The season starts on Friday 18th August when as is tradition, the champions Bayern Munich, play the first game, this time against Bayer Leverkusen. The rest of game week one is completed on the Saturday and Sunday.
Once again it is important to take advantage of any obvious trading/betting opportunities that come along each weekend but also to be careful in the first two or three weeks, to watch and study the way teams set up and play. The bookmakers once again feel that Bayern are certainties to retain the title, and add to their five consecutive wins. In fact the only other side who have won the title in the last eight years, Borussia Dortmund, are seen as the only conceivable dangers. The bookmakers will not bet each way so there is no angle in the outright odds, Bayern are currently 1/5 (1.20) favs with Dortmund at 7/1 (8.00) and 22/1 (23.00) and upwards the others.
The bookmakers will offer you 8/11 (1.73) that Dortmund win in the market betting without Bayern and to me that is a little risky. Yes, they should finish second but if Bayern get well ahead then Dortmund may concentrate on other things, especially if they are going well in the Champions League and they do have a good pedigree in that competition.
1/5 Bayern Munich have not played well in pre-season but Ancelotti will not panic and he will surely have them prepared for next week. He says he will not be making late additions to the squad and it wouldn’t be the greatest shock to see them take two or three games to get back to form. Maybe Leverkusen will fancy their chances. James Rodriguez is a good addition but will take time to adapt and Tolisso is a young French midfielder who could be anything and will need to impress straight away to justify the fee they paid for him.
7/1 Borussia Dortmund will really fancy their chances this season especially after seeing the Bayern results of late and with manager Peter Bosz choosing to strengthen the defence, they will be a tough side to beat especially at home. They will look to ex Freiburg player Maximilian Philipp to help with the goals. All in all they have a strong squad with the likes of Marco Reus, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mario Gotze and Andre Schurrle all household names and they could push Bayern all the way. If we could bet them each way three places it would be the value of the season.
22/1 RB Leipzig caused controversy as the “most hated team in Germany” were the headlines last year for a side that have spent a fortune following their promotion the season before. They did remarkably well to finish second and will be strong again this season especially if they can hold on to Naby Keita who is being tracked by Liverpool. With European football this season, it might be too much to expect as lofty a finish as last season even with a number of new faces arriving including Augustin from PSG and Laimer from Salzburg.
80/1 Schalke 04 are my idea of a team that could go well this season and improve on their tenth place finish last May. New manager Domenico Tedesco has already experimented with new systems and is known for attention to detail although this is his first big appointment. Goals from Franco Di Santo will be vital and I expect them to be well organised if not a little negative.
80/1 Bayer Leverkusen finished in the bottom half last year and with a distinct lack of action so far in the transfer market, Sven Bender aside, they may struggle to gain a foothold back in the top six. Leverkusen will be a side to watch in the first few games and re-assess.
100/1 Hoffenheim have looked solid in friendlies this summer and have added strength in midfield with Gnabry from Bayern and Nordtveit from West Ham. A fine fourth place last season they may struggle to do much better with European commitments but they are an exciting side with goals, which is always a good weapon in the locker.
100/1 Borussia M’gladbach have strengthened in defence and midfield with defender Matthias Ginter brought in from Dortmund which looks a good signing. Finished in ninth last time around and they will be expecting to better that this season although lack of firepower up front is a concern and Stindl, Raffael and Thorgan Hazard will need to hit the net more frequently this season.
300/1 and upwards really tells how average some of the other sides are in this league and it is not easy to identify anyone who is certain to go down. Obviously the newcomers will be on most lists to go straight back down but both Stuttgart and Hannover have been here before and have added experience. Hamburg, Augsburg and Frankfurt all struggled for goals last season and Hamburg also leaked goals which is another negative. They haven’t been that active transfer wise so might be worth keeping an eye on for a bottom three finish at around 11/4 (3.75). Augsburg were pretty awful at times last year but the bookies have it about right in making them amongst the favourites to go down but unless you can get the 11/4 offered by Bet 365, 2/1 is the best anywhere else out there and that is no value.
I will be surprised if Bayern don’t win the title with Dortmund breathing down their necks and Hoffenheim and Schalke to chase the top two all the way. I make Hamburg and Augsburg to struggle at the bottom along with one of Hannover, Mainz and Freiburg. The only bet I am going to do myself however, is to chance Schalke for a Top Four finish at around 7/2 (4.50) as I think they will be very difficult to break down this season and if they can make the Veltins-Arena a stronghold then they could end up challenging the top four. Schalke 04 to finish top four 0.5pt win 7/2