Ranking Candidates to Break the Bayern-Dortmund Bundesliga Duopoly
The Bundesliga is a two-horse race that can't be won by any side other than Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.
Such is the claim that we often hear from critics of the German top division whenever its prominence in Europe is brought up.
Yet while Pep Guardiola's side may look as unbeatable as ever and Jurgen Klopp's uber-determined squad look hungry for success, there are plenty of other big clubs in this division that could split such a duopoly.
Here are four clubs that could cause Dortmund and Bayern all sorts of trouble this year and could just maybe knock one or the other off the perch at the top of the Bundesliga table.
4. Borussia Monchengladbach
Gladbach may not be the strongest side to wrestle power from Dortmund or Bayern, but they do seem to have a peculiar ability of taking points of the two dominant teams.
Last season, Gladbach managed to take six points from six against Klopp's wounded side, with a 2-0 win at Borussia Park last October and a shock 2-1 win in Dortmund in March of this year. The season before they only lost one of their four games against the top two.
Although they may never have the best squad to deal with the overwhelming talent that the top two possess, Gladbach have a coach in Lucien Favre who is undoubtedly one of the best in the league at preparing his sides tactically and mentally ahead of daunting tasks.
A top-two finish seems impossible for Gladbach this season, but there's nothing to say that they can't take important points from both Dortmund and Bayern throughout the league calendar.
3. Bayer Leverkusen
In the last two season, Bayer Leverkusen have won two, drawn two and lost four in eight matches against Dortmund and Bayern. Perhaps not the most impressive record, but one that suggests that Roger Schmidt's new side should be stealing points off the top two in every other game this season.
Last season in particular, under the guidance of Sami Hyypia, the Factory squad spent 13 of the 34 matchdays in either first or second place before the wheels eventually came off another Leverkusen run.
Like so many young, inexperienced teams in this league, Leverkusen always seem destined to ruin their own chances before their rivals can even get close to them.
Yet with the arrival of young prodigies Hakan Calhanoglu and Vladlen Yurchenko along with the aforementioned young, driven coach, Leverkusen could well be prepared to stage another assault on Dortmund's second place.
2. Schalke 04
Schalke have done remarkably well to ensure that Ádám Szalai was the only first-team player to leave the club this summer. Julian Draxler, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Max Meyer were all players linked with moves all over Europe, and the Royal Blues would have found it impossible to replace them.
Instead, they've invested wisely and brought in some decent signings to bolster an already impressive squad. Sidney Sam arrives from Leverkusen as one of the most proven attacking midfielders outside of Dortmund and Bayern, while Maxim Choupo-Moting and Dennis Aogo should prove exceptional backups when called upon.
Unfortunately, Schalke are led by a limited coach in Jens Keller who tends to struggle when asked to overcome a better side. The Royal Blues took just one point off Dortmund and Bayern last season—despite beating their black and yellow rivals twice the season before—with little else to suggest that could change anytime soon.
On paper Wolfsburg are undoubtedly one of the best teams in the Bundesliga this season.
With star players such as Luiz Gustavo, Ricardo Rodriguez and Kevin de Bruyne, the Wolves have added further talent to their resolve with the captures of Sebastian Jung, Aaron Hunt and even the possibility of Romelu Lukaku, as reported by Matt Law in the Telegraph.
Yet even without the Belgian striker, there is still plenty here to upset both Dortmund and Bayern.
Perhaps the most impressive capture by the club in recent times has been former Nurnberg and Hannover coach Dieter Hecking. Although the German coach doesn't have any extensive experience winning Bundesliga titles, he is a strict disciplinarian and has worked wonders to turn this side from a circus show of talent-jugglers into a proper team skilled and determined enough to take on any foe.
Since joining Wolfsburg in December 2012, Hecking and his side have only lost to Dortmund once. Second place is a very attainable goal for the Wolves this year.