Just a few weeks after Bayern Munich triumphed in the Champions League to clinch another treble, the 2020/21 Bundesliga seasons gets underway with the shadow of the corona virus crisis hanging over it. The new campaign will still have to be conducted behind closed doors with the Geisterspiele not permitting fans just yet.
As has become the norm in recent years, some of the Bundesliga’s top talent has been lured away with Timo Werner joining Chelsea, Kai Havertz poised to join him and Weston McKennie moving to Juventus.
There is however plenty of talent to call upon and an exciting batch of young players ready to make the breakthrough into arguably the finest league in Europe. It will be another strange season with a congested fixture calendar and an initial absence of the famed stadium atmosphere, but the season promises much excitement as the chasing pack contest to end Bayern’s dominance.
Here is part 1 of Bundesliga Fanatic’s Bundesliga club season previews, listed in reverse order of finishing place from last season (last to first):
2019/20 finish: 2nd, 2. Bundesliga (promoted)
Major signings: Waldemar Anton (Hannover, Gregor Kobel (Hoffenheim), Wataru Endo (St. Truiden), Pascal Stenzel (Freiburg), Konstantinos Mavropanos (Arsenal loan)
Major departures: Anastasios Donis (Stade Reims), Chadrac Akolo (Amiens), Mario Gomez (retired), Holger Badstuber (Stuttgart II)
The Swabians made an instant return to the Bundesliga after their relegation in 2019/20 when Union Berlin overcame them in the relegation play-off. Having fended off the challenge from HSV and Heidenheim to finish as runners-up behind Arminia Bielefeld, the task now is very much to survive in the topflight.
Stuttgart need to do what Union Berlin did last season rather than mimic what happened to Paderborn. Coach Pellegrino Matarazzo has a young squad that he has strengthened defensively with the signings of Anton and Mavropanos, but a question mark remains over the future of Argentine striker Nicolas Gonzalez. They would seriously miss the goals of last season’s top scorer and will have an anxious wait until the transfer window closes.
Player to watch: Daniel Didavi
With a young team going into the new Bundesliga season, a lot of responsibility will be on the experienced players, who have been there before and one such old head will be Daniel Didavi. With over 150 Bundesliga appearances with Stuttgart and Wolfsburg, the 30-year-old will have an important role to play this season along with new captain Gonzalo Castro.
Didavi’s talent is clear, but the accusation that he hasn’t properly lived up to his potential is not easy to argue against. His ability to inspire the team, create and score goals will go a long way to helping the Swabians secure survival.
2019/20 finish: 1st, 2. Bundesliga (promoted)
Major signings: Christian Gebauer (SCR Altach), Jacob Barrett Laursen (Odense), Nathan de Medina (Royal Mouscron), Noel Niemann (1860 Munich), Sergio Cordova (Augsburg loan)
Major departures: Jonathan Clauss (RC Lens)
Bielefeld romped to the 2. Bundesliga title last season with an excellent team that dominated the league from start to finish. That triumph is however very much a thing of the past as they prepare for the challenges ahead as huge underdogs.
Uwe Neuhaus needs to take the formation, system and tactics that worked so well last season and adapt them to suit the Bundesliga. Bielefeld led the league on distance covered last season and the players are going to have to put in an equal if not increased shift this season.
How the absence of fans will affect the club is another factor to consider. The home support to a newly promoted side is often worth a few points and the Schüco Arena can certainly create quite the atmosphere- sadly,that won’t be available for the foreseeable future.
Player to watch: Fabian Klos
Germany’s version of Leicester’s Jamie Vardy, Klos has been with Arminia through thick and thin for the past nine years winning promotions to the second tier as well as relegation to the 3. Liga.
21 goals last season saw him finish as the league’s top scorer and the 32-year-old will finally get his chance to play in the Bundesliga after staying loyal to the club in the hard times. Bielefeld are going to need goals to beat teams and pick up points and they will look to their main man to do that.
2019/20 finish: 16th
Major signings: Felix Agu (VfL Osnabrück), Patrick Erras (Nürnberg), Tahith Chong (Manchester Utd loan),
Major departures: Nuri Sahin (Antalyaspor), Fin Bartels (Holstein Kiel), Claudio Pizarro (retired), Philipp Bargfrede (released), Kevin Vogt (Hoffenheim loan return)
Werder went into last season with European aspirations but ended it within a hair’s breadth of relegation. Only a nervous play-off win over Heidenheim secured their status as a topflight side and it will be interesting to see whether they can bounce back from the trauma of last season.
In modern football the coach is often the fall guy, so Florian Kohfeldt van consider himself very lucky the Werder board have kept faith in him. He now has to deliver on that faith and get the Grün-Weißen playing decent football again.
The Milot Rascica transfer saga has still not been concluded at the time of writing with his proposed move to RB Leipzig stalling. More will be expected of Maxi Eggestein, and the hope is that new midfielder Patrick Erras can provide the pivot around which the team can thrive. The hope is that things can only get better, but then that’s what HSV said a few years back.
Player to watch: Tahith Chong
The last player to arrive at the Weser Stadion from a big English club was Serge Gnabry and look how that turned out. Chong is highly regarded at Old Trafford and the hope is that a season in the Bundesliga will give him the platform to shine and develop his potential.
If this is the case, then both Bremen and United benefit. If he is anywhere near the success that Gnabry was, a much better season awaits Werder.
2019/20 finish: 15th
Major signings: Daniel Caligiuri (Schalke), Rafal Gikiewicz (Union Berlin), Tobias Strobl (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Felix Uduokhai (VfL Wolfsburg)
Major departures: Philipp Max (PSV Eindhoven), Stephane Lichtsteiner (retired), Daniel Baier (released), Andreas Lüthe (Union Berlin)
Since being promoted back in 2011, Augsburg have been continually labelled as relegation candidates, but ten years later they are still in the Bundesliga and confounding the sceptics. This coming season will be no different with the Fuggerstädter forecast to be one of the teams battling down at the foot of the table. The task for Heiko Herrlich and his team is to once more prove all the doubters wrong.
There has been a real injection of Bundesliga experience and the spine of the side looks strong with the goals of Florian Niederlechner and Alfred Finnbogason almost a guarantee. The loss of Philipp Max at left-back is a big blow, but in Iago, they have a ready-made replacement.
Many will have Augsburg down for relegation this season, but don’t be too surprised to see them celebrating an 11th Bundesliga survival next summer.
Player to watch: Tobias Strobl
The release of club legend and captain Daniel Baier came as a quite a shock to many Augsburg fans and the manner of his departure didn’t go down too well, but the club needed to make room for the arrival of six-years younger Strobl from Gladbach and his presence in the central midfield area could be vital this season.
His passing, tackling and leadership qualities were not seen as often as he would have liked in the last few seasons due to injury and competition for places, but at Augsburg he has the perfect opportunity to make a real impact.
2019/20 finish: 14th
Major signings: Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover loan)
Major departures: Birger Verstraete (Royal Antwerp), Vincent Koziello (Funchal loan), Simon Terodde (Hamburger SV), Kingsley Schindler (Hannover loan), Marcel Risse (Viktoria Köln loan)
The season target for the Geißböcke will be the same as last year- to simply avoid relegation. Markus Gisdol was drafted in midway through last season when that looked in danger and oversaw a run of eight victories in eleven matches, which ultimately kept them up.
The spine of the side with Timo Horn, Sebastian Bornauw, Jonas Hector and Jhon Cordoba looks strong, but building a side around them capable of staying in the top division is the task ahead of the new season. As seems usual at the Rhein club, there are behind the scenes troubles at board level, which it will hoped won’t have a detrimental impact on the playing side.
Aside from the incoming back-up keeper Zieler, there has been no transfer activity from Köln and in these uncertain financial times, not much is expected to change. Whether the squad is strong enough to secure survival remains to be seen, as there are a number of clubs all of similar ability on paper vying for their place in the top division.
Player to watch: Noah Katterbach
Much is expected of Köln’s left wing back this season as he seeks to fulfil his enormous potential. The youngster recently won the gold Fritz Walter medal in the U-19 category (awarded to Germany’s best young talent) and will be looking to become a first team regular this season at the Rhein-Energie Stadion after making 12 appearances last season.
He recently signed a new contract until 2024 and will want to do all he can to ensure those years are spent in the Bundesliga not the second tier.
2019/20 finish: 13th
Major signings: Luca Kilian (Paderborn), Dmitri Lavalee (Standard Liege)
Major departures: None
The victories over Borussia Dortmund and Werder Bremen at the tail end of last season showed that there is a real team spirit at Mainz and when the chips are down, they have the quality within their squad to fetch important points. That spirit and quality needs to be called upon again next season as the Nullfünfer embark upon another ‘Mission: Survival’.
Much will depend on the outcome of the summer transfer window. Mainz are more than used to losing their top stars each summer with recent years seeing the departures of Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Abdou Diallo. This summer has thus far seen no bids for their top players and keeping Robin Quaison and Jean-Philippe Mateta at the Opel Arena could prove key.
Much like Augsburg, the Karneval club continue to regularly punch above their weight and maintain their Bundesliga status when so-called ‘bigger’ clubs such as Hamburg, Stuttgart and Köln suffer relegation.
Player to watch: Jonathan Burkardt
Burkardt scored his first goal for Mainz in only his second start for the Nullfünfer last season when he grabbed the first goal in their shock win over Borussia Dortmund on matchday 32. The win all but secured Bundesliga survival making it all the sweeter for the young striker.
The 20-year-old youth product will want to push on this season and add to his solitary Bundesliga strike. He has Jean-Philippe Mateta, Karim Onisiwo and Adam Szalai to compete with, but should trainer Achim Beierlorzer give him the playing time, the U-21 international should repay him with goals.