Leipzig looks to build on being best of Bundesliga

GERMAN PRESS AGENCY - DPA
BERLIN
Published 15.08.2019 00:25

Champions Bayern Munich and runner-up Borussia Dortmund will be expected to dominate the Bundesliga once more but Leipzig, Leverkusen, Gladbach and others are also hoping to challenge them.

RB Leipzig enjoyed a hugely successful campaign last term by reaching the German Cup final and securing a Champions League berth but it has made a fresh start for the coming Bundesliga season.

It is not the only ones with big ambitions as Bayer Leverkusen also hope to continue excellent form while Borussia Moenchengladbach and Schalke are also expecting better under new coaches - even if challenging title holders Bayern Munich and followers Borussia Dortmund could be beyond them.

Hertha Berlin and Werder Bremen meanwhile are among those hoping to break into the European group while the return of Cologne from the second division gives another high-profile name to the top-flight.

"We've signed the two men we wanted in Julian Nagelsmann and Markus Kroesche," Leipzig chief executive Oliver Mintzlaff said. "We're now entering a new era. Last season, we had a taste of the cup final, and now we're hungry for more."

Kroesche has taken over from Ralf Rangnick as sports director while the other half of Rangnick's duel role from last season, head coach, has gone to former Hoffenheim prodigy Nagelsmann.

Still only 32, Nagelsmann now has one of the plum jobs in the division and major financial backing to deliver his vision of high-pressing and quick football on the park. "I have an exciting young team to work with and this works well for me," Nagelsmann said at his introduction. There is a great mentality within the team. "This is captivated by the style of football RB Leipzig play and how successful the club has been. I can fully identify with the club's philosophy."

Leipzig lost winger Bruma to PSV Eindhoven but have - so far - retained the services of Germany forward Timo Werner while adding midfielder Christopher Nkunku from Paris Saint-Germain and striker Ademola Lookman, for 25 million euros ($27.9 million) from Everton.

Leverkusen finished fourth, one place behind Leipzig, last term after coach Peter Bosz took over mid-term to lead a revival.

Julian Brandt was sold to Dortmund but Nadiem Amiri and Kerem Demirbay, both from Hoffenheim, look strong replacements while Kevin Volland, Leon Bailey and Kai Havertz all remain in place to promise goals. "I don't want to start to dream - but: I'm completely convinced that a lot is possible this season," Havertz told the Aachener Zeitung paper.

Gladbach had to settle for a place in the Europa League but are now under coach Marco Rose who replaced Dieter Hecking. "The boys are all ready to accept the new style," Rose said. "For us, it's about achieving a balancing act now between trying to install a new system whilst also getting the results we want at the same time."

While Gladbach is building from a respectable finish, Schalke is looking to make amends for a miserable season which saw them closer to relegation than the Champions League fight. David Wagner is the new man on its bench.

Schalke has been relatively quiet on the transfer market but moved out record signing Breel Embolo to Gladbach and is battling to keep star keeper Alexander Nuebel as he enters the last year of his contract.

Benito Raman, signed from Fortuna Dusseldorf, will be expected to deliver goals for the side that scored a meager 37 times last year.

Frankfurt, cup winners in 2018 and also in the Europa League again, look weakened having sold two of their three-star strikers - Ante Rebic remains but Luka Jovic joined Real Madrid and Sebastien Haller went to West Ham. That could open a gap for Werder Bremen, eighth last year, to push on, while big things could also be happening - at long last - in the capital.

Investor Lars Windhorst has backed Hertha Berlin and the side brought in impressive young forward Dodi Lukebakio from Watford in a deal reportedly double the club's previous transfer record. Sports director Michael Preetz admitted in a Sueddeutsche Zeitung interview that "it was a challenge for all of the German football that there is more competition at the top" but insisted Hertha, in their 127-year existence, "have never been as well placed as today."

Cologne is another famous name in German football having won the first-ever Bundesliga in 1964 but as second division champions will be looking first and foremost to re-establish itself in the top-flight.

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