Bundesliga 2021-22: What to expect from Bayern, Dortmund and Leipzig

By Sports Desk August 13, 2021

Julian Nagelsmann has long seemed destined to be Bayern Munich coach, and the 34-year-old now has his chance after succeeding Hansi Flick.

He has a lot to live up to. Flick, in his 18-month tenure, Flick led Bayern to two Bundesliga titles, one DFB-Pokal, a Champions League triumph, Club World Cup glory, the DFL-Supercup and the UEFA Super Cup – a remarkable seven trophies.

While Nagelsmann settles into life in the hottest of coaching seats in Germany, his former team RB Leipzig will look to finally make a title challenge last, this time under new coach Jesse Marsch.

Borussia Dortmund scraped into the Champions League places thanks to a super run late in the season, and now Marco Rose will look to build on their DFB-Pokal success in his first season in charge.

Just what can we expect from each of Germany's big three in 2021-22?


Bayern Munich

Bayern ultimately claimed their ninth successive Bundesliga title with ease last term and Robert Lewandowski was once again the driving force. He had to wait until the last kick of the last day, but he finally broke Gerd Muller's long-standing Bundesliga record of 41 goals in a single campaign.

Unsurprisingly, Bayern scored the most goals in Germany's top tier in 2020-21, netting 99 times across their 34 fixtures. Their tally of 483 chances was also by far the most in the division, 54 ahead of second-ranked Leipzig (429) in that regard, though they conceded 44 times while the Leipzig defence under Nagelsmann was the stingiest, with only 32 goals conceded. 

Bayern averaged 65.39 per cent possession and had 1,304 touches in the opposition box, over 400 more than any other side.

However, Nagelsmann does have to contend with the loss of some players who have been crucial to Bayern's dominance. David Alaba has joined Real Madrid, while fellow stalwarts Javi Martinez and Jerome Boateng also left on free transfers.

Dayot Upamecano has made the same switch from Leipzig as Nagelsmann, and the young centre-back adds pace and dynamism to Bayern's backline. Other than that, the squad remains largely the same, with Sven Ulreich having returned after a spell at Hamburg, while Omar Richards arrived on a free transfer from Reading.

Even without much more in the way of incomings, it is difficult to see Bayern letting the chance to make it 10 titles in a row slip from their grasp.

 

Dortmund

Last season was a difficult campaign for Dortmund, but it was one which ultimately ended successfully. They clinched Champions League qualification and ran riot against Leipzig to lift the DFB-Pokal.

It was a fine parting gift from Edin Terzic, who took over on an interim basis after Lucien Favre was relieved of his duties, and now Rose – whose Borussia Monchengladbach team slumped in the back half of the season and missed out on Europe – will look to reshape Dortmund in his own way.

Renowned for attacking, front-foot football, Rose's style, if all goes to plan, is bound to be a hit with the Dortmund fans upon their return to Signal Iduna Park.

Dortmund may have sold Jadon Sancho, but they still have Norway sensation Erling Haaland, who scored 27 Bundesliga goals last season from 93 attempts, giving him a shot conversion rate of 29.03 per cent, the third-highest in the league out of players to have scored 10 or more times.

Donyell Malen has arrived as Sancho's replacement, and Rose has already been talking up the Netherlands youngster, while goalkeeper Gregor Kobel has arrived from Stuttgart. Like Bayern, Dortmund said goodbye to a club legend in the form of Lukasz Piszczek, but with Marco Reus, Thorgan Hazard, Malen and Haaland complemented by the likes of Julian Brandt and Jude Bellingham, there should be plenty of cause for optimism.

It might well be Haaland's final season at the club, and you would not put it past the youngster, who also set up six goals last term, to propel Dortmund into the title race, back where they belong.

 

RB Leipzig

There are plenty of quality teams competing with the three leading lights, and it would certainly not be surprising to see Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg, Eintracht Frankfurt or Gladbach mount a serious push for Champions League football.

However, Leipzig have well and truly established themselves as a Champions League regular now, and will be looking to Marsch, who has made the transition from sister club Salzburg, to continue Nagelsmann's work.

Leipzig sold Timo Werner to Chelsea in 2020, and netting just 60 times, they clearly missed the striker. Indeed, midfielder Marcel Sabitzer, with eight goals, was their leading scorer, with forwards Alexander Sorloth and Yussuf Poulsen only managing five each.

In Andre Silva, signed from Frankfurt, Leipzig have a forward who scored more than Haaland in the Bundesliga last season, with the Portugal international finding the net 28 times in 32 appearances.

Silva boasted an impressive 'big chance', as defined by Opta, conversion rate of 55 per cent, while only Lewandowski (137) had more than the former Milan man's 117 attempts. Dani Olmo and Christopher Nkunku – who supplied nine and six assists respectively last season – can provide the creativity, with Poulsen and Sorloth able to offer Marsch a variety of attacking options. Caden Clark, who is starring in MLS, will arrive before the turn of the year, while Dominik Szoboszlai is almost like a new signing, given he is yet to feature for the club since his arrival in January due to injury.

Leipzig have faced a reshuffle in what had been a strong defence, with key man Upamacano departing while Ibrahima Konate has also left for Liverpool, though the acquisition of Salzburg's highly rated Mohamed Simakan shows the production line is still ticking along, and a Champions League place will be the minimum expectation. 

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    Bruno Fernandes and Portugal are alert to the threat of an upset posed by Morocco in their World Cup quarter-final after the Atlas Lions stunned Spain and now eye tournament history.

    Walid Regragui's side held La Roja to a 0-0 draw before beating them 3-0 on penalties, owing much to the saves of goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.

    Portugal had been effective if unspectacular in the group stage, but they released the handbrake in the last 16, demolishing Switzerland 6-1 in one of the finest performances by any team at Qatar 2022 after Goncalo Ramos came in for the benched Cristiano Ronaldo and scored a hat-trick.

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    But Fernandes – involved in more goals (five) than any of his team-mates in this tournament – insists Portugal will not be taking anything for granted.

    "It's a difficult game," he told reporters. "Morocco are a really good team.

    "They came first in the group, beat Spain, so we are aware of their qualities. We want to do the best game, as always, but we have to focus on ourselves and understand what we need to do to win our game.

    "That's the most important thing: that we do our game, do our job to get through. We know it will be a really difficult game."

    That is backed up by the fact Morocco have kept three clean sheets in four games at this World Cup, which is the most ever by an African side in a single edition of the tournament.

    But the task facing Morocco is monumental.

    If they do see off Portugal, Morocco will become the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup.

    Each of the previous three African teams to reach a quarter-final were all eliminated in the last eight, with Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) falling at this hurdle.

    Additionally, only two of the previous 11 knockout meetings between European and African teams at the World Cup have seen CAF sides progress, and one of those was Morocco's shoot-out win over Spain.

    Morocco have been one of the best-supported nations in Qatar, and Regragui is calling on the support of the rest of the Arab world to help bridge the gap in quality to Portugal.

    "We cannot achieve anything without the Moroccan public," he said. "Four days ago, they came to the hotel to ask for tickets, and many of them came from all over to encourage us.

    "We tell our supporters that we need them, especially in the quarter-finals, to write history. We also need Arab supporters; Algerians, Tunisians and Africans, and we know that many countries are behind us."
     

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Portugal – Goncalo Ramos

    Will Fernando Santos stick to his guns and keep Ronaldo on the bench? Judging by the team's performance against Switzerland, he should.

    Ramos had a hand in four goals against the Swiss and his hat-trick in 74 minutes was more knockout goals than Ronaldo has ever managed in the knockout stages of the World Cup (none in 531 minutes).

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    He was the Atlas Lions' hero in the last 16, saving two penalties in the shoot-out – the other hit the post, but he seemed to have it covered anyway.

    But even outside of penalty shoot-outs, Bounou is a key man for Morocco as a dependable goalkeeper who was even nominated for FIFA's Yashin Trophy – the prize given to the world's best keeper – earlier this year.

    PREDICTION

    Portugal are firm favourites here, with Santos' side having a 55.8 per cent chance of progressing to the semi-finals.

    Morocco have an 18.8 per cent likelihood of winning in normal time, with the draw rated at 25.4 per cent.

    Clearly then, while the Atlas Lions are the underdogs, they have a good opportunity of at least forcing extra-time, which did not work out too badly for them last time.
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    Walid Regragui hopes Morocco's performance at the World Cup is showing why Arab coaches should get top jobs in Europe, which is "impossible" right now.

    Regragui was only appointed as Morocco head coach at the end of August.

    Since then, the Atlas Lions are unbeaten, conceding only an own goal against Canada and reaching the quarter-finals at Qatar 2022.

    Regragui's short stint has included an upset win over Belgium and a penalty shoot-out success against highly-fancied Spain in the last 16.

    Morocco are the first Arab team and fourth African side to make the last eight at a World Cup, prompting discussion of interest in Regragui's services.

    But the coach explained the battle he had faced just to get this job, let alone taking over at Manchester City or Barcelona.

    "This question is probably best asked to European clubs: why don't they hire Arab coaches? Maybe it's a cultural question, maybe it's a mentality aspect," he said.

    "Today I think it's impossible Manchester City or Barcelona bring an Arab coach. They don't think about it, as if we're not worthy, as if we're not capable.

    "But there's moments in history that make people change their mind. It's on us, the Arab and African people, to show we are ready."

    Having spent much of his coaching career with clubs in Morocco, Regragui added: "Ten years I am a coach, nobody looked at me. 'No, it is impossible, he does not have the experience. Let's look at somebody else'.

    "I'm in the quarter-final. Explain this miracle.

    "Experience doesn't matter. It's skills. It doesn't matter your background, where you're from; skills matter. If you're not worthy, you don't have the skills, you can leave."

    Perhaps Morocco's style of play could be an obstacle to Regragui's progress, with only Costa Rica (30.2 per cent) having a smaller average share of possession at the tournament than their 32.3 per cent.

    But Regragui made no apologies for Morocco's approach as they stifled Spain, who dominated 76.8 per cent of the play in the previous round but had only one shot on target in 120 minutes.

    Highlighting other examples of Spain – with the highest possession share at the finals (77.0 per cent) – bossing proceedings against elite sides, Regragui wondered if critics would rather Morocco had bravely lost.

    He asked: "Why do Morocco need to keep the ball? Why do African teams need to play very well and lose after and cry?"

    But now, against Portugal in Saturday's quarter-final, Regragui feels huge support for his side.

    "We want to show Africa deserves to be here, Morocco deserves to be here, football is global," he said.

    "We have a federation behind us, a whole people behind us, a whole continent behind us. We have the Arab world. That's a lot of people. That's what we're going to draw from."

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    Free agent Ronaldo has fallen out of favour at club and now international level, having been named among the substitutes for Portugal's 6-1 win over Switzerland on Tuesday.

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    "I really don't get where this constant negativity from the press about Cristiano comes from," he wrote on Twitter.

    "The media is just trying to get clicks, and pundits who don't have a career anymore just want to get attention with his big name and try to make him look bad.

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