SBI Bundesliga Preview: Bayern, Dortmund, Schalke lead title push

SBI Bundesliga Preview: Bayern, Dortmund, Schalke lead title push

European Soccer

SBI Bundesliga Preview: Bayern, Dortmund, Schalke lead title push

Bayern Munich has been the face of German football for the past decade, claiming six consecutive league titles in a row. With a new manager in charge, the Bavarian giants will have some pressure on them to continue their recent run in 2018-19.

Led by star players all around, Bayern will be the favorites to repeat this season, but some other sides will look to play spoilers. Borussia Dortmund, Schalke, and Hoffenheim will not be far behind Bayern in the race for the Bundesliga title as all have bolstered their squads this summer.

RB Leipzig, Borussia Monchengladbach, and Bayer Leverkusen will also hope to be in the top-half this season after solid campaigns a year ago. Julian Nagelsmann’s side will be expected to do well as the manager prepares for his move to Bayern in the coming year.

Newboys Fortuna Dusseldorf and FC Nurnberg will hope to make a splash in the top-flight while VfL Wolfsburg tries to avoid a relegation scrap this time around.

Without further ado, here is SBI’s full 2018/19 season preview for the German Bundesliga:

Augsburg

Transfers In: Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker, Felix Gotze, Julian Gunther-Schmidt, Andre Hahn, Fredrik Jensen, Dong-Won Ji, Moritz Leitner, Tim Rieder, Julian Schieber, Konstantinos Stafylidis, Takashi Usami.

Transfers Out: Ioannis Geilos, Marcel Heller, Marwin Hitz, Moritz Leitner.

Player to Watch: Icelandic striker Alfred Finnbogason recorded 12 goals a season ago, his best domestic haul since 2013-14 in the Netherlands. A big, physical striker, Finnbogason will lead the line again this season and be a big part of Augsburg’s hopes to rise up the table.

Outlook: Augsburg finished 12th a season ago and have a pair of their top attackers coming back in 2018-19. One thing that will need to change is their form at home, after finishing in the bottom-five for points earned at home. Augsburg should be in the mix for a top-12 finish but could also find it tough if their stars leave in January.

Bayer Leverkusen

Transfers In: Aleksandar Dragovic, Lukas Hradecky, Paulinho, Mitchell Weiser, Issac Kiese Thelin (Loan).

Transfers Out: Joel Abu Hanna, Stefan Kiebling, Niklas Lomb, Vladlen Yurchenko, Bernd Leno.

Player to Watch: Jamaican midfielder Leon Bailey saw his stock rise last season with 12 goals and six assists in all competitions. The 21-year-old is a talented player that Leverkusen will want to keep if they want to have a strong season in both league and cup play.

Outlook: Leverkusen finished in fifth a season ago, which was good for a spot in Europe. With talented players returning, Leverkusen should be in the mix again for a similar finish. They could make it interesting in the title race, but will need better consistency at times to do so.

Bayern Munich

Transfers In: Alphonso Davies, Leon Goretzka, Serge Gnabry, Renato Sanches, Chris Richards (Loan).

Transfers Out: Douglas Costa, Niklas Dorsch, Milos Pantovic, Tom Starke, Timothy Tillman, Leo Weinkauf, Manuel Wintzheimer.

Player to Watch: Striker Robert Lewandowski is one of the top front men in the world, totaling 40 goals in all competitions a year ago. The 30-year-old was quiet in Russia this summer as Poland was eliminated at the group stage. Despite a short run at the World Cup, expect Lewandowski to carry the load again for Bayern who are expected to claim the domestic double.

Outlook: Bayern Munich will be under the guidance of new manager Niko Kovac this season, who already has one title under his belt. The Bavarian giants will be favored to not only win the Bundesliga title, but also advance in the knockout stages in Europe. Kovac has a lot of talent returning and should do quite fine in his biggest managerial stint up to now.

Borussia Dortmund

Transfers In: Kamal Bafounta, Dzenis Burnic, Thomas Delaney, Abdou Diallo, Marwin Hitz, Jacob Bruun Larsen, Eric Oelshlagel, Marius Wolf.

Transfers Out: Michy Batshuayi, Gonzalo Castro, Erik Durm, Mikel Merino, Sokratis, Felix Passlack, Dominik Reimann, Andre Schurrle, Roman Weidenfeller.

Player to Watch: 29-year-old Marco Reus has seen his numbers take a hit over the last few seasons as injuries plagued the German international. Reus will however need to be a leader this season with a young cast around him. He has already began this domestic season with a goal and has the talent to rise up to the occasion.

Outlook: Dortmund struggled at times, eventually finishing in fourth a year ago behind Bayern, Schalke, and Hoffenheim. A big reason for concern was their dropped points against sides lower than them in the table. Lucien Favre takes over at manager and should help reinstall a strong work ethic into his side.

Eintracht Frankfurt

Transfers In: Allan, Max Besuschkow, Francisco Geraldes, Nicolai Muller, Obite N’Dicka, Goncalo Paciencia, Ante Rebic, Frederik Ronnow, Carlos Salcedo, Lucas Torro, Felix Wiedwald, Filip Kostic (Loan).

Transfers Out: Aymen Barkok, Max Besuschkow, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Lukas Hradecky, Omar Mascarell, Alexander Meier, Marius Wolf.

Player to Watch: Ante Rebic saw his stats improve last season after joining on-loan from Fiorentina. The 24-year-old Croatian scored nine goals in all competitions, including a pair over Bayern in their German Cup triumph last May. Now as he returns from World Cup duty, look for Rebic to continue his growth with an underrated Frankfurt side.

Outlook: Frankfurt claimed the German Cup last season and also finished particularly high in the table. With Rebic rejoining the team, followed up by the staying’s of both Luka Jovic and Sebastian Haller, Frankfurt will seek another top-five half finish in 2018-19.

Fortuna Dusseldorf

Transfers In: Aymen Barkok, Diego Contento, Marvin Sucksch, Emmanuel Iyoha, Kenan Karaman, Dodi Lukebakio, Alfredo Morales, Benito Raman, Kemal Ruzgar, Kevin Stoger, Jean Zimmer, Matthias Zimmermann.

Transfers Out: Axel Bellinghausen, Genki Haraguchi, Jerome Kiesewetter, Florian Neuhaus, Marlon Ritter, Julian Schauerte, Takashi Usami.

Player to Watch: 30-year-old Rouwen Hennings scored 15 goals in all competitions a year ago and remained with the club for their Bundesliga campaign. Being able to score in the second-tier has been no issue for the German, but now he will need to translate that over against tougher competition.

Outlook: Dusseldorf held on for the top spot a season ago, sealing promotion to the Bundesliga after winning the second division. Now as they prepare for life in the top-flight, they know a strong defense paired with a consistent offense will help them avoid relegation. It won’t be easy, but an experienced bunch will be a benefit. Expect Dusseldorf to stave off a relegation scrap.

SC Freiburg

Transfers In: Brandon Borello, Mark Flekken, Jonas Fohrenbach, Jeroma Gondorf, Dominique Heintz, Lucas Hufnagel, Philipp Lienhart, Mats Moller Daehli, Fabian Schleusener, Niclas Thiede, Luca Waldschmidt.

Transfers Out: Gaetan Bussmann, Rafal Gikiewicz, Bartosz Kapustka, Marc-Oliver Kempf, Jonas Meffert, Vincent Sierro.

Player to Watch: 29-year-old Nils Petersen led Freiburg with 18 goals in all competitions a year ago, and returns this season. Since joining the team in 2014, Petersen has been able to score at a consistent level for the club in both the first and second divisions.

Outlook: Freiburg barely escaped a Bundesliga playoff last season, claiming a final day win at home against Augsburg. 2018-19 won’t be as easy as the team remains a favorite to go down. Unless they improve their results as a whole, Freiburg could very well be playing second-tier football next season.

Hannover 96

Transfers In: Takuma Asano, Mike Steven Bahre, Uffe Bech, Josip Elez, Babacar Gueye, Elias Huth. Fabian Senninger, Walace, Leo Weinkauf, Kevin Wimmer, Bobby Wood.

Transfers Out: Charlison Benschop, Martin Harnik, Jonathas, Kenan Karaman, Felix Klaus, Salif Sane, Manuel Schmiedebach.

Player to Watch: Striker Nicklas Fullkrug tallied 14 league goals a season ago, but also had help from others as well. With many departures, Fullkrug will look to carry the load again for Hannover as they seek a better finish than a season ago. He has hit double digits in goals in two of the last four seasons.

Outlook: Hannover exceeded many people’s expectations a year ago, finishing six points clear of the relegation places. Led by 27 points at home, Hannover again will fight for avoid the bottom-three and improve into the top-10. It my be tough but with strong outings at home, they can do it.

Hertha Berlin

Transfers In: Javairo Dilrosun, Marius Gersbeck, Genki Haraguchi, Lukas Klunter, Pascal Kopke, Nils Korber, Valentino Lazaro,

Transfers Out: Julian Schieber, Mitchell Weiser.

Player to Watch: 33-year-old Salomon Kalou is still producing at a high rate for Hertha Berlin after 12 league goals in 2017-18. The Ivory Coast midfielder has the talent again to lead the team, but will need some help if he cools off at times.

Outlook: Hertha Berlin finished 10th last season, finishing 10 points off from the bottom-three. An impressive form on the road was a main reason for that, but a third-worst league home form needs to improve. Berlin should be in the top-ten but could drop out if their form at the Olympiastadion doesn’t improve.

1899 Hoffenheim

Transfers In: Baris Atik, Ishak Belfodil, Leonardo Bittencourt, Joshua Brenet, Benedikt Gimber, Vincenzo Grifo, Joelinton, Kasim Adams Nuhu, Philipp Ochs, Felipe Pires, Marvin Schwabe.

Transfers Out: Serge Gnabry, Mark Uth.

Player to Watch: Croatian international Andrej Kramaric had to fight for consistent playing time last season, but now he should be a regular for every match in 2018-19. 13 goals and six assists a season ago was impressive, but the veteran should now be seeking bigger goals with the club.

Outlook: Hoffenheim eventually finished fourth last season in another impressive campaign by Julian Nagelsmann. With the bulk of last year’s team returning, expect Hoffenheim to again press for the top-four and a strong cup run.

FSV Mainz

Transfers In: Gaetan Bussmann, Besar Halimi, Jannik Huth, Jean-Philippe Mateta, Philipp Mwene, Devante Parker, Kunde Malong Pierre, Jose Rodriguez, Aaron Seydel, Aaron Caricol.

Transfers Out: Leon Balogun, Jonas Lossi, Kenan Kodro,  Suat Serdar, Marin Sverko.

Player to Watch: 33-year-old Rene Adler joined from Hamburg following their relegation and will most-likely take the #1 spot in goal. Adler is a talented veteran who is known for some impressive saves. Now with a better team in front of him than before, expect the German to rise even more this season.

Outlook: Mainz was another side who barely avoided a playoff, thanks to some impressive wins near the end of the season. Now they will need an overall better campaign to take the next step and near the top-ten. With only two wins on the road a year ago, Mainz knows that’s the factor that needs to change for improvement to occur.

Borussia Monchengladbach

Transfers In: Keanan Bennetts, Michael Lang, Torben Musel, Tsiy-William Ndgene, Florian Neuhaus, Alassane Plea, Andreas Poulsen, Christian Theoharous, Kwame Yeboah.

Transfers Out: Jannik Vestergaard, Vincenzo Grifo, Christofer Heimeroth, Reece Oxford.

Player to Watch: Alassane Plea made the switch to Germany from France after a 20-goal haul with Nice last season. The Frenchman is a talented forward who can change a match with a single piece of skill. He will look to help an attack that struggled for a true goalscorer a season ago.

Outlook: Gladbach finished ninth a season ago and will seek a rise up the table with the big boys. Some strong acquisitions will help them this season as they seek to improve on the road where they struggled for consistency in 2017-18.

Nurnberg

Transfers In: Robert Bauer, Kevin Goden, Torles Knoll, Christian Mathenia, Timothy Tillman, Yuya Kubo (Loan).

Transfers Out: Ulisses Garcia, Lucas Hufnagel, Kevin Mohwald, Marvin Stefaniak, Tobias Werner.

Player to Watch: Midfielder Hanno Behrens led the team with 14 goals a season ago, seven more than his last two domestic seasons combined. The 28-year-old German will know what the strengths and weaknesses of his team are and will need to be a leader as Nurnberg try to avoid a frustrating season.

Outlook: Nurnberg finished second in the 2. Bundesliga last season behind eventual winners Fortuna Dusseldorf. A big reason for their success was a +22 goal differential as they dominated at home. They will need to be just as good at home this season if they want to avoid a quick drop back into the second-tier.

RB Leipzig

Transfers In: Felix Beiersdorf, Massimo Bruno, Matheus Cunha, Omar Damari, Agyemang Diawusie, Zsolt Kalmar, Nordi Mukiele, Marius Muller, Antic Nukan.

Transfers Out: Elias Abouchabaka, Bernardo, Vitaly Janelt, Anthony Jung, Dominik Kaiser, Naby Keita, Ademola Lookman, Benno Schmitz.

Player to Watch: Wanted by many European sides, forward Timo Werner netted 21 goals in all competitions for the second consecutive season. The German has the ability to improve that number again this season as he continues to grow as a professional.

Outlook: Leipzig fell off a little in 2017-18, eventually finishing sixth in the table. With some key losses this summer, it will be tough for Leipzig to fight for the title but a top four spot isn’t impossible.

Schalke 04

Transfers In: Donis Avdijaj, Johannes Geis, Luke Hemmerich, Omar Mascarell, Fabian Reese, Salif Sane, Suat Serdar, Steven Skrzybski, Mark Uth, Haji Wright, Hamza Mendyl.

Transfers Out: Coke, Leon Goretzka, Benedikt Howedes, Pablo Insua, Marko Pjaca, Bernhard Tekpetey.

Player to Watch: After 15 goals a season ago, Mark Uth switched from Hoffenheim to Schalke this summer. The 26-year-old is versatile and should work well with the rest of the bunch. He is a hardworking forward who should be the team’s starting forward from day one.

Outlook: Schalke finished second last season, holding off both Hoffenheim and Dortmund for a runners-up place. With European fixtures also approaching, the team will need to manage their roster with care. It may be a stretch to say that they can win over Bayern, but they certainly can claim second again this season.

VfB Stuttgart

Transfers In: Ailton, Gonzalo Castro, Daniel Didavi, Nicolas Gonzalez, Marc-Oliver Kempf, Jan Kliment, David Kopacz, Pablo Maffeo, Roberto Massimo, Jerome Onguene, Hans Nuuno Sarpei, Bruno Sosa, Tobias Werner.

Transfers Out: Takuma Asano, Jacob Brunn Larsen, Dzenis Burnic, Daniel Ginczek, Julian Green, Carlos Mane, Robert Massimo, Matthias Zimmermann, Jean Zimmer.

Player to Watch: Daniel Didavi was an impressive player for Wolfsburg last season and how has made the jump to a better side. 10 goals a season ago showed the 28-year-old can produce and he will improve a midfield needing leadership.

Outlook: Stuttgart was very impressive a season ago, finishing seventh in their return to the top-flight. The question this season will be if they can be just as consistent as they were in 2017-18. A defensively-sound side, Stuttgart should have what it takes to remain in the top-half.

Werder Bremen

Transfers In: Felix Beijmo, Fallou Diagne, Ulisses Garcia, Leon Guwara, Martin Harnik, Davy Klaassen, Kevin Mohwalk, Yuya Osako, Thanos Petsos, Claudio Pizarro, Lennart Thy, Sambou Yatabara.

Transfers Out: Robert Bauer, Ishak Belfodil, Thomas Delaney, Fallou Diagne, Jerome Gondrof, Zlatko Junuzovic, Laszlo Kleinheisler, Eric Oelschlagel, Lennart Thy, Idrissa Toure (Loan).

Player to Watch: After a struggle-filled season with Everton in the EPL, Davy Klaassen joins Bremen from Merseyside. The Dutch midfielder should very well improve a midfield still hurting from Thomas Delaney’s departure. Don’t be surprised if Klaassen bags some goals in a more-suited role in the Bundesliga.

Outlook: Bremen finished 11th last season, sitting nine points off the bottom-three. Now they will seek a place in the top-ten and look to some leaders to headline that improvement. Defensively, they could afford to be better but offensively they have enough talent to do well.

VfL Wolfsburg

Transfers In: Ismail Azzaou, Amara Conde, Daniel Ginczek, Kaylen Hinds, Felix Klaus, Paul-Georges Ntep, Pavao Pervan, Paul Seguin, Marvin Stefaniak, Marcel Tisserand, Wout Weghorst, Jerome Roussillon.

Transfers Out: Daniel Didavi, Divock Origi.

Player to Watch: 26-year-old Wout Weghorst torched the Eredivisie the last few seasons, hitting double digits in the last three. Now a move to Germany will hope to see the Dutch forward translate his 18 goals from a year ago over to a team searching for consistency.

Outlook: Plain and simple, Wolfsburg was very lucky to remain in the top-flight another season. A team that has been flirting with relegation over the last few years now need to man up and prove that they can get back to success.

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? Who will be the biggest threat to Bayern Munich?

Share your thoughts below.

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