By Jake Reed
With the top two places in the Bundesliga being seemingly settled before a ball has been kicked this season who will be the best of the rest?
Finishing 3rd last season was Bayern Leverkusen with 65 points, only a solitary point behind Champions League runners up Borussia Dortmund. Last season was Leverkusen’s best finish since the 2010/11 season where they finished 2nd. This is mainly down to their fantastic home form, winning 12 out of their 17 home games. 60% of their 65 points came at the BayArena.
Leverkusen will look to build on their 3rd place finish last year without their young star Andre Schurrle, who moved to Chelsea for 19.3 million Euros. Schurrle scored 11 goals last season and linked up fantastically well with Leverkusen’s main man Stefan Kiessling who scored 25 goals last season, who has recently extended his contract until 2017 which shows his commitment towards Leverkusen.
Although Leverkusen have lost the services of Andre Schurrle they have purchased 20 year old South Korean playmaker Heung-Min Son from Hamburg for 8.8 million Euros. Son scored 12 league goals for Hamburg last season and showed finishing qualities of a seasoned pro in several big games. I don’t expect him to set the Bundesliga alight but he is more than an adequate replacement for Schurrle.
Another club many people would fancy to be competing up the top end of the Bundesliga this season would be Schalke who narrowly finished 4th last year on a total of 55 points.
However I’m not so sure and feel they may struggle for a Champions League spot. This is down to one main reason which has recently cropped up in the media involving Brazilian winger Michel Bastos, who has seemingly been shown the door by the chairman. Bastos was influential in both Schalke’s Bundesliga and Champions League campaign, scoring 4 goals in the process and looking very lively whenever I have watched him.
With Bastos’ attacking flair departing I feel Schalke may struggle more than expected, they shipped 50 goals in 34 league games at an average of 1.47 per game. In essence Schalke’s philosophy was we will outscore the opponents, the game that epitomised this mentality was their 5-4 win over Hannover.
Of course, you cannot overlook the quality that Schalke have in their ranks. For instance they have the likes of Jefferson Farfan, Julian Draxler and Klass Huntelaar. All these players will have to perform extremely well for a large amounts of the season if Schalke insist on having an attacking mentality, which ultimately could be their downfall due to the tough schedule that is part and parcel of the Bundesliga.
One of the Royal Blues big signings was Brazilian centre back Felipe Santana from Borussia Dortmund. In my opinion Santana has always been a liability, he comes with the risk and audacity of David Luiz without the skill and technical ability. Lets not forget Santana was part of the Dortmund line up that conceded 34 goals when dominating possession for large parts, something Schalke tend not too do. Put Santana under pressure and he adds nothing to Schalke.
My surprise package of this season would be Borussia Mönchengladbach, the foals have spent wisely over the summer and have retained the services of their more influential players. The 2 marquee signings that have been brought into the club are Raffael and Max Kruse.
The 28 year old Brazilian attacking midfielder Raffael signed from the Ukrainian club Dynamo Kyiv for 4.4 million Euros. Raffael has looked sharp in recent weeks and he seems to easily find space in between the midfield and defence, creating plenty of goal scoring opportunities in the process.
The other player Mönchengladbach have signed is former Freiburg striker Max Kruse, the 25 year old netted 11 goals and impressed many last season. Me included. I’m really looking forward to seeing him link up with Raffael and the talented Dutch under 21 striker Luuk De Jong who often looked isolated last season.
So overall who will be the best of the rest? For me personally it will be contested between Bayern Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach. As mentioned above both have added to their squads effectively, yet for the most part keep their squads intact.
I’m not completely writing off Schalke for a top 4 finish but I don’t fancy them to reach the same heights as last season. And finally, take note of Max Kruse this season. This boy can really play.