The Bundesliga finally returns this weekend, with the 2020/21 campaign set to kick off on Friday night when reigning champions Bayern Munich host Schalke 04 at the Allianz Arena.
It’s an exciting matchup to start the year, which should set the tone well for the season ahead. With so much change going on during the summer, it’ll be very interesting to see what sort of storylines develop as the year goes on. The league tends to be quite unpredictable, but that won’t stop us here at VAVEL from trying our best at forecasting what will happen.
Here’s how we think the standings will look come the end of the campaign.
1 - Bayern Munich
They’re the best team in Germany, they’re the best team in Europe, and they’re pretty much the best team in all of world football. The Bavarians only got better in the offseason as well, signing phenom Leroy Sane from Manchester City.
Munich will win the Bundesliga, and they will win it with ease.
2 - Borussia Dortmund
Second place is almost as predictable as first, as Dortmund are clearly second best in the league. They made some smart moves over the summer, bringing in English youngster Jude Bellingham and the experienced Thomas Meunier, but they’re still nowhere near their bitter rivals in terms of talent.
BVB might manage to keep world class winger Jadon Sancho, so with him and a developing Erling Haaland going forward, Dortmund will certainly be the best of the rest.
3 - Borussia Mönchengladbach
This is where things get interesting. There are a number of teams on the cusp of challenging near the top of the table, but just don’t have enough for one reason or another. As a result, it sets up a potentially thrilling race for European qualification.
Mönchengladbach started last season incredibly well under new coach Marco Rose, and even led the league in points near the halfway stage of the campaign. They eventually ran out of steam and slipped down the table, but the Foals still ended the year in 4th, which was deemed to be a success.
Now, in Rose’s second year, Gladbach will look to establish themselves as a team that consistently plays in Europe, and there’s plenty of reason to believe they’ll do just that.
4 - RB Leipzig
Last season’s Champions League semifinalists might struggle, but they’ll still have enough to get back into the top four and ensure UCL qualification once again.
Leipzig lost their most lethal threat going forward in the offseason as Timo Werner joined Premier League side Chelsea. The club seem set to replace him, already signing Hwang Hee-chan while also reportedly after Alexander Sorloth, but his absence in the attack will certainly be felt.
They’ve got enough in other areas of the pitch to cover for his departure, and even though they won’t reach the same heights as last year, expect another solid campaign from Die Roten Bullen.
5 - Eintracht Frankfurt
Potentially the Bundesliga’s most erratic team, Frankfurt fans had to endure plenty of ups and downs just last season.
They were nearly in a relegation fight, slipping all the way down to 13th place at one point during the campaign. Then again, the Eagles made it to the DFB Pokal semifinals, losing to eventual winners Bayern Munich, while also getting to the Europa League round of 16 after being Arsenal in the group stage.
They ended the year in stellar form, though, which is what matters. With Andre Silva now at the club on a permanent basis, a more consistent Frankfurt might surprise a few people.
6 - Wolfsburg
It’s been a while since Wolfsburg were winning and competing for trophies, but they’re still a decent team all things considered.
Jerome Roussillon and Kevin Mbabu are both solid fullbacks, while Maximilian Arnold and captain Josuha Guilavogui control the midfield. Their hopes will mostly rest on the shoulders of forward Wout Weghorst, though, who needs to score regularly if his team wants any chance of qualifying for the Europa League once again.
They’re not the most exciting club in the country, sure, but Wolfsburg are too reliable to slip up this upcoming season.
7 - Hoffenheim
Speaking of teams who will likely fly under the radar, there’s not much to talk about when it comes to Hoffenheim.
They’ve not made any marquee signings, but no really important players have left either. Die Kraichgauer has a solid squad, with Andrej Kramaric grabbing most of the headlines on a weekly basis, but he’s the only star name at the club.
Expect another decent yet unremarkable campaign from them.
8 - Bayer Leverkusen
Fans will only realize how important Kai Havertz was to Bayer Leverkusen when the team suffers without him this season.
Havertz has done almost everything for them these past few years, whether it be creating chances, scoring goals, or even tracking back to support the defense. He moved on this summer, though, joining fellow countryman Timo Werner at Chelsea.
Leverkusen have also lost experienced forward Kevin Volland, so they’ll have to cope without both of them during the campaign. There are other talents in the team, including recent arrival Patrik Schick, but the hole Havetz leaves in the midfield might be too much to handle.
9 - Hertha Berlin
They’ve spent big the last few transfer windows, and many are now taking note of the project being built at Hertha Berlin. However, they might be set for disappointment.
With all the new names and faces coming in, it’ll take time for team chemistry to develop. That could lead to a slow start, putting Hertha in an early hole early on in the campaign. Confidence isn’t high at the Olympiastadion either, as they ended last season with three straight losses, and they’ve already been eliminated from the DFB Pokal after falling to 2. Bundesliga side Eintracht Braunschweig in the first round of the tournament.
Berlin could put it all together quite quickly, but it’s much more likely that they’ll fail to live up to expectations.
10 - Mainz
It’s almost a completely different story for Mainz, who have a cheaper squad but looked much better to end last year.
Getting dragged into a fight for survival, Mainz needed a few crucial wins down the stretch to secure their spot in the league. They got those in style, playing some beautiful attacking soccer despite all the pressure.
Those performances will give the team plenty of confidence going into this campaign, so a hot start could eventually lead to a midtable finish.
11 - Werder Bremen
The Green-Whites, all things considered, should have been relegated last season.
Absolutely dreadful at times, they barely snuck into the relegation-playoff on the final day. Bremen then got past FC Heidenheim by the narrowest of margins, only winning the tie on away goals. They’re somehow still in the Bundesliga, and they know the need to be better if they want to avoid more drama at the end of the year.
Werder have too much talent to go through another close call, so expect them to be a more solid team this time around.
12 - SC Freiburg
One of the most surprising Bundesliga teams last season, Freiburg finished all the way up in 8th place, only one point off of a Europa League qualifying spot.
It’ll be tough to reach those same heights once again, especially when you consider who they lost during the offseason. Goalkeeper Alexander Schwolow went to Hertha Berlin, defender Robin Koch joined Leeds United, and forward Luca Waldschmidt was signed by Portuguese giants Benfica. That’s three key players in three different areas of the pitch, so having to replace all of them will be tough.
Freiburg still has enough, though, so they won’t have to worry much about relegation even if they slip down the standings.
13 - Schalke
Schalke are a club in free fall.
A staple of the Bundesliga, they used to pride themselves on developing academy talents before having them shine with the first team. The likes of Leroy Sane, Leon Goretzka, and Weston McKennie always end up moving on, though, and the well is starting to run dry.
The Royal Blues were disastrous at the end of last year, going winless in their final 16 league games. They didn’t fire struggling coach David Wagner, and that decision might cost them dearly.
14 - Union Berlin
Second season syndrome is a tale as old as time. When a team does remarkably well in their first year after being promoted, they tend to waver the following year.
Union Berlin were absolutely superb last season despite a limited budget. Strong defensively, they knew how to absorb pressure before hitting on the counter with great efficiency. It worked as they took the Bundesliga by storm, but the secret is out now, so this campaign will be much tougher.
Union are strong enough to survive, though, and will look to cement their spot as a top flight team.
15 - FC Köln
The Billy Goats barely avoided relegation last time out, and it seems they’re set for another scrap at the bottom of the standings this season.
Köln are an incomplete side with few notable players. Captain Jonas Hector has featured for the German national team while centerback Sebastiaan Bornauw is a youngster on the rise, but that’s it really. They even sold Jhon Córdoba, and although they brought in Sebastian Andersson to replace him, it might be difficult for them to score goals.
Their experience at this level might be what ultimately keeps them up, but fans certainly need to prepare for a rocky road ahead.
16 - Stuttgart
A yo-yo club is a team that is constantly getting relegated and promoted, bouncing up and down the divisions like the famous children’s toy.
In Germany, they use the term Fahrstuhl-Mannschaften to describe the likes of Stuttgart, who have changed leagues four times in the last five years. Going through so many roster changes as a result, they are often too good for the second tier but not good enough to survive in the Bundesliga.
History tends to repeat itself, but for added drama, Stuttgart will likely end up in the relegation-playoff just so their entire campaign can come down to two games.
17 - Augsburg
Augsburg barely did enough to stay up last season, but they might not be able to hold off relegation for another year.
The teams around them got better while they stood still. Augsburg arguably got worse, as they sold left back Philipp Max, a player who was instrumental for them on both sides of the ball.
They’ve not got any real difference makers, so it’s unclear who will be the man that steps up and carries the team when need be. If no one takes charge, then Augsburg will be relegated from the Bundesliga for the first time in club history.
18 - Arminia Bielefeld
One of the best stories in German football, no one really expected Arminia Bielefeld to get to this stage.
Playing in the third tier back in 2015, they were on the verge of economic collapse. They survived, and half a decade later they find themselves back in the top flight after winning the 2. Bundesliga with ease. They’ve still not got a lot when it comes to funds, but they have plenty of team spirit that makes them tough to play against.
Unfortunately for Bielefeld, they just don’t have enough quality to keep the fairytale going, and are understandably favorites to go straight back down at the end of the upcoming campaign. They’ll fight to the end, but this might be too tough of a challenge for the minnows to overcome.