OBSESSIVE German football fan Lucas Swain-Britton (@LucasSwain95) runs the rule over the brand new Bundesliga season, picking out his favourite ante-post punts ahead of the 2018/19 campaign.
WLB Season Preview 2018/19 | Bundesliga
To find a season where Bayern Munich haven’t waltzed to the summit of the German football pyramid we must cast our minds back to 2012 where Borussia Dortmund captured back-to-back titles under Jürgen Klopp’s tenure.
However, much like Bayern’s multiple competitors over the years, Die Schwarzgelben’s stay at the peak was merely a visit. Dortmund found themselves subject to the punishment of those who dare to threaten the Bavarian’s side stronghold of the Bundesliga and were consequently stripped of their assets.
Dortmund have never recovered from the losses of Mario Götze, Mats Hummels and Robert Lewandowski. Whilst voids were filled by the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, even he has since departed as North-Rhine Westphalia continues to be a revolving door for the world class talents.
Bayern haven’t found a competitor for the title since then as they strive for their seventh Bundesliga title in succession. The arrival of RB Leipzig is meant to spell eventual change and a much needed rising of top-tier football in eastern Germany, but a sixth placed finish for the Red Bull franchise suggests this is a few seasons away.
Whilst backing the usual juggernauts for yet another title is a certainty, this is backed up in the market at a price of 1/6 (Bet365). Perhaps chuck it in your accumulator with Celtic, PSG and whatever you fancy to earn yourself an extra couple of pennies.
Top 4 Finish
It’d be easy to suggest the Bundesliga is a boring league because the title is a formality, and whilst it certainly takes away that certain excitement and pub talk before each season, it’d be absurd to suggest German football is void of it.
The race for the Europa League and top four last season were enthralling ones, with Stuttgart seemingly securing an end to their European football hiatus since 2008 after defeating Bayern Munich on the final day of the season to claim seventh, only for Eintracht Frankfurt to lift the DFB Pokal and consequently rob them of it.
As for the top four you have to feel for Bayer Leverkusen who lost out to Borussia Dortmund on goal difference. The latter of the duo had a calamitous end to the season with just one win coming in the final five matches against none other than Die Werkself.
Moving on to the upcoming season there are four candidates for third and fourth for the Top Four market if the betting is to be believed, those being: RB Leipzig (11/10 Sportingbet), Bayer Leverkusen (1/1 William Hill), Schalke 04 (5/4 10bet) and Hoffenheim (3/1 Betfred).
It’s hard to see why RB Leipzig are considered the favourites out of the four teams to secure a Champions League finish. Whilst this team is exceptionally young and many errors can be put down to inexperience, Die Roten Bullen made no secret of their desire to maintain Ademola Lookman to no avail and have lost the unfathomably talented Naby Keïta in the process.
Just a few days ago Klopp was quoted in kicker on Keita: “Two years ago Naby played a season that I have never seen from a Bundesliga player. Together with Thiago that was the next level. I spoke to Schalke’s Sporting Director Christian Heidel who said Leipzig played with 12 men. Because of Keïta.”
Losing a player of his quality can be damaging to a side and with nothing of note coming in during the transfer window, I’m not even remotely attracted to backing them at that price.
Hoffenheim are an attractive price that are certainly worth considering, but what must be mentioned is the departure of Mark Uth (31/14) to Schalke. The 26-year-old was the top scorer for the Sinsheim side last season, and whilst Julian Nagelsmann is a supremely talented coach with a bright future ahead of him, the Champions League fixtures and potential Europa League ones could take their toll.
That being said, the new contract for Andrej Kramaric serves as a massive boost to the club, and their transfer activity of Vincenzo Grifo and Leandro Bittencourt isn’t to be sniffed at. Hoffenheim are an attractive enough price here to have a small play.
My favourite pick for this market is siding with the side that cruelly missed out on goal difference in Bayer Leverkusen.
Heiko Herrlich boasts an impressive record with a 50% win rate ever since jumping up from Jahn Regensburg and has possibly the most exciting frontline at his disposal in the form of Leon Bailey, Kevin Volland, Julian Brandt and Kai Havertz.
Whilst the departure of Bernd Leno to Arsenal’s bench is a tough blow, Lukas Hradecky from Eintracht Frankfurt is a fine replacement. The arrival of Mitchell Weiser is an upgrade on the right wing, too.
Providing Leon Bailey stays for the whole season, as if the summer speculation is anything to go by there’s bound to be interest come January, I find it difficult to see anything but top four for Leverkusen.
I hold the opinion that the quality of sides in the 2.Bundesliga was poorer than the last few seasons with no true stand-out performer seemingly ready for top division football.
Whilst Holstein Kiel, Nürnberg and Fortuna Düsseldorf firmly made up the top three come the close of the campaign, the fact that champions Düsseldorf (9) only lost two fewer matches than relegated Eintrach Braunschweig (11) speaks volumes of how competitive it was.
Despite my thoughts, the facts are that the Bundesliga has a fantastic retention rate for newly promoted sides. In fact, the last to go straight back down was Paderborn back in 2015.
Fortuna Düsseldorf are currently the bookies’ favourites to buck that trend (4/5 Bet365) and if you would have asked me two months ago I would have been pumping my mortgage on that price.
Friedhelm Funkel has a fantastic record of getting sides promoted to the Bundesliga, he’s actually the record holder by conducting it on no less than six occasions, but his performances in the top division leaves a lot to be desired.
With seven relegations to his name, three of which coming with KFC Uerdingen, to suggest Funkel has a point to prove would be an understatement and following Fortuna’s transfer activity he’s well equipped to do so.
Failing to retain Florian Neuhaus – on loan from Mönchengladbach – is a huge blow, but acquisitions of Diego Contento, Kenan Karaman, Takashi Usami and Alfredo Morales bring top division experience. Not to mention the arrival of 2.Bundesliga top scorer Marvin Ducksch from Kiel – whilst I have my doubts as to whether he’ll adapt, he brings scoring pedigree.
Fortuna will certainly be at the rear end of the table come the end of the season, but taking them for relegation at 4/5 isn’t good enough for my money.
With an 18-team league relegation is so volatile so I want to put my money on a slightly more attractive price, which brings me on to Mainz (5/2 Bet365) to fall back a division.
With yet another underwhelming season, a far cry from the side we used to see challenge for Europa League contention, it’s madness that Abdou Diallo (Dortmund) and Yoshinori Muto (Newcastle) have been allowed to depart without bringing in solid replacements.
Large sums of money have been spent by the Carnvial Club on Jean-Philippe Mateta, Moussa Niakhate and Pierre Kunde who all played second division football in either France or Spain last season. Whilst I am by no means an expert on the trio, they may take a while to adjust to Bundesliga football when Mainz need stability.
Mainz have a reputation for being a likeable club due to recent management tenures of Klopp and Thomas Tuchel. However, sadly the table isn't defined by likeability factor otherwise we'd see Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig back in the semi-professional divisions.
Bundesliga 2018/19 – Hoffenheim to finish in the top-four (3/1 Betfred)
Bundesliga 2018/19 – Bayer Leverkusen to finish in the top-four (1/1 William Hill)
Bundesliga 2018/19 – Mainz to be relegated (5/2 Bet365)