After far too long away, the Bundesliga finally returns on Friday when FC Bayern München host SV Werder Bremen in the season opener. The new campaign promises to be one of the most intriguing in years as former Bayern and Borussia Dortmund coach Ottmar Hitzfeld told us in an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com
bundesliga.com: Will FC Bayern dominate once again this season?
Ottmar Hitzfeld: After watching the Supercup between Bayern and Dortmund I am optimistic that there will be more excitement in the title race. Dortmund are a force to be reckoned with, as they impressed [at the Supercup], even without Mario Götze and Andre Schürrle. The race for the title will be tighter.
I am optimistic that there will be more excitement in the title race.
bundesliga.com: Can Borussia Dortmund really threaten Bayern?
Hitzfeld: Yes, I am convinced they can. Of course they lost three key players in Mats Hummels (to Bayern), Ilkay Gündogan (Manchester City), and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Manchester United), but the club has made some intelligent signings. Of course the new players will need time to get used to their new surroundings, but with Götze, Schürrle, Ousmane Dembele, and Emre Mor, Dortmund have more attacking options. Marc Bartra also played well against Bayern. The squad has strength in depth and great quality.
The squad has great quality. Watch Götze speak about Dortmund's squad.
bundesliga.com: Many also consider Bayer 04 Leverkusen amongst the favourites. Could Roger Schmidt’s squad challenge for the title, or will they be a threat to Dortmund’s status as the number two in Germany?
Hitzfeld: Neither. I believe that Dortmund are stronger, as they are more flexible up front. Bayer will challenge for third place. They have a good squad and they will have good season, but won’t finish higher than third.
Hitzfeld: Gladbach have made some good signings. Christoph Kramer is a good player. It will be easy to integrate him, as he already knows Gladbach. Andre Schubert uses a 4-3-3 or 3-5-2 system and Borussia are very flexible and therefore hard to calculate for their opponents. Furthermore, Gladbach has a more stable environment than lets say Schalke. But at the same time Schalke have quality as well. They now have a very experienced manager in Christian Heidel and the club has made some top signings in the form of Naldo, Coke, and Breel Embolo. Yes Leroy Sane has left the club, but he was not a key player yet and his departure should be easy to compensate.
bundesliga.com: Can VfL Wolfsburg overcome their disappointing 2015-16 season?
Hitzfeld: I think so. Purchasing Mario Gomez is an interesting move. He will want to prove himself. He will certainly become the new face of Wolfsburg, especially with the departure of Andre Schürrle and Max Kruse. Hence, Leverkusen, Schalke, Gladbach, and Wolfsburg will fight for the third and fourth spot. It will certainly be an exciting season, and a lot of it will depend on how clubs will start.
Watch Gomez speak about his move to Wolfsburg.