The Bundesliga, Europe’s best attended league, kicks off its 2011/12 campaign without its best player of last season, Nuri Sahin, who left champions Borussia Dortmund for Spanish giants Real Madrid at the start of the summer. And it has been a summer of change in Germany, albeit mainly managerial. The most significant have seen Jupp Heynckes swap last year’s runners-up Bayer Leverkusen for Bayern Munich, replacing Louis van Gaal at the Allianz Arena, and Robin Dutt come in to take Heynckes place in the Rhineland.
However, there is another change of note, this time in the table itself as for the 2011/12 season Germany now has four Champions League spots after overtaking Italy following Werder Bremen’s victory over Sampdoria in last year’s qualifying round for the tournament. This means for the first time in its history, three teams will qualify automatically from the Bundesliga, with the fourth going into the final round of Champions League qualifying, making the battle in the upper echelons even more intense.
Will Borussia Dortmund retain the title they won so impressively last season? Bayern Munich have strengthened and have not gone more than one season without getting their hands on the Bundesliga trophy since 1996, when the winners were, perhaps tellingly, Dortmund. Inside Futbol preview the 2011/12 Bundesliga campaign:
A tough campaign lies ahead for Augsburg given that the teams which just missed relegation last year, the likes of Borussia Monchengladbach, Schalke, Wolfsburg and Werder Bremen, will be considerably stronger this season.
Led by Dutchman Jos Luhukay, Augsburg have lost important players in Kees Kwakman and Ibrahima Traore, but have brought in a number of other performers to fill the gaps created by their departures. Patrick Mayer and Sascha Molders should add a goalscoring threat whilst Edgar Davids’ cousin Lorenzo Davids will marshal the midfield. Avoiding relegation will be a big ask though.
Key arrivals: Sebastian Langkamp (Karlsruhe), Patrick Mayer (Heidenheim), Dominic Peitz (Union Berlin), Lorenzo Davids (NEC), Sascha Molders (FSV Frankfurt), Akaki Gogia (Wolfsburg – loan)
Key departures: Kees Kwakman (Groningen), Ibrahima Traore (Stuttgart), Daniel Framberger (TSV Neusass), Lucas Sinkiewicz (Bochum)
The signing of prolific youngster Andre Schurrle from last season’s surprise package Mainz will go some way to offsetting the huge loss of midfield dynamo Arturo Vidal at the BayArena, even though the forward is not a direct replacement for the Chilean.
But it is in defence where Leverkusen need to improve after conceding twice as many goals last season as champions Dortmund. Their lack of reinforcements in this area, combined with the retirement of Sami Hyypia, means that though the club should challenge for the Champions League, it is hard to see them sustaining a push for the title at the very end.
Key arrivals: Bastian Oczipka (St Pauli), Andre Schurrle (Mainz)
Key departures: Sami Hyypia (retired), Tomas Bobelz (retired), Arturo Vidal (Juventus), Richard Sukuta-Pasu (Kaiserslautern), Constant Djakpa (Eintracht Frankfurt), Bulent Kaplan (Besiktas), Zvonko Pamic (Duisburg – loan), Kevin Kampl (Osnabruck), Domagoj Vida (Dinamo Zagreb)
Bayern Munich will be favourites for the title this campaign and are determined to regain the Bundesliga title from Borussia Dortmund. The signing of flying Brazilian full back Rafinha will see Philip Lahm move to the left, solving one of the club’s problem positions, whilst another – goalkeeper – has been remedied by the capture of Manuel Neuer from Schalke. Jerome Boateng has also arrived from Manchester City, strengthening the defence further.
Jupp Heynckes lands for his third spell as manager and should restore some order to the club. With the talents of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben going forward, no team can match the Bavarians’ attacking talent, but beating Dortmund to the title will take more than craft. Can Heynckes create the team spirit required to lift the Bundesliga?
Key arrivals: David Alaba (Hoffenheim – loan return), Rafinha (Genoa), Takashi Usami (Gamba Osaka – loan), Manuel Neuer (Schalke), Jerome Boateng (Manchester City), Nils Peterson (Energie Cottbus)
Key departures: Hamit Altintop (Real Madrid), Andreas Ottl (Hertha Berlin), Miroslav Klose (Lazio), Mehmet Ekici (Werder Bremen), Thomas Kraft (Hertha Berlin)
The loss of Nuri Sahin to Real Madrid will harm Borussia Dortmund’s attempt to retain the title, but the return from injury of Japanese starlet Shinji Kagawa, as well as the precocious talent of Mario Goetze, means that the champions have plenty of creativity going forward still. Robert Lewandowski and Lucas Barrios should ensure that Jurgen Klopp’s men score an abundance of goals next season, but it was not just the Ruhr side’s attacking flair which brought them the title.
Dortmund’s defence was one of the best in Bundesliga history. And with Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic lining up again at the heart of backline in front of Roman Weidenfeller and a number of additions to the defence and midfield, Dortmund will at the least go very close to keeping their crown.
Key arrivals: Julian Koch (Duisburg – loan return), Moritz Leitner (Augsburg – loan return), Ivan Perisic (Club Brugge), Ilkay Gündogan (Nurnberg), Chris Lowe (Chemnitz)
Key departures: Nuri Sahin (Real Madrid), Marcus Feulner (Nurnberg), Dede (released), Tamas Hajnal (Stuttgart)
Monchengladbach finished 16th to face the relegation playoff last season but survived after a dramatic defeat of Bochum. It will be a tough task to stay in the Bundesliga again this campaign however, with a number of players leaving.
Die Fohlen have reinforced with untested players from abroad, such as Japanese starlet Yuki Otsu and Australian Matthew Leckie. Michael Bradley returns from his loan spell at English Premier League outfit Aston Villa and whilst Matthias Zimmermann is promising at the back, Monchengladbach will have to be fight hard if they are to have a chance of staying up.
Key arrivals: Yuki Otsu (Kashiwa Reysol), Michael Bradley (Aston Villa – loan return), Matthew Leckie (Adelaide United), Oscar Wendt (FC Copenhagen), Raul Bobadilla (Aris Salonika – loan return), Matthias Zimmermann, Lukas Rupp (both Karlsruhe)
Key departures: Sebastien Schachten (St Pauli), Jean-Sebastien Jaures (retired), Christian Dorda (Greuther Furth), Jens Wissing (Paderborn), Logan Bailly (Neuchatel Xamax), Karim Matmour (Eintracht Frankfurt), Fabian Backer (Alemannia Aachen)
At the Dreisamstadion Marcus Sogg steps up to manage the first team to fill the void created by Robin Dutt’s departure for Bayer Leverkusen. Freiburg will hope this turns out to be a good move as they look to repeat last season’s mid-table finish. Papiss Cisse’s superb goalscoring form last year was key to their ninth place feat, but the side are too reliant on the Senegalese, who scored more than half their Bundesliga goals.
If Garra Dembele can adapt to Germany after scoring 26 goals in 24 games for Bulgarian giants Levski Sofia last season, he could relieve the pressure on Cisse. Elsewhere Beg Ferati will add solidity at the back. Freiburg fans should be able to look forward with optimism, but a European push may just be beyond them.
Key arrivals: Beg Ferati (Basel), Daniel Batz (Nurnberg), Ivica Banovic (Duisburg – loan return), Garra Dembele (Levski Sofia)
Key departures: Simon Pouplin (released), Tommy Bechmann (SonderjyskE), Zvonko Pamic (Bayer Leverkusen – loan return), Nicolas Hofler (Erzgebirge Aue),
Having lost Dutch internationals Joris Mathijsen and Ruud van Nistelrooy to Malaga, Hamburg have been looking to strengthen and have raided Chelsea for a number of players, aided by the club’s new sporting director and former Blues man Frank Arnesen. In come youngsters Jacopo Sala and Gokhan Tore in addition to English defender Michael Mancienne.
With Marcus Berg back from a loan spell at PSV Eindhoven and Jeffrey Bruma also arriving, Hamburg have made some useful additions all over the pitch, though they have also lost some key men. Seeing both Piotr Trochowski and David Rozenhal leave will weaken the northern German giants. Last season Hamburg were comfortable but never threatened the European spots. A similar 2011/12 campaign awaits.
Key arrivals: Jeffrey Bruma (Chelsea – loan), Marcus Berg (PSV Eindhoven – loan return), Jacopo Sala, Gokhan Tore, Michael Mancienne (all Chelsea), Per Ciljan Skjelbred (Rosenborg),
Key departures: David Rozehnal (Lille), Ruud van Nistelrooy, Joris Mathijsen (both Malaga), Piotr Trochowski (Sevilla), Ze Roberto (Al Gharafa), Frank Rost (New York Red Bulls), Eric Choupo-Moting (Mainz), Tunay Torun (Hertha Berlin)
Hannover’s remarkable campaign last year almost saw Die Roten beat Bayern Munich to a Champions League spot. Repeating that trick will be an ambitious task for the club, but they have held onto their key players and look set to challenge well in the top half of the table again.
Having achieved a large amount on a small budget, and after spending relatively little again this summer, whether Hannover can repeat last year’s remarkable achievement with a small squad whilst competing in Europe is open to question, but they should at least be in contention for European qualification. The addition of Christian Pander from Schalke threatens to be good business if he can stay fit.
Key arrivals: Artur Sobiech (Polonia Warsaw), Henning Hauger (Stabaek), Samuel Radlinger (SV Ried), Christian Pander (Schalke),
Key departures: Felix Burmeister (Arminia Bielefeld), DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla FC), Constant Djakpa (Bayer Leverkusen – loan return), Florian Fromlowitz (Duisburg)
The club from the capital should have a reasonable chance of staying up after winning the 2. Bundesliga title last season to bounce straight back after relegation in 2009/10. Hertha Berlin have brought in Bayern Munich duo Thomas Kraft and Andreas Ottl and while the pair are not good enough for title challengers, they should be good additions for a team at the other end of the table. Also a boost is the return of Brazilian defender Kaka from Braga after the 30-year-old played a key role in their run to the Europa League final.
In promising forward Tunay Torun and defenders Maik Franz and Peter Niemeyer, Hertha have made intelligent signings and even in an increasingly competitive league should be able to scrape to safety, though it might have to be via the relegation playoff.
Key arrivals: Kaka (Braga – loan return), Andreas Ottl, Thomas Kraft (both Bayern Munich), Tunay Torun (Hamburg), Maik Franz (Eintracht Frankfurt), Peter Niemeyer (Werder Bremen),
Key departures: Lennart Hartmann (Alemannia Aachen), Valeri Domovchiyski (Duisburg), Sascha Bigalke (Unterhaching)
Hoffenheim’s remarkable stay in the Bundesliga lasts a fourth season, but may be challenged after the loss of manager Ralf Rangnick last year. In a bid to strengthen the village club have signed a number of players, including Fabian Johnson from Wolfsburg and Stuttgart’s Sven Shipplock.
Last year Hoffenheim finished above the quartet of Wolfsburg, Werder Bremen, Stuttgart and Schalke, all of who will be expected to be competing at the other end of the Bundesliga this season, which means the Rhein-Neckar-Arena outfit could by default find themselves scrapping for their lives at the wrong end of the table.
Key arrivals: Sven Shipplock (Stuttgart), Fabian Johnson (Wolfsburg), Prince Tagoe (Partizan Belgrade – loan return), Jukka Raitala (Paderborn), Franco Zukulini (Racing Club de Avallaneda), Michael Gregoritsch (Kapfenberger)
Key departures: David Alaba (Bayern Munich – loan return), Ramazan Ozcan (Ingolstadt)
Kaiserslautern pulled off a significant coup earlier this summer by beating a whole host of teams in Italy and England to the signing of promising Israeli forward Itay Schechter, also bringing in Hapoel Tel-Aviv team-mate Gil Vermouth at the same time.
Having survived following promotion the year before with a storming finish to the 2010/11 campaign, the 1998 champions have lost prolific forward Srdan Lakic and the creative Jan Moravek, so pressure will be on the Israeli pair to replace the duo’s attacking prowess. Christian Tiffert’s quality in the middle of the pitch will be crucial too if Kaiserslautern are to repeat last season’s performance and stay clear of relegation.
Key arrivals: Gil Vermouth, Itay Schechter (both Hapoel Tel-Aviv), Olcay Sahan (Duisburg), Richard Sukuta Paso (Bayer Leverkusen), Kostas Fortounis (Asteras Tripolis), Dorge Kouemaha (Club Brugge)
Key departures: Srdan Lakic (Wolfsburg), Jan Moravek (Schalke), Adam Hlousek (Slavia Prague), Erwin Hoffer (Napoli)
After dispatching manager Zvonomir Soldo following a disastrous start to the season, Koln rallied to finish 10th under Frank Schaefer last year. He has now been replaced by Stale Solbakken, the man who led Danish champions FC Copenhagen into the Champions League Round of 16.
With Milivoje Novakovic and Lukas Podolski, Koln have firepower up front, but are perhaps too reliant on the pair. Their summer signings have been right back Sascha Riether and promising forward Odise Roshi. Koln may struggle in an increasingly competitive Bundesliga, but should have enough strength throughout the side not to be caught up in a serious relegation tussle.
Key arrivals: Sascha Riether (Wolfsburg), Odise Roshi (KS Flamurtari Vlore)
Key departures: Fabrice Ehret (Evian)
Mainz were the season’s surprise package last year, coming fifth in the Bundesliga and qualifying for the Europa League in the process. It was a remarkable campaign which started in blistering fashion for the team from the Rhineland. But they have lost three of their best players; Lewis Holtby and Christian Fuchs have left for Schalke, whilst Andre Schurrle has moved to Bayer Leverkusen.
Highly rated coach Thomas Tuchel has had a tricky summer trying to improve a decimated squad and many questions will need answering this season. Can Deniz Yilmaz fulfil his potential? Will Zdenek Pospech be able to make the transition from Denmark? Malik Fathi is a good capture from Spartak Moscow, and Eugen Polanski, who was at the club initially on loan, is a fine midfielder. Eric Choupo-Moting was not prolific last year with Nurnberg and only time will tell whether Tuchel has adequately replaced the vast attacking talent he has lost.
Key arrivals: Zdenek Pospech (FC Copenhagen), Deniz Yilmaz (Bayern Munich), Fabian Schonheim (Wehen Wiesbaden), Malik Fathi (Spartak Moscow), Marcel Risse (Bayer Leverkusen), Yunus Malli (Borussia Monchengladbach), Eugen Polanksi (Getafe), Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (Hamburg), Anthony Ujah (Lillestrom)
Key departures: Martin Pieckenhagen (retired), Lewis Holtby, Christian Fuchs (both Schalke), Miroslav Karhan (Spartak Trnava), Andre Schurrle (Bayer Leverkusen), Jan Simak (Jena)
Nurnberg had a good 2010/11 Bundesliga, finishing sixth, just outside the European spots. Hopes are high that another good season can be enjoyed by the Franconian side, but the losses of on-loan playmaker Mehmet Ekici and midfielder Ilkay Gundogan will be a blow. Der Club have made some promising signings however.
Timm Klose arrives from Swiss side FC Thun on the back of a superb campaign in the European Under-21 Championship and will add solidity in defence, whilst German Under-21 forward Alexander Eisswein should provide a goalscoring threat up front. If Markus Feulner and Daniel Didavi can replace Ekici’s crucial creativity in the final third, it could be another good campaign for Der Altmeister.
Key arrivals: Markus Feulner (Borussia Dortmund), Tomas Pekhart (Baumit Jablonec), Timm Klose (FC Thun), Daniel Didavi (Stuttgart), Alexander Eisswein (Dynamo Dresden)
Key departures: Andreas Wolf (Werder Bremen), Marek Mintal (Hansa Rostock), Ilkay Gündogan (Borussia Dortmund), Julian Schieber (Stuttgart – loan return), Mehmet Ekici (Bayern Munich – loan return)
Schalke will be hoping to return to the upper echelons of the Bundesliga after a strange season last time around. Their Champions League run was in direct contrast to astonishingly poor league form that saw relegation flirted with at points, but the Ruhr giants finished the season by winning the German Cup.
A promising start to this campaign has already been made, with Schalke winning the Supercup on penalties against Borussia Dortmund. On the transfer front the Ruhr side have lost Manuel Neuer and a summer of overhaul has also seen veterans Angelos Charisteas and Gerald Asamoah depart. Christian Fuchs and Lewis Holtby, prolific suppliers of goalscoring opportunities at last year’s surprise package Mainz, and Jan Moravek, after a fine season with Kaiserslautern, return.
Ralf Rangnick has had a pre-season with Schalke for the first time after taking over during the last campaign and the club should be able to improve. Ralf Fahrmann has replaced Neuer and was excellent against Dortmund, but goalscoring was Schalke’s problem last year; if Moravek, Fuchs and Holtby, in tandem with Juan Manuel Jurado, can provide the chances for Raul and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Schalke should challenge for a European spot.
Key arrivals: Jermaine Jones (Blackburn Rovers – loan return), Jan Moravek (Kaiserslautern – loan return), Christian Fuchs (Mainz), Marco Hoger (Alemannia Aachen), Ralf Fahrmann (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Key departures: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Nicolas Plestan (released), Hao Junmin (Shandong Luneng Taishan), Ali Karimi (Persepolis), Lukas Schmitz (Werder Bremen), Angelos Charisteas (released), Danilo Avelar (Karpaty Lviv – loan return), Christian Pander (Hannover), Gerald Asamoah (released)
Stuttgart were another of Germany’s traditional big names to endure a tough campaign last season. A leaky defence was their undoing throughout the 2010/11 Bundesliga and addressing this problem will be the main focus for coach Bruno Labaddia coming into this term.
Defender Maza arrives from PSV Eindhoven, adding experience to the backline, but full back Philipp Degen has left, as has promising forward Sven Shipplock and midfielder Christian Trasch. With the talent at his disposal though, Labaddia should be able to push on this season after taking over midway through last term. If the former striker can get the best out of Zdravko Kusmanovic in the centre of midfield and shore up the defence, the side’s attacking prowess could see Stuttgart return to the top half of the table.
Key arrivals: William Kvist (FC Copenhagen), Maza (PSV Eindhoven), Ibrahima Traore (Augsburg), Tamas Hajnal (Borussia Dortmund)
Key departures: Sven Schipplock (Hoffenheim), Philipp Degen (Liverpool – loan return), Ciprian Marica (released), Elson (released), Christian Trasch (Wolfsburg)
In addition to a number of astute signings, Werder Bremen have Brazilian defender Naldo back from his season-long injury which helped contribute towards a disastrous campaign last time around, also in part prompted by the sale of Mesut Ozil. If Marko Marin can find form and new signing Mehmet Ekici fulfil his potential, Werder may have the creativity that they lacked so often last season. Defensively the club have strengthened too, signing Sokratis Papastathopoulos on loan and bringing in Schalke’s Lukas Schmitz.
Strong challengers the year before last, Werder should be back in the top half of the table this time around. A serious challenge for the Bundesliga crown appears unlikely, but a European spot may not be beyond Thomas Schaaf’s side.
Key arrivals: Markus Rosenberg (Racing Santander – loan return), Lukas Schmitz (Schalke), Mehmet Ekici (Bayern Munich), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Genoa – loan), Andreas Wolf (Nurnberg), Tom Trybull (Hansa Rostock)
Key departures: Petri Pasanen (Red Bull Salzburg), Daniel Jensen (released), Torsten Frings (Toronto FC), Samuel (Anderlecht), Dominik Schmidt (Eintracht Frankfurt), John Mosquera (Union Berlin), Jurica Vranjes (released)
Like Werder, Wolfsburg experienced a nightmare 2010/11 campaign. English coach Steve McClaren failed to get the best out of his team and his successor Felix Magath could only just keep the Wolves in the Bundesliga.
Signing Kaiserslautern’s prolific forward Srdan Lakic should give Wolfsburg more bite in attack, and this is particularly crucial after they struggled up front last year, whilst the experienced Hasan Salihamidzic can only help the team so much. Creative midfielder Diego is still at the Volkswagen Arena, but is likely to go after falling out with Magath. The former Schalke and Bayern Munich boss is renowned for having an excellent first season at the teams he manages before falling off the next time around and Wolfsburg can at least look forward to a more secure campaign, even if they may struggle to hit the heights of two years ago.
Key arrivals: Patrick Ochs, Marco Russ (both Eintracht Frankfurt), Hasan Salihamidzic (Juventus), Srdan Lakic (Kaiserslautern), Christian Träsch (Stuttgart), Mateusz Klich (Cracovia)
Key departures: Cicero (Tombense – loan return), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Grafite (Al-Ahli Dubai), Sergei Karimov (MSV Duisburg), Karim Ziani (Kayserispor)