Cheap ticket prices, excellent facilities and infrastructure, flourishing academies, raucous fan support; The Bundesliga looks fantastic on paper. However Bayern Munich have dominated the competition since 2012. Can ‘die Roten’ retain their title once again or will Pep be pipped?
Note: All transfers up to date as of 11 August 2015.
FC Augsburg Manager: Markus Weinzerl. Last season: 5th
In: Philipp Max (Karlsruhe), Dominik Kohr (Leverkusen), Yannik Öttl (Unterhaching), Piotr Trochowski (Sevilla).
Out: Mathias Fetsch (Dynamo Dresen), Nikola Djurdjić (Malmö), Dominik Reinhardt and 1 other player released.
Transfer grade: B-
What’s in store: Augsburg are no longer underdogs. Last season they managed an impressive 5th place, which granted them access to the Europa League. They have made subtle transfer signings in the market but need to add more depth to cope with the impending European commitments. Realistically, it will be hard for them to finish above the likes of Dortmund and Schalke again and history shows that smaller teams struggle to maintain a high league position whilst playing in Europe. Nevertheless, mid-table security with a good European run would constitute a good season.
Key player: Raúl Bobadilla
Bobadilla’s second spell in the Bundesliga has proved more successful than his first one with Borussia Mönchengladbach. The South American contributed ten goals and four assists last term. The team will look to him again to provide consistency up front as goal scoring is not their strongest asset. Piotr Trochowski has been brought back to Germany from Sevilla and is a calculated risk that could work out for the Bavarian side.
One to watch: Philipp Max
With Baba Rahman’s move to Chelsea almost all but confirmed, manager Markus Weinzerl has brought in Max from Karlsruhe. The 21-year-old made 23 appearances for the team in the 2. Bundesliga last season but has very little top-flight experience. It will be a baptism of fire for the youngster but if he gets through it then Augsburg can maintain defensive solidity.
Predicted finish: 11th. Predicted Europa League run: Round of 32
Bayer Leverkusen Manager Roger Schmidt. Last season: 4th
In: Admir Mehmedi (SC Freiburg), Jonathan Tah (Hamburg), Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Schalke), André Ramalho (Red Bull Salzburg).
Out: Gonzalo Castro (Dortmund), Josip Drmić (Mönchengladbach), Arkadiusz Milik (Ajax), Dominik Kohr (Augsburg), Stefan Reinartz (Frankfurt), Simon Rolfes (Retired).
Transfer grade: A-
What’s in store: A solid first season under new coach Roger Schmidt with the main aim of Champions League qualification realised. In fact Leverkusen came extremely close to beating the former Champions League runners-up Atlético Madrid at the Vicente Calderón as they bowed out on penalties. Long-term servants Simon Rolfes and Stefan Reinartz have moved on and Schmidt must find more balance between the defence and the attack as well shaking off the ‘runners-up’ label if they are to succeed.
Key player: Hakan Çalhanoglu
The Turkish attacking midfielder is part of the dynamic trio featuring Son Heung-Min and Karim Bellarabi. The player scored a reasonable 13 goals in all competitions and provided 9 assists to his teammates. He has great ball control and can dribble as well, not to mention his free-kick taking skills, which have been likened to Cristiano Ronaldo and Juninho Pernambucano- high praise indeed.
One to watch: Jonathan Tah
Ömer Toprak’s long-term injury is not how Leverkusen would have wanted to start the season. This puts extra pressure on young Tah and Kyriakos Papadopoulos, both new signings, to strike up an effective defensive partnership especially considering they face Lazio in a crucial Champions League qualifier to advance to the group stages.
Predicted finish: 4th. Predicted Champions League run: Round of 16
Bayern München Manager: Pep Guardiola. Last season: Champions
In: Arturo Vidal (Juventus), Douglas Costa (Shakhtar Donetsk), Joshua Kimmich (Stuttgart).
Out: Bastian Schweinsteiger (Manchester United), Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City), Pepe Reina (Napoli), Mitchell Weiser (Hertha BSC), Claudio Pizarro (Released).
Transfer grade: B+
What’s in store: When Bayern aren’t buying the best players from other teams in the Bundesliga they are buying the best players from other leagues. Costa and Vidal are really useful additions bearing in mind the injury troubles of Ribéry and the departure of Schweinsteiger. However, chinks are starting to appear in their armour. They lost 5 games after the winter break last season. Guardiola looks set to leave this time next year and these days winning the Bundesliga is not enough for the board. Even though Guardiola should deliver the league title (otherwise the season can be classed as at total failure), beating the top two Spanish teams or even Chelsea in the Champions League will prove difficult.
Key player: Robert Lewandowski
So many to choose from; the pace of Robben, the versatility of Lahm but ultimately I had to go for the goal scoring machine that is Robert Lewandowski. 25 goals in 49 appearances last season, not bad for a free agent… Still only 26 years-old, the Pole can reach even greater heights and challenge Sergio Agüero, Luis Suarez and Zlatan Ibrahimović as the best out-and-out striker in the world.
One to watch: Sebastian Rode
The German might get his chance this year with a consistent run in the first-team due to the hole left by Schweinsteiger and the ageing Xabi Alonso. The task of taking over Schweini’s mantle is a difficult one but Pep Guardiola is renowned for giving younger players the opportunity to thrive.
Predicted finish: Champions. Predicted Champions League run: Semi Final
Borussia Dortmund Manager: Thomas Tuchel. Last season: 7th
In: Gonzalo Castro (Leverkusen), Roman Bürki (Freiburg), Julian Weigl (1860 München).
Out: Mitchell Langerak (Stuttgart), Miloš Jojić (Köln), Ciro Immobile (Sevilla), Zlatan Alomerović (Kaiserslautern), Sebastian Kehl (Retired).
Transfer grade: B+
What’s in store: Star manager Jürgen Klopp has left after 7 years of magnificent service and Thomas Tuchel has replaced him. Tuchel’s main priority will be changing the team’s philosophy. After years of being moulded to suit Klopp’s attacking and pressing style, Tuchel will have to implement his strategy amongst the squad immediately. This season should be more straightforward than last and the Schwarzgelben should be challenging with Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke for Champions League places.
Key player: Marco Reus
Marco Reus is without a doubt an exceptionally talented player. However injuries plagued him last year as he missed the World Cup and suffered throughout the league campaign. This year is a big year as everyone is aware of what he can bring to the Dortmund team but he needs to increase his playing time to allay injury concerns. Otherwise, he could risk not exploiting his full potential.
One to watch: Henrikh Mkhitaryan
A rather obvious name but Mkhitaryan’s season is just as crucial as Reus’ one. The Armenian is Dortmund’s record signing at 25 million euros but so far he has only notched up 17 goals in 77 appearances. This season may be his last chance to prove to the Dortmund fans that he is a worthy replacement for Mario Götze. Luckily he has started well with a 13 minute hat-trick against Wolfsberger AC in a Europa League qualifying match.
Predicted finish: 3rd. Predicted Europa League run: Quarter Final
Borussia Mönchengladbach Manager: Lucien Favre. Last season: 3rd
In: Josip Drmić (Leverkusen), Thorgan Hazard and Andreas Christensen (Chelsea), Nico Elvedi (FC Zürich), Lars Stindl (Hannover), Tobias Sippel (Kaiserslautern).
Out: Max Kruse (Wolfsburg), Amin Younes (Ajax), Nico Brandenburger (FC Luzern), Filip Daems (Westerlo), Janis Blaswich (Dresden), Peniel Mlapa (Bochum), Thorben Marx (Retired).
Transfer grade: B
What’s in store: What Lucien Favre has done with Borussia Mönchengladbach is remarkable. When he took over in early 2011, they were bottom of the league. Now, the Foals are one of the elite teams in the league, as evidenced by last season. Christoph Kramer has returned to parent club Bayer Leverkusen and Max Kruse has left to join Wolfsburg. Favre and reputed sporting director Max Eberl have replaced them with Lars Stindl and Josip Drmić. Repeating last season’s feats will be very difficult but Mönchengladbach should challenge for places in Europe.
Key player: Yann Sommer
It’s as if Marc-André ter Stegen never left. The Swiss goalkeeper has been so impressive and was a huge part of the side that last season conceded just 26 goals (only Bayern conceded less).
One to watch: Josip Drmić
Swiss efficiency runs through the whole team from the manager, to the keeper, to the midfield orchestrator (Granit Xhaka) right up to the forward line. Let’s not forget that two seasons ago Drmić was the third top scorer in the Bundesliga and was responsible for almost half of Nürnberg’s goals. Last season he had to play second fiddle behind Kießling at Leverkusen but at the Borussia Park he will get his opportunity to prove his worth.
Predicted finish: 5th. Predicted Champions League run: Group Stage
SV Darmstadt 98 Manager: Dirk Schuster. Last season: 2nd (Promoted)
In: Mario Vrančić (Paderborn), Fabian Holland, Peter Niemeyer and Sandro Wagner (Hertha BSC), Luca Caldirola (Bremen), Jan Rosenthal (Frankfurt), Konstantin Rausch (Suttgart), Júnior Díaz (Mainz).
Out: Hanno Behrens (Nürnberg) Leon Balogun (Mainz), Romain Brégerie (Ingolstadt), Ronny König (Chemnitz), Timon Fröhlich, and 2 others released.
Transfer grade: C+
What’s in store: Back-to-back promotions have helped Darmstadt to an unprecedented top-flight appearance, their first one since the 1982 season. Manager Dirk Schuster admits they need 5 or 6 more players but financial restraints will make it difficult for the Lillies to sign anyone of note before the end of the transfer window. Surviving relegation will be a huge mountain to climb and ultimately it is likely that the small team will suffer the same fate as the ones that went before them (Eintracht Braunschweig and Paderborn).
Key player: Aytaç Sulu
The captain has played through Darmstadt’s remarkable rise through the ranks and is a symbol of the team’s success. Before signing, Sulu played in the second tier of the Austrian Bundesliga. Now he is captain and the team will look to him for inspiration in difficult times of the season.
One to watch: Konstantin Rausch
The versatile left-sided player brings much-needed Bundesliga experience to the underdogs with almost 200 appearances. He will need to have energy on the flank and use his Bundesliga nous to snuff out potential dangers in defence.
Predicted league finish: 18th
Eintracht Frankfurt Manager: Armin Veh. Last season: 9th
In: Luc Castaignos (FC Twente), Lukas Hradecky (Brøndby), David Abraham (Hoffenheim), Stefan Reinartz (Leverkusen), Heinz Lindner (Austria Vienna).
Out: Kevin Trapp (PSG), Jan Rosenthal (Darmstadt), Olivier Occéan (Odds BK), Nélson Valdez (Seattle Sounders), Felix Wiedwald (Bremen).
Transfer grade: C+
What’s in store: Armin Veh returns for a second spell in charge of the Adlers. First priority will be to inject some harmony following the more turbulent tenure of Thomas Schaaf. Stefan Reinartz is a good addition but otherwise there’s not much to cheer about. Question marks hang over Kevin Trapp’s replacements. More worryingly the Bundesliga’s top scorer in 2014-15, Alex Meier, will miss the start of the season through injury. The team were so dependent on his goals last season and Veh knows that it will be tough to maintain last season’s 9th place finish.
Key player: Alex Meier
Meier now begins his 12th season at Frankfurt and comes off the back of his most successful campaign. 20 goals in just 26 appearances makes you wonder how effective he could be were it not for injuries. Once again this season the German has been hit by the injury bug with a tendon rupture. Fans and players will pray for a speedy recovery for their main marksman.
One to watch: Luc Castaignos
1,8 million euros seems incredibly good business for a 22-year-old Dutch striker who has scored 14 goals in each of his last three seasons. Of course he will likely not be able to fill Meier’s shoes and will probably be behind Haris Seferović in the pecking order. Nevertheless he gives Veh the tactical flexibility of being able to switch to 4-4-2 in key stages of games.
Predicted finish: 10th
Hamburger SV Manager: Bruno Labbadia. Last season: 16th
In: Lewis Holtby (Tottenham), Albin Ekdal (Cagliari), Michael Gregoritsch (Bochum), Sven Shipplock (Hoffenheim), Gotoku Sakai (Stuttgart), Bathuan Altinas (Bursaspor), Emir Spahić (Unattached).
Out: Johnathan Tah (Hamburg), Valon Behrami (Watford), Lasse Sobiech (St. Pauli), Jacques Zoua (Gazélec Ajaccio), Rafael van der Vaart and Heiko Westermann (Real Betis), Maximilian Beister (Mainz), Slobodan Rajković (Released), Marcell Jansen (Retired).
Transfer grade: A-
What’s in store: How many lives in the Bundesliga do Hamburg have? They finished 16th last season, scored a 90th minute free-kick and then an extra time winner in the second leg of a play-off against Karlsruhe to secure survival. Top earners like van der Vaart and Westermann have departed the club and coach Labbadia will be hoping to continue the good form they had at the end of last season. They should also try and get rid of their Aston Villa syndrome as they only scored 25 goals last season.
Key player: Emir Spahić
There is no doubt that Emir Spahić does not fit into the current Hamburg ethos of buying and developing young players. At 34-years-old he is certainly no spring chicken. Then there’s the fact that he had his contract terminated at Bayer Leverkusen for head butting a member of the club’s security personnel. The Bosnian is a risk but in March 2015, he was proclaimed the best defender in Europe ahead of the likes of Mats Hummels and Thiago Silva by the International Centre for Sports Studies.
One to watch: Albin Ekdal
The Swedish midfielder has calmly been plugging away for the last couple of seasons at Serie A side Cagliari and is the team’s second most expensive signing of the transfer window. He scored an unprecedented hat trick for the Sardinians at the San Siro against Inter and has been praised by national team compatriot Zlatan Ibrahimović.
Predicted finish: 15th
Hannover 96 Manager: Michael Frontzeck. Last season: 13th
In: Oliver Sorg and Felix Klaus (Freiburg), Mevlüt Erdinc (Saint-Étienne), Uffe Bech (FC Nordsjællend), Charilson Benschop (Fortuna Düsseldorf), Philipp Tschauner (St. Pauli), Allan Saint-Maximin (Monaco).
Out: Joselu (Stoke), Lars Stindl (Mönchengladbach), Leonardo Bittencourt (Köln), Didier Ya Konan (Fortuna Düsseldorf), Robert Almer (Austria Vienna), João Pereira (Sporting Lisbon), Jimmy Briand (Guingamp), Markus Miller (Retired) Christoph Pander and 3 other players released.
Transfer grade: B
What’s in store: Hannover were only saved in the last two games of the season after having had a horrendous 16 match winless streak. Michael Frontzeck was the man who rescued them and the question now is whether he can build a new team following plenty of comings and goings this transfer window. The board will be aspiring towards an improvement on 13th place as in the last four seasons they have been progressively slipping down the table (7th, 9th, 10th, 13th).
Key player: Ron-Robert Zieler
It’s hard to believe that Ron-Robert Zieler was once on loan at Northampton Town as a Manchester United trainee. I guess the East Midlands toughened him up because he has not missed a minute of Bundesliga action in 4 years. A good shot-stopper, the 26-year-old together with captain Christian Schulz will be key to their defensive performances this season.
One to watch: Allan Saint-Maximin
The French winger is only 18-years-old but has already collected 17 appearances in two seasons at Saint-Étienne. He was signed by Monaco but has been loaned out to Hannover for the season. His blistering pace and dribbling should cause defenders one or two problems.
Predicted finish: 12th
Hertha Berlin Manager: Pál Dárdai. Last season: 15th
In: Vladímir Darida (Freiburg), Mitchell Weiser (Bayern München).
Out: Fabian Holland, Peter Niemeyer and Sandro Wagner (Darmstadt), Marcel Ndjeng (Paderborn), Johnny Heitinga (Ajax).
Transfer grade: C
What’s in store: Hertha were happy to stay in the top flight after deciding to recruit club legend Pál Dárdai halfway through the season when they were flirting with relegation. Nevertheless big problems remain with a very porous defence and, since the departure of Adrian Ramos, a weak attack. So far Dárdai has not signed a striker in the transfer window but should certainly consider it before the window closes.
Key player: Salomon Kalou
The Ivorian is a terrace favourite at the Olympiastadion. He managed 6 goals in 27 appearances last season but with his previous goal scoring exploits at Chelsea and Lille, there should be more to come this season as the team clamour for a goal scorer.
One to watch: Mitchell Weiser
The youngster really impressed for Bayern Munich at the height of their injury crisis in 2014-15. The board decided not to give him a new contract and Hertha have snapped him up. He should be given more of a chance in Berlin and if he keeps his head focused on his development then he could prove to be important to this side.
Predicted finish: 16th
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim Manager: Markus Gisdol. Last season: 8th
In: Fabian Schär (Basel), Jonathan Schmid (Freiburg), Pavel Kaderábek (Sparta Prague), Joelinton (Recife), Mark Uth (Herenven), Marko Marić (Rapid Vienna), Antonio Colak (Nürnberg), Kevin Kurányi (Dinamo Moscow).
Out: Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Anthony Modeste (Köln), Afriyie Acquah (Torino), David Abraham (Frankfurt), Sven Shipplock (Hamburg), Andreas Beck (Besiktas), Luís Advincula (Bursaspor), Vincenzo Grifo (Freiburg), Tobias Weiz (Bochum), Sehad Salihović (Guizhou Renhe).
Transfer grade: B-
What’s in store: Hoffenheim just missed out on a place in the Europa League last season. Coach Markus Gisdol has brought in a few youngsters and let several established stars leave in a summer of much change. The departures of Firmino and Salihović will make fans wonder where the creative spark will come from. Nevertheless Hoffenheim should be safe in mid-table.
Key player: Niklas Süle
The 19-year-old is developing well with manager Gisdol. His imposing stature (193cm) means that he is strong and reads the game well to make vital interceptions. He should be a starter in Gisdol’s 4-2-3-1 formation next season alongside new signing Fabian Schär. Hoffenheim’s defence may be their strongpoint next season.
Key player: Kevin Kurányi
Kurányi has been around for what seems like forever but he is still only 33 and has a lot give to the team. One thing he will certainly bring, along with fan abuse, is experience in front of goal with 200 goals scored in his professional career.
Predicted finish: 7th
FC Ingolstadt 04 Manager: Raplh Hasenhüttl. Last season: 1st (Promoted)
In: Elias Kachunga (Paderborn), Romain Brégerie (Darmstadt), Örjan Nyland (Molde), Markus Suttner (Austria Vienna).
Out: André Weis (FSV Frankfurt), Christian Eigler and 1 other player released.
Transfer grade: B-
What’s in store: Coach Ralph Hasenhüttl has worked wonders with Ingolstadt and they will be participating in the Bundesliga for the first time in their 12-year existence. They will certainly be no pushovers but do lack experience. For example, 368 is the combined amount of Bundesliga games that the squad has played in, compared to 2906 of Bayern Munich. Also none of their players scored more than 10 goals last season. That might be an issue…
Key player: Matthew Leckie
Probably the most well known player in the Ingolstadt side. The forward scored 7 goals last season and will experience his first Bundesliga season as a regular. The team will look to the 2015 Asian Cup winning member to inject pace into their attack.
One to watch: Örjan Nyland
Ramazan Özcan has been Ingolstadt’s number one keeper since the 2011. He may now be usurped by new singing Örjan Nyland who is Norway’s number one goalkeeper. The Norwegian has already impressed in the pre-season friendlies and should start the new season in the first team.
Predicted finish: 17th
1. FC Köln Manager: Peter Stöger. Last season: 12th
In: Miloš Jojić (Dortmund), Anthony Modeste (Hoffenheim), Leonardo Bittencourt (Hannover), Frederik Sörensen (Juventus), Dominique Heintz (Kaiserslautern), Philipp Hosiner (Rennes).
Out: Kevin Wimmer (Tottenham), Anthony Ujah (Bremen), Daniel Halfar (Kaiserslautern), Miso Brečko (Nürnberg), Maximilian Thiel (Union Berlin), Bruno Nascimento (Tondela), Adam Matuschyk (Braunschweig), Thomas Bröker (Duisburg), Patrick Helmes (Retired).
Transfer grade: A-
What’s in store: Stability has finally been brought to the Rhein-Energie Stadion. Köln’s 12th place was very impressive in their first season back in the top flight and coach Peter Stöger should take credit for it. In the transfer window Köln have sold important players but they have replaced them adequately with exciting youngsters like Bittencourt or players with a point to prove such as Jojić.
Key player: Timo Horn
The goalkeeper has made 108 appearances in only three years with the Geißböcke. He now has the added bonus of a full years’ experience in the Bundesliga under his belt and will seek to maintain the team’s good defensive record with only 40 goals conceded in 2014-15.
One to watch: Leonardo Bittencourt
He’s probably been one to watch for about 3 seasons now but time is still generously on the 21-year-old’s side. This summer he has moved to Köln from Hannover in a bid to find an environment where he can grow as player and fulfil his promise.
Predicted finish: 9th
1. FSV Mainz 05 Manager: Martin Schmidt. Last season: 11th
In: Fabian Frei (Basel), Yoshinori Muto (FC Tokyo), Florian Niederlechner (FC Heidenheim), Besar Halimi (Stuttgart Kickers), Maximilian Beister (Hamburg), Leon Balogun (Darmstadt), Henrique Sereno (Kayserispor), Danny Latza (Bochum).
Out: Johannes Geis (Schalke), Shinji Okazaki (Leicester City), Sebastian Polter (Queens Park Rangers), Stafanos Kapino (Olympiakos), Julian Koch (Fortuna Düsseldorf), Júnior Díaz (Darmstadt), Damian Roßbach (Sandhausen), Nikolce Noveski (Released).
Transfer grade: C-
What’s in store: The Hesse club will begin their 7th consecutive season in the top flight with surviving again the main priority. Okazaki and Geis have left for pastures new, which leaves Martin Schmidt’s team lacking up front. He will have to get new signing Florian Niederlechner firing immediately.
Key player: Julian Baumgartlinger
The Austrian midfielder begins his 4th season now at Mainz and with Geis having gone to Schalke there is an even bigger onus on him that the midfield keep ticking over. Baumgartlinger breaks up play effectively and shields the team’s defence
One to watch: Fabian Frei
Joining Baumgartlinger as his midfield partner will be Mainz’s second most expensive transfer signing Fabian Frei. The Swiss player established himself at Basel and has Champions League experience. He should therefore provide composure when the red and whites are up against the more powerful teams.
Predicted finish: 14th
FC Schalke 04 Manager: André Breitenreiter. Last season: 6th
In: Johannes Geis (Mainz), Matija Nastasić (Manchester City), Franco Di Santo (Bremen), Júnior Caiçara (Ludogorets Razgrad), Sacha Riether (Freiburg).
Out: Jefferson Farfán (Al-Jazira), Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Leverkusen), Marcel Sobottka (Fortuna Düsseldorf), Chrisitan Fuchs (Leicester City), Tranquillo Barnetta (Philadelphia), Chinedu Obasi (Released).
Transfer grade: B+
What’s in store: Promise to disappointment last season with only a 6th place finish. The Königsblauen have hired a new coach in André Breitenreiter. This is only his 2nd managerial job so it will be interesting to see how he will cope with the pressure of one of the most notorious posts in German football. Star youngster Julian Draxler may still leave the Veltins Arena this summer but overall the squad has been strengthened. A Champions League challenge is on the cards.
Key player: Benedikt Höwedes
The defender has been associated with Schalke now for 14 years and is their captain and fan favourite. Having been chased by Bayern in recent years, the German has opted to stay at the club. He is one of the best defenders in the league and will once again be called upon for solid rear-guard action.
One to watch: Johannes Geis
Schalke have the player that according to Breitenreiter was missing in the team. Geis has impressed onlookers with his performances at Mainz and the Veltins Arena will look forward to his pin-point long passes in the future.
Predicted finish: 6th. Predicted Europa League run: Semi Final
VfB Stuttgart Manager: Alexander Zorniger. Last season: 14th
In: Mitchell Langerak (Dortmund), Prezmyslaw Tyton (PSV), Jan Kliment (FC Vysocina), Philip Heise (Heidenheim), Lukas Rupp (Paderborn), Emiliano Insúa (Atlético Madrid).
Out: Joshua Kimmich and Sven Ulreich (Bayern München), Gotoku Sakai (Hamburg), Konstantin Rausch (Darmstadt), Sercan Sararer (Fortuna Düsseldorg), Robin Yalcin (Rizespor), Thorsten Kirschbaum and Tim Liebold (Nürnberg), Mohammed Abdellaoue (Våleranga), Karim Haggui (Fortuna Düsseldorf).
Transfer grade: B
What’s in store: After a few years of dancing with the devil of relegation, Stuttgart now yearns for a decent mid-table finish. Manager Alexander Zorniger is a confident, daring coach however the same old problems remain. 60 goals conceded in last season’s Bundesliga is certainly nothing to write home about so Zorniger should sign another defender before the window closes.
Key player: Filip Kostić
One of the few players that shone in last season’s relegation scrap. Kostić’s debut season in the Bundesliga was consistent and if he carries on this form then he may have some of the bigger European clubs knocking at the door.
One to watch: Daniel Didavi
It’s such a shame that Daniel Didavi has spent so much time on the sidelines in his Stuttgart career because he really came into his own in the second half of last season. If he can stay fit for a full season then him and Kostić will form an exciting partnership on the flanks of midfield.
Predicted finish: 14th
SV Werder Bremen Manager: Viktor Skrypnyk. Last season: 10th
In: Anthony Ujah (Köln), Aron Jóhansson (AZ Alkmaar), Felix Wiedwald (Frankfurt), Ulisses García (Grasshopers Zürich).
Out: Davie Selke (Red Bull Leipzig), Franco Di Santo (Bremen), Nils Petersen (Freiburg), Luca Caldirola (Darmstadt), Sebastian Prödl (Watford), Eljero Elia (Feyenoord).
Transfer grade: B
What’s in store: Werder Bremen went from relegation favourites to Europa League contenders in the space of half a season under new Ukranian boss Viktor Skrypnyk. There have not been too many changes to the starting lineup but Franco Di Santo’s goals will be sorely missed. Anthony Ujah will therefore have to step up to the plate.
Key player: Zlatko Junuzović
The Austrian has grown under Skrypnyk’s leadership and provides a constant threat from midfield. His set-plays are one of his greatest assets and he will have to make sure that new signing Ujah has enough service to cause defenders danger.
One to watch: Maximilian Eggestein
Werder Bremen has had no shortage of great attacking midfielders in the last 10 years (Diego and Mesut Özil come to mind). They might have another one on their hands here. The 19-year-old has had an excellent pre-season and looks set for an extended run in the team. He reads play well and is very mature for such a young age.
Predicted finish: 8th
VfL Wolfsburg Manager: Dieter Hecking. Last season: 2nd
In: Max Kruse (Mönchengladbach), Carlos Ascuses (Melgar), Francisco Rodríguez (FC Zürich).
Out: Xizhe Zhang (Beijing Guoan), Stefan Klutschke (Nürnberg), Patrick Ochs (Released).
Transfer grade: B
What’s in store: Wolfsburg were Bayern Munich’s closest rivals in 2014-15. The team was so good last season that it is hard to find areas where they can improve it. The biggest concern at the moment is Kevin de Bruyne’s situation. Manchester City are circulating dangerously around the Belgian playmaker and if he departs then Dieter Hecking will have to use the funds to strengthen that position.
Key player: Ricardo Rodríguez
It would undoubtedly be de Bruyne but since he looks set to leave, Rodríguez becomes the Wolves’ key player. He is one of the best left-backs in the business at just 22-years-old. He can defend and attack well in equal measure and has great stamina. However he needs to work on his defensive discipline if he wants to improve.
One to watch: Nicklas ‘Lord’ Bendtner
The Lord has already started the season in imperious fashion. He has scored more goals than Cristiano Ronaldo by virtue of his 89th minute equaliser against Bayern Munich in the German Super Cup and then ramming home the winning penalty. With him in the team anything can happen and this season the force will be strong for Wolfsburg.
Predicted finish: 2nd. Predicted Champions League run: Round of 16