DUESSELDORF, Germany (AP) — Bayern Munich has 11 Bundesliga titles in a row. Now to win one for new signing Harry Kane, who left Tottenham without a trophy after 19 years.
Bayern’s dominant streak has led to concerns over the health of the Bundesliga in an era of one-club domination, but its hold on the title may be more fragile than it seems.
Bayern needed goal difference to retain the Bundesliga ahead of Borussia Dortmund last season and Kane has been keen to dispel any belief that playing for the German champion will be easy.
“It’s going to be a real challenge,” Kane said Sunday. “I know everyone expects Bayern Munich just to walk away and win the league every year but I think, as you see, the teams are improving and it’s getting tougher and tougher.”
Bayern had concerns over the balance of its squad exposed in brutal fashion in a 3-0 loss to Leipzig on Saturday in the German Super Cup. It still doesn’t have a first-choice goalkeeper with Manuel Neuer injured, and coach Thomas Tuchel has flagged up the lack of a defensive midfielder who would help cover a back line which has been shown to be fragile too often in the past 12 months.
Dortmund’s challenge is to build momentum again after the shattering blow of dropping the title on the last day of the 2022-23 season. Dortmund drew with Mainz when it needed a win to be sure of the championship and Bayern won the league with an 89th-minute goal from Jamal Musiala against Cologne.
A Dortmund title shot will likely be built on strong performances from Sébastien Haller, the striker who returned mid-season from cancer treatment and set Dortmund on course to chase down Bayern in the standings.
Dortmund is without midfielder Jude Bellingham, sold to Real Madrid in a deal which could reach 130 million euros ($142 million), and has signed Marcel Sabitzer from Bayern and Felix Nmecha from Wolfsburg to add depth in midfield. Left-back Raphael Guerreiro left for Bayern on a free transfer and was replaced with Algeria’s Ramy Bensebaini.
Signing Xabi Alonso to a new contract as coach is a signal that Bayer Leverkusen means business after he led the team to the Europa League semifinals in his first season.
Granit Xhaka’s arrival from Arsenal adds grit to the midfield in a team packed with exciting and speedy young players, with right-back Jeremie Frimpong and attacking midfielder Florian Wirtz particular standouts. There’s one big problem, though — Alonso will need to reshape Leverkusen’s attack after selling winger Moussa Diaby to Aston Villa.
Leipzig could also challenge after coach Marco Rose turned the team around last season following a disappointing start. In 29 games under Rose, Leipzig averaged 2.10 points per game — almost exactly Bayern and Dortmund’s rate for the season.
Leipzig will have to cope without a trio of leading players sold during the off-season after Dominik Szoboszlai, Joško Gvardiol and Christopher Nkunku all left for fees reportedly worth more than 200 million euros ($219 million) in total. Newly-arrived forwards Loïs Openda and Benjamin Šeško looked sharp against Bayern, if a little nervy, but the star was Spanish midfielder Dani Olmo with a hat trick.
Union Berlin outperformed all expectations by finishing fourth and qualifying for the Champions League, while cross-town rival Hertha Berlin was relegated. Keeping up that form will be a challenge. The same goes for last season’s fifth-place team, Freiburg.
Fans and teams will have to get used to some unfamiliar — and small — Bundesliga stadiums after Darmstadt and Heidenheim were promoted in place of established powers Schalke and Hertha.
Darmstadt’s stadium can hold 17,500 and Heidenheim’s just 15,000. Taken together, that’s less than half the capacity of Hertha’s Olympiastadion. Meanwhile, the second division now has seven teams with arenas holding 49,000 or more, including four of the 10 venues for next year’s European Championship.
That doesn’t mesh well with the international marketing for the Bundesliga, whose image leans heavily on the large, passionate crowds.
Darmstadt and Heidenheim are likely to be relegation candidates from the start, potentially along with Stuttgart — which only survived in a playoff last season — and the likes of Bochum and Augsburg.
Werder Bremen will hope to steer clear of the relegation fight altogether after signing Naby Keïta from Liverpool, though much could depend on the injury-prone midfielder’s fitness after he hurt his adductor in pre-season and missed Bremen’s cup loss to Viktoria Cologne.
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