Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen all look set to mount a challenge to dethrone Bayern Munich. - © DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga
Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen all look set to mount a challenge to dethrone Bayern Munich. - © DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga
bundesliga

Why the 2022/23 Bundesliga title race is set to be a thriller

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Will Bayern Munich make history once again with an 11th straight Bundesliga title? Well, the champions face their fiercest competition in years with Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen all exceedingly well equipped to steal the Meisterschale away from Munich.

Some Bundesliga fans don’t know a champion other than Bayern, whose decade-long dominance of domestic football is a feat never before seen in one of Europe’s top five leagues. Julian Nagelsmann guided them to their 10th crown in a row by finishing eight points clear of Dortmund last season.

BVB have been their closest rivals for over a decade now; Leipzig have become a thorn in their side since their 2016 arrival on the Bundesliga stage; and Leverkusen have history of coming agonisingly close to glory with squads less gifted than what they possess now.

Watch: Bayern lifted the Meisterschale for the 10th season in a row

Three teams no longer willing to sit by and allow the champions another title.

Hans-Joachim Watzke, Dortmund’s CEO and also chairman of the DFL’s supervisory board, recently spoke to Bild with optimism about the new season: “What I can promise is that some clubs will do everything for an exciting title race. That includes Borussia Dortmund. It also includes Leipzig and Leverkusen.”

Dortmund’s big transfer window

Proof of Watzke’s statement can be seen in BVB’s big moves in the summer transfer window. Die Schwarzgelben have acted quickly to strengthen their squad from back to front, with the signings of Germany internationals Niklas Süle and Nico Schlotterbeck in central defence and Karim Adeyemi and Sebastien Haller up front, as well as Turkey international Salih Özcan in midfield.

Adeyemi said on penning his five-year contract at Signal Iduna Park: “I intentionally signed a long-term deal because I’m convinced we’ll be an exciting team that will also be capable of competing for and winning titles in the medium term with the support of the fantastic Dortmund fans.”

Borussia Dortmund have strengthened across their team for the 2022/23 season. - DFL

Although they finished as runners-up last term, 2021/22 was a disappointing campaign for those in black and yellow. They’ve now reset things for the coming season, including a new coach in Edin Terzic, who guided the club to its last title with the 2021 DFB Cup as interim boss. His objective is to turn the five-time Bundesliga champions into serious title contenders again. You feel he’s been given the tools for the job, but he has to get them clicking over a full 34 matchdays – something we haven’t seen from talented Borussia sides since the Jürgen Klopp days.

Key figures still at Leverkusen and Leipzig

While there won’t be any public talk in Leverkusen about a title push, they do have a team on paper that could have a say. Die Werkself came third last year, only five points behind Dortmund, and did so without starlet Florian Wirtz for a good chunk of 2022 after he tore his cruciate ligaments. But the 19-year-old, who got seven goals and 10 assists in 24 Bundesliga appearances last term, has recently signed a contract extension and is expected back within a few months.

And like Wirtz, top scorer Patrik Schick has also penned a new deal keeping him at the BayArena till 2027. The Czech striker got 24 goals last season, placing him ahead of Erling Haaland and behind only Robert Lewandowski in the Bundesliga scoring chart. Moussa Diaby was one of only two players to break into double figures for goals (13) and assists (12) in 2021/22 and will look to continue his form, especially with a place in France’s FIFA World Cup squad up for grabs.

But there’s more competition in the Leverkusen side after the signing of highly rated young Czech forward Adam Hlozek, while Sardar Azmoun has had half a year to find his feet in the Bundesliga. Even coach Gerardo Seoane has had a season to settle, already guiding Die Werkself back to the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 2019. He now has to push the team on yet further.

The same goes for Domenico Tedesco at Leipzig. He worked wonders at the Red Bull Arena following his mid-season arrival, salvaging their campaign with a fourth-place finish and the first trophy in the club’s history after winning the DFB Cup. We’ll get an early chance to see where they’re at for 2022/23 when they host Bayern in the season-opening Supercup the week before the Bundesliga campaign kicks off.

And like Leverkusen, they’ve retained and extended the services of their key man, Christopher Nkunku. The France international has penned a new deal until 2026 on the back of his 20 goals and 13 assists that saw him voted the Bundesliga’s Player of the Season.

They have so far been quiet in the transfer market, with Xaver Schlager from Wolfsburg the only notable signing, but perhaps they feel they now have a squad in Leipzig that is mature and experienced enough, and now has that trophy-winning feeling, to take that next step in the league.

However, there is still the one small matter of that club in Munich. As Watzke also acknowledged, “Bayern have to offer these clubs periods of weakness”. Those have happened in recent seasons, but no team has stepped up to take advantage.

Instead, the champions have themselves strengthened to add greater depth and quality to their squad to try and prevent any slips, with the signings of Sadio Mane from Liverpool, Matthijs de Ligt from Juventus, Ryan Gravenberch and Noussair Mazraoui from Ajax, and Rennes teenager Mathys Tel.

Watch: Sadio Mane - the Bundesliga's new superstar

The pressure is on Bayern, but that’s what they thrive on. However, they look set to face competition from several directions this season and know one of Dortmund, Leverkusen and Leipzig – or perhaps even a surprise contender (think Wolfsburg in 2008/09) – will be there to pounce if they don’t get it right.