also has no shortage of young talent either including Josip Brekalo, Felix Uduokhai, Riechedly Bazoer and Gianluca Itter. The German Manager’s ability to integrate new signings, solidify the backline and develop their plethora of young talent will make the difference between relegation and competing for Europe.
Player to watch: John Brooks. Although improving the attack will be vital, the importance of defensive solidity and my American brain make John Brooks a key player for the wolves. His absence due to injury devastated the Wolfsburg defense, resulting in a poor run of form. If Brooks can form a strong partnership with Bruma or Uduokhai, the defense may provide the necessary freedom for the youthful attack to flourish.
16- SC Freiburg (Relegation Playoff)
Freiburg was one of the more odd teams to follow last season in the Bundesliga as it looked scrappy and tough at times, but completely overmatched in other instances. Clearly not as talented as some of the league heavyweights, Christian Streich’s squad needs to rely on strategy and tactics to survive, which is why the team was so successful on set pieces last season. Freiburg, however, just doesn’t have the depth that its competitors do and no amount of tactics will compensate for talent and depth. Streich does have some pieces to work with though as he can count on Christian Gunter and Dominique Heintz to help stabilize the defense, while Gian-Luca Waldschmidt is one of Germany’s top prospects and should be able to support Nils Petersen offensively. Overall, though, this could be a tough year at Schwarzwald-Stadion.
Player to watch: Nils Petersen. If Freiburg is going to avoid the threat of relegation, it will likely take a big effort from Petersen. The striker, who was one of the last players cut from Germany’s World Cup squad this summer, will have to carry a heavy burden of leadership and scoring for the team. Streich is smart enough to know that the team’s success likely hinges on its ability to create chances for Petersen and the 29-year old will likely be up to the task of trying to help the squad avoid relegation. If Waldschmidt can develop in a consistent performer, it should help remove some of the opposition’s focus on Petersen and that will be one of the keys to watch this season for the club.
17- FC Nürnberg (Relegated)
Michael Kollner’s squad will not have an easy road ahead of it in the Bundesliga after securing a promotion last season. Midfielder, captain, and club hero Hanno Behrens will be one of the players who Kollner will count on to help guide the team through the rugged terrain that lies ahead. Swedish forward Michael Ishak, meanwhile, will try to play the role that Niclas Füllkrug filled for Hannover 96 after it was promoted last season by providing a consistent and dangerous offensive presence.
Player to watch: Timothy Tillman. The Bayern Munich loanee and potential USMNT hopeful is an attacking midfielder that can play centrally or on the wing. His footwork and dribbling are his best attributes and he will likely get more of a chance to showcase them with Nürnberg than he ever would have with Die Roten.
18- Fortuna Düsseldorf (Relegated)
There’s no reason to beat around the bush here. Despite the fact that they won the 2.Bundesliga last season, it’s going to take a titanic effort for them to remain in the Bundesliga this season. This is their first return to the top flight since the 2012-13 season. Surviving will be an uphill battle, like it is for all promoted teams, and our crew isn’t too high on their chances. However, Düsseldorf did win the 2.Bundesliga last season, and that has to count for something, right?
Player to watch: Rouwen Hennings. If Düsseldorf manages to stay in the Bundesliga this year, a lot of it will rest on the shoulders of Hennings. He’s the club’s veteran man up front and was their leading goalscorer in the 2.Bundesliga last season. Hennings has only ever played on top flight season, and that was seven seasons ago with St. Pauli. He netted once.
That’s going to do it for The Official Bavarian Football Works Bundesliga Preview. With the season only days away now, what are your predictions? What did we get right? What did we get wrong? We’ll meet you in the comments.