The Bundesliga makes its long awaited return on Friday when defending champions FC Bayern Munchen take on Bayer 04 Leverkusen at the Allianz Arena.
The big question on everybody’s lips is whether Bayern can claim a sixth successive title, but Carlo Ancelotti arguably has bigger fish to fry as the ultimate goal for him and the club remains Champions League success.
Bayern have not been in the best of form in pre-season and will start the campaign without their rock between the sticks, Manuel Neuer.
Still, they showed in the recent Super Cup that they are still capable of winning even when not at their best.
The other question is whether Bayern’s summer signings: James, Corentin Tolisso from Lyon, and Niklas Süle and Sebastian Rudy, both from Hoffenheim, will settle and be able to shine.
FOX Sports Asia takes a look at what else to expect ahead of the new Bundesliga season:
Teams to watch:
The sports beverage backed team from the East surprised a few last season on their Bundesliga debut as they powered their way to second spot with their high-energy displays, but can they repeat it and go one better with the added burden of Europe and the surprise factor gone? A lot will depend on whether a summer of speculation over star players Emil Forsberg and Naby Keita has taken its toll on the duo’s state of mind, and whether coach Ralph Hasenhüttl can inspire his men to even greater heights.
New coach Peter Bosz has the experience when it comes to working with young players, but expecting him to deliver the title with a team in transition is perhaps asking too much, especially as Ousmane Dembele’s potential transfer to Barcelona will have disrupted Dortmund’s pre-season. In addition to the Dembele situation, there is ongoing speculation about the future of star striker Pierre Emerick Aubameyang. Any chance of the title will surely evaporate should Auba leave. Rumoured departures aside, new signings Maximilian Philipp from Freiburg and Mahmoud Dahoud from Gladbach are great additions and should bolster the Dortmund ranks.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
Despite being on the verge of a Europe exit after a narrow defeat to Liverpool in their Champions League playoff, Hoffenheim will not press the panic button. After all, even the thought of Europe would have seemed ludicrous just 18 months ago before Julian Nagelsmann was appointed. Since then, the youngest ever Bundesliga coach has worked wonders, saving them from relegation before leading then to fourth place last season. The loss of key players to Bayern has been offset by the arrival of Serge Gnabry on loan to partner Sandro Wagner up front, which means the prospect of another exciting season.
By far and away the biggest signing of the summer was Bayern’s canny, under-the-radar acquisition of James on loan from Real Madrid. The Colombian is a class act and performed well in pre-season before picking up an injury that will see him miss the first few weeks of the season. Nevertheless, the presence of James and what he can bring to the team is likely to be vital later in the season as Bayern seek more Champions League glory.
The Bundesliga will put itself at the leading edge of technology in football this season with the introduction of VAR technology. According to Bundesliga figures, 104 incorrect decisions were made last season, 74 of which could have been corrected using a video assistant.
The technology has divided opinion so far, with delays and confusion during decision reviews leading some fans and pundits to question its worth, but coaches and officials continue to back the system as they know it will reduce injustice.
One thing is for sure though, if anyone can make VAR technology run smoothly and efficiently without problems, then surely it is the Bundesliga!