Bundesliga 2013-14: Season Preview

It’s August, and it’s time for football. After a completely uninteresting and depressing 3 months sans football, we have all the major leagues kicking off, starting with the Bundesliga this Friday.

Well, we did have the FIFA Confederations Cup to watch, and of course a few friendlies, but the real deal is always the more thrilling and nail-biting experience which league football offers.

While the EPL races ahead, with its very wide audience base around the world, thanks to the drama and quality being put on show, the German league, will surely attract a much bigger viewer base this term compared to the previous ones.

Much of that can be attributed to the comprehensive success of Bayern Munich and Dortmund who turned on their A game to set up an all-German Champions League final last May. While one may wonder about the extent of their success at the highest level, it wasn’t a one-off miracle for the season.

It took almost a decade of meticulous planning and unparalleled execution of those plans which have brought the German clubs to the pinnacle.

Over the years, the Bundesliga has earned the name of being the most unpredictable league of all. With smaller teams managing upsets over the big fishes on a frequent basis, there is enough scope for scintillating, entertaining matches.

Though the past few seasons have seen two teams dominate the charts, Leverkusen were very close to finishing second ahead of Dortmund last season. This time around, Bayern have gotten much stronger and have one of the best coaches in the world. But their loss in the German Super Cup to Dortmund will force us to think otherwise.

Last season, Fortuna Dusseldorf and Greuther Furth were relegated, while Werder Bremen were the startling underperformers. From the lower league, Hertha BSC and Eintracht Braunschweig got promoted into the top flight.

Hoffenheim managed to retain their place with a relegation playoff win over second division’s Kaiserslautern. Hertha BSC will be the one to watch amongst the bottom half teams. While we are at it, let’s take a look at few of the teams which have the potential to provide attractive and quality football for the next 10 months.

Starting with Champions League finalists…

Bayern Munich

Borussia Dortmund v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Final

Bayern Munich, the defending European and Bundesliga champions

Undoubtedly, the strongest team in Germany and also on the planet at the moment, the combination of brain and money has fortified the Bavarians in every aspect. They remain the favorites in every tournament they participate.

Pep Guardiola’s arrival will only make the already established team, a more tactically flexible squad. Follow this link for more insight into how Bayern might lineup in 2013-14.

Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund – the “box office” of Europe

In Klopp’s terms, his team is the box office of Europe. The visually appealing football his side offers is one of its kind. The coupling of modern tactics and extreme adaptability of the squad has made them what they are today.

Everybody knows how Dortmund got to the position they are now, after they almost went out of business 10 years ago. For what it’s worth, they have taught the world how a club has to be run, and have reaped the rewards with consecutive league titles and a UCL runners-up medal.

The departure of Mario Goetze to rivals Bayern Munich and potential transfer of marksman Robert Lewandowski at the end of this season might feel like a thorn in Dortmund fans’ hearts. But Die Schwarzgelben (Dortmund) possess a brilliant youth setup which is capable of producing many more Goetze’s.

The revenue gained from the youngster’s sale has been well spent on 3 great signings in Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan and Sokratis. For more on Dortmund and their probable tactics, follow the link.

Bayer Leverkusen

SV Lippstadt v Bayer Leverkusen - DFB Cup

Heung Min Son

Bayer Leverkusen has never won a Bundesliga title, but they came close on five occasions, the most recent being the 2010-11 season. In the past 5 years, they have been consistently finishing in the top 4, hinting towards stability in terms of both personnel and tactics.

The dual coaching roles of Sami Hyypia and Sascha Lewandowski has aided the club well last season, as they were able to finish 3rd, just a point behind Dortmund in the league. Both the coaches still have a year in their contracts, and they will try and continue the positive progress that has been made till now.

Andre Schurrle, who was one of Leverkusen’s best player last season moved to Chelsea for a fee of 18 million pounds. Also, defender Daniel Carvajal returned to his former club Real Madrid for a fee of 5 million. Left-back Michal Kadlec was sold to Fenerbahce for 4 million.

The income from these transfers was spent wisely on some good talents. Striker Heung-Min Son was bought from Hamburg along with young midfielder Emre Can from Bayern Munich and defender Giulio Donati from Inter Milan.

While the striker department seems to have been compensated, it is the midfield that has gotten some steel with the addition of Emre Can. Can has been playing second fiddle to the likes of Schweinsteiger and Gustavo at Bayern Munich for almost 3 years now. The arrival of Pep Guardiola has forced his transfer, and he now has a new challenge of playing regular football at the top level.

The latest news is the contract extension of Stefan Kiessling, which will keep him at the club until 2017. Kiessling, Schurrle and Bender were instrumental in Leverkusen’s fast paced playing style last season, with most of the goals being shared between them.

Now, they have Son, who is a natural goalscorer. The combination of Son and Kiessling will definitely cause problems to opponent defences, but the loss of Schurrle will be felt, unless of course Leverkusen sign a similar winger. Just like Bayern and Dortmund, we can expect some entertaining football from Leverkusen in the new season.

Schalke 04

Schalke 04 - Annual Meeting 2013

Adam Szalai will provide enough firepower to compensate for Afellay’s absence

Die Konigsblauen have been a steady customer of the top 8 in the Bundesliga over the past decade. The only exception being the 2010-11 season where they managed to survive a relegation scare. Since then, they have finished 3rd and 4th in the following years.

Manager Jens Keller has been able to maintain the team’s top status in his first season in-charge after getting promoted from the position of Schalke’s youth coach. This time around, the club has made some positive strides in improving the squad and look to cause some serious damage in every front.

The mid-season departure of Lewis Holtby to Spurs might have created a big hole to fill in. Even the expiration of the loan deal of Ibrahim Afellay will be a concern. But the signing of Hungarian international, Adam Szalai from Mainz will provide good options up front.

While Klaas Jan Huntelaar’s goal scoring regime was a bit on the down side last term, the addition of Szalai will provide enough competition for the Dutchman to find his goal scoring form. Also, Felipe Santana was signed from Dortmund, replacing the retired Christoph Metzelder in defence. Brazilian Michel Bastos was offloaded to the middle-east after a poor stint at the club and young winger Christian Clemens was signed from FC Cologne.

Coming the tactics and style of play, the current squad Schalke possess is one of the youngest among the top 8 and has decent talent to cement their position as a top 4 team for the next few years. The likes of Julian Draxler, Joel Matip and Kyriakos Papadopoulos will play a key role in the success of their team.

The recent contract extension of Draxler will bring a sigh of relief for the Schalke faithful but the ongoing rumours on the sale of Papadopoulos might be a matter of concern. The Greek international is one of the hot defensive prospects in world football at the moment.

The interesting piece of the jigsaw though, will be the attacking midfield section. If the club manages to sign or loan in a left winger by the end of the window, the squad would be almost complete tactically to fit into a 4-2-3-1 formation. That would obviously mean that Draxler will play in the hole behind the striker, which is not good news for other teams.

Also, Keller could opt for a different formation to accommodate both Huntelaar and Szalai upfront. If that experiment manages to click, a goal fest is surely on the cards. The counter-attacking brand of football Schalke play will certainly rise your adrenaline levels.

Moving on

Well, that’s the maximum number of teams you get when restricted to the parameter of attractive football. Nevertheless, SC Freiberg, Eintracht Frankfurt and VFB Stuttgart will be plying their trade in the Europa League apart from the domestic league.

Those midweek, Thursday distractions will limit their ability to pose any possible threat to the top 4. There is a possibility of a few surprises though. Wolfsburg and Hamburg could be the dark horses this season, with squads capable of claiming the Europa league places, dismantling the likes of Freiburg and Frankfurt, come the end of the season.

Wolfsburg now have 6 options for the striker position alone and have secured good loan deals for other areas of the pitch. While Hamburg have lost their major goal force in Heung-Min Son, they are still very much capable of pulling off an upset against the likes of Leverkusen or Schalke. But that becomes a reality only if they invest in a striker to bolster a thin looking attack department.

The players to look out for in the teams other than Bayern Munich and Dortmund are Son for Leverkusen, Ivan Perisic for Wolfsburg, Raffael for Monchengladbach, Julian Draxler and Christian Clemens for Schalke.

These are the set of players that possess the ability to change the game on its head and win crucial matches for their teams.

So, that brings us to the end of this preview. The first match of the season is on Friday between champions Bayern Munich and Borussia Monchengladbach.

So, sit back and soak in the exciting taste of German football.

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