Die Werkself Worked Up For Bundesliga Glory
The 53rd Bundesliga season gets underway on Friday night with defending champions Bayern Munich beginning their quest to become the first team to ever win four consecutive German league titles.
FC Hollywood were in cruise control for the bulk of the previous campaign, having the league virtually wrapped up by Christmas with a W14-D3-L0 return from the first half of the season. By Bayern’s impeccable high standards, the Bavarian powerhouse slumped during the Rückrunde (W11-D1-L5) but still took top honours, finishing 10 points clear of Wolfsburg.
Despite taking a 24th Bundesliga crown, there’s plenty of pressure surrounding Bayern as they begin the 2015/16 renewal. Boss Pep Guardiola is entering the third and final year of his contract and the Munich jury remains out on his success in the Allianz Arena hot-seat – the domestic league trophy was Bayern’s only piece of silverware last season and that’s just not good enough for a demanding board and fan base.
The headline arrival of Arturo Vidal should offset the loss of Bastian Schweinsteiger, adding even more aggression and quality in midfield areas, whilst the addition of electric wideman Douglas Costa strengthens the German giants further. With the likes of Arjen Robben, David Alaba and Philip Lahm back to full fitness, there really is no excuse for the favourites not to justify their cramped odds. BoyleSports have made Bayern a 1/12 play to retain their title and it would take a brave punter to oppose Pep’s troops.
Wolfsburg can be snapped up at 16/1 following their memorable 2014/15 campaign. Dieter Hecking’s men collected only their second ever piece of major silverware thanks to their DFB Pokal triumph but the likely sale of inspirational playmaker Kevin De Bruyne means they should be left well alone.
The Belgian star was named the Bundesliga’s Player of the Year having laid on 20 goals – a league record – as well as netting 10 goals himself. In all, De Bruyne played a key role in 42% of the Wolves’ goals and losing a player of his talent is bound to have an adverse effect on last year’s runners-up.
Dortmund go to post for the first time since 2008 without Jurgen Klopp in the dugout and are also rated 16/1 pokes. Thomas Tuchel is the new man in charge at Signal Iduna Park and BVB should be expected to put their nightmare campaign behind them with a challenge for the top-four. The Black & Yellows have held onto their cast of stars but much of their success may depend on Marco Reus’ fitness following an injury plagued 18 months.
Borussia Monchengladbach continue to make great strides going forward under the canny management of Lucien Favre but following qualification for the Champions League, the Foals may find the going tough when competing on both fronts. Max Kruse and Christoph Kramer are no longer at the club and Gladbach look the more likely to slip out of top-four contention than justify their 33/1 ante-post odds.
Schalke surprised many by appointing Paderborn head coach Andre Breitenreiter as their new number one following Roberto Di Matteo’s departure. The Royal Blues were rotten to watch under the Italian, crawling to a sixth-placed finish and scoring fewer goals than any top-half side.
Returning to the Champions League is high on Schalke’s agenda but supporters are desperate to see a more attack-minded approach alongside a bit of old-fashioned hard work and passion. However, growing pains are expected in Gelsenkirchen and 40/1 quotes on Breitenreiter’s troops taking a first Bundesliga title since 1958 reflect their unlikely prospects.
That just leaves Bayer Leverkusen.
BoyleSports have chalked Die Werkself up at 33/1 and last season’s fourth-placed finishers may well give Bayern a bigger fright than their odds suggest.
Roger Schmidt is starting his second season at the BayArena and although midfield luminaries Gonzalo Castro and Simon Rolfes have moved on, Leverkusen have strengthened impressively over the summer.
Former Freiburg striker Admir Mehmedi should prove an astute backup but Chile’s Copa America star Charles Aranguiz and the return of Christophe Kramer adds quality and bite to an already impressive squad of players. Standout stars Karim Bellarabi, Heung-min Son and Hakan Calhanoglu remain in the North Rhine-Westphalia region and I’ve no doubt the team can push on this time around.
Defensively the side are a little short on numbers but Schmidt’s an intelligent operator and will relish the challenge to put Bayer back on the map of serious title contenders. The devastating counter-attacking and pressing game employed should continue to reap rewards and with Wolfsburg and Gladbach weaker, plus Dortmund and Schalke under new management, Leverkusen are best placed to take advantage of any possible crisis at Bayern as Pep chases Bundesliga history in Munich.
*Prices correct at time of publication