The Hard Tackle takes a look at the prime contenders to finish in the top four in the new edition of the Bundesliga.
With less than a week remaining till the 2019-20 season of the Bundesliga gets underway, we, at The Hard Tackle, will be covering a series of topics in our extensive preview of the German top division. And, in this edition, we will be discussing the potential candidates for the much sought after Champions League spots.
Around nine teams competed for the top four in the Bundesliga last season. And, this new campaign could promise pretty much the same. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at those potential candidates, who have what it takes to qualify for the Champions League next season.
Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund: The Favourites
Bayern Munich are almost guaranteed to finish inside the top four even if they fail to play to their full potential. The Bavarians have a significantly better squad than any other team in the league, and their individual superiority has helped them retain their dominance over German football over the years.
Bayern have already spent a lot of money on defensive reinforcements this summer while also bringing in ex-Borussia Dortmund star Ivan Perisic. It is a relatively young side as the Bundesliga champions are currently experiencing a transitional phase. But, that could be beneficial for Niko Kovac as it would make things easier for him to inspire young players rather than established stars.
Another favourite to finish in the top four are Borussia Dortmund. The Black and Yellows, after experiencing a troublesome 2017-18 campaign, have recovered exceptionally well under Lucien Favre and they are tipped to challenge for the title once again this term.
Dortmund have rejuvenated the attacking department with two new additions in Julian Brandt and Thorgan Hazard. The defence has also been reshaped with Nico Schulz and the experienced Mats Hummels coming in from Bayern.
But, most importantly, they have an exciting crop of talented individuals including Jadon Sancho and Marco Reus – players who could potentially help the Ruhrpott giants win their first league title since 2012.
Borussia Monchengladbach, RB Leipzig & Bayer Leverkusen: The “Best of the Rest”
While Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich are expected to battle it out for the title, these three clubs are strong favourites to fight for the remaining two Champions League places.
Leipzig are by far the strongest of the three, having finished third last season, notably securing the best defensive record in the league. However, they are set to undergo massive changes in this campaign, with the appointment of Julian Nagelsmann. Therefore, there might be a surprising element to Leipzig’s performances this term.
It is difficult to say whether the former TSG Hoffenheim coach will succeed in his new venture. But, he has made some smart investments in the market, including Hannes Wolf as well as Ademola Lookman. Chelsea youngster Ethan Ampadu was also brought in on loan. He is sure to add more depth to the backline, while Lookman will provide stiff competition to Marcel Sabitzer.
As for Borussia Monchengladbach, they have been one of the least active sides in the market thus far, although they did sign Breel Embolo from FC Schalke 04 and Marcus Thuram from Guingamp. But, they have been smart in their acquisitions, especially in the case of Stefan Lainer, who is expected to solve their right-back problems.
But, it seems like they will continue to rely on the ageing Oscar Wendt on the opposite flank, which is really not a healthy sign. The biggest issue, however, will be the departure of Hazard.
The Belgian has left a huge void in the attacking department and we expect the Foals to struggle to find the right solution, especially if Thuram fails to adapt to the Bundesliga. And under a new coach in Marco Rose, Gladbach fans shouldn’t have high hopes this season.
Bayer Leverkusen are showing immense promise prior to the start of the new season under Peter Bosz. Die Werkself have made some exciting signings in the market this summer, notably bringing in Nadiem Amiri and Kerem Demirbay from Hoffenheim as well as former PSG starlet Moussa Diaby.
Daley Sinkgraven’s addition from Ajax, meanwhile, should add the necessary depth in the left-back slot as Wendell was the only viable option. The ever-impressive Jonathan Tah will lead the defence while their attack also shows a lot of promise.
The onus will be on the duo of Lucas Alario and Kevin Volland to deliver once again. As for Amiri and Demirbay, they will provide the creative essence in the final third. This coupled with the pacy outlet provided on the flanks by both Diaby and Leon Bailey make Leverkusen a well-rounded team that is a strong contender to finish in the top four this term.
FC Schalke 04 & VfL Wolfsburg: Eyeing Redemption
There is no doubt that these two teams have one of the strongest sides in the Bundesliga. Schalke, in particular, are one of the most famous clubs in Europe. But, a miserable 2018-19 campaign saw them finish only five points ahead relegated VfB Stuttgart.
However, the Royal Blues are ready to initiate a comeback and are raring to go under new coach David Wagner. The former Huddersfield Town boss has not exactly made a lot of changes to the squad so far. But, the smart additions of Jonjoe Kenny (on loan) and Ozan Kabak could help fill the holes in the Schalke defence, which conceded 55 goals last season.
That being said, Schalke do not have a strong offensive unit despite the arrival of Benito Raman. They are lacking reliable options on the wings and could appear far too overreliant on Guido Burgstaller once again. Hence, they are certainly not among the strongest candidates on our list.
Unlike Schalke, however, Wolfsburg are looking like an exciting bunch heading into the new season. The Wolves already have an excellent attacking unit, boasting the services of players like Wout Weghorst, Renato Steffen, Daniel Ginczek and Admir Mehmedi, among others.
They have also reinforced their midfield department with Xaver Schlager, who has come in from Red Bull Salzburg. He will join Josuha Guilavogui, Yannick Gerhardt, Maxmilian Arnold and Elvis Rexhbecaj in what is already a strong midfield unit. Therefore, it is probably fair to say that Wolfsburg are strong candidates to finish in the top four this season.
Eintracht Frankfurt: The dark horse
The emergence of Eintracht Frankfurt under Adi Hutter was enough to indicate that the club from Main shouldn’t be written off under any circumstances. And in this new season, despite losing two of their prized assets in Luka Jovic and Sebastien Haller, the Eagles are ready to rock the Bundesliga once again.
They have brought back a lot of players who were playing away from the club on loan last season. It is a list that includes the likes of Filip Kostic, Sebastian Rode, Kevin Trapp as well as Martin Hinteregger, who has already become a cult figure at Frankfurt. That being said, the Eagles are destined to struggle if they don’t find a reliable source of goals and thus, remain dark horses.