RB LEIPZIG’S SHAKE-UP
Newly-promoted RB Leipzig, backed by energy drink giants Red Bull, shook up the status quo to finish second and earn a Champions League place next season.
Leipzig, founded in 2009, started with a bang, pulling off shock wins over established clubs Borussia Dortmund, Hamburg, Wolfsburg and Werder Bremen.
They were unbeaten in their first 13 matches – a record for a new team in Germany’s top flight – and kept Bayern off the top for three weeks.
Despite initially being unpopular with their rivals – Dortmund’s CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke called them “performing to sell cans of drink” – their high-tempo, eye-catching football won over neutral fans.
With 21 league goals, Timo Werner is the Bundedsliga’s top-scoring German striker and, like midfielder Diego Demme, 25, has forced his way into the Germany squad.
Playmakers Naby Keita and Emil Forsberg, who set a record 22 assists in a Bundesliga season, have attracted the interest of Premier League clubs.
THE TALENTED NAGELSMANN
Julian Nagelsmann, who aged just 29 is the youngest coach in Bundesliga history, took Hoffenheim from relegation candidates last season to fourth and a Champions League play-off place.
Hoffenheim were the last team in Europe’s top five leagues to lose this season when their 17-match unbeaten run was ended in January.
Having drawn 1-1 in Munich last November, Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim sealed the club’s first win over Bayern in March.
Under his tutelage, midfielders Kerem Demirbay, Sebastian Rudy, defender Niklas Sule and striker Sandro Wagner have all earned Germany call-ups.
The challenge facing Nagelsmann, Germany’s coach of the year in 2016, is to maintain his team’s impressive results with Rudy and Sule to join Bayern next season.
BOMB ATTACK AT RESTLESS DORTMUND
Borussia Dortmund have finished third, qualifying directly for the Champions League next season, despite huge setbacks on and off the field.
April’s bomb attack on the team bus, speculation about top-scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s future plans and a row between CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke and head coach Thomas Tuchel took their toll.
New signing Ousmane Dembele, 20, has been a success, making his France debut with some stunning displays, but has lacked discipline on occasion.
However, Germany pair Andre Schuerrle and Mario Goetze, back after three unhappy years with Bayern, have flopped.
Schuerrle showed only glimpses of his talent in an injury-ravaged season, and Goetze, Germany’s World Cup winner, has been out since February with a metabolism disorder.
Aubameyang, the league’s top-scorer with 31 goals, has been linked to big-money moves to China and Paris St-Germain and has he may leave at the end of the season.
The club say they want to know the Gabon hot-shot’s future plans and there will also be clear-the-air talks between Watzke and Tuchel at the end of the season.
The pair had a public falling out over the decision to play their Champions League quarter-final less than 24 hours after bombs blasted the team bus last month.
Bayern’s Joshua Kimmich started the season as Germany’s first-choice right-back while midfielder Renato Sanches arrived as a Euro 2016 winner with Portugal.
The 19-year-old Sanches cost Bayern 35 million euros ($39.2m) from Benfica, but like Kimmich spent most of the season on Bayern’s bench.
Sanches started just six league games, while Kimmich began 14, which has led to them being linked to Barcelona and Manchester City respectively.
The double retirements of right-back Philipp Lahm and defensive midfelder Xabi Alonso means Kimmich and Sanches need to take their chances next term.
BIG NAMES CRASH
Wolfsburg, the 2009 German champions and 2015 German Cup winners, beat Real Madrid at home in the Champions League last season, yet now need to win a two-legged play-off to stay up.
Hamburg’s dramatic 2-1 win on Saturday saw Wolfsburg replace them in 16th.
They now face play-offs on May 25 and 29 against the second-division’s third best team, which will be decided on Sunday, to stay up.
Likewise Bayer Leverkusen flirted with relegation despite reaching the last 16 of the Champions league and fired their head coach Roger Schmidt in March.