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Top five: What to watch out for in the Bundesliga

Alex ChafferJanuary 29, 2015

The Bundesliga is back and as we restart the season, there are a number of questions to be answered by the 18 top-flight clubs. Here are our five most pressing issues in Germany's top division.

Bayern-Trainer Guardiola beim Training mit seiner Mannschaft
Image: A. Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images

Will Bayern stay unbeaten?

After failing to lose in the first half of the 2014/15 Bundesliga season and conceding just four goals, Bayern Munich look set to break yet another league record. No team has ever gone an entire Bundesliga season without defeat and having drawn just three games on the way to their record point's total of 45, plenty are tipping the defending champions to become the invincible team that the German top flight has never seen.

"I think it's good to face the team in second immediately because it forces us to pick up the pace," head coach Pep Guardiola told the club's TV channel.

Opening the second half of the season against the second best team in the league could be a blessing in disguise for Bayern. There is a long way to go, especially considering they still have trips to Dortmund and Leverkusen to make.

What is so impressive about an unbeaten league campaign is that it tends to come while the team in question is also competing in Europe. In the 2003/04 season, Arsenal secured an undefeated season in the Premier League, but weren't expected to challenge for the Champions League title at the same time. Bayern on the other hand, will expect nothing less.

Success on every platform is the only viable currency at Bayern Munich. The manner of victory however, separates the greats from the legendary. This Bayern squad is reguarly considered the best domestic football in Germany has ever seen. An undefeated season with a possible Champions League title would make this memory immortal.

Europe for Dortmund?

“The first half of the season was like a holiday on a bed of nails.” Jurgen Klopp's description of his side's last six months of 2014 left nothing to the imagination. As the restart approaches however, Klopp and BVB know that getting into the Champions League - or at least Europe - is a must.

This season Dortmund, a team with just 15 points from a possible 51 in the league, are into the knockout stages of the Champions League. Remarkable to think that two years after their visit to the Champions League final, the club are currently in the relegation zone for the first time in the 21st century.

Bildergalerie Bundesliga Dieter Hecking und Klaus Allofs
Hecking and Allofs have lead Wolfsburg to a masterful season so farImage: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Steffen

An away trip to Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday evening is hardly an ideal start, but with a 12 point gap between them and a Champions League spot, Dortmund have long known what they must do.

New signing Kevin Kampl has brought a fresh wave of optimism though. The club's sporting director Michael Zorc told the club website, "Kevin Kampl is a versatile attacking midfielder, who we have been observing for some time. His style of play fits in perfectly with our own."

With both Marco Reus and Mats Hummels making their way back to full fitness, Kampl's arrival is well timed. He joins a squad full of quality, but the likes of Hummels, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ciro Immobile and Adrian Ramos all have something to prove.

Motivated by the ever-passionate Klopp, everything is in place for Dortmund to make amends.

Who wants Europe most?

The race for a European spot in the Bundesliga could be one of the closest ever, with at least seven teams in contention.

Second- placed Wolfsburg face an emotional return to football after the death of Junior Malanda, but sporting director Klaus Allofs believes the team are capable of overcoming the adversity. Nevertheless, Wolfsburg will be forgiven a slow restart to the season, but even if that does happen they look likely to take second spot.

Bildergalerie Bundesliga Markus Weinzierl und Pierre-Emile Hoejbjerg
Can Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg inspire Augsburg to a European spot?Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Stache

Leverkusen, who have been inconsistent under new head coach Roger Schmidt, are raring for a chance at an automatic Champions League qualification spot. Hakan Calhanoglu, Karim Bellarabi, Heung-Min Son and Lars Bender were all catalysts to the third-place finish before the winter break and will need to fire again to maintain Leverkusen's charge. Facing Spanish champions Atletico Madrid in the Champions League as well though, will most likely be a form-altering distraction.

The three sides between fourth and sixth - Gladbach, Schalke and the unlikely Augsburg - sit level on points after the first half of the season. The three have shown contrasting ways to reach 27 points - including Augsburg winning 9, losing 8 and not drawing once - so it really is all to play for after the restart. Augsburg perhaps have the upper hand in not having to contend with European fixtures, unlike Gladbach and Schalke who respectively face the defending champions of both European competitions.

Hoffenheim, who sit just a point behind the trio, are searching for their first ever European outing. It could be a battle against Dortmund should Klopp's men rise, as expected, from the ashes.

Which giant will tumble?

Hamburg - the only side yet to be relegated from the Bundesliga in its 52 year history - saved their season via the relegation play-off last year. Not much has changed for them in the new season, but a few other big clubs have joined their plight.

Two former league champions, Werder Bremen and Stuttgart, are also heading towards a relegation battle. All three sides sit on 17 points after 17 games, with just Dortmund and Freiburg separating them from the relegation places.

Stuttgart, who have entrusted legendary manager Huub Stevens to save their season, have only missed two top-flight seasons and last won the league in 2006. Despite their current position, Stevens was upbeat in his press conference ahead of the game against Gladbach on Saturday. The Dutchman said the club had taken "a step in the right direction" over the winter break after appointing former Bremen boss Robin Dutt their new sporting director.

Playing Bayern, Dortmund, Mönchengladbach and Hoffenehim in four of their first five games means Stuttgart could have even more of a mountain to climb, before they face Bremen six games from the end of the season.

Deutschland Fußball Bundesliga Borussia Dortmund Marco Reus
Will he stay or will he go? Find out in March, apparentlyImage: imago/Horstmüller

Bremen, who played in the UEFA Cup Final just six years ago, haven't been relegated from the Bundesliga since the 1979/80 season - the only time they've dropped out of the top-flight. Viktor Skripnik's side however, have seen more players go out than come in over the winter break - even a desperate move for former striker and German legend Miroslav Klose had been reported, but failed to come to fruition. Youth must deliver for Skripnik.

It's entirely realistic to say that one, if not all of these former Bundesliga champions could be relegated this season.

Next year, things are going to change?

While there are a number of on-field matters at hand, there are already some issues for next season that clubs are adressing. Speculation has been particularly lively over the last year in the Bundesliga, with the futures of Marco Reus, Roberto Firmino and even Pep Guardioa all subject to discussion.

Marco Reus' reported upcoming exit from Borussia Dortmund has been a hot topic for months. With Real Madrid poised to move for the winger - who has an attainable release clause of just 25 million euros - German sports magazine 'kicker' have already reported that the 25-year old's future will be decided in March 2015.

Hoffenheim's Brazilian star Firmino made his international debut last year, and more scouts are expected in Sinsheim in 2015 to watch the club's attacking midfield gem.

The Bundesliga is known for agreeing and revealing deals well before the transfer windows open. Take Mario Götze, who announced his move to Bayern Munich from Borussia Dortmund a month before the end of the 2013/14 season. In short, if players do leave, we'll hear about it long before the very last whistle blows on the Bundesliga season.