Well, the new season of the Bundesliga is finally upon us. After a long two seasons impacted by COVID-19, we’re starting to see a return to normalcy in the football world. Not that the title race was any different as yet again, Bayern Munich lifted the Meisterschale last season.
However this season should see things return to how they were pre-coronavirus. Whether or not we see a fully packed Westfallenstadion or Olympiastadion or Allianz Arena is yet to be seen. But, we will be closer to that than having another season full of geisterspielen.
So, here’s how I think the table will pan out. I’ll be talking about each team, players to watch, and where I think things will end up.
And understand, none of us know anything. But yes, feel free to mock me come May when all of this turns out to be incorrect.
Let’s start at the bottom:
18. SpVgg Greuther Fürth
Last season: 2nd (2. Bundesliga)
Major Transfer In: Nils Seufert (Arminia Bielefeld)
Major Transfer Out: Anton Stach (Mainz)
Last season, Fürth needed a good result on the final match day in order to secure promotion - which they got in a 3-2 thriller over Fortuna Düsseldorf. The result gave them automatic promotion and doomed Holstein Kiel to the playoffs. Fürth may seem like a patchwork squad from the outside, but they’re full of quality players who know how to work together. Keep a special eye on two Scandinavians: Sweden’s Branimir Hrgota and Norway’s Håvard Nielsen. The midfield features former Bayern Munich man Julian Green who looks to continue a good run from last year that saw him bag 10 goals and 3 assists in 33 games.
The Kleeblätter have only managed one season in the Bundesliga before and it ended in disaster. While I don’t believe they will be as bad as the team that finished dead bottom with 21 points, they won’t be much better.
17. VfL Bochum
Last season: 1st (2. Bundesliga)
Major Transfer In: Elvis Rexhbecaj - (Wolfsburg; loan)
Major Transfer Out: Robert Zulj (out of contract)
Bochum don’t seem like the kind of team that will punch above their weight this season. After failing to secure a contract for joint top scorer Robert Zulj — who found a home in the UAE — they stocked up on loans and cheap transfers to bulk up their youth. Some loanees like Wolfsburg’s Elvis Rexhbecaj and Hoffenheim’s Konstantinos Stafylidis bring great experience. The arrival of Borussia Dortmund youngster Patrick Osterhage seems promising. Others like former Stuttgart and (not quite) Arsenal product Takuma Asano scream of desperation to replace a man who scored 15 goals in 29 games in the 2. Liga. Their other man to reach that mark — Simon Zoller — is still at the club, but he’ll be missing his partner.
The strong suit of Die Unabsteigbaren last season was their defense which conceded the league’s second least amount of goals. But they will probably find a difficult time staying up if they don’t manage to score.
16. DSC Arminia Bielefeld
Last season: 15th
Major Transfer In: Alessandro Schöpf (Schalke)
Major Transfer Out: Ritsu Doan (back to PSV Eindhoven)
Bielefeld’s defense was their strength last season and that should continue through this one. The one thing that held them back was their scoring output. While goalkeeper Stefan Ortega Moreno held the team to 11 clean sheets, the team only managed 26 goals in the campaign. Die Arminen must have realized this because they’ve managed to bring in seven attacking minded players all under the age of 28. The most impactful should be Alessandro Schöpf who should work well with Fabian Klos up top. One problem however: their most dynamic player from last year, Ritsu Doan, returned to his parent club in the Netherlands.
I don’t know what to make of their panic buying when it comes to attackers. They seem to value youth and energy, but I feel like proven scoring is what they need. One thing is for sure: I don’t expect the team to score that much more than they did last year and that will haunt them as they lose the relegation playoff and spend next year in the 2. Bundesliga. I hope I’m wrong.
15. 1. FC Köln
Last season: 16th (won Relegation Playoff)
Major Transfer In: Mark Uth (Schalke)
Major Transfer Out: Sebastiaan Bornauw (Wolfsburg)
It’ll be a tough season for Stefan Baumgart and Die Geißbocken as they hope to improve from last year when they needed the playoff to stay up. Adding native son Mark Uth will be a boost to a side who’s been looking for a prolific striker since Anthony Modeste made a run for the scorers title in the 2016-17 season (oh and yeah Modeste is back but he’s 33). Their wings (save Florian Kainz) trend younger so that bodes well for their future. Ondrej Duda, Jonas Hector and Ellyes Skhiri look to continue their strong performance in midfield, though they will be without Elvis Rexhbecaj. However, the backline looks a lot shakier ever since Sebastiaan Bornauw, the man who saved the team from automatic relegation, departed for Wolfsburg. Rafael Czichos is the best centerback on the team by a long shot and even though bringing in Timo Hübers from Hanover is promising, it’s not exactly what they need right now.
Losing Bornauw is really going to damage the backline, which continues to age. Hopefully they can continue to stay alive and avoid another relegation battle this season.
14. 1. FSV Mainz 05
Last season: 12th
Major Transfer In: Silvan Widmer (Basel)
Major Transfer Out: Robin Quaison (out of contract)
Bringing in right back Silvan Widmer off a great campaign for Switzerland in the Euros is a great bit of business. Widmer should be a good candidate to take over starting duties from 33-year old Daniel Brosinski on a backline featuring Jeremiah St. Juste and Moussa Niakhate. The midfield gets boosted by the acquisition of Holstein Kiel’s Jae-Sung Lee. Jean-Paul Boëtius should help in the transition to attack where there are no clear options. Adam Szalai managed 20 goals last year, but he is 33. Karim Onisiwo only managed 4 goals in 32 games, and Jonathan Burkardt hasn’t produced much better. All of this is compounded by the fact that the club let Robin Quaison walk for free at the end of the season. With the Swede now plying his trade in Saudi Arabia, it makes you wonder if there’s really nothing else Mainz could do.
I’m never sure what to make of Die Nullfünfer. This season hasn’t done much to reduce the fog.
13. TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
Last season: 11th
Major Transfer In: Angelo Stiller (Bayern Munich)
Major Transfer Out: Players not returning to Hoffenheim for another loan
What does it say about a team when bringing in a then 19-year-old American defender turns their season around? This isn’t a shot at Chris Richards and there’s two ways of looking at this problem. One way is to say that Richards is such a good player that he has that ability and that very well may be the case. Another way of looking at it is that Hoffenheim is just one piece on the backline away from a great season. If that’s the case, why didn’t Hoffenheim bring in more players on the backline? Here’s the situation for the team: Ermin Bicakcic, Havard Nordtveit, Benjamin Hubner and Pavel Kaderabek are all dealing with some form of injury coming into this season. And that’s just on the backline. Important players like Florian Grillitsch and Sargis Adamyan are dealing with muscle and ligament problems respectively. Ilhas Bebou is dealing with coronavirus right now. All of this is to say Hoffenheim are in need of reinforcements. This will force them to turn to younger players. Adding pieces like Bayern Munich prospect Angelo Stiller will be helpful for the short term but his acquisition is in a place of strength for Die Kraichgauer. When you consider that players who played in the back like Richards, Ryan Sessegnon and Justin Hoogma aren’t returning, you start to fear for Hoffenheim.
I feel like their season will be decided in the first half of the calendar. If they can keep it together, they can likely survive another year in the Bundesliga. If not, Sebastian Hoeness will be looking for a new job.
12. FC Augsburg
Last season: 13th
Major Transfer In: Niklas Dorsch (Gent)
Major Transfer Out: Rani Khedira (Hertha Berlin)
The midfield of Augsburg is getting a mini reset this summer. Older players like Rani Khedira are on their way out and youngsters like former Bayern prospect Niklas Dorsch are in. Otherwise, most of the squad has stayed the same. Felix Uduokhai is expected to capitalize on an amazing last season and alongside Jeffrey Gouweleeuw, he’ll get invaluable experience with a veteran. Up front, it’s the same old story for the most part. Florian Niederlechner is still the main striker and Michael Gregortisch is still playing right behind him as a second striker. They thought some reinforcements would’ve come in from Bielefeld in the form of Jhon Cordoba, however he is out with a muscle injury. But, the summer might not be over yet as reports have come out saying Augsburg are looking into former Syracuse University product Tajon Buchanan. The New England Revolution winger had an amazing performance in the Gold Cup for Canada and has attracted attention across Europe. It remains to be seen if Augsburg pull the trigger.
I feel like the club from the Fuggerstädt will just be living in a state of existence. They won’t do great, they won’t do awful they’ll just...exist. They’ll continue their run in the league and they might pull out some fun results, but don’t expect a lot from this team.
11. SC Freiburg
Last season: 10th
Major Transfer In: None
Major Transfer Out: Also none
The toughest loss Freiburg had in the transfer market was letting Florian Müller go back to Mainz as his loan ended. Mainz, in turn, flipped him to Stuttgart, but at the end of the day no main starters for Freiburg departed. The backline has been reinforced with academy graduates as Christian Gunter captains a strong defensive core. Baptiste Santamaria and Nicolas Höfler are back to boss the midfield yet again. Up front, Vincenzo Grifo is looking to make more nightmares for defenses and hopefully Ermedin Demirovic is able to top last season, when he bagged 5 goals and 10 assists. But outside of these key contributors, the rest of the squad seem like they’ll be playing on the fringes. Christian Streich likes to keep his squad consistent and tight and that may have been what led him to not purchase a single player this summer. It’ll be interesting to see if his gamble pays off.
I don’t expect much from Freiburg this season, but keep an eye on the team in the next summer to see if anyone moves to a new club.
10. Hertha Berlin SC
Last season: 14th
Major Transfer In: Suat Serdar (Schalke)
Major Transfer Out: Lots of Loans Out
Hertha seem to be gambling on the strength of their squad depth this year by loaning out a number of their better young players. While players like Mathew Leckie (Melbourne City) and Jhon Cordoba (Krasnodar) have fully left, others like Arne Maier (Augsburg) and Jessic Ngankam (Fürth) are off to get more playing time. Hertha won the sweepstakes of Schalke’s selloff by acquiring their best player in Suat Serdar. He joins a strong midfield with Vladimir Darida and Santiago Ascacibar. Up top, Matheus Cunha looks to continue his MVP form from the previous season. Paired with Dodi Lukebakio and a returning Davie Selke should be helpful. In an attempt to take pressure off Krzysztof Piatek, the club brought in Monaco’s Stevan Jovetic to bring some more stability up top. On the backline, Niklas Stark and Jordan Torunarigha will still be a pain for opponents but a muscle issue with captain Dedryck Boyata will be cause for concern.
Call me crazy, but I feel that Die Alte Dame will be much better off this season than the misfortune that plagued them last time. After all, it would be the most Hertha thing to go from almost being relegated to smack mid-table. The pieces are all there; whether or not they’ll execute is a different issue.
9. SG Eintracht Frankfurt
Last season: 5th
Major Transfer In: Christopher Lenz (Union Berlin)
Major Transfer Out: Andre Silva (RB Leipzig)
We’ll start from the back. Marvin Hinteregger and Tuta are back to form a strong center back pairing. After an underwhelming loan spell at Mainz, Eintracht fans will be hoping Danny Da Costa will find his form from the 2019/2020 season again. Adding Christopher Lenz from Union Berlin will be massively helpful to their efforts in defense. The midfield is full of great players like Daichi Kamada and Napoli loanee Amin Younes. Filip Kostic is hoping to add yet another prolific scoring season and Steven Zuber is hoping to join in on the fun. But the fun stops there because here is the big struggle Eintracht faces this year: replacing 28 goal scorer Andre Silva with either a) River Plate acquisition Rafael Borre or b) Goncalo Paciencia, who managed 1 goal, 2 assists in 16 games for Schalke last year. Do I need to say any more?
Losing Andre Silva without failing to properly replace him will hurt Die Adler. It’s as simple as that. You don’t lose a player who scored you 28 goals and was 2nd in the league scoring table and still challenge for a top 4 spot.
8. 1. FC Union Berlin
Last season: 7th
Major Transfer In: Rani Khedira (Augsburg)
Major Transfer Out: Christopher Lenz (Eintracht Frankfurt)
16 transfers in. 13 transfers out. It’s been a major turnover for Die Eisernen this summer. The defensive core of Marvin Friedrich and Robin Knoche is still there, but there are an additional four transfers into the defense (one loan, three permanent). Transfers Rani Khedira and Levin Oztunali should make an immediate impact with Grischa Prömel coming back from surgery. Their biggest issues lie up front in what can best be described as a hodge-podge. 11 forwards are on the roster per Transfermarkt including 1 LW, 2 RW, 2 second strikers and 6 center forwards. None of them really jump off the page in terms of scoring ability outside of Max Kruse and the youngest player in that group is Bayern loanee Leon Dajaku (20).
A slight regression from the previous year due to the massive turnover in transfers wouldn’t be that unexpected. Consistency up front - or the lack thereof- will make or break this team no matter what lineup Urs Fischer runs with.
7. VfB Stuttgart
Last season: 9th
Major Transfer In: Florian Muller (Mainz)
Major Transfer Out: Nico Gonzalez (Fiorentina)
Starting from the back, we find a great new upgrade for the goalkeeping spot in Florian Muller. His acumen for stopping shots after a good loan spell in Freiburg brought him to a bigger club with a better backline. In addition to Marc Oliver Kempf and Waldemar Anton, Arsenal loanee Konstantinos Mavropanos will help carry the load. The midfield should be safe in the hands of Orel Mangala and captain Wataru Endo, though another summer acquisition would have helped as a number of Stuttgart’s players are on the younger side. Losing Nico Gonzalez is sad, but after the breakout season Sasa Kalajdzic had, it was about time to look elsewhere. The team will have to live without reigning Bundesliga Rookie of the Year Silas Katompa Mvumpa until October due to injury.
Pellegrino Matarazzo has a good head on his shoulders and a squad buying what he’s selling. I expect a marginal improvement on their previous campaign, but wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up lower or higher than 7th.
6. Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Last season: 6th
Major Transfer In: Mitchel Bakker (Paris Saint-Germain)
Major Transfer Out: Leon Bailey (Aston Villa)
Losing Leon Bailey will be a major pain for fans of Die Werkself. That Bayer were left with little time to find a good replacement wasn’t helpful, but that being said, they have the pieces to replace him. Moussa Diaby has been one of the fastest players in the league with a level of passing other wingers envy. After a stellar summer at the Euros with the Czech Republic, Leverkusen fans hope that Patrik Schick will finally be able to transfer that ability to his club career. The midfield is poised to take a major step forward after great performances last season from Nadiem Amiri, Exequiel Palacios and Florian Wirtz. The backline will start hampered with injuries to Edmond Tapsoba and Timothy Fosu-Mensah. But young additions Mitchel Bakker from PSG and Odilon Kossounou from Club Brugge will be eager to crack the Starting XI.
Look for Leverkusen to begin their transition this year. With enough young players in this team to provide a jolt to their reserves, I expect a lot of energy to come from this team.
5. VfL Wolfsburg
Last season: 4th
Major Transfer In: Sebastiaan Bornauw (Koln)
Major Transfer Out: Jeffrey Bruma (out of contract)
Wolfsburg spent the summer investing in their future, with all but one of their new permanent transfers coming in under the age of 23. Bright spots include Koln’s hero Sebastiaan Bornauw and Manchester City product Lukas Nmecha. But all of these acqisition’s didn’t tackle the biggest problem Wolfsburg faced last year: dynamism in the center of the park. The main trio of Maximilian Arnold, Yannick Gerhardt, and Xaver Schlager still remains with Joshua Guilavogui providing bench support. Outside of those four, there aren’t many players who jump out that would command even the battle for a starting spot. All of this might change, but Wolfsburg missed a major opportunity to acquire a veteran this summer. Elsewhere, they’re pretty well established. The backline is still their strongest asset with John Anthony Brooks and Maxence Lacroix establishing what is now arguably the best partnership in the league. Add Ridle Baku, Jerome Roussillon, and Kevin Mbabu to that mix and Wolfsburg should challenge for best defense this season. Their attack leaves something to be desired, but is still efficient nonetheless. Max Philipp’s loan from Dynamo Moscow was made permanent and he’ll be of major help to Josip Brekalo up top supporting their main striker. That Wout Weghorst wasn’t sold this summer means either Wolfsburg’s price tag was too high or that scouts at rumored suitors like Crystal Palace and West Ham United don’t watch the Bundesliga enough. Either way, it’s great for Bundesliga fans that the Dutchman gets to stick around.
With this defense and a competent attack, Wolfsburg should challenge for a top four spot. But unless the midfield either takes a massive step forward or picks up great reinforcements, Die Wölfe will likely fall short.
4. Borussia Mönchengladbach
Last season: 8th
Major Transfer In: Luca Netz (Hertha Berlin)
Major Transfer Out: Valentino Lazaro (returning to Inter Milan)
Anyone who watched Mönchengladbach in the first half of the season could see what the team had going for it: a quick attack with a mercurial midfield anchored by a strong backline. It was good enough for them to make the knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions League. However, once then coach Marco Rose announced he’d be swapping Borussias, the team nose-dived. They poached Eintracht Frankfurt head coach Adi Hütter and his leadership might be the biggest thing BMG acquired this summer. Their transfer window was light both coming in and going out. Adding Luca Netz bodes well for the future, but otherwise there were few moves the team made. They cut a lot of elder statesmen including Oscar Wendt and Michael Lang, but didn’t lose a major midfielder like Florian Neuhaus or Lars Stindl. And therein lies the dynamic Monchengladbach is dealing with: a team that is very much intact, returning all of it’s starters after a trial by fire season. Now it’s time to see if they’ll melt under the heat, or be forged by it.
I know expecting the team to jump from 8th to 4th is a bit out there - especially with no major additions. But I truly believe Die Fohlen were a better team last year than their position in the table tells. With a stable manager, the team may finally be able to reach their potential.
3. RB Leipzig
Last season: 2nd
Major Transfer In: Andre Silva (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Major Transfer Out: Ibrahima Konate (Liverpool)
Change is always hard and there’s always an adjustment period. Starting at the top with the manager. Out goes one bright young mind in Julian Nagelsmann and in comes one bright slightly older mind in Jesse Marsch. Marsch’s RB Salzburg teams have run on youth, innovation, and high pressing - a concept which will come naturally to the team in Leipzig. Die Roten Bullen have made improvements this offseason. Losing Timo Werner the year prior hurt their goal scoring output. They fixed that in acquiring the 2nd highest goal scorer in the league last year in Andre Silva. In addition, this should also be the first full season we see Hungarian Dominik Szoboszlai in action. Their midfield got younger with the acquisition of New York Red Bulls talent Caden Clark, who is set to join the team when RBNY’s season ends (so...November?). While the potential departure of Marcel Sabitzer is worrisome, the team can still rely on Christopher Nkunku, Tyler Adams and Emil Forsberg to hold the fort. Even with the departures of Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate, the backline is still strong with players like Marcel Halstenberg, Lukas Klostermann, and Benjamin Heinrichs who made his loan from Monaco permanent. Even still, they brought in young center-backs in Josko Gvardiol from Dinamo Zagreb and Mohamed Simakan from RC Strasbourg. On top of all that, last year’s clean sheet champion Peter Gulacsi is still in net.
Jesse Marsch has a tough task ahead of him after the departure of many of his top players (and another one possibly on the cards). But his mindset is in line with what Red Bull want for this club and he won’t let them down in that regard. The team got better in a lot of areas, but with so much change happening at once, it’s unclear whether the Red Bulls will be emboldened and win the title or stumble and take a small step back.
2. Borussia Dortmund
Last season: 3rd
Major Transfer In: Donyell Malen (PSV Eindhoven)
Major Transfer Out: Jadon Sancho (Manchester United)
Let’s start with what Dortmund lost. After managing to fend off all of England last summer, Jadon Sancho returned to Manchester wearing red this time. Other players lost didn’t have the same impact on the field last season, but losing Marcel Schmelzer and Lukasz Piszczek will have a major impact on the dressing room. Now to who they didn’t lose: Erling Haaland is back for this season and he’ll be looking to add more money on to the inevitable price tag he’ll demand at the end of this season. The midfield is still a diverse array of talent and the backline returns most of the same cast as the last season. Overall, losing Sancho hurts, but outside of him, Dortmund didn’t lose anyone of substance. In turn, they added two new key pieces. Forward Donyell Malen is versatile and capable of playing across every side of the attack. Whenever Gio Reyna is incapable of playing right wing, Malen can fill that role. The other key piece they added was Marco Rose from Borussia Monchengladbach. After they announced that decision, their caretaker manager Edin Terzic rebounded the team, leading them to a DFB-Pokal title. Terzic is still with the team and with Rose there, it’ll be interesting to watch the dynamic between the two. Time will tell if Dortmund made the correct decision.
This season will probably come down to the final day. In the end, I’m not sure if Dortmund will be able to improve their mentality from the previous season’s roller coaster ride in the managerial seat, but they’ll keep things close.
1. Bayern Munich
Last season: 1st
Major Transfer In: Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig)
Major Transfer Out: David Alaba (Real Madrid on a free)
This is not the Bayern Munich of last year, or the one before that, or the one before that. This team will have a much harder time of winning the title this season. This is a team full of problems. After losing two sentinels on the backline in Alaba and Jerome Boateng, the club has managed to only bring in one replacement in Upamecano. Right back is still a shaky proposition, with Benjamin Pavard starting with an injury and Bouna Sarr being the only backup. Left back is a similar issue after a mediocre season from Alphonso Davies. The midfield lost an aging warrior in Javi Martinez. While the forward core didn’t lose anyone, they didn’t exactly improve either. But with all of that said, this is still Bayern Munich. Even after Hansi Flick left for the head coaching gig at the DFB, the club managed to pick up Bavarian coaching mastermind Julian Nagelsmann. The midfield duo of Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich is stronger than ever. Bayern managed to hold on to Kingsley Coman (for now) so he can continue to serve balls into the middle for Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski to pounce on. There are a number of players who need to bounce back (Davies, Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane) and more players who want to prove themselves to the world (Chris Richards, Marc Roca, Jamal Musiala). The writing is on the wall for Bayern: the core is aging and their time might be up. The only question is this: can they delay the inevitable for one more year?
Bayern Munich did not have a net improvement in the transfer window this season. Fortunately for them, neither did any of their opponents. With a backline in flux and a new manager, it will not be easy sailing for Die Rekordmeister. With that said, I expect them to find a way to figure it out and carry home the title once more.
Let us know what your thoughts are in the comments! How do you think the season will play out?