With the coming release of Game of Thrones Season 7, bundesliga.com takes a skewed look at how the hugely successful series might play out in a fantasy world combining the heroes and villains of the seven kingdoms and the Bundesliga's best.
It is Bayern Munich who currently sit proudly atop the Iron Throne, gazing out across their recently vanquished rivals. Yet with a new top-flight season almost upon us, the Bundesliga’s version of the Lords of Westeros are about to be thrust headlong into a tale filled with plot twists and drama as they seek to defend their hard-earned crown.
Of course, within the Seven Kingdoms, those who rule supreme for long periods can suddenly and dramatically find their empire sacked. Having deservedly fought their way through fire and ice to claim an unprecedented fifth consecutive Bundesliga title in 2016/17, Bayern will nonetheless be wary of enemies plotting their dramatic downfall as rulers of the division. Last season, a fierce challenge began to emerge from the East, with second-place finishers RB Leipzig’s bold advances mirroring those of House Targaryen.
"Lannister, Baratheon, Stark, Tyrell - they’re all just spokes on a wheel; this one’s on top then that one’s on top and on and on it spins crushing those on the ground. I’m not going to stop the wheel, I’m going to break the wheel." So said Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhüttl, or was it Daenerys Targaryen? In any case, both the Saxony-based side’s shrewd tactician and the Mother of Dragons have bold ambitions in the coming campaign, one seeking to dominate the Bundesliga and the Champions League, the other intent on taking back the Throne.
Watch: Bundesliga season past - take another look at the 2016/17 campaign.
Then there are the former Kings of the North (west), Borussia Dortmund, whose challenge faded somewhat last season but, much like their fictional brothers from House Stark, Die Schwarzgelben will be keen to make their significant presence felt once the curtain rises on a new season. Jon Snow may have been unwanted by many within the Stark clan but his dramatic comeback to life and subsequent starring role as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch is the sort of storyline that could inspire returning Dortmund dynamo Mario Götze. "A very small man can cast a very large shadow," commented Varys, a member of the small council in Game of Thrones. "I’m very optimistic, it’s great to be back," said Götze, now fit and ready for the fight following five months on the sidelines.
"When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives," the oft troubled Sansa Stark said in a statement almost befitting of the Bundesliga’s mid-season period. Yet how will Hoffenheim’s hungry pack, led by Julian Nagelsmann, be faring when the snows arrive in Sinsheim come winter-time? Following their fine fourth-place finish last time out, the Bundesliga upstarts will be competing in European competition for the first time in 2017/18. "The climb is all there is," Peter Baelish once remarked in words that befit Hoffenheim’s dramatic rise recently. However, the plotting 'Littlefinger' also warned that, "Many who try to climb [the ladder] fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them." But we're certain that won't be the case for Nagelsmann's warriors.
Watch: Hoffenheim's top ten goals of 2016/17!
Meanwhile, for teams that find themselves at the other end of the table as the season advances, taking a leaf from young Arya Stark’s book as they seek that streak of ruthlessness key to surviving the battles ahead may not be a bad idea. "My name is Arya Stark and I want you to know that. The last thing you're ever going to see is a Stark smiling down at you as you die." A girl may have tried to become no-one, but she finally claimed her identity. Who among the Bundesliga’s battling pack will make their name ring out across the land come 2017/18’s end?
But it is to Bayern that the rest will look to when the battle recommences next month. Showing a shrewdness in attack and a hunger to hold onto all they have fought for, the champions also have a leader worthy of praise in the cunning Carlo Ancelotti. "A good king knows when to save his strength, and when to destroy his enemies," the ruling Cersei Lannister once proclaimed. For King Carlo of Bayern, the pre-season plotting has already begun, while the rest of us wait to discover where the coming adventure takes us.