BERLIN (AP) — Fans are back but the fundamental question remains the same as the Bundesliga season begins tomorrow.
Who can stop Bayern Munich?
The Bavarian powerhouse has won an unprecedented nine consecutive German league titles and looks likely to complete a decade of domination.
“The chase is on. The team knows that the others have no great interest in seeing us at the top for the 10th time in a row. They’ll do all they can to get us down,” said Bayern chairman Oliver Kahn, who does not expect the challengers to be successful.
“If we deliver on our potential, we’ll be champions again,” Kahn said. “The team has shown than it’s always capable of surpassing itself.”
Last season’s closest rival, Leipzig, finished 13 points behind Bayern last season, while Borussia Dortmund was 13 points adrift the season before that.
It’s hard to see either team maintaining a season-long challenge again, while the likes of Borussia Mönchengladbach, Bayer Leverkusen, Eintracht Frankfurt and Wolfsburg will have to address their own inconsistencies before they can break into the top three.
All the teams have new coaches in charge.
Supporters are also a novelty as limited numbers are allowed back in stadiums after a season in which they were largely excluded due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The opening weekend will be uncharacteristically loud as up to 25,000 spectators are permitted in some stadiums.
Smaller stadiums can have up to 50 per cent capacity.
Bayern starts its record-extending title bid at Mönchengladbach tomorrow.
The defending champions have a new coach in Julian Nagelsmann, poached from Leipzig to replace Hansi Flick, who cut short his tenure to take over the Germany national team.
The 34-year-old Nagelsmann enjoyed great success with Hoffenheim before confirming his credentials at Leipzig, which he led to the Champions League semifinals in his first season, then a German Cup final and second place in the Bundesliga is his next.
French defender Dayot Upamecano also moved from Leipzig to Bayern after the team met the 22-year-old’s buyout clause of EUR42.5 million.
Bayern also signed English defender Omar Richards on a free transfer from second-division Reading, but otherwise it’s been a quiet summer of activity for the league’s richest club.
David Alaba, Douglas Costa, Javi Martínez and Jérôme Boateng have all left the club, while other players including goalkeeper Alexander Nübel have been farmed out on loan.
Kahn said the pandemic was having an adverse effect on the club’s finances.
American coach Jesse Marsch has replaced Nagelsmann at Leipzig, arriving from sister club Red Bull Salzburg and continuing the path of transfers between the clubs backed by the energy drinks manufacturer.