Hello again everyone and welcome to my latest blog post where I have the first of many European league previews before the start of the new season, starting with the German Bundesliga.
Last season, Bayern Munich regained their Bundesliga crown as well as winning their first UEFA Champions League trophy in over 10 years in a world-class display throughout the season. Borussia Dortmund were former Bundesliga champions, but focused more on their Champions League adventure and struggled at times in the league.
|Borussia who? Bayern Munich bounced back to regain their Bundesliga title with a dominant display at the top.|
|Champions: Bayern saw off the likes of Juventus and Barca as well as rivals Dortmund to win the UCL trophy.|
Today I will be previewing all the teams as well as filing my own report to the Bundesliga, which has swiftly become one of the most popular and followed leagues in the world.
Unlike in the EPL, the Bundesliga has 18 teams in the league, with every team playing 34 matches every season.
Fortuna Dusseldorf and Greuther Furth were the two teams to be relegated from the top division from last season's results and they were replaced by the second divisions' top two teams - Hertha Berlin and Eintracht Braunschweig while Hoffenheim won the promotion-relegation play-off match and as a result stayed in the division.
Bayern Munich will hope to retain their Bundesliga title after a dominant display last season, only losing once and conceding 18 goals in the entire season - the lowest of all teams in the league.
Well, what can you say? One of the most dominant teams in Europe last season, they proved why Germany is a rapidly-growing football country in terms of playstyle with their passing and defensive structure. They are able to counter attack with pace quickly on either wing with both Robben and Ribery, and players like Mandzukic and Muller are not afraid to shoot either. They have powerhouses at the back and can also defend well with Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger crowding you in midfield, or Boateng and Dante destroying you at the back.
On the right you have the captain, Mr Consistent - Phillip Lahm. Always gives 100% in every match and can whip in a cross from any angle for the strikers to finish clinically.
On the left you have the young, Austrian starlet - David Alaba. Always bombs forward to help with counter attacks but more importantly for a full-back knows how to defend and can score a goal every so often.
Now to make things even worse for everyone else, they have confirmed former Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola as their new manager on a three-year contract deal (if you remember correctly in January) as Jupp Heynckes announced his managerial retirement.
|Look who's back in business: Josep Guardiola has signed for Bayern after a successful spell at Barca.|
Also.... Bayern have already signed Mario Gotze and Thiago Alcantara, two young amazing talents who will spice up the midfield even more and give the team more quality going forward - as if they needed anymore.
|Bold statement: Bayern have already signed Borussia Dortmund's young playmaker Mario Gotze this summer.|
|Reunion: Thiago Alcantara snubbed Manchester United for a chance to work with former manager Guardiola.|
The underdogs throughout last season got the the Champions League final and finished 2nd in the Bundesliga. Everyone doubted them but with a young, good side they were able to prove the doubters wrong and get to their first CL final since 1997.
Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Robert Lewandowski all had a key role to play in Dortmund's progression through to the final, beating Real Madrid and Malaga among other sides to get to Wembley and set up an all German final.
It is even more unlikely for them to do well now that they have lost key midfielder and playmaker Mario Gotze to their fiercest rivals Bayern Munich after the Bavarian club activated the 20-year-old's release clause of £32million pounds.
Lewandowski is also rumoured to leave the club, and even though Dortmund are still a good footballing side with their great attacking football and classy displays in Europe - they will struggle to win the Bundesliga unless they are consistent from the first match.
|Key player: Dortmund must keep hold of Polish striker Robert Lewandowski if they are to succeed this season.|
|Impressive: Ilkay Gundogan's consistent performances last season attracted interest from Europe's top clubs.|
|Marco Reus and Ilkay Gundogan will also be key to Dortmund's success after an impressive display last season.|
FC Schalke 04:
One of the most under-rated teams in Germany, Schalke have the potential to go far in all competitions this season. They have German wonderkid Julian Draxler in the ranks, after he impressed Europe with his assists and performances last season.
|Julian Draxler is definitely a player to watch next season, he has the potential to be one of the world's best.|
Brazillian winger Michel Bastos will be itching to start his first full season in Germany off with some assists, contributing to the team as any good winger should do.
Schalke do not have many individual superstars apart from Huntelaar and Draxler, but have the potential young players and good attitude to command respect from the footballing world. The way they play football often reminds me of Arsenal at times, and there is no reason why they cannot win silverware this season whether it is domestic or otherwise - as long as they have a positive mentality and start off well.
If you are a neutral, you would either support Dortmund or Schalke if you had to support a team in Germany.
One point away from 2nd placed Borussia Dortmund last year, Leverkusen were unlucky not to finish above the defending champions of last year. Unfortunately for them, they are looking weaker and weaker by the second due to the transfer market, with talisman and German winger Andre Schurrle completing a £20million move to English club Chelsea.
Fortunately, they still have German striker Stefan Kiebling, but who knows how long he will stay as long as he keeps scoring goals. Schurrle is one of the kind of players who you would struggle to replace, and Leverkusen may find it hard to replicate their results from last season.
Either way they are still going to try hard, but it is looking like they will have to fight for a Champions League spot unless they can keep their squad injury-free and use some of the money they have from Schurrle to bolster the squad in all areas.
Wolfsburg had a lacklustre season last year, they struggled at times and finished in 11th place. For the quality that they have, them finishing in 11th place does not do them justice and is not a fair reflection of their capablities.
Players like Diego, Benaglio, Naldo, Perisic and Olic can all contribute to the team in different ways, link together and at least try and aim for a Europa League spot next season. The only problem for them is their squad depth, because if one or two key players get injured they will not be able to cope. This is why they should try and sign some new players in the transfer market to bolster their squad.
Hamburg were unlucky not to qualify for the Europa League, 3 points away from 5th place and a chance to play in European competition this season.
In terms of squad quality, they could do with signing a couple of well-known players for cheap prices to try and ensure they can qualify for the Europa League next season but goalkeeper Rene Adler and captain Rafael van Der Vaart are both going to have to be influential again this season if Hamburg want to improve on last season's performances.
|Midfielder Rafael van Der Vaart will have to be consistent this season if Hamburg are to qualify for the EL.|
Another under-rated side in Germany, Borussia Monchengladbach produced Marco Reus and have a good young squad filled with potential. Finished 8th last season, not bad for a team who were expected to finish in the bottom half of the table.
They could challenge for a top 6 finish this season, with players like ter Stegen, Xhaka, Luuk De Jong, Mlapa and Dominguez in their ranks who are all young and have quality.
Watch out for all of these teams, you will not regret it.
The Bundesliga this year will be competitive everywhere in the table and even though they have the strongest team Bayern are not guaranteed to win, just yet.