The 2015-16 Bundesliga is underway and seventeen teamsa have begun the journey to dethrone record champions Bayern Munich from the top of the table. The Bavarians have romped their way to the trophy on the last 3 occasions, winning the title by more than 10 points each time.
However, with Bayern Munich looking more vulnerable than ever and teams like Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia M nchengladbach, Wolfsburg and Schalke all have the quality necessary to stage an upset, the 2015-16 season could quite possibly have a different champion.
Here are the three teams who have the most realistic chances of usurping Bayern:
Bayer 04 Leverkusen and manager Roger Schmidt have made their intentions clear as genuine title contenders following a summer of smart spending and squad development.
The departure of captain Simon Rolfes, fan favourite Gonzalo Castro and Josip Drmic seemed to weaken the teama s foundation, but the Werkself have done brilliantly in replacing them by signing World Cup winner Christoph Kramer from M nchengladbach, Copa America star Charles Aranguiz from Internacional and striker Admir Mehmedi from Freiburg. After also securing the services of promising young defender Jonathan Tah, Bayer Leverkusen now have a potent all-round squad. Further, the average age of the squad is only 24, making this Bayer Leverkusen team one to look out for in the future.
Roger Schmidt has often favoured a high pressing game and certainly has the team for it. Hakan Calhanoglua s creativity, Karim Bellarabia s pace and captain Lars Bendera s grit have all served Leverkusen well over the course of last season and will be the key men once again. Goalscorers Stefan Kiessling, Heung Min Son and Admir Mehmedi are all proven finishers in the German top division and keeper Bernd Leno remains one of Europea s best shot stoppers.
Defence still remains a bit of a problem though, as seen in the Champions League game at Lazio. Full backs Wendell and Roberto Hilbert are very limited in their approach and Kyriakos Papadopoulos error prone game still leave some scope for improvement. The long term injury problems to Tin Jedvaj and first team regular Omer Toprak leave them a bit short of personnel at the back
Schmidta s high intensity pressing game may take its toll on the team especially as the season progresses, but with a bit of fortune they can go all the way. Not only are Leverkusen looking at a strong finish domestically, a good run in Europe should be within their reach.
After last seasona s rather disappointing 7th placed finish, the 2011 and 2012 champions have made the bold but right move in parting ways with manager JA?rgen Klopp. His replacement, Thomas Tuchel has already put together a new team with the old pieces.
Tuchel made his name at Mainz, leading them to an impressive 5th place finish in 2013-14 with the team being known for its adaptability and organization. His ideology at Dortmund remains the same as seen in the 4-0 opening day win against M nchengladbach. His preferred 4-1-4-1 formation relies on his organizational strength which strengthens BVBa s possession game as well, something that was lacking under Klopp last year.
Sebastian Kehl, Ciro Immobile, Milos Jojic and Mitch Langerak have all left the club and were more or less replaced Julian Weigl, Jonas Hofmann, Gonzalo Castro and Roman BA?rki, all of whom have played vital roles at their previous clubs. One of the most promising sign for the Black and Yellows is the young and exciting Weigl, a new signing from 1860 Munich. The 19 year old has shown great potential and has even managed to displace Sven Bender in the starting XI.
The task of replacing the ageing Roman Weidenfeller in goal has been given to the new arrival from Freiburg, Roman BA?rki. The Swiss international was arguably one the best keepers in the league last season and will want to replicate his form at Dortmund too.
Ilkay GA?ndogan and Marcel Schmelzer have had a torrid past 12 months but seem to have rediscovered their form under Tuchel. A revitalized Henrikh Mkhitaryan has finally found his scoring boots and will be the man to watch this season.
Although it may be a little too early to call them title contenders, Dortmund have shown some great positive signs under Tuchel who will look to guide them to a strong finish in the Europa League too.
On the back of a brilliant 2014-15, Wolfsburg have stuck to the saying a never change a winning formulaa , with the team remaining practically the same as last year. Max Kruse the only notable signing and none of the important first team players have left the club.
The DFB Pokal winners have played some very attractive attacking football last season and Kevin De Bruyne has established himself as one of the best players in world football at the moment. It would be wise to say that Wolfsburga s season will be dependent on him staying at the club. The Belgian international made 21 assists in the league alone, a record for the most in a single season and scored a further 10 goals as well.x
However, manager Dieter Heckinga s contract renewal and the cluba s strong financial position do emphasize that they will manage to cope even without their star man. Defenders Ricardo Rodriguez and Naldo are amongst the best in their position, youngsters Maxi Arnold and Robin Knoche are ready to break into the senior national team, and wingers Andre SchA?rrle and Ivan Perisic have enough Bundesliga experience and quality to ensure that the Wolves remain at the top.
But with all the quality in the team, Wolfsburga s season could unfortunately come down to Kevin De Bruynea s commitment to the club. Should he stay and replicate last seasona s brilliance, Bayern Munich will be in for a thrilling finish.