Bayern Munich’s consummate 2-0 win against Borussia Dortmund in the German Super Cup signifies the coming of yet another exciting Bundesliga campaign. It’s difficult to look past the Bavarian giants to win yet another title, but beyond that the league looks set for a surprise or two.
Last season we saw the reemergence of Dortmund under Thomas Tuchel, the dark horse run of Mainz under Martin Schmidt, Ingolstadt’s impressive mid-table finish and the relegation of a German footballing institution in VfB Stuttgart. What unexpected happenings does the Bundesliga have in store for us this time around? Here are three clubs that could surprise us in the coming season:
They may divide opinion in the German footballing community, but RB Leipzig could be primed to take the Bundesliga by storm. Finishing top of the 2.Bundesliga last season, club head Oliver Mintzlaff and sporting director Ralf Rangnick have set a target to become an established club challenging for Europe within five years. The board has also put the construction of a new 55,000-seat stadium on the docket, further proof of their desire to push forward.
Their business in the transfer market this summer only serves as evidence that they are ready to act on the promise of moving forward. Austrian headmaster Ralph Hasenhuttl, the man responsible for Ingolstadt’s impressive showing last season, was brought in after Rangnick moved upstairs. The initial step of having a manager with Bundesliga experience was the right call.
If their move for Hasenhuttl was no doubt a positive, it’s Leipzig’s transfer business that has made many stand up and take notice. Guinean international Naby Keita, one of the standout performers in the Austrian Bundesliga with Red Bull Salzburg, was purchased for €15million. But it’s the business that saw highly-touted German youngster Timo Werner, coming to the club from relegated Stuttgart for €10million, that was just as impressive.
With those additions, Die Roten Bullen will now boast one of the most potent attacking sides in Germany. The likes of Emil Forsberg, Marcel Sabitzer and Davie Selke were already performing admirably for the club, meaning additional reinforcements in midfield and up-front could not only turn a head or two, but it could fire them to mid-table in the club’s first ever season in the German top flight.
Potential XI: Gulacsi; Halstenberg, Orban, Nukan, Klostermann; Ilsanker, Keita; Sabitzer, Forsberg, Werner; Selke
Their third-placed finish last season was certainly seen as a massive success, beating out Borussia Monchengladbach and Schalke for the coveted final automatic Champions League place. Already blessed with a myriad of talented footballers, some have tipped the North Rhine-Westphalia club for even bigger things in the season to come.
Manager Roger Schmidt is looked upon favorably as one of the most tactically astute managers in the Bundesliga, and this is the basis for any further success the BayArena side could garner this campaign. He’s already brought German wunderkind Julian Brandt through the ranks and made him into a crucial attacking asset down the left-hand side. Another highly-touted German, Jonathan Tah, had a brilliant season last year and is well on his way to becoming one of the most formidable center backs in Germany while still only being just 20 years old.
Schmidt also brought the best out of former Manchester United and Real Madrid wantaway Javier Hernandez, who proved his detractors wrong after a brilliant campaign that saw him bag 17 goals, falling behind only Robert Lewandowski, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Thomas Muller in the goal charts. Already blessed with an excellent XI to challenge both domestically and in Europe, Leverkusen still made some key additions in the transfer market to strengthen the first team.
The deal for Danny Da Costa, the 22-year-old right back from Ingolstadt, is one of the best pieces of business of the entire summer - Leverkusen potentially found their right back for the next six years. With Stefan Kiessling injured and aging, German international forward Kevin Volland was brought in from Hoffenheim, giving him the perfect platform to finally make good on his promise and fire his way up the national team depth chart. The third big piece of business, signing up Austrian international Julian Baumgartlinger, gave Leverkusen arguably the most underrated holding midfielder in the Bundesliga over the last few years.
With added strength in depth, a potential XI that rivals even that of Dortmund, and a tactically brilliant manager, Leverkusen are looking capable of quite the shock this season - beating Dortmund to second place.
Potential XI: Leno; Wendell, Toprak, Tah, Jedvaj; Baumgartlinger, Aranguiz; Calhanoglu; Brandt, Bellarabi, Hernandez
One of the most storied and passionately supported sides in the country, Hamburger SV are coming off poor showings in recent seasons, finishing 16th, 16th, and 10th in the last three campaigns. Though the 2015/16 installment was an improvement in the standings, it is still deemed insufficient for a club with the history that Hamburg has.
Only finding the back of the net 40 times in 34 outings last season, not only did Hamburg fail to score at a consistent enough clip, but they genuinely lacked the requisite creativity beyond the reborn Lewis Holtby. It is this issue that manager Bruno Labbadia has targeted this summer, and the business done by the club that could see them in much better straights this time around.
To address the concerns in the creativity department, Hamburg brought in the highly-rated Filip Kostic from Stuttgart. Though relegated, Kostic was their most influential attacking player (apart from Daniel Didavi), and a move to remain in the Bundesliga is absolutely deserved. Die Rothosen also brought in Croatian youngster Alen Halilovic from Barcelona. Though the move is effectively a two-year loan given the low fee buy-back clause Barca put into the deal, Halilovic has long been tipped to have a bright future, and his creative abilities from central areas will reduce the pressure that rested on Holtby’s shoulders last season.
Additional moves were made for young strikers Bobby Wood (from Union Berlin) and Luca Waldschmidt (from Eintracht Frankfurt). Despite the club having decent center forward options in Pierre-Michel Lasogga and Michael Gregoritsch, the pacey options off the bench provided by the young and hungry newcomers can help Labbadia expand on his tactical options.
Though a magical run into Champions League would be the pipe dream to end all pipe dreams, and not at all unattainable, Hamburg is certainly capable of shocking the Bundesliga with a very unexpected finish in the Europa League places. They’ll have to beat out the likes of Wolfsburg, Mainz, and Schalke to do it, but we’ve seen stranger events unfold in the past.
Potential XI: Adler; Ostrzolek, Djourou, Cleber, Sakai; Holtby, Ekdal; Halilovic; Kostic, Muller, Lasogga