The start of the new Bundesliga season edges closer and it looks like it will be business as usual for Bayern Munich as the Bavarian club are set to dominate domestic football once again, writes Josh Luckhurst.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men secured their fifth successive league crown by 15 points last season, with promoted side RB Leipzig mounting a shock title push before poor form towards the latter stages saw their hopes falter.
Bayern have strengthened over the summer to offset the departures of retired pair Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso, plus Douglas Costa’s move to Juventus.
Coming in are Real Madrid playmaker James Rodriguez, Lyon’s highly-rated young midfielder Corentin Tolisso and defensive powerhouse Niklas Sule from Hoffenheim.
The new arrivals provide Die Roten with quality in depth as they look to improve on their sole piece of silverware during the last campaign and even a short price of 9/50 in the Bundesliga 2017/18 title odds looks justified.
Borussia Dortmund are likely to mount a stronger challenge under the influence of new head coach Peter Bosz.
He was snapped up by the club’s hierarchy to replace Thomas Tuchel following Ajax’s incredible run to the Europa League final in his sole season in Amsterdam.
The foundations at Westfalenstadion are similar to the philosophy that the Dutch coach had to deal with at Ajax, with several young, exciting players at his disposal.
Dortmund, who are 13/2 to halt Bayern’s five-year reign, have a powerful forward line (Marco Reus, Andre Schurrle, Ousmane Dembele, Emre Mor, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Maximilian Philipp) which will hammer the ‘goals for’ column, but it is the other end of the pitch which is the main concern.
Despite recording the fourth-best defensive record in the league during the last campaign, BVB will need to tighten their backline further to bridge the gap and they are hoping new recruit Omer Toprak can add extra steel after arriving from Bayer Leverkusen.
Surprise package RB Leipzig hope to continue their fairytale start to top-flight football after finishing second but it is set to be a more challenging year for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side.
Last season’s achievements have not gone unnoticed, with several of their key players being linked with moves around Europe.
They will also have to deal with the exertions of playing in the Champions League as well, hence why they are priced as third-favourites to win the title at 14/1.
Relegation betting odds
Only 12 points separated fifth-placed Cologne and third-from-bottom Wolfsburg last season and the upcoming campaign is likely to be just as tight.
Promoted sides Hannover (2/1 to go down) and Stuttgart (9/1) will be in the mix to try and keep their head above the dotted line and if they can maintain their fine home form (the former only lost once, while Stuttgart lost just twice) then they should do fine.
However, we are tipping Augsburg (2/1) to struggle this season as their dip in form over recent years looks set to continue.
Fuggerstadter scraped out of the drop zone by going undefeated in their final four matches but the worry will be the need to improve their home form after recording the second-worst points total, behind Wolfsburg.
Augsburg are also priced at a decent mark of 9/2 to finish bottom.
Mainz (9/4) and Hamburg (3/1) flirted with relegation for the majority of the season but both teams should have strong enough squads to keep their heads afloat.
However, one team who fared quite well but could be at the wrong end of the table this campaign is Freiburg.
Breisgau-Brasilianer have lost 15 of the 42 league goals they scored following the departures of Max Philipp and Vincenzo Grifo to Dortmund and Monchengladbach respectively.
Despite the arrival of Bartosz Kapustka on loan from Leicester, they could struggle to find the goals that will keep them in Germany’s top flight and are a tempting 5/2 to go down.
Top-four betting odds
Wolfsburg nearly got relegated last season, but they have splashed the cash in the summer transfer window and could mount a serious challenge on the Champions League places at a tasty 8/1.
With no European football and the acquisitions of proven players such as John Brooks and Ignacio Camacho, from Hertha Berlin and Malaga respectively, this is a golden opportunity to bounce back.
The likes of Mario Gomez and Max Arnold lead the line and Wolfsburg look more dangerous than they have in recent years, so could be well worth the gamble.
Dortmund (3/100) and RB Leipzig (3/10) are rated a shoe-in to finish in the top four this season, with the former set to be the club that will be the closest challengers to wrestling the Bundesliga crown from Munich’s hands, especially after an unlucky DFL-Supercup defeat.
RB Leipzig may find it harder as they juggle a debut campaign in European football, so it would not be a surprise if they are not within touching distance of the reigning champions, but a top-four finish should still be achieved.
Hoffenheim (5/2) managed to secure a Champions League qualifying place following their top-four finish last year but it will be extremely difficult to replicate that, especially after the losses of Sule and Sebastian Rudy to Bayern.
Bayer Leverkusen (2/1) could bounce back from a difficult season but will need to replace the goals that Javier Hernandez contributed after the Mexico international moved to West Ham.
The recruitment drive from Schalke (9/4) brings them into contention, but they too could just fall short.
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