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FEATURE | Bundesliga 2021/22 Season Preview

The Bundesliga returns this weekend and the 2021/22 campaign looks to be one of the most exciting ones yet. Eight of the 18 teams have appointed new head coaches and whilst we’ve lost Jadon Sancho, Germany welcomes talented players such as Donyell Malen, Josko Gvardiol, Odilon Kossounou and Jesper Lindstrøm to one of the most watched leagues in the world.

Get German Football News would like to present to you a team-by-team guide for the 2021/22 season.

Bayern Munich

Having won the Bundesliga a staggering nine times in a row, Bayern Munich enter the new season as the overwhelming favourites for the league title. While they were briefly challenged last season, they ultimately pulled away from the rest of the pack, amassing a 13-point lead over second-placed RB Leipzig. With former head coach Hansi Flick now in charge of the German national team, they will be led by former Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann. Much intrigue surrounds how he will set up Bayern tactically, as he takes on the biggest challenge of his relatively young managerial career.

On the attacking front, little has changed. Star striker Robert Lewandowski is coming off an incredible season, having netted an astonishing 41 goals in 29 appearances. He doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon, especially as he continues to feed off the collective brilliance of Thomas Müller and Serge Gnabry in the final third. The all-action pair of Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka will continue to assert control in the midfield, while the exceptional Manuel Neuer remains as resolute as ever in goal. With the squad lacking depth in midfield and attack, look for the emerging Jamal Musiala to further entrench himself as a key squad member.

However, there is plenty of change in the defence ahead of their captain, with the experienced duo of David Alaba and Jerome Boateng both leaving in the summer. Big signing Dayot Upamecano will be expected to help step into their shoes, while a pre-season injury to the high-flying Alphonso Davies has opened the door for either the newly signed Omar Richards or highly touted youngster Josip Stanišić to start the campaign at left-back.

As usual, the sky is the limit for Bayern – anything less than the Bundesliga title would be a failure. Whether they will be challenged closely is ultimately down to the competition behind them.

RB Leipzig

“Bayern are Bayern, but if we manage to get firing and play to our limit, then we’ve got a chance [to win the Bundesliga],” RB Leipzig’s new signing Andre Silva recently told Sport Bild. “I think we’re at the start of an exciting story.”

Optimistic as that might sound, the Portuguese striker’s confidence in his new team isn’t misplaced at all. Having finished ahead of Borussia Dortmund in second place last season, Die Roten Bullen proved that they could be considered the Bavarians’ leading challenger in the German top-flight. The task now is to close the gap to the defending champions, and it now falls onto new head coach Jesse Marsch to take on. The American had previously impressed enough at Red Bull Salzburg to earn the job at Leipzig, where he will likely continue the free-flowing attacking brand of football that the Red Bull Arena has been accustomed to seeing.

Arguably one of the best signings of the summer, Silva’s arrival from Eintracht Frankfurt should elevate his new team to greater heights, having netted 28 goals last season. His clinical nature in front of goal will be crucial if they are to maintain a top-two finish, and with the likes of Dani Olmo, Christopher Nkunku and Dominik Szoboszlai behind him, there will certainly be chances for him to score. Further back, the respective departures of Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konaté have been offset by the arrivals of Mohamed Simakan and Josko Gvardiol, as Leipzig aim to maintain the meanest defence in the league – they conceded just 32 goals last season.

A sustained title challenge must be the goal this season for Die Roten Bullen, as they look to establish themselves firmly as Bayern’s closest rival. They should also aim for a prolonged spell in either the DFB Pokal or the Champions League, having yet to win any silverware since achieving promotion to the Bundesliga.

Borussia Dortmund

After a season of mixed fortunes, Borussia Dortmund will aim to rebound strongly under the guidance of new head coach Marco Rose. It was a turbulent first half of the 2020/21 campaign that saw Lucien Favre sacked, before Edin Terzic steered the club into finishing third following a mini resurgence during the league’s final months. Since his arrival from Borussia Mönchengladbach, Rose has quickly established his plans for Die Schwarzgelben throughout pre-season, with more direct ball movement and energetic pressing set to be key to their altered style of play.

One of the lengthiest transfer sagas of recent times came to an end this summer, with Jadon Sancho finally departing Borussia Dortmund for Manchester United. However, prodigious striker Erling Haaland is likely to remain in the black and yellow for this season, and his goals will once again help determine where his team will end up come next May. Alongside him, the newly signed Donyell Malen will also be expected to shoulder the attacking load left behind by Sancho, having been previously prolific for PSV Eindhoven. Having inherited the number 7 shirt, Giovanni Reyna is another young talent set to benefit from greater opportunities going forward, while England’s Jude Bellingham should continue to develop after a terrific debut year in Germany.

Importantly, Rose will be judged on whether he can solidify the club’s defence, a challenge that many of his predecessors have never successfully overcome. The presence of new goalkeeper Gregor Kobel, who did brilliantly at Stuttgart last season, will certainly be welcomed at Signal Iduna Park. Having swapped to a back-four, the success of his backline led by Mats Hummels will be key to deciding their fortunes this year.

The goal of winning the Bundesliga title persists for Dortmund, who will look to reclaim their status as Bayern’s top challenger away from RB Leipzig in the league. They’ll also look to go far in both the Champions League and the DFB Pokal, having recently won the latter last May.

VfL Wolfsburg

Having achieved a superb fourth-placed finish that earned them a return to the Champions League for the first time in five years, Wolfsburg will be hoping for similar success under new manager Mark van Bommel, who replaces Oliver Glasner in the dugout. The Dutchman, known for his combative style as a player, has big shoes to fill, having been handpicked by the club’s managing director sport Jörg Schmadtke. With this being only his second managerial job after his spell at Dutch club PSV Eindhoven, it will be interesting to see how he puts his stamp on a team that was the second stingiest in the league last season, conceding just 37 goals, while also being efficient in the final third.

What will be hugely beneficial for the 44-year-old is that Die Wölfe have managed to hold onto the majority of his squad, including star striker Wout Weghorst, who scored 20 goals for them last season and remains their key focal point. Meanwhile, there are hopes that the arriving German U21 forward Lukas Nmecha, fresh from winning the Golden Boot at the UEFA U21 Euros, can help ease the goalscoring burden placed on the Dutchman. In defence, their young talents in both centre-back Maxence Lacroix and right-back Ridle Baku, who both enjoyed a breakout 2020/21 campaign at the Volkswagen Arena, have also stayed, giving van Bommel a solid base to build on.

Given the success of their previous season, a similar finish will be expected of Wolfsburg, with qualification for European football likely to be the target at the end of the year. Yet their squad will be stretched considerably with their Champions League commitments, and it could prove to be a very difficult task at hand. A cup run would have been expected of them as well, but this seems unlikely given that they currently face a potential disqualification, having made one too many substitutions in their first-round win over Preußen Münster.

Eintracht Frankfurt

If not for a late season stumble, Eintracht Frankfurt could have earned their first UEFA Champions League campaign in just over 50 years. Unfortunately, they finished just outside the top four in what ended up being a superb year for them, having not lost a single league game at home. While losing key figures in both sporting director Fredi Bobič and head coach Adi Hütter at the season’s conclusion, the club remain in steady hands, with the latter replaced by Oliver Glasner, fresh from guiding Wolfsburg to a top-four finish. He has developed a track record of building strong defences and efficient attacks at his previous employers and will aim to do similar at his new club.

Having lost both Real Madrid loanee Luka Jović and top scorer Andre Silva, it’s in attack where Frankfurt has experienced the most change. Fans will therefore be hoping that newcomer Rafael Santos Borré, who was previously prolific at Argentinian side River Plate, can fill the goalscoring void up front. Their star man in left winger Filip Kostić has remained over the summer and will be counted on to provide the crosses for the Colombian forward, having notched up 14 assists with his deadly left-foot, alongside midfield creator Daichi Kamada who racked up 12 himself. Keep an eye on Jesper Lindstrom, who has arrived this summer and could be an exciting youngster to watch.

Another top-six finish will be the target for Frankfurt, as they bid for a fourth season of European football in five seasons. A first-round defeat to third-division side SV Waldhof Mannheim has ended their hopes of lifting the DFB Pokal Cup, which would have been their sixth cup triumph.

Bayer Leverkusen

Bayer Leverkusen will be looking to improve on a disappointing season that saw them slump into sixth place after a strong start to their campaign. In second place by the end of 2020, they fell away drastically, with head coach Peter Bosz eventually relieved of his duties in March. Hannes Wolf took over for the final six games, before the club moved to appoint Gerardo Seoane as a permanent replacement, who arrives having won three Swiss Super League titles in a row at BSC Young Boys. Under his guidance, fans can expect their team to play with an energetic press and quick direct attacks, which appears well-suited to the group of players that he inherits at the BayArena.

With the Bender twins of Sven and Lars both retiring in May, it’s at the back where Die Werkself have focused their recruitment this summer. Dutch U21 international Mitchel Bakker has arrived from Paris Saint-Germain and will be expected to be a regular at left-back, while 20-year-old Odilon Kossounou from Club Brugge is an exciting centre-back whose services required a Belgian record transfer fee of around €23m. At the opposite end, the loss of exciting winger Leon Bailey will be a blow, but the likes of Patrik Schick, Moussa Diaby and teen starlet Florian Wirtz should be able to step up accordingly to help cover for the Jamaican’s departure. Given his performances at the European Championships, plenty of attention will be on Schick to replicate his match-winning form for his club.

Leverkusen’s inconsistency was certainly on show last season – but a top-four finish should be an achievable target, with their competitive squad able to make it difficult for any team in the league. Having not won a major piece of silverware in nearly 30 years, a deep run in either the DFB Pokal or the Europa League should be an aim for them as well.

Union Berlin

Few teams around the world have had a more meteoric rise than Union Berlin. In just their second Bundesliga season, the club improved in finishing four places higher at an impressive seventh, achieving qualification for the UEFA Europa Conference League as a result. It was another remarkable accomplishment for a team whose budget is among the smallest in the division. Manager Urs Fischer deserves huge credit for his work with Die Eisernen, who are generally very well set-up defensively and can frustrate their opponents immensely, before launching a direct ball quickly to exploit them on the counterattack.

The team have been significantly bolstered over the summer, adding more than ten new names to their squad. Yet their talisman remains the veteran forward Max Kruse, with his 11 strikes in their last campaign crucial to their push up the table. His decision-making in the final third is superb and he remains one of the most gifted attackers in the league, being able to score or assist others with ease. The Nigerian striker Taiwo Awoniyi has signed for the club permanently from Liverpool and provides a key presence upfront for Union, while 34-year-old skipper Christopher Trimmel remains evergreen as ever, with his accurate crossing delivery from the right flank being crucial going forward. Having marshalled the backline brilliantly last year, Marvin Friedrich should benefit from the arrival of Timo Baumgartl, who will solidify their defence even further.

Showing a rapid progression during their time in the Bundesliga, it is hard to set out any concrete expectations for Die Eisernen. The added presence of European football should make this season more challenging than before for Fischer and his squad, so even a top-half finish in the league would probably be viewed as a success.

Borussia Mönchengladbach

While being relatively successful in the Champions League, Borussia Mönchengladbach took a few steps back in the Bundesliga last season, ultimately failing to qualify for Europe after missing out by a single point to Union Berlin. Inconsistency was a key feature of their frustrating campaign, while a mid-season slump came on the heels of the announcement that head coach Marco Rose was to depart at the season’s end. He has been replaced by Adi Hütter in the dugout, who took Eintracht Frankfurt to a top-five finish last year. The Austrian has already emphasised a focus on quick attacking transitions with the ball in pre-season and will aim to fortify a defence that conceded the fourth-most goals in the division.

On paper, the squad available to the 51-year-old is among the most talented in the league. The talented French attacking duo of Alassane Pléa and Marcus Thuram will certainly cause problems for opposing defences, but a prolific season for both players will make Gladbach a much tougher team to deal with, given that they combined for just 14 league goals last season. Hütter will also be counting on the duo of Lars Stindl and Breel Embolo for goals, while Florian Neuhaus should add further quality in midfield. In goal, Yann Sommer is coming off a terrific summer at the UEFA European Championships, while he’ll be assisted by one of the best defensive partnerships in Matthias Ginter and Nico Elvedi. Watch out for young American defender Joe Scally, who has already caught his manager’s eye in pre-season.

A return to European football must be the goal for Gladbach, who will be keen to prove that last season’s finish was an anomaly. A tricky start lies ahead for Hütter with Bayern the visitors on the opening night but given his pedigree and the talented squad at his disposal, the top-six is within their sights.

VfB Stuttgart

The 2020/21 Bundesliga season could not have got any better for Stuttgart, as they returned from the 2. Bundesliga to immediately establish themselves as a difficult side to beat. This was very much on show when they thumped Borussia Dortmund 5-1 on the road, and indeed were at one stage on pace to challenge for the top-six, before their push faded out towards the end of their campaign. Their head coach Pellegrino Matarazzo subsequently won many plaudits for his team’s entertaining style of play, which involves a high-intensive counter-press out of possession, as well as an emphasis on playing out from the back.

Having lost Nicolás González to Fiorentina, Sasa Kalajdžić will be even more important for Stuttgart. He was a revelation last season, ending with 16 goals to his name, and his ability to bring others into the game as well as score himself is indispensable to how his team operates going forward. Excitement machine Silas Katompa Mvumpa will continue to thrill fans with his energetic displays, although he will be absent for the start of the season due to a three-month ban. On the left wing, Borna Sosa’s superb left foot will be crucial to supply the likes of Kalajdžić, and the signing of Florian Müller from Mainz should help ease any goalkeeping concerns after the departure of Gregor Kobel to Dortmund.

Consolidating their place in the top-half should be an attainable target for Die Schwaben, although they certainly can join the race for Europe if they can remain consistent throughout the year. Much of their fortunes do depend heavily on Kalajdžić replicating his excellent goalscoring season however, so another 15-20 goals from him could see themselves challenge those closer to the top.

SC Freiburg

Another solid year saw Freiburg safely finish mid-table in the Bundesliga, just five points off European football and well clear of the relegation spots. It was another impressive campaign for the Baden-Württemberg club, who are looking forward to moving into their new 34,700-seater stadium in a few months’ time, having waited three years for its completion. Long-serving head coach Christian Streich continues to excel with the Breisgau-Brasilianer, using a direct, long-ball approach to push his players up the pitch, while setting them up well defensively with a solid low to mid-block structure.

They have been able to retain the majority of their squad, including mercurial Italian midfielder Vincenzo Grifo who racked up nine goals and ten assists in the league. He has an excellent creative eye with a superb passing ability that is unmatched among his teammates. Hungarian winger Rolland Sallai can be relied on to provide energy in the final third, while wing-backs Jonathan Schmid and Christian Günter are both capable of helping on the attacking end, as well as being defensively solid. There will be a new regular in goal, with Mark Flekken expected to start behind the sticks following the departure of last year’s regular pick in Florian Müller. A pair of 21-year-old youngsters in midfielder Yannick Keitel and forward Jeong Woo-yeong could be promising prospects to watch, with both having featured heavily in pre-season.

In no danger of being relegated, Freiburg will likely finish around mid-table, although they could make a push for European football if teams above them falter away. Settled without any wholesale changes, they will likely continue to stay well-clear of the bottom, so there is very little to fear overall for Streich and his players.

TSG Hoffenheim

Balancing the intense demands of the UEFA Europa League with the regular grind of the Bundesliga is a unique test that TSG Hoffenheim faced last season, and it did initially threaten to put them in trouble, as they racked up just two wins from their first nine games. Thankfully, they managed to pull through and improved as the season went on, which was demonstrated through their seven-game unbeaten streak at the end of the league campaign. All in all, it was a tough debut season for head coach Sebastian Hoeneß, who implemented a high defensive line, as well as encouraging an emphasis on width when launching attacks.

As was the case last year, they will be reliant on the goals of Andrej Kramarić, who is undoubtedly their star man up front. Able to hold the ball up, he’s a deadly finisher that needs no introduction to fire the ball past opposing goalkeepers. 22-year-old attacking midfielder Christopher Baumgartner will continue to be entrusted with the creative duties to produce chances for the Croatian forward, while the deep-lying midfield pair of Sebastian Rudy and Florian Grillitsch should help them dictate possession in midfield. New signing David Raum should help his attacking teammates from left-back thanks to his excellent crossing ability, which was on full display for the victorious German U21 side at the UEFA U21 European Championships this summer.

Without any European football to contend with, Hoffenheim should look to improve on their league standing and push for a top-half finish, with Hoeneß able to apply any lessons learned from his first year. Greater consistency will be the key for them if they are to compete with those closer to the top.

Mainz 05

“As a coach, he’s a great, great talent and has done an outstanding job so far. He brings the right mood to the club again. I’m very optimistic that things are going in the right direction with him now.”

These were the words former Mainz 05 and current Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp used recently to describe the impact the current head coach Bo Svensson has already had on the club. In just five months, the Dane preceded over a remarkable turnaround that saw Die Nullfünfer go from being widely-tipped relegation candidates to a mid-table side capable of competing with the best, even defeating Bayern Munich at home in April. His decision to revert to three centre-backs helped fortify a leaky defence significantly, while also encouraging his wing-backs to add an extra attacking dimension going forward.

Having lost their two top goal-scorers, it will be interesting to see who becomes their main source of goals. German U21 forward Jonathan Burkardt will be entrusted to lead the line, and he’ll be joined by veteran attacker Ádám Szalai who brings plenty of experience to the table. Behind them, Jean-Paul Boëtius will be key for Svensson when deployed in the number ten role, as he will be tasked with both creating and converting chances. The club have also strengthened in the wing-back positions over the summer, with Silvan Widmer and Anderson Lucoqui set to bring athleticism and dash going forward.

With a full season to work with, who can really set a limit on what Svensson can do at Mainz? Already having achieved a better points per game average than his highly regarded predecessors in both Klopp and the reigning Champions League winning coach in Thomas Tuchel, the 42-year-old can certainly continue the club’s drift away from the relegation zone, so a safe mid-table finish looks to be the likeliest outcome.

Augsburg

Thanks to a strong points tally amassed during the first half of the 2020/21 season, Augsburg did just enough to stay away from the bottom, finishing just three points clear of the relegation play-off spot. With the club’s top-flight status uncertain until the final weeks, Markus Weinzierl returned to the club, replacing Heiko Herrlich in the dugout. He did just enough to lead them to safety and will now get a full campaign to precede over. Their style of play may not be easy on the eye, with their defenders often pinned within their own box in combination with an emphasis on wing-play in attack, but it’s been effective enough for them to remain a staple of the league.

This summer, they have made an eye-catching move in signing midfielder Niklas Dorsch from Belgian side Gent, who was a key part of Germany’s U21 UEFA Euros-winning side only a few months ago. Having formerly been developed in Bayern Munich’s academy, the 23-year-old is an excellent passer of the ball and will likely play a key role immediately in creating openings for the likes of Andre Hahn and Ruben Vargas to exploit further forward. Florian Niederlechner will again lead the line at the WWK Arena, while veteran goalkeeper Rafal Gikiewicz and defender Felix Uduokhai will be important to keeping out opposing attacking units.

The Fuggerstädter will probably have just enough to keep themselves out of the relegation battle, with this being the primary directive for Weinzierl. With Dorsch’s addition, the club will be hoping for an improved attacking output from their forwards, while maintaining a solid enough defence to continue treading water in the league.

Hertha Berlin

Another disappointing campaign was in store for Hertha Berlin last year, with the club finishing well below the European football spots that they hoped to challenge for. Even the managerial mid-season change of bringing in the returning Pal Dardai to replace Bruno Labbadia didn’t inspire a major resurgence, but a final ten-game run that saw just two defeats helped them survive in 14th place, two points above the relegation play-off spot. Fortunately, the arrival of Eintracht Frankfurt’s previous sporting director Fredi Bobic should help the club immensely in terms of recruitment. It will be of some relief for Dardai, who will look to successfully get his squad firing on all cylinders. Expect them to play with a quick counter-attacking style alongside a high defensive line as he works to get the club back up the table.

Fresh from helping Brazil win a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, 22-year-old winger Matheus Cunha is an exciting talent who led the team in goalscoring last season and will be their star player once again. Lightning quick and a fantastic finisher of the ball, he’ll hope for more scoring chances to spearhead the club further up the table, as will the likes of Dodi Lukebakio, Kryzsztof Piatek and newcomer Stevan Jovetic. The well-travelled veteran Kevin-Prince Boateng has also arrived at his hometown club, and he’ll help add to a midfield that has also been bolstered by the signing of Suat Serdar from Schalke.

Given the quality of their squad, Hertha will hope they can find themselves back in the mix for European football. They certainly should not find themselves in a relegation battle as they did last year, but the pressure will lie on Dardai to find the necessary improvements before the club’s hierarchy look elsewhere to find the person who can.

Arminia Bielefeld

Having won promotion from the 2. Bundesliga, Arminia Bielefeld came into the 2020/21 Bundesliga campaign with one goal – to avoid an instant return back down and preserve their top-flight status. They did just that, finishing a place above the relegation play-off spot, but it took a late-season managerial change to help get them over the line, with the incoming Frank Kramer doing a solid job to lead a mini-revival that saw just three defeats in their last 12 fixtures. Their defence remains their key strength, having the seventh-lowest tally for goals conceded in the league last season, along with a direct approach going forward with a focus on getting crosses in from out wide.

The most important player for Die Arminen is goalkeeper Stefan Ortega. Outstanding throughout last year, his saves were pivotal to preserving precious points against better opposition, and he’ll need to replicate his excellent form to ensure his team have a great chance of staying up once again. In front of him, centre-back Amos Pieper will be pivotal for both his defensive prowess, as well as his ability to set-up attacking moves from the back. Winger Masaya Okugawa impressed on loan last season and has returned on a permanent basis, while newcomer Bryan Lasme has had a strong pre-season and could be a key performer to watch out for. They’ll be looking to chip in with numerous goals, as will skipper Fabian Klos who will hope to score more up front than the five from the last campaign.

Survival will be the goal once again for Bielefeld, who will definitely need to find a reliable source of goals given that they had the second-lowest tally in the division and averaged the fewest number of goals per 90 minutes last season. If one of Okugawa, Lasme or Klos can step up, their chances of staying in the Bundesliga will too, especially if Ortega maintains his excellent form.

FC Köln

The fact that it took nine games for FC Köln to register their first win last year would have indicated trouble on the horizon for fans, and indeed it was a difficult season that saw the club find themselves in the relegation play-offs. Bringing in Friedhelm Funkel in as head coach for the final six league games helped them manage to escape the drop, ending up two points above relegated Werder Bremen. After a brief scare, they eventually came through and defeated Holstein Kiel to maintain their top-flight status, following which former Paderborn manager Steffen Baumgart was appointed for the upcoming campaign. Having used a counter-attacking style with quick passing moves at his former team, it would not be surprising to see similar tactics used at the RheinEnergieStadion.

One player who stepped up at the end of the season to steer the Effzeh towards safety was Slovakian midfielder Ondrej Duda. His ability to break into the box and create something out of nothing was invaluable to the team, and he’ll need to play well for the entire season to help them stay up. The return of Mark Uth from Schalke should add further firepower to a club that struggled to score last season, and Baumgart’s decision to push 19-year-old Jan Thielmann into a more central role upfront should make him an exciting prospect to keep an eye on at the RheinEnergieStadion. The defence has been weakened with the likes of Ismail Jakobs and Sebastiaan Bornauw both departing, and they have been replaced by only one addition in Timo Hübers so far, so it will be interesting to see how the new manager copes with their losses.

Having brushed dangerously with the drop last season, Köln will hope to make this year’s survival bid a much smoother process, although they undoubtedly will be in a scrap to ensure their top-flight status.

VfL Bochum

Overcoming a relatively slow start to their 2020/21 2. Bundesliga campaign, Bochum managed to find their groove and earned their way up to the top of the table. Defeats were few and far between for Die Unabsteigbaren, who were the steadiest in their form and thanks to both a measly defence and a prolific attack, they eventually became the division’s champions and won promotion back to the top-flight for the first time in 11 years. With a possession-heavy style complemented with swift attacks out wide, it will be interesting to see if head coach Thomas Reis opts to adapt his style of play for the Bundesliga, given that his side will certainly not be as ball-dominant as they had been last year.

Simon Zoller played a major role in helping his team win the 2. Bundesliga title thanks to his 15 goals and 10 assists, so he’ll be a key figure in their attack that they’ll be reliant on. With a key attacker in Robert Zulj having departed during the summer, Reis will be hoping that the arriving pair of Takuma Asano and Christopher Antwi-Adjei can help chip in with plenty of goals and assists to fill in his shoes. The relatively experienced midfield pair of Eduard Löwen and Elvis Rexhbeçaj will add quality to their midfield stocks, while 19-year-old centre-back Armel Bella-Kotchap is an exciting prospect to watch out for.

Unsurprisingly, Bochum will be keen to ensure they stick around in the Bundesliga for a while, and so beating the drop will be the clear target for the season. A kind opening start to their schedule with fixtures against bottom-half sides in Mainz, Köln and Hertha will give them a great opportunity to add to their points tally early on.

Greuther Fürth

Though it was never guaranteed until the final weekend, a dramatic 3-2 win over Fortuna Düsseldorf helped SpVgg Greuther Fürth seal a return back to the Bundesliga, having finished second in the 2. Bundesliga thanks to them being able to leapfrog Holstein Kiel. A big part of their success last year came from their stellar away form, where they lost just twice on the road. They were the second-highest scoring team in the league, epitomising manager Stefan Leitl’s desire to attack on the front foot, while their defence wasn’t that bad either, ending up with the third-best tally for goals conceded.

Having lost their best chance-creator in David Raum to Hoffenheim, much will be expected from Julian Green, formerly of Bayern Munich. The American international brings flair and energy to their attack and will not lack for opportunities to score important goals for his club. Skipper Branimir Hrgota will be hoping the goals come easy for him in the top-flight after netting 16 in the 2. Bundesliga last year, while Bayern loanee Adrian Fein and Paul Seguin will be tasked with opening up spaces in the final third using their respective creative eye. At the back, the loss of Paul Jaeckel will hurt, but the team have already moved to replace him in signing Gideon Jung from Hamburg to fill in his shoes, while 22-year-old loanee Gian-Luca Itter from Freiburg will likely gain ample game time. Given that Fürth rely on their full-backs to create goalscoring opportunities, he could be a player to keep an eye on going forward.

When it comes to expectations, Fürth will undoubtedly be battling to avoid relegation back to the second division. While they could remain an entertaining side to watch going forward, their defending will be under huge pressure, and with a squad that hasn’t seen a lot of the Bundesliga, it will certainly be a very difficult season.

Josh Sim.

 

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