Early Bundesliga Power Rankings
With the World Cup well and truly done, we now turn our attention back to domestic football and specifically the return of the German Bundesliga in just under a months' time.
Germany are the new world champions of international football and the domestic league isn't too far behind in its constant pursuit of Champions League and Europa League success.
This coming season should prove to bolster as many strong sides as ever, with a few added contenders to the four coveted European Cup spots at the top of the table.
As such, we now turn to the pre-season state of every side with our very own Bundesliga power rankings. Not a prediction of where each side will finish, but where they stand at this moment in time.
18 to 15
Beating such sides as Kaiserslautern, Greuther Furth and Fortuna Dusseldorf to promotion last season, Paderborn arrive in the Bundesliga as the least experienced and weakest of the lot. Ten new players have been brought in over the summer on a shoe-string budget but we'd be surprised if they find any comfort in the coming campaign.
17. Werder Bremen
Robin Dutt will be far from excited at the task of having to try and keep his job at Werder Bremen for another entire season. The club should be commended for sticking by the coach that ultimately saved them from relegation, but with little money spent and club favourite Aaron Hunt parting ways, it looks as grim as ever at this once-great club.
Stuttgart look to have thrown the last roll of the dice with the recent appointment of Armin Veh. The former Frankfurt manager hasn't impressed in the Bundesliga in quite some time and with little investment this summer from the board, the Swabians should fear for relegation or thereabouts.
Freiburg have managed to pick up some interesting signings such as Admir Mehmedi and Stefan Mitrovic from Benfica in the past 12 months, but that hasn't been without big players such as defender Matthias Ginter and Oliver Baumann going the opposite way. The minnows are quite rightfully looking for solutions, but they won't be able to replace defensive pillars such as the two aforementioned stars.
14 to 11
Following a dismissive end to last season which saw the Eagles win just one of their last seven games, Eintracht Frankfurt chose to replace Armin Veh with experienced Bundesliga coach Thomas Schaaf. They may have lost Sebastian Jung and Joselu, but with the right coach now in place they should start slowly moving up the league table.
13. FC Koln
Last season's 2.Bundesliga champions will be in fine spirits upon their return to the Bundesliga, amidst heavy investment from the club. Peter Stoeger's team have picked up no fewer than nine new players over the summer and will be hopeful of regaining their regular top-flight status.
Although matters off the pitch may still be in total disarray at Hamburg, the club have been quite smart in the transfer window this summer. Adding to a squad that should already be nowhere near the bottom of the table, the ever-present Bundesliga side have secured young striker Pierre-Michel Lasogga down to a permanent deal whilst also re-signing former Arsenal defender Johan Djourou.
Hannover are still far from the golden days of fourth-place finishes under former coach Mirko Slomka, but they needn't worry too much about slipping too far down the table. Twenty-four-year-old striker Joselu could prove to be a vital signing and if coach Tayfun Korkut can keep up the reasonable job he's doing thus far, then we shouldn't expect to see fireworks or too much hassle from the Niedersachsenstadion this season.
Despite finishing in an impressive seventh place last season, Mainz look to struggle in the coming campaign due to certain personnel leaving the club.
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, their second-highest goalscorer in the league last year, has moved to Schalke, but more importantly coach of five successful years Thomas Tuchel recently decided to leave as well.
The club have responded by appointing young, Danish coach Kasper Hjulmand amongst a flurry of minor transfers but in truth it would take something of a miracle to make Mainz purr quite like Tuchel used to do.
Only Dortmund and Bayern Munich scored more goals than Hoffenheim last season. So you'd understand why fans of the small village club will be ecstatic at the thought of keeping attacking force Kevin Volland and Roberto Firmino for at least another season.
The club have also brought in Adam Szalai from Schalke to add to the goals as well as a few signings to beef up the squad, such as Pirmin Schwegler from Frankfurt and South Korean defender Jin-Su Kim from Albirex Niigata.
A new season awaits Markus Gisdol with a squad perfectly prepared for another comfortable mid-table finish.
As what would seem like the proverbial dark horses of the modern Bundesliga era, Augsburg march into this new season with the stability and structure under coach Markus Weinzierl that most clubs could only dream of.
They may have lost Andre Hahn to Gladbach, but the club have responded by signing no fewer than four new strikers. Last season's eighth-place finish was impressive but the determined Weinzierl will be well aware that reaching such a feat with another final goal difference of zero won't be easy.
7. Hertha Berlin
The capital side burst onto the scene in the Bundesliga last season and could well continue to regain their status as a genuine top-flight power this year.
Despite losing Adrian Ramos to Borussia Dortmund, Jos Luhukay's side have brought in Dutch forward Roy Beerens from AZ Alkmaar as well as fellow striker Julian Schieber from Dortmund to make up the goals. Add to that Valentin Stocker from FC Basel, Johnny Heitinga on a free transfer from Fulham and four more signings and you have a squad that looks more adept at keeping things together for an entire season.
Consistency, rather than quality, was what really pulled Hertha back down the table last season, but after a jittery return to the top division we expect them to feel much more comfortable this time around.
6. Borussia Moenchengladbach
Borussia Moenchengladbach have had a a very quiet but effective summer.
Following on from recent, astute signings in the transfer window that have gone on to prove their worth— such as Christoph Kramer and Max Kruse—Lucien Favre's side have picked up young talents Andre Hahn from Augsburg and Fabian Johnson from Hoffenheim.
The Foals were perhaps a little naive to aim for Champions League football last season and again we doubt the former greats have enough in their tank to make it to the top four, despite the potential in this squad.
5. Bayer Leverkusen
With Roger Schmidt, a young, driven coach from Red Bull Salzburg, now at the helm at Bayer Leverkusen for the coming season, it's quite hard to predict just what they can achieve in this approaching campaign.
The club have backed their new star coach with the big-money signing of Hamburg prodigy Hakan Calhanoglu, as well as Gremio defender Wendell and Ukrainian forward Vladlen Yurchenko from Shakhtar Donetsk, amongst others; but throwing money at a problem rarely works in the German top division.
Leverkusen also still haven't really dealt with the absence of wide-forward Andre Schurrle from two seasons ago, and with Stefan Kiessling's appalling form last season, the new coach may have one too many holes to plug before he can sail this ship off to the horizon.
We suspect a transition season may be on the cards for the old Factory Squad.
Schalke are in many ways the best value for your money in the Bundesliga. Stacked full of genuinely talented stars, they often disappoint one week only to then overperform the next from one season to the next.
Looking at their squad for the coming season, it looks as though we shouldn't expect anything but the same from the Royal Blues.
Jens Keller continues to juggle the harmony of star midfielder Julian Draxler from game to game, while winter signing Kevin-Prince Boateng looks as volatile as ever after another frustrating World Cup.
The club have however made some interesting signings. Leverkusen's Sidney Sam could prove to be quite the signing, while Mainz's Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting could offer a direct route to goal amongst the egos in midfield.
When it comes to Schalke it really depends how they feel on the day.
While most sides at this end of the table will be boosted by the players they have brought in during the summer transfer window, most Wolfsburg fans will be over the moon about the players they've refused to sell.
World Cup stars Ricardo Rodriguez and Luiz Gustavo will continue to wear the lime green of the factory town, despite endless rumours declaring their transfers away from the club, with the Bundesliga and others across the continent continuing to admire both talents from afar.
Winter signings Kevin De Bruyne and Sebastian Jung begin their first full seasons as Wolfsburg players, alongside astute summer transfer Aaron Hunt from Werder. Head coach Dieter Hecking has been very specific about the type of player he has chosen to bring to the club, in the hope of transforming them into a title-challenging side.
The Wolves may have just missed out on Champions League football last season, but this year they look stronger than ever.
2. Borussia Dortmund
This summer may have been another cold reminder that Borussia Dortmund will forever have a bigger, more alluring club over their shoulders down in Munich; yet Jurgen Klopp has once again orchestrated an impressive response.
The star striker may be gone, but Germany's second-largest club—by quite some distance these days—has brought in the likes of Ciro Immobile, Adrian Ramos and Dong-Won Ji to shore up an already potent attacking line.
Add central defender Matthias Ginter to that list and you have a Dortmund side that looks much stronger than the one that threatened at points, but ultimately lacked the resources to match Bayern for the entirety of last season.
Patched up and raring to go, we know Dortmund and Klopp will try their absolute best to rattle Bavarian cages.
1. Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich sold Toni Kroos to Real Madrid and most fans didn't even flinch. Such is the almighty power that Pep Guardiola wields from Bavaria these days.
To add to that, the Catalonian coach has finally found his ideal striker—Dortmund's talisman Robert Lewandowski—as well as a few younger signings to keep our eyes on, such as Juan Bernat and Sebastian Rode.
Partner that with the spine of the squad just coming back from winning the World Cup and you'd forgive any bookmakers who'd cash out on their odds before the season even started. This league title is certainly Bayern's to lose.
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