Rebuilt rivals chasing Bayern Munich in Bundesliga

ABS-CBN Sports on Aug 26, 2016 10:18 AM
Rebuilt rivals chasing Bayern Munich in Bundesliga
Thomas Mueller, center, celebrates after winning the German soccer cup, DFB Pokal, match between third division FC Carl Zeiss Jena and first division Bayern Munich in Jena, Germany, Friday, Aug. 19, 2016. Munich won by 5-0. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

CIARAN FAHEY, Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — Bayern Munich's rivals have been rebuilding as they attempt to stop the Bavarian powerhouse claiming an unprecedented five straight Bundesliga titles.

While the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Schalke, and Wolfsburg have made wholesale changes to their squads this offseason, Bayern has been uncharacteristically restrained in the transfer market, with new coach Carlo Ancelotti inheriting a dominant side from Pep Guardiola.

Guardiola won the German league in each of his three seasons and Ancelotti will be expected to continue the run. The Italian's tenure will also be judged on success in the Champions League, where Guardiola arguably disappointed after failing to match Jupp Heynckes' 2013 treble-winning feat.

The league returns on Friday with Bayern hosting Werder Bremen in Munich. Here's a closer look at the champion and challengers ahead of the 54th Bundesliga:

BAYERN

Exciting Portugal youngster Renato Sanches and former Dortmund captain Mats Hummels are Bayern's only summer additions. Ancelotti resisted the urge to tinker with the double-winning side he inherited.

Hummels' return brings Germany's partnership with Jerome Boateng in central defense to club level, while expectations of 19-year-old Sanches have soared following his impressive performances at Euro 2016.

Bayern allowed Mario Goetze to return to Dortmund, along with Sebastian Rode, while defenders Medhi Benatia and Serdar Tasci have also departed.

Injuries mean Ancelotti is yet to have a full squad at his disposal but the Italian says he has enough talent. The 2-0 win at Dortmund in the German Super Cup, and 5-0 victory at Carl Zeiss Jena in the German Cup is a promising start.

DORTMUND

Last year's runner-up, Dortmund, has seen Hummels, Ilkay Gundogan. and Henrikh Mkhitaryan all leave, forcing the club to spend over 100 million euros on a host of eye-catching additions.

"We're facing a season of upheaval. That doesn't mean though that we give up on our ambitions," Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke said. Watzke said there was "no alternative" to the summer splurge.

Goetze, back after three disappointing seasons at Bayern, is under pressure to regain fans' support after his bitter departure in 2013. Fellow German international Andre Schuerrle and Rode complete the signings from Bundesliga rivals.

Dortmund has also shopped abroad, snapping up French attacking midfielder Ousmane Dembele from Rennes, Marc Bartra from Barcelona, fellow defender Raphael Guerreiro of Portugal, and midfielders Emre Mor and Mikel Merino.

"The club managed to bring nearly all the top European talents to Dortmund in this transfer period," Liverpool coach Juergen Klopp said of his former side.

THE REST

Bayer Leverkusen seems the likeliest candidate to challenge the top two, led by Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, who will miss the start of the season after breaking his hand.

Borussia Moenchengladbach has Christoph Kramer back from Leverkusen, Schalke spent a club-record 22.5 million euros on exciting Swiss forward Breel Embolo, Wolfsburg secured Germany forward Mario Gomez's return to the Bundesliga, and Hamburger SV's capture of Croat midfielder Alen Halilovic from Barcelona already looks like an inspired move.

Promoted Leipzig, backed by an energy drink company, has ambitions of European qualification in its first Bundesliga season but is sure to receive a hostile reception from opposing fans who resent its fast progress. The club was founded as recently as in 2009.

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