The new Bundesliga season is set to kick-off across Germany this Friday. Here are five things to look out for.
Niko Kovač out to make his mark
Niko Kovač will no doubt fulfill a dream when he leads out Bayern Munich in their first fixture of the season against Hoffenheim on Friday. The Croat represented the German giants between 2001 and 2003 as a player and will now get the chance to take charge of the club after he was appointed as their new manager following an impressive stint at Eintracht Frankfurt.
Kovač reintroduced himself to the Bavarian faithful by beating their side 3-1 in the DFB Pokal final last season and has already overseen a 5-0 win for Bayern over his former club in the Super Cup this season.
Manuel Neuer and Renato Sanches seek ‘second chance’
Manuel Neuer and Renato Sanches’ careers are at quite divergent points. While Neuer is an established international star whose place in history is guaranteed for both Bayern and Germany, Sanches is a young player whose career promised so much but seems to have taken a nosedive before it took off properly. The one thing they have in common, however, is that they are both returning to the first team at the Allianz Arena this campaign.
Neuer was injured for most of last season, while Sanches struggled to impose himself in a Swansea City side that eventually got relegated from the Premier League. Friday’s match against Hoffenheim could be the opportunity for both to initiate a return to the original trajectories of their career.
Leipzig to test young defence
The race for a Champions League spot went down to the wire in the German top flight last season. For RB Leipzig, that meant a sixth place finish with only two points between themselves and third-placed Hoffenheim. Leipzig’s defense was paltry and they conceded as many goals as Hamburg, who were relegated. A lot has happened at the club during the summer break, namely the departure of their star midfielder Naby Keita and key defender Bernardo. Two youngsters, Nordi Mukiele and Marcelo Sarrachi, have been brought in from Montpellier and River Plate respectively to try and inject new vigour into the back line. We expect to see them on the starting line-up this weekend.
Wind of change at Leverkusen
Thorsten Kirschbaum and Lukas Hradecky will be donning the colours of Bayer Leverkusen this season after they were signed from FC Nürnberg and Eintracht Frankfurt respectively this summer to curb the loss of star keeper Bernd Leno, who went off to join Arsenal in the Premier League. The transfer window has been very kind so far to Heiko Herrlich’s team. Apart from the two free goalkeepers, Leverkusen have also managed to acquire Isaac Kiese Thelin on loan from Anderlecht, and rising Brazilian star Paulinho from Vasco da Gama. Whatever happens at the BayArena this season, the fans will be treated to a sea of changes from the team that they knew last season.
Fortuna Düsseldorf’s triumphant return
On Saturday afternoon, the city of Düsseldorf will enjoy having top-flight football once again when Fortuna Düsseldorf host Augsburg at the ESPRIT Arena. Fortuna have not featured in the Bundesliga since 2013, when they were relegated back to Bundesliga 2. They return to the top division this season after Friedhelm Funkel led them to a first-place finish in the second tier in 2017/18. They will now be hoping to establish themselves as a consistent Bundesliga side, starting with that match against Augsburg.