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 and Kai Havertz both joining Chelsea 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 the final part of Bundesliga Fanatic’s Bundesliga club season previews, listed in reverse order of finishing place from last season (last to first).
2019-20 finish: 6th
Major signings: Mijat Gacinovic (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Major departures: Steven Zuber (Eintracht Frankfurt)
The strange end to last season for Hoffenheim saw them part company with trainer Alfred Schreuder and then duly qualify for the Europa League in a respectable 6th place. In their first season post-Julian Nagelsmann, TSG managed to achieve their target and the task now is for new coach Sebastian Hoeneß to keep the momentum going.
The nephew of Bayern legend Uli managed to lead Bayern II to the 3. Liga title last season, but the step up to the Bundesliga will be a different level he will need to quickly come to terms with. The deflated transfer market means the new trainer will have pretty much the same squad at his disposal with a few graduates from the youth academy thrown in as well as the returning Kevin Vogt.
Christoph Baumgartner was the Sinsheim club’s breakout star last season and he will be looking to kick on, while star striker Andrej Kramaric will want to put the injury-hit 2019-20 behind him and start the way he finished last season (a four-goal haul against Borussia Dortmund).
The squad boasts a good mix of experience and youthful talent, it just remains to be seen what imprint the new coach can stamp upon them. European qualification has come to be what is expected. The question is can Hoeneß live up to the expectation and continue what was started by Nagelsmann?
Player to watch: Melayro Bogarde
Last season saw the emergence of attacker Christoph Baumgartner as a star at Hoffenheim, but this season could see the breakout youngster coming from the defence. Melayro Bogarde will be one to keep an eye on this season as he tries to force his way into new trainer Sebastian Hoeness’ plans.
Having only made his first team debut at the tail end of last season there is already a host of European clubs putting out their feelers for the 18-year-old Dutchman and nephew of former Ajax, Milan, and Chelsea star Winston Bogarde. When he joined the Hoffenheim U-17 side from Feyenoord in 2018 he was already being courted by the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea, but the Bundesliga is where he chose to being his topflight career.
The centre back can also play at full back as well as in a central defensive midfield position. Should he shine this season, expect the ‘big’ clubs to be sending their scouts on regular missions to the Prezero Arena this season.
2019-20 finish: 5th
Major signings: Patrik Schick (Roma), Lennart Grill (Kaiserslautern)
Major departures: Kai Havertz (Chelsea), Kevin Volland (Monaco)
Missing out on the top four and a place in the lucrative Champions League was a blow to Bayer Leverkusen at the end of last season and that blow wasn’t exactly softened by the departures this summer of Kai Havertz and Kevin Volland. The duo was responsible for a third of the total goals scored by the Werkself last year, so their losses will certainly be felt.
The signing of Patrik Schick will go some way to replacing them, but should Lucas Alario or Leon Bailey also leave, more attacking options will be needed. Recruitment has always been a strength of the club so the fans will be confident of having a competitive squad going into the new season with further arrivals surely in the pipeline.
How midfielder Exequiel Palacios develops this season will be a key part of any Leverkusen success as will the fitness of the Bender twins. The club coped well with the loss of Julian Brandt last summer, but it remains to be seen whether they can ride the impact of the loss of Havertz this summer with competition for European places as fierce as ever going into the new campaign.
Player to watch: Florian Wirtz
One of the players who grabbed the most headlines during the Geisterspiele at the end of last season was undoubtedly Bayer Leverkusen’s 17-year-old Florian Wirtz. He was surprisingly handed his full debut against Werder Bremen on matchday 26 and then duly broke Nuri Sahin’s youngest Bundesliga scorer record when he scored against Bayern Munich as a substitute aged 17 years and 34 days.
Wirtz was rather controversially lured away from the 1.FC Köln youth system and signed to the Werkself. “I knew a lot of clubs were interested and then we thought that before he went anywhere else, let’s try to get him to join us and stay at home. I’ve known the player since he was 14.” head of youth Simon Rolfes said.
Expecting the youngster to instantly step into Kai Havertz’s boots and replace him would be asking too much but expect Wirtz to exert a greater influence on the Leverkusen side the more he develops this season under Peter Bosz.
2019-20 finish: 4th
Major signings: Hannes Wolf (RB Leipzig loan), Valentino Lazaro (Inter loan), Joe Scally (NYCFC)
Major departures: Tobias Strobl (Augsburg), Raffael (released), Fabian Johnson (released)
Aside from Bayern Munich of course, Mönchengladbach were probably the stand-out side of last season and coach Marco Rose led them to Champions League qualification in his first season at the helm at the Borussia Park. The signings made last summer all instantly settled and the coach integrated them into the existing squad inherited from Dieter Hecking. Stefan Lainer, Ramy Bensebaini, Marcus Thuram and Breel Embolo all had excellent seasons, while established stars like Mathias Ginter, Nico Elvedi, Yann Sommer, and Patrick Hermann also played to their best.
In short, it all clicked last season as the Foals exciting brand of attacking football bore fruit. The task now is to try and maintain that with the added ‘burden’ of the Champions League in what is an already congested fixture list. Coping with matches every three or four days will provide new challenges that coach Marco Rose and his players are going to have to learn to deal with.
Hannes Wolf and Valentino Lazaro look like astute signings that will allow for a little more squad rotation, and all in all, Rose has two very good options for each outfield position giving him a great deal of flexibility.
Player to watch: Hannes Wolf
The 21-year-old looked set for big things last season after his summer move to RB Leipzig, but injury put paid to that and the season was a complete washout for the ex-Salzburg attacking midfielder. A new start was needed, and he has potentially found the ideal home at Mönchengladbach under his former trainer Marco Rose.
The coach knows him extremely well and looks to be the ideal man to help get his career back on track. “Hannes is a versatile player, who already played under our coach Marco Rose in Salzburg and will improve our attacking options,” said sporting director Max Eberl on announcing his signing. “He missed a lot of football last season at RB Leipzig due to a long-term injury. We’re pleased that he’s chosen to come here, and we hope we will have a lot of success together.”
2019-20 finish: 3rd
Major signings: Hee-chan Hwang (Red Bull Salzburg), Benjamin Henrichs (Monaco), Lazar Samardzic (Hertha Berlin)
Major departures: Timo Werner (Chelsea), Patrik Schick (Bayer Leverkusen)
The big question for RB Leipzig was how were they going to cope without the goals of Timo Werner, but they showed with their run to the Champions League semi-final that they have the players to cope without the pacey German international. The task for Julian Nagelsmann in his second season is to try and close the gap on Bayern (easier said than done) and replace Borussia Dortmund as main contenders for the Bavarians league crown.
Leipzig finished last season’s Hinrunde as Herbstmeister so developing more long-term consistency will be the aim going into the new campaign. Defensively they look very well equipped with Dayot Upamecano, Ibrahima Konaté and Nordi Mukiele forming a French base at the back with Marcel Halstenberg and Lukas Klostermann able to adapt to a back three or a back four, while the addition of Benjamin Henrichs adds further depth.
In midfield Marcel Sabitzer, Kevin Kampl and Konrad Laimer all proved their worth last season with Amadou Haidara looking very sharp in pre-season also. Much will depend on the goals from Hee-chan Hwang and the continued contribution of Yusuf Poulsen. RB Leipzig brought in Julian Nagelsmann to help take them to the next level. After a third-place finish and a Champions League semi-final, the next step is going to be a big challenge. Whether the club are up to it remains to be seen.
Player to watch: Dani Olmo
The fact that Real Madrid are reportedly keen on taking Dani Olmo back to Spain is testament to the impact the Spaniard had in his half season with RB Leipzig. Having proved his quality in Croatia with Dinamo Zagreb, the 22-year-old instantly made the jump up to the Bundesliga scoring three goals in his twelve appearances.
He has already become a key member of Julian Nagelsmann’s first team and further good displays are only going to exacerbate the interest from his homeland. That will at least mean he is doing something right at the Red Bull Arena.
2019-20 finish: 2nd
Major signings: Thomas Meunier (Paris St Germain), Jude Bellingham (Birmingham City), Reinier (Real Madrid loan)
Major departures: Achraf Hakimi (Inter), Leonardo Balerdi (Marseille loan), Mario Götze (released)
Another season as runners-up to Bayern Munich and another season as the Bundesliga’s bridesmaids for Dortmund means that the quest to topple the Bavarians from their throne goes on. Lucien Favre goes into what could be his final season in charge of the Schwarzgelben with arguably the best squad BVB have had in years meaning there will be little room for excuses come next May.
Achraf Hakimi has been the only notable departure, but the arrival of the experienced Thomas Meunier will go a long way to ease the loss. Erling Haaland starts his first full campaign after bursting onto the scene in the Rückrunde, while a number of highly promising young players have been added to the roster.
Giovanni Reyna, Jude Bellingham, and loan signing Reinier look to give Dortmund added quality, while Thorgan Hazard and Julian Brandt are also a year further in the development. Factor in the return of a fully fit Marco Reus and there can be no excuses that the squad available doesn’t have what it takes to win the title.
Hitting the consistency will be the key for Dortmund as well as hoping that the sky-high standards set by Bayern last season slip a little. It is a case of now or never for Lucian Favre.
Player to watch: Giovanni Reyna
Dortmund’s 17-year-old attacking midfielder made 15 appearances last season and looks set to add to that this season. Despite his young age, the American has shown both the maturity and ability to warrant a place in Lucien Favre’s first team plans and has featured heavily in pre-season scoring regularly to confirm the excitement surrounding next season.
He will have to compete with the likes of Marco Reus and Julian Brandt for game time, but that prospect won’t daunt him, and he is likely to grab any opportunities with both hands.
2019-20 finish: 1st
Major signings: Leroy Sané (Manchester City), Tanguy Nianzou (Paris St Germain), Alexander Nübel (Schalke)
Major departures: Thiago (Liverpool), Ivan Perisic (Inter loan return), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona loan return)
A mere 26 days after lifting the Champions League trophy in Lisbon to complete a second treble, Bayern begin the defence of their Bundesliga crown. The achievements of last season both individual and as a team will have to be filed away as the focus switches to what promises to be a very testing season.
The Bavarians go into the new campaign as clear favourites again, but the chasing pack will hope that there is a drop in the performance levels at the Allianz Arena and that a chink can be found in the armour of Bayern.
The squad has lost Thiago, Ivan Perisic and Philippe Coutinho, but the arrival of Leroy Sané adds another exciting option going forward. Having Niklas Süle and Lucas Hernandez back fully fit as well as new addition Tanguy Nianzou gives the defence plenty of permutations, although the future of David Alaba is still uncertain.
Knowing Bayern, the hunger and desire will still be there, but it is difficult to see where they can improve on last season under Hansi Flick. The likes of Dortmund and Leipzig are going to have to be ultra-consistent if they are going to take advantage of any Bayern slips this season.
Player to watch: Leroy Sané
A year after they first wanted to bring the former Schalke prodigy to the club, Bayern succeeded in signing Leroy Sané and for a ‘cut-price’ €45 million. With Serge Gnabry Hansi Flick can now call upon both of Germany’s first choice wingers to help feed Robert Lewandowski, with Sané having the added versatility of playing up front should an alternative be needed.
Having been schooled over the past few season under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, there will be few Bundesliga defenders looking forward to facing the 24-year-old this season. Robert Lewandowski on the other hand will be licking his lips in anticipation.