Here are the sides to have impressed the most in pre-season so far...
After the crushing disappointment of three second-placed finishes last season, it's fair to say that FC Bayern have the bit beetween their teeth. Mario Mandzukic, Dante and Claudio Pizarrro have joined, as has talented Swiss prodigy Xherdan Shaqiri. Youngster Emre Can has also added to the level of competition in a squad much improved from last season in terms of depth. One trophy - the Supercup - is already in the bag and fans will be expecting more of the same in the Bundesliga's 50th year. After two seasons without end-of-eason honours - seemingly unfathomable for Germany's most successful club - Bayern will rarely have been more determined.
Since January, few teams in the Bundesliga have been more consistent than Bruno Labbadia's VfB Stuttgart. The signing of Vedad Ibisevic has proven inspired. He has brought out the best in Martin Harnik and his goals helped the club to a fifth-placed finish last term. Fortunately for him, he has enjoyed a full, injury-free pre-season and has already cotinued his goalscoring expoits by notching twice in the recent UEFA Europa League qualifying win over Dinamo Moskva. Time will tell what effect the burden of European football will have on the team, but Stuttgart have bags of potential for success this season.
Borussia Dortmund are now the team that everybody wants to beat. Winning the domestic double last season and two league titles in a row has put a huge amount of pressure on the club. Jürgen Klopp's young charges are the type to thrive in such an environment, however, and will be relishing the challenge. Pre-season results have not been spectacular - with defeats to Werder Bremen in the Liga TOTAL! Cup and bitter rivals FC Bayern Munich in the Supercup. Yet with some new arrivals, particularly homegrown hero Marco Reus, Dortmund are certain to be challenging for honours in May.
Huub Stevens' Schalke 04 side also have good reason to be optimistic this season. Pre-season saw encouraging draws against Udinese Calcio and UC Sampdoria and, despite having lost Raul, the club's squad is in excellent shape to handle the rigours of domestic action and the UEFA Champions League. Experience and proven Bundesliga quality has been added in the form of Roman Neustädter and Tranquillo Barnetta and star striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has reaffirmed his commitment to the club. His goals were key in the club's third-placed finish last season and, should he be able to repeat those heroics, there remains every chance that Schalke can break the stranglehold of Dortmund and Bayern at the top of German football.
Christian Streich's Freiburg team are another enjoying some excellent form in 2012. After shooting up the league table to finish in 11th place last term, the wave of euphoria is yet to dissipate in the southwest. Pre-season has seen friendly wins over FC Zürich, Sochaux and St Gallen and the first round of the DFB Cup safely negotiated via victory over SC Victoria Hamburg. Freiburg turned the Badenova stadium into a fortress last season and will likely need to do so again, since competition to remain in Germany's top-flight will be as fierce as ever. With the enigmatic Streich at the helm, however, the players will continue to play to their maximum and spirits are not likely to dip at the club anytime soon.
It has been a rather busy summer in terms of squad upheaval at Mönchengladbach. Losing stars Marco Reus, Roman Neustädter and Dante from last season's heroic team has been a blow, but replacements have been found by wily coach Lucien Favre. Granit Xhaka has been an excellent addition in midfield, Luuk de Jong is looking sharp since his transfer from FC Twente and Alvaro Dominguez possesses all the ingredients to succeed at the club. The Foals may have disappointed against Dynamo Kiev in their UEFA Champions League qualifier, but in the nitty-gritty of domestic football, few teams are harder to beat and better-organised.