As we near the beginning of another Bundesliga campaign, the main question is simple: can anybody stand in the way of Bayern Munich and their quest for a sixth consecutive league title?
Carlo Ancelotti’s men have kept a lot of the same faces, while bringing in a slew of young talent as well. Bayern clinched the title a year ago with three matches to spare, while RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund, and 1899 Hoffenheim rounded out the Champions League places.
Koln, Hertha Berlin, and Freiburg rounded out the Europa League places, while Darmstadt and Ingolstadt were relegated to the second-tier. Hannover and Stuttgart rejoined the top-flight, one year after being relegated. Borussia Dortmund are favorites to challenge for the Bundesliga crown, while some other sides could sneak in the running.
Without further ado, here is SBI’s full 2017/18 season preview for the German Bundesliga:
Player to Watch: Michael Gregoritsch was brought in this summer from Hamburg, and could very well make an impact at the club. He has 11 goals in his last two seasons across all competitions, and could be the team leader in goals by season’s end.
Outlook: Augsburg was one of three top-flight teams last season to have less than double digit victories. They finished a point clear of the relegation playoff spot, and will need to do a better job of scoring goals if they want to avoid a relegation fight.
Transfers In: Sergio Cordova (Caracas), Fabian Giefer (Schalke), Michael Gregoritsch (Hamburg), Marcel Heller (Darmstadt),Rani Khedira (Free Agent).
Transfers Out: Albian Ajeti (Loan made permanent, St. Gallen), Halil Altintop (Slavia Prague), Dominik Kohr (Bayer Leverkusen), Tim Matavz (Vitesse).
Player to Watch: 21-year-old midfielder Julian Brandt is a rising name in the Bundesliga. Brandt has 14 goals total in his last two seasons, and will look to carry the team with Javier Hernandez moving back to the EPL. Brandt brings skill and creativity to the midfield, which lost another talented starter in Hakan Calhanoglu.
Outlook: The biggest disappointment last season was Bayer Leverkusen going from third to 12th in a matter of a year. An increase in goals allowed hurt, while the goals scored stayed around the same. With Chicharito gone back to the EPL, goals will need to be scored if Bayer want to avoid another drop in the standings.
Transfers In: Sven Bender (Borussia Dortmund), Dominik Kohr (Augsburg).
Transfers Out: Hakan Calhanoglu (AC Milan), Danny da Costa (Eintracht Frankfurt), Patrick Dzalto (Jahn Regensburg), Javier Hernandez (West Ham United), Roberto Hilbert (Released), Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Hamburg), Ömer Toprak (Borussia Dortmund).
Player to Watch: Robert Lewandowski is not only the best striker in the Bundesliga, but one of the best strikers in the world. The 28-year-old is coming off back-to-back 30 goal seasons in league play, and has over 40 in all competitions. If Bayern want to add more silverware to their trophycase then Lewandowski needs the ball at his feet.
Outlook: Bayern Munich are clear favorites to repeat as Bundesliga champs. Offensively, they were the only side to score more than 70 goals and, defensively, they allowed less than 35. The key will be making sure they keep the foot on the gas, and don’t give teams a chance against them.
Transfers In: Kingsley Coman (Loan made permanent, Juventus), James Rodriguez (Two-year Loan, Real Madrid) Sebastian Rudy (Hoffenheim), Niklas Süle (Hoffenheim), Corentin Tolisso (Lyon), Marco Friedl (Academy), Christian Früchtl (Academy), Felix Götze (Academy).
Transfers Out: Xabi Alonso (Retired), Holger Badstuber (Released), Medhi Benatia (Loan made permanent, Juventus), Douglas Costa (Loan, Juventus) Gianluca Gaudino (Chievo Verona), Serge Gnabry (Hoffenheim, loan), Philipp Lahm (Retired), Tom Starke (Retired).
Player to Watch: Christian Pulisic improved not only in the stats column last season, but in his overall play. The 18-year-old American will continue to fight for consistent playing time, and add to his five goals and nine assists a year ago.
Outlook: Dortmund finished in third place last season, good for a spot in the Champions League once again. To compete with Bayern Munich for the title, Peter Bosz’s team will need to turn draws into victories after 10 draws a year ago.
Transfers In: Mahmoud Dahoud (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Maximilian Philipp (Freiburg), Ömer Toprak (Bayer Leverkusen), Dan-Axel Zagadou (Paris Saint-Germain), Jacob Bruun Larsen (Academy).
Transfers Out: Sven Bender (Bayer Leverkusen), Dzenis Burnic (Loan, Stuttgart), Matthias Ginter (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Mikel Merino (Loan, Newcastle United), Adrian Ramos (Dangdai), Pascal Stenzel (Freiburg).
Player to Watch: Striker Lars Stindl was the only Gladbach player to hit double-digits in goals a year ago, and easily has the talent to add to those numbers this year. Stindl has 32 goals in two seasons across all competitions with Gladbach, and is their No. 1 striker. Fabian Johnson is another key player to watch this season too.
Outlook: Gladbach finished in ninth place in 2016/17, finishing with a 12-13-9 record. After a drop in the standings, Gladbach will need to be more competitive this season for a chance at inching towards European competitions again following a disappointing finish.
Transfers In: Mickael Cuisance (AS Nancy), Matthias Ginter (Borussia Dortmund), Vincenzo Grifo (Freiburg), Florian Neuhaus (1860 Munich), Reece Oxford (Loan, West Ham United), Denis Zakaria (Young Boys).
Transfers Out: Tom Baller (Hannover), Andreas Christensen (End of Loan, Chelsea), Mahmoud Dahoud (Borussia Dortmund), Andre Hahn (Hamburg), Julian Korb (Hannover), Tsiy William Ndenge (Roda), Florian Neuhaus (Loan, Fortuna Düsseldorf), Marvin Schulz (FC Luzern), Nico Schulz (Hoffenheim), Djibril Sow (Young Boys).
Player to Watch: Mexican international Marco Fabian took a big jump in production last year, scoring seven goals and adding four assists in league play. With his playing time expected to increase, Fabian’s role should also grow as Frankfurt look to move up in the standings.
Outlook: Frankfurt finished in 11th a season ago, but will need to work on picking up results on the road in 2017/18. Out of their 42 points, they only earned 14 on the road posting a 4-11-2 record. That needs to change if they want to avoid an even greater fall down the table.
Transfers In: Danny da Costa (Bayer Leverkusen), Jonathan de Guzman (Napoli), Gelson Fernandes (Rennes), Sebastien Haller (Utrecht), Luka Jovic (Benfica), Daichi Kamada (Sagan Tosu), Carlos Salcedo (Loan, Guadalajara), Jan Zimmerman (1860 Munich), Renat Dadashov (Academy), Noel Knothe (Academy), Nelson Mandela (Academy), Jetro Willems (PSV Eindhoven).
Transfers Out: Michael Hector (End of Loan, Chelsea), Heinz Lindner (Zürich), Bastian Oczikpa (Schalke), Ante Rebic (End of Loan, Fiorentina), Haris Seferovic (Benfica), Jesus Vallejo (End of Loan, Real Madrid), Guillermo Varela (End of Loan, Manchester United), Furkan Zorba (VfL Osnabrück).
Player to Watch: Striker Nils Petersen dropped off in goals last season, going from 21 in 2015/16 to 10 in 2016/17. However, the 28-year-old was a huge reason why Freiburg qualified for the Europa League playoff rounds this summer. Paired with Florian Niederlechner, I expect Freiburg to press for Europe again.
Outlook: A surprise for sure, Freiburg finished in seventh place good for a Europa League qualifying spot. If they can receive consistent goals from their top two strikers, then they should be good shape for another top ten finish.
Transfers In: Bartosz Kapustka (Loan, Leicester City),Philipp Lienhart (Loan, Real Madrid), Florian Niederlechner (Loan made permanent, Mainz), Pascal Stenzel (Borussia Dortmund).
Transfers Out: Amir Fallen (Released), Jonas Föhrenbach (Loan, Karlsruher), Vincenzo Grifo (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Sebastian Kerk (1. FC Nürnberg), Maximilian Philipp (Borussia Dortmund), Marc Torrejon (Union Berlin).
Player to Watch: 29-year-old Nicolai Muller has made an impact wherever he has played in the Bundesliga. The midfielder scored five goals and added six assists last season, helping Hamburg remain in the top-flight, and one would expect his importance to grow even more this season.
Outlook: Thanks to some late heroics in 2017, Hamburg remained in the Bundesliga for another season. Their struggles on the road a season ago however will need to change if they want to stay in the top-flight going forward. A 2-11-4 record away from home last season, was second worst in the Bundesliga.
Transfers In: Andre Hahn (Gladbach), Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Bayer Leverkusen), Julian Pollersbeck (Kaiserslautern), Bjarne Thoelke (Karlsruher SC), Rick van Drongelen (Sparta Rotterdam).
Transfers Out: Rene Adler (Mainz), Nabil Bahoui (Released), Johan Djourou (Released), Ashton Götz (Hamburg II), Matthias Ostrzolek (Hannover 96).
Player to Watch: Striker Martin Harnik led Hannover with 17 goals last season in the 2. Bundesliga division. At 30 now, the Austrian international can help his club solidify a consistent spot in the top flight, starting with this season.
Outlook: Hannover earned promotion this season, thanks to a 19-5-10 mark in the second division. 44 of their 67 points came at home, while 23 came on the road. They will need to use Wolfgang Stark to their advantage this season if they want to avoid any trouble at the bottom.
Transfers In: Tom Baller (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Yousef Emghames (Bayern Munich), Michael Esser (Darmstadt), Julian Korb (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Matthias Ostrzolek (Hamburg), Pirmin Schwegler (Hoffenheim).
Transfers Out: Andre Hoffmann (Fortuna Düsseldorf), Marko Maric (End of Loan, Hoffenheim), Artur Sobiech (Released), Stefan Strindberg (End of Loan, FK Krasnodar).
Player to Watch: Vedad Ibisevic has hit double digits in goals for both of his seasons at Hertha Berlin. The 32-year-old Bosnian will look to add to his 12 goals from last season as Berlin try to fight for a European spot.
Outlook: Berlin finished sixth last season, good for a spot in the Europa League. However, the loss of John Brooks will hurt them defensively while their road record needs to improve. Berlin should remain in the top ten this season, but need to improve a 3-11-3 road record to do so.
Transfers In: Jonathan Klinsmann (Unattached), Mathew Leckie (Ingolstadt), Karim Rekik (Marseille), Davie Selke (RB Leipzig), Florian Baak (Academy), Julius Kade (Academy), Arne Maier (Academy).
Transfers Out: Sami Allagui (St. Pauli), Alexander Baumjohann (Released), John Anthony Brooks (Wolfsburg), Florian Kohls (Released), Nils Körber (Loan, Preußen Münster), Mike Owusu (Released).
Player to Watch: After only making 15 appearances with Hoffenheim in 2015/16, Andrej Kramaric tallied 15 league goals last season. Hoffenheim was one of the exciting teams to watch, finishing in fourth under manager Julian Nagelsmann. Paired with Sandro Wagner, Hoffenheim have a nice 1-2 punch up top again this season.
Outlook: Hoffenheim was impressive in 2016/17, finishing third under Nagelsmann. They were unbeaten at home in league play, while also finishing in the top three on the road too. To replicate that success again, Hoffenheim will need to continue to find success on the road and, if they can, another Champions League berth isn’t out of the question.
Transfers In: Serge Gnabry (Loan, Bayern Munich), Florian Grillitsch (Werder Bremen), Justin Hoogma (Heracles), Havard Nordtveit (West Ham United), Nico Schulz (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Robert Zulj (Greuther Fürth), Robin Hack (Academy), Stefan Posch (Academy), Meris Skenderovic (Academy).
Transfers Out: Baris Atik (Loan, Kaiserslautern), Antonio Colak (Ingolstadt), Benedikt Gimber (Loan, Jahn Regensburg), Nicolai Rapp (Erzgebirge Aue), Sebastian Rudy (Bayern Munich), Fabian Schär (Deportivo La Coruna), Pirmin Schwegler (Hannover), Niklas Süle (Bayern Munich).
Player to Watch: Trying to replace last season’s leading scorer Anthony Modeste will be tough for Koln this season. Yuya Osako (seven goals, six assists) will look to fill that void that Modeste left. The Japanese international will have help in Jhon Cordoba, who joined from Mainz this summer.
Outlook: A fifth-place finish for Koln was good enough for a Europa League spot this year. However, the loss of Modeste really hurts their offense after the forward tallied 25 of the team’s 51 league goals a year ago. Scoring is a must if Koln want to avoid a drop out of the top ten.
Transfers In: Jhon Cordoba (Mainz), Jannes Horn (Wolfsburg), Jorge Mere (Sporting Gijon), Joao Queiros (SC Braga).
Transfers Out: Marcel Hartel (Union Berlin), Anthony Modeste (Tianjin Quanjian), Neven Subotic (End of Loan, Borussia Dortmund).
Player to Watch: Midfielder Levin Oztunali was Mainz’s top player last season, scoring five goals and adding six assists. With their leading striker, Jhon Cordoba, gone, Oztunali will be asked for more as the team tries to score goals consistently. At 21, he has a bright future ahead.
Outlook: Mainz retained their league status on goal difference last season, a big drop off from 2015/16. Going from sixth to 15th probably wasn’t in the team’s plans, and now they will look to climb back up. A 3-11-3 record on the road will need to be fixed for any chance of improving up the table.
Transfers In: Rene Adler (Free Agent), Abdou Diallo (AS Monaco) Viktor Fischer (Middlesbrough), Kenan Kodro (CA Osasuna), Alexandru Maxim (VfB Stuttgart).
Transfers Out: Pierre Bengtsson (Loan, Copenhagen), Jhon Cordoba (Cologne), Besar Halimi (Loan, Brondby), Bojan Krkic (End of Loan, Stoke City), Jonas Lössl (Loan, Huddersfield), Todor Nedelev (Botev Plovdiv) Florian Niederlechner (Loan made permanent, Freiburg), Andre Ramalho (End of Loan, Bayer Leverkusen).
Players to Watch: Striker Timo Werner and midfielder Emil Forsberg are both important to RB Leipzig’s success this season. Werner tallied 21 league goals last season, while Forsberg led the league in assists with 19. Leipzig will have to impress from the get-go if they want to spoil Bayern’s chances at another league crown.
Outlook: RB Leipzig had an incredible season last year, finishing second behind winners Bayern Munich. However, a few losses to teams lower in the table hurt the team’s chances of finishing close to Bayern. Leipzig will need to beat the teams they are capable of beating for a chance at the league crown.
Transfers In: Jean-Kevin Augustin (Paris-Saint Germain), Bruma (Galatasaray), Ibrahima Konate (Sochaux), Philipp Köhn (Stuttgart), Konrad Laimer (RB Salzburg), Yvon Mvogo (Young Boys), Elias Abouchabaka (Academy), Nicolas Kühn (Academy).
Transfers Out: Benjamin Bellot (Brondby IF), Massimo Bruno (Loan, RSC Anderlecht), Agyemang Diawusie (Loan, Wehen Wiesbaden), Rani Khedira (Released), Marius Müller (Loan, FC Kaiserslautern), Atinc Nukan (Loan, Besiktas), Nils Quaschner (Arminia Bielefeld), Davie Selke (Hertha Berlin).
Player to Watch: In his first season with Schalke, Guido Burgstaller led the team with nine goals. The 28-year-old will have a larger role this season now that Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has moved to Ajax. Schalke will need consistent goals from their strikers to avoid a drop off like last season.
Outlook: Schalke finished in 10th a season ago, a five place drop-off from 2015/16. Despite scoring more goals than conceded, Schalke finished with two more losses than victories. A poor start to league play last season forced Schalke to play catch up as the season went on. A better league start this season would do them a lot more good.
Transfers In: Nabil Bentaleb (Loan made permanent, Tottenham Hotspur), Amine Harit (Nantes), Pablo Insua (Deportivo La Coruna), Yevhen Konoplyanka (Sevilla, loan deal made permanent), Bastian Oczikpa (Eintracht Frankfurt), Luke Hemmerich (Academy), Weston McKinnie (Academy).
Transfers Out: Dennis Aogo (Released), Abdul Rahman Baba (End of Loan, Chelsea), Holger Badstuber (End of Loan, Bayern Munich), Fabian Giefer (Augsburg), Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Ajax), Sead Kolasinac (Arsenal), Phil Neumann (Ingolstadt), Sascha Riether (Released), Timon Wellenreuther (Willem II).
Player to Watch: 29-year-old Simon Terodde has made his living in the second tier of German football. After 47 goals in two seasons with VfL Bochum, Terodde scored 25 with Stuttgart in their promotion campaign a year ago. For Stuttgart to remain in the top-flight, they will need their main man to produce again.
Outlook: Stuttgart won the second division a year ago, edging Hannover by two points. They were the top team on the road, going 8-5-4 for 28 points. If they can come close to replicating those numbers again on the road in the Bundesliga, they should have no problems finishing out of the relegation zone.
Transfers In: Ailton Ferreira Silva (Estoril Praia), Chadrac Akolo (Sion), Takuma Asano (Loan, Arsenal), Dzenis Burnic (Loan, Borussia Dortmund), Anastasios Donis (Juventus), Orel Mangala (Anderlecht), Ron-Robert Zieler(Leicester City).
Transfers Out: Florian Klein (Released), Alexandru Maxim (Mainz), Toni Sunjic (Dynamo Moscow), Benjamin Uphoff (Karlsruher).
Player to Watch: Max Kruse led Werder Bremen with 15 goals a year ago, and is vital to their success this season. The German has proved his ability to score at the highest level and is Bremen’s best player going forward.
Outlook: Bremen finished in eighth a season ago, earning two more losses than victories. A four-game losing streak to begin the season hurt, while a three-match losing streak ended their season. To make the jump up to a European spot, Bremen needs to avoid lengthy losing runs and fight for more draws than losses.
Transfers In: Ludwig Augustinsson (FC Copenhagen), Jerome Gondorf (Darmstadt), Jiri Pavlenka (Slavia Prague), Yuning Zhang (Loan, Vitesse).
Transfers Out: Marnon Busch (Heidenheim), Clemens Fritz (Retired), Santiago Garcia (Toluca FC), Serge Gnabry (Bayern Munich), Florian Grillitsch (Hoffenheim), Leon Guwara (Loan, Kaiserslautern), Laszlo Tleinheisler (Loan, Astana), Claudio Pizarro (Released), Felix Wiedwald (Leeds United), Raphael Wolf (Fortuna Düsseldorf).
Player to watch: After five years with Hertha Berlin, John Brooks made the move to VfL Wolfsburg. The American defender joins a Wolfsburg defense that allowed 52 goals in 34 matches last season, and avoided relegation via the playoffs. It was a surprising move for Brooks, and Wolfsburg hopes it pays off. It will take time, though, as Brooks will miss the start of the season due to injury.
Outlook: Despite winning the relegation playoff against Braunschweig, Wolfsburg had a dismal Bundesliga campaign a year ago. Dropping from eighth to 16th in a year was shocking to see and changes need to be made to avoid another bad season. Defensively, 52 goals was a lot to concede and will need to decrease for any struggles again in 2017/18.
Transfers In: John Anthony Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Ignacio Camacho (Malaga CF), Landry Dimata (Oostende), Kaylen Hinds (Arsenal), Marvin Stefaniak (Dynamo Dresden), William (Internacional), Felix Uduokhai (1860 Munich).
Transfers Out: Diego Benaglio (Monaco), Amara Conde (Loan, Holstein Kiel), Orrin McKinze Gaines (Darmstadt), Luiz Gustavo (Marseille), Jannes Horn (Cologne), Borja Mayoral (End of Loan, Real Madrid), Ricardo Rodriguez (AC Milan), Philipp Wollscheid (End of Loan, Stoke City).
Who’s your favorite to win the Bundesliga this season? Which player are you most excited to watch? Which teams will be relegated to the second tier? Can anyone stop Bayern Munich? Who will win the Golden Boot?
Share your thoughts below.