Germany will be uncharacteristically late compared to their European peers when it comes to this season’s Bundesliga kick-off, with Bayern Munich ready to begin 2020-21 at home to Schalke on Friday.
The most decorated team in German soccer will start their search for a 31st top-flight title—the nearest competitors, Nurnberg, have won only nine—as well as seeking their ninth consecutive crown having clinched each league trophy on offer since 2013.
Borussia Dortmund will expect to challenge most competitively for the crown eight years after they last took league silverware, while many a neutral will hope nationally maligned RB Leipzig don’t break into that discussion.
European qualification proved a fierce subplot in last season’s Rückrunde, and Bayer Leverkusen will attempt to make up after narrowly missing out on a UEFA Champions League place. Borussia Monchengladbach beat them to fourth, but there’s little telling whether Europe will prove a blessing or a blight. The same goes for Hoffenheim and Wolfsburg, who join Leverkusen in the coming UEFA Europa League campaign.
Schalke have much to answer for after recording their third bottom-half finish in four seasons. Hertha Berlin and Eintracht Frankfurt, meanwhile, will plot upward courses after making improvements following the coronavirus suspension.
The Bundesliga will be one of the last major European leagues to begin their new season despite being the first to complete 2019-20 in totality. It was during that drastic effort that Germany underlined its place as one of the highest-quality products in soccer. Now, let's take a look at what the 2020-21 season has in store.
The Title Contenders
Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig
One could say the only way is down for Bayern Munich after winning a second treble of this decade. But, then again, that would suggest the organisation is content with the idea of allowing standards to slip in any way.
Instead, it’s Flick’s job to improve further upon last season’s unforgettable success, in what will be his first time leading a senior team at the beginning of a season:
Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig failed to hold back the crimson tide even after Bayern endured those early-season struggles, and the pressure again falls to them if Germany’s most decorated denizens are to be stopped.
Erling Haaland feels more and more "right" at the Westfalenstadion despite rumors touting Real Madrid as interested in the Norwegian's signature. Haaland might inspire Dortmund on a level comparable to Robert Lewandowski at Bayern, and the 20-year-old has proved just as prolific at international level as he's been in his club career:
Keeping Jadon Sancho at the club amid Manchester United's known interest in the player will remain a hot issue until the transfer window closes. It seems unfair on Lucien Favre to suggest Dortmund's title hopes hinge on one player, but there's no-one else in the squad whose departure would hurt their chances more.
Arminia Bielefeld, Stuttgart
Two faces familiar with the first tier celebrated their return to its good graces this summer in Arminia Bielefeld and Stuttgart, with the former crowned as champions of the 2. Bundesliga.
Such a shift is especially significant for Arminia given they were on the verge of bankruptcy as recently as 2017, via DW Sports:
Five-time Bundesliga champions Stuttgart boast far more experience at this level by contrast. However, the same can’t be said for coach Pellegrino Matarazzo, who took over in December 2019 for his first real taste of senior management.
Die Schwaben have a young squad at their disposal and dream of getting back to the glory days of their last top-flight title (2007), though the pressure is high to prove themselves capable at this level.
Players to Watch
Transfer activity has been slower than usual due to the economic fallout of COVID-19, though that didn’t stop Bayern dropping $56 million to sign Leroy Sane from Manchester City.
His signature serves as testament Die Roten might better themselves in 2020-21, as if they weren’t a fierce enough force after beating Paris Saint-Germain to the Champions League title in August:
Sane’s second Bundesliga debut could come against Schalke—the club who handed him his first—and he’ll inherit the No. 10 shirt once worn by club legend Arjen Robben (and more recently Philippe Coutinho).
Dortmund also opened their cheque book to acquire Jude Bellingham from Birmingham City this summer. The 17-year-old midfielder will view Jadon Sancho’s progress at the Westfalenstadion as a blueprint for his own path to Bundesliga prosperity, dazzling on debut for England’s under-21s:
Any mention of Marco Reus will conjure up the cliche he can “be like a new signing” for Dortmund after he’s looked fit ahead of season's start. Fresh from Flamengo, 18-year-old Reinier—a loan signing from Real Madrid—will get his first taste of European soccer in black and yellow, while American Gio Reyna will contend for a starting spot after some bright performances at the end of last year.
Not to be left light in attack, Leipzig hope to continue their track record of market mastery with Hwang Hee-chan, who brings nothing if not some much-needed speed to his new side:
Another modest signing from sister club Red Bull Salzburg, the South Korean Hwang, 24, replenishes Leipzig’s attack after Timo Werner’s move to Chelsea and Patrick Schick’s loan at the club came to an end.
Must-Watch Matches This Season
October 23-26 (Matchday 5): Borussia Dortmund vs. Schalke
November 6-8 (Matchday 7): Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich
December 4-7 (Matchday 10): Hertha Berlin vs. Union Berlin
December 4-7 (Matchday 10): Bayern Munich vs. RB Leipzig
January 8-11 (Matchday 15): RB Leipzig vs. Borussia Dortmund
February 19-22 (Matchday 22): Schalke vs. Borussia Dortmund
March 5-8 (Matchday 24): Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Bayer Leverkusen
March 5-8 (Matchday 24): Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund
April 3-5 (Matchday 7): Union Berlin vs. Hertha Berlin
May 22 (Matchday 34): Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayer Leverkusen
2020-21 Bundesliga Week 1 Schedule
Friday, September 18
Bayern Munich vs. Schalke, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, TUDN, live stream on fuboTV
Saturday, September 19
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Arminia Bielefeld, 9:30 a.m. ET
Union Berlin vs. Augsburg, 9:30 a.m. ET
Cologne vs. Hoffenheim, 9:30 a.m. ET
Werder Bremen vs. Hertha Berlin, 9:30 a.m. ET
Stuttgart vs. Freiburg, 9:30 a.m. ET
Borussia Dortmund vs. Borussia Monchengladbach, 12:30 p.m. ET
Sunday, September 20
RB Leipzig vs. Mainz, 9:30 a.m. ET,
Wolfsburg vs. Bayer Leverkusen, 12 p.m. ET
Visit the Bundesliga's official website to see the 2020-21 calendar in full.