As the new Bundesliga season begins, DW Sports gives its guide on what to expect. Who can challenge Bayern for the title? Who will disappoint? Who might sneak into Europe? Our writers answer all this and more…
Let's be honest, Bayern are likely to keep on winning
Assuming Bayern Munich are favorites to win the league (trust us, they are), who else might have a chance to keep up with them?
Jefferson Chase: If someone else is to come in first, I think it would have to be a surprise outsider. So Borussia Dortmund would get my vote. They're young and solid, and I don't think they're on Bayern's radar at the moment.
In Barrios (left) Dortmund have an explosive striker
Nick Amies: As someone who used to stand on the Suedtribune in Dortmund, I'm also hoping that BVB can push on from last season's improvements and really challenge. If Juergen Klopp manages to keep players like Lucas Barrios and Neven Subotic from the clutches of bigger teams, I think they have the fire and the skill to make a title challenge. A runners-up place would be fantastic for them. Their only worry will be whether or not their Europa League campaign saps their strength.
Matt Hermann: Yes, for that reason I think a potential title candidate could be Hamburg. Having played themselves out of Europe last year, they'll only have to focus on the Bundesliga, which should keep their players fresh. And in their May-December duo of Dutchmen, Eljero Elia and Ruud van Nistelrooy, they have a pair of players who can change a game by themselves.
Who are headed for a fall?
JC: The biggest disappointment I think is going to be Schalke. They won a lot of close games last season and probably didn't deserve to finish second. Plus they've given away a lot of quality players. In fact, I don't think it's inconceivable that coach Felix Magath will quit this season. Maybe it's unlikely, but it's not inconceivable.
Degen (left) and Stuttgart may take a tumble this year
MH: Stuttgart have a decent squad and an outstanding coach in Christian Gross, but will have trouble scoring goals. Unless Cacau keeps up the uncharacteristically torrid form he found in the back half of last season - or one of the shaky trio of Pavel Pogrebnyak, Ciprian Marica or Martin Harnik steps up big - Stuttgart will find themselves out of Europe come May 2011.
Which team might overachieve this year?
MH: Up until the last two months or so last season, Eintracht Frankfurt were flirting with Europe. This could be their year to seal the deal. They have an experienced defense and keeper, a number of midfielders who can score, and a potentially potent group up front. Last year's midseason pickup Halil Altintop is a player of considerable skill who was simply miscast as a goalscorer. Now, with the addition of Theofanis Gekas - and a now healthy Ioannis Amanatidis - he has two solid strikers to let him play where he belongs, in the hole behind them, or streaking in off the wing.
Kaiserslautern fans live and die with their club
JC: I think you're crazy. My best bet to spring a surprise is Kaiserslautern. I see them making the top half of the table, and having an outside chance for more. They are solid from back to front and have a fan base that's absolutely - almost dangerously - committed. It's a town of 100,000 where there's nothing else at all to do but go see 1.FCK. The last time they were promoted, they won the league - which is not what I see happening, but should show what this club is capable of.
Which players will have a big year?
NA: I predict Raul will be huge for Schalke this season and will grab a hatful of goals. He'll be the one redeeming feature of a team I think will struggle. He's still a class act and even surrounding him with dross won't disguise that.
MH: When last we saw Jermaine Jones on a football pitch, in the 2008-2009 season, he was, according to kicker (and me, by the way), the Bundesliga's best defensive midfielder. Missing all of last season for Schalke - and his chance at a World Cup campaign with the USA - with injury ought to put a fire in his belly to come back strong.
Jones will hope to draw applause with his comeback
JC: I think Leverkusen's Patrick Helmes will come back better than ever after being injured. Unfortunately for Bayer, I predict his strike partner Stefan Kiessling will come back to earth with a bang, so in general I don't think the team itself will improve.
Who's going down?
JC: I have St. Pauli, Hanover and Freiburg . It will be a shame to see Pauli and Freiburg go down, but for me personally - there won't be any tears wept for Hanover.
MH: I'm with you - for the most part. I see Freiburg, St. Pauli and Nuremburg as the most likely candidates. (And I won't pout over a first division without der Club next year either.)
NA: I'm condemning Freiburg and St. Pauli to the drop too, with either Cologne or Kaiserslautern joining them.
Compiled: Matt Hermann
Editor: Susan Houlton