FC Bayern aim for stronger title charge

by Ross Dunbar

The Bundesliga prides itself on competitive, enthralling football which has rapidly made it one of the best leagues in World football. Four different clubs have won the German championship in the past five years and the strength in depth has seen some of the notoriously big clubs struggle in the league.

Like last season, I expect one team to lead the pack from the start of the season on August 5th and go on to win the title at the end of the season.

After a disappointing campaign last year, FC Bayern are back for another crack at the Bundesliga and have their eyes set on snatching the shield back from current champions Borussia Dortmund. The Louis Van Gaal era came to an abrupt end in April after the club’s Champions League qualification was in doubt with Hannover hot on their heels.

Caretaker coach Andries Jonker steered the Bavarians to third place in the end where he won four from his five matches as the head coach of the club.

FCB have a new man at the helm in Jupp Heynckes who is a familiar and reliable appointment given his two previous spells with The Reds. The 66-year-old leaves his post at the BayArena following two successful years with Bayer Leverkusen and last season, he led Bayer to a second place finish and Champions League qualification.

If there is one team to challenge the dominance of FC Barcelona on the European front, then it is certainly FC Bayern.

It is expected Heynckes will continue with the 4-2-3-1 formation that he deployed at Leverkusen, and the system which most German coaches favour, but his success at the Allianz Arena will be largely dependent on the fitness of his regular attackers.

Van Gaal had the misfortune last season of injuries to Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery at different points of the season.

At either end of the park, FC Bayern have the key to winning a domestic championship: a quality goalkeeper and a prolific striker.

Gomez has netted an incredible 101 Bundesliga goals in 182 matches in his time with Bayern and Stuttgart. The German striker is rarely considered as one of Europe’s best due to his inability to produce at the highest level but his goal record speaks for itself and should be admired.

Sporting director Christian Nerlinger has been very active in the transfer market since the end of the season with Nils Petersen arriving from Energie Cottbus in early June after a very impressive season in the second-tier of German football.

In the same week as Neuer’s arrival for €18m, Genoa right-back Rafinha signed a three-year contract with the club after a fee of €5.5m was agreed. Rafinha is a well-known face to Bundesliga fans after a five year spell in Gelsenkirchen.

The major plus-point of Rafinha’s arrivial is that Phillip Lahm will move back to his natural position at left-back which will be an added boost to Heynckes. Lahm was very comfortable at right-back and it is a reflection of his ability that his move to left-back will get the best from the German international.

Heynckes and Nerlinger identified that central defence was a weak area of the squad following the weak title challenge of last season – a stark contrast to the double-winning partnership of Van Buyten and Demichellis in 09/10.

Van Buyten was injured on several occasions last season which forced Van Gaal in to utilising Tymoschuk, and new signing Luis Gustavo, as makeshift defenders. Gustavo, in particular, found himself in a variety of defensive roles despite starring in midfield for Hoffenheim in the first half of the campaign.

Holger Badstuber proved to be largely frustrating in the centre of defence last season, and the only other option of Breno did not work out well in the end for Bayern.

But Heynckes options have largely improved by the signing of Manchester City defender Jerome Boateng for €13m and the former HSV man will be a welcome addition to the heart of the Bayern backline.

More importantly, for me, is that Ukrainian midfielder Anatoly Tymoschuk could move back in to his defensive midfield slot alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger.

From midfield to attack, FCB’s line-up picks itself really with Tymoschuk and Schweinsteiger in midfield; Arjen Robben, Thomas Muller and Franck Ribery in the supporting roles behind the goal machine Mario Gomez.

Bayern’s title opponents will include Dortmund and Leverkusen, the former having to cope with the loss of playmaker Nuri Sahin to Real Madrid in the summer. Sahin’s departure severely weakens Jurgen Klopp’s side and the biggest test of his managerial career, thus far, is leading BvB to the championship without their talisman midfielder.

The most interesting battle could be for the Champions League with Schalke and Wolfsburg aiming for major improvements from last season.

I’m generally not one for predictions, however, I can’t see past Bayern adding a 25th Bundesliga crown to their name.

But this is the Bundesliga – so anything can happen.

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