New season, old result? Bayern looks set to continue its dominance
dpa Tuesday, August 15, 2017, 5:27 pm TWN
The 55th Bundesliga campaign begins this week with a first female referee in place, video technology to be used and new kick-off times - but the outcome at the top of the table is likely to be the same.
Record champions Bayern Munich are strong favourites for a sixth consecutive domestic title although Borussia Dortmund will be hopeful, as ever, of mounting a challenge.
Bibiana Steinhaus is the first woman promoted to the group of Bundesliga referees, who will be aided this term by video assistants in place to correct obvious errors on potentially game-changing decisions.
And the fans, continually battling for their traditions to be respected, now face occasional matches starting at lunch-time on Sundays and on Monday nights.
"I would also be happiest if every game was Saturday afternoon," said Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke. "But then we would get so little television money we'd have no chance at all internationally."
Bayern have boosted their squad with Sebastian Rudy and Niklas Suele from Hoffenheim but a club record fee also brought in Corentin Tolisso from Olympique Lyon and Colombian star James Rodriguez has been loaned from Real Madrid. They make up for the loss of former captain Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso to retirement.
The title-holders open the new campaign at home to Bayer Leverkusen on Friday with Mats Hummels believing the team is "better than two weeks ago" after a pre-season filled with travel, injury and losses.
"We want to be at the top of our game against Leverkusen, play our way and win the three points," Rudy said after Bayern dismantled third division Chemnitz in the German Cup on Saturday.
Dortmund, third last season, have managed to hold on to top-scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang but have suspended young French forward Ousmane Dembele as he tries to force through a transfer to Barcelona.
Dutchman Peter Bosz, taken from Ajax, has replaced Thomas Tuchel to be one of several new coaches starting the season on touchlines around the country.
"I wasn't completely satisfied, but we still won 4-0 and didn't pick up any new injuries. That's important," Bosz said after the cup first round rout of minnows Rielasingen-Arlen.
Last year's runners-up, RB Leipzig, and fourth-placed Hoffenheim could face tougher campaigns having to balance European football alongside their domestic duties.
Cologne and Hertha Berlin will also combine the Bundesliga with Europea League action though Freiburg suffered a disappointing loss in their qualifier.
Leverkusen have turned to Heiko Herrlich to improve their fortunes after a disappointing season saw them finish 12th last term while consistent underperformers Schalke, 10th last season, have named Domenico Tedesco as their new boss.
Tedesco already made his mark by promoting goalkeeper Ralf Faehrmann to captain over long-term skipper Benedikt Hoewedes.
"The head coach wanted a change and he has a right to do that, so I didn't stand in his way," sporting director Christian Heidel told the club homepage.
Werder Bremen, Borussia Moenchengladbach and Eintracht Frankfurt will also hope to kick on towards the European places after finishing mid-table last time round.
Augsburg and SV Hamburg, the last original Bundesliga side not to have been relegated, made auspicious starts by losing to lower league sides in the cup and both could face long battles for survival.
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