Bayern Munich - and then? Bundesliga looks for a Leicester

After a busy summer of buying and selling and several coaching changes, one thing remains constant as the Bundesliga heads into its 54th season: Bayern Munich are the team to beat.

Bayern will kick off the new campaign on Friday evening against Werder Bremen after last season chalking up a record fourth successive league title.

A fifth now beckons under new coach Carlo Ancelotti, who has replaced Pep Guardiola and become the second Italian to coach the Bavarians after Giovanni Trapattoni.

Who can stop them?

Borussia Dortmund, last season's runners up, look to be in a period of transition after losing central defender Mats Hummels to Bayern and selling midfielders Henrikh Mkhitaryan to Manchester United and Ilkay Guendogan to Manchester City.

Bayer Leverkusen perhaps. After finishing third last season, the Roger Schmidt-coached team should be near the top again. They won't be unhappy with the role of outsiders though - even if Hertha Berlin coach Pal Dardai and Werder Bremen's Viktor Skripnik tip them for a title challenge in a dpa survey of Bundesliga coaches.

"They are a dangerous team with fast players and a good coach," Dardai said of his reason for choosing Leverkusen.

Borussia Moenchengladbach, Schalke and Wolfsburg are among others with high hopes. Or could there be a Leicester City-type team lurking somewhere? A real long shot such as nearly-relegated Hoffenheim to confound the Bundesliga as Claudio Ranieri's team did last season in the Premier League?

But first things first - and that means Bayern.

The Bundesliga champions have kept the brunt of last season's squad, adding big-money signings Hummels and Portugal midfielder Renato Sanches, who impressed at Euro 2016.

But a new coach is bound to bring changes. Ancelotti will have a different approach to Guardiola's ball possession style. It was the Italian coach's Real Madrid team which hit Bayern so effectively on the break to win 4-0 in Munich in the 2014 Champions League semi-finals.

Ancelotti has already won his first title with Bayern - the Super Cup against Dortmund - and says: "We will be trying to be strong and to win all competitions."

Captain Philipp Lahm believes the change after three years under Guardiola will give the team a fillip.

"We were very successful in the last three years. Now something new has arrived. Every player is a little bit more alert and has to prove themselves again," he said.

Dortmund under Thomas Tuchel, in his second season at the club, look the best bet to challenge.

Dortmund have made a series of strong-looking signings although it might take some time for all to settle in. Mario Goetze is back from Bayern, and fellow Germany international Andre Schuerrle has arrived from Wolfsburg.

Sebastian Rode (Bayern Munich), Marc Bartra (Barcelona), Ousmane Dembele (Rennes) and Amre More (Norsjaelland) are among half a dozen other new arrivals.

"Our target remains Champions League qualification," Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke insisted.

Schalke will be looking for some more consistency under new coach Markus Weinzierl, the 15th at the club in 10 years, to get back into Champions League contention. Striker Breel Ambolo is a 22.5-million-euro (25.5-million-dollar) arrival from Basel.

Wolfsburg, without the distraction of the Champions League, should also do better. Although losing Schuerrle and central defender Naldo (to Schalke), the Wolves insist want-away midfielder Julian Draxler will not be leaving. And they have strengthened up front with the signing of Germany striker Mario Gomez.

Freiburg are back in the top flight after gaining promotion with RB Leipzig, the latter a bit of an unknown quantity after rising from the fifth tier in seven years under the backing of energy drinks firm Red Bull.

Leipzig have lured coach Ralph Hasenhuettl from Ingolstadt with the aim of establishing themselves in the top-flight and eventually to get into European competition.

Ingolstadt, now coached by Markus Kauczinski, and Darmstadt, with coach Norbert Meier succeeding Dirk Schuster (now at Augsburg), are among teams seen as relegation candidates.

Yet both stayed largely out of real trouble last season after gaining promotion, when more established teams VfB Stuttgart and Hanover went down.

More surprises are possible again at the bottom. But the Bundesliga needs some more at the top.

Last update: Tue, 23/08/2016 - 10:28

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