Bayern Munich

Bundesliga: Can Anyone Challenge Bayern this Season?

There was a time, not that long ago, when we saw four different Bundesliga champions in a five-year period. One of those teams was of course Bayern Munich. But in the same period we saw the likes of Stuttgart, Wolfsburg and Borussia Dortmund wrest the Salatschussel from Bayern.

But since Jurgen Klopp’s stormed the table and won back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012, we’ve entered into a period of dominance for Bayern like we’ve never seen before. The Muncheners have won the last five Bundesliga titles, typically with 10 and 20 point leads over their closest challengers.

As the new season gets underway this Friday, Bayern look again poised to march towards a sixth consecutive title triumph. Carlo Ancelotti’s already formidable team has been further bolstered with the arrival of James Rodriguez. The Colombian World Cup star joins on a two-year loan from Real Madrid and will add another attacking option to an array of firepower that already includes Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben, Frank Ribery, Thomas Mueller and Kingsley Coman.

Going the other way, winger Douglas Costa has joined Juventus on a season-long loan, Holger Badstuber has joined Stuttgart, and Medhi Benatia has joined Juve on a permanent deal. Perhaps the most significant departures from Bayern this offseason have been those of Xabi Alonso and Phillip Lahm. The duo of experienced World Cup-winners retired at the end of last season.

Despite the turnover, this is still a Bayern team with no discernible weakness that will be favorites to win the title. However, they will not go unchallenged.

In an enthralling German Super Cup encounter earlier this month, Borussia Dortmund showed they what it takes to push this Bayern side. Former Ajax boss Pete Bosz has taken over for Thomas Tuchel. The Dutchman, a tactical disciple of the great Johan Cruyff, has already instilled his high-pressing, technical style on his Dortmund side.

Die Borussen has (thus far) managed to hold onto the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ousmane Dembele. Aubameyang has indicated he will remain at Dortmund this season, while Dembele remains a “person of interest” for Barcelona, who see the 20-year-old attacker as a replacement for Neymar.

Even if Dembele were to leave, this is still a Dortmund team bristling with attacking talent like Andre Schurrle, Marco Reus and breakout USMNT star, Christian Pulisic. In other good news for Dortmund, Mario Gotze has recovered from the metabolic disturbances that have ruled him out since February. The World Cup-winning goalscorer has made several appearances in preseason friendlies and will be a boon to Dortmund’s title hopes if he can recapture the form he displayed a couple of seasons back.

Then there is RB Leipzig, possibly the most hated team in Germany, but also the one that came closest to knocking Bayern off their perch last season. Die Roten Bullen have successfully seen off interest from star players Timo Werner, Naby Keita and Oliver Burke. Leipzig impressed last season in their first Bundesliga campaign, going undefeated in their first 13 matches, occupying top spot in the table for three match days and qualifying for the Champions League.

Hoffenheim, who face Liverpool in a Champions League qualifier this week, are another team to watch this season. Not long ago the Baden-Wurttemberg-based outfit were scrapping it out to avoid relegation. But in a turnaround largely overseen by 30-year-old Julian Nagelsman, the youngest manager in the Bundesliga, the club is now on the precipice of playing European soccer. With an attack led by striker Sandro Wagner and bolstered by the recent arrival of Bayern loanee Serge Gnabry, Hoffenheim look on track for another big season.

The 2017-18 Bundesliga season kicks off on Friday, August 18 as Bayern Munich welcome Bayer Leverkusen to the Allianz Arena. You can catch the Bundesliga season opener at 2:30 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1.

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