The 55th edition of the Bundesliga is finally upon us. Champions Bayern Munich kick the campaign off on Friday (20:30CEST/18:30GMT) when they welcome Bayer Leverkusen to the Allianz Arena. bundesliga.com has compiled an A to Z on all you need to know ahead of the new top-flight campaign in Germany.
First in the alphabet, first in last season’s race to be crowned the Bundesliga’s top scorer. Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pipped his rival and former teammate Robert Lewandowski to the title on the final day of the season with his brace over Werder Bremen to take the Gabon international onto 31 goals for the campaign and one ahead of the Bayern striker. The duo will no doubt be leading the charge once again in 2017/18 and Auba will certainly be eager to become the first man since Ulf Kirsten in 1997/98 to defend his crown.
Watch: All 31 of Aubameyang’s Bundesliga goals in 2016/17
B: Bender brothers
It has been eight long years since twins Lars and Sven Bender have shared a club changing room together. Back then the brothers were playing for 1860 Munich in Bundesliga 2 but in 2009 Lars made the move to Leverkusen while Sven joined Dortmund. The pair did famously play together in Germany’s 1-0 win over England at Wembley in November 2013 and crossed paths a number of times as opponents, but they are once again united at club level following Sven’s move to the BayArena. At least now Mr. and Mrs. Bender aren’t forced to pick sides when they play!
C: Coman the Bavarian
How many players in world football can say they have five league titles already at the age of 20? In three different countries no less! Well there’s just one that we know of, and that’s Coman the Bavarian. Kingsley’s second season at Bayern failed to live up to the hype expected following his stand-out performances under Pep Guardiola. But with Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben also that one year older, chances for Coman to prove himself may come more frequently. The Frenchman just has to take them after signing a permanent deal with the club in the summer.
We’re heading into our 55th Bundesliga campaign and that means a 55th appearance in the division for Hamburg – the only side to manage that feat. The Bundesliga Dinosaur has been the source of great entertainment in recent years but for all the wrong reasons. Four times in the last six seasons the Red Shorts have left their fans biting their nails until the final moment as they flirted with relegation. In fact, in 2014 and 2015 the northern club really pushed it by only ensuring their continued status as the Bundesliga’s only ever-present club with play-off triumphs over Greuther Fürth (on away goals) and Karlsruher (in extra-time after a 91st-minute equaliser). Will the HSV faithful receive some relief this year or will Hamburg be offering another club a chance at Bundesliga football in 2018/19?
Eintracht Frankfurt – or Unity Frankfurt in English – are a symbol of the multicultural nature of the Bundesliga and Germany itself. Sixty different footballing nations are represented by players in the Bundesliga in 2017/18, and the Eagle’s nest in Frankfurt is home to more than any other club – 21 to be precise. Add to that the coach and former Croatia international Niko Kovac and you have a real melting pot of cultures and languages in Germany’s financial hub. You can imagine there’s a lot of shouting and hand signals in the Eintracht dressing room as people look to get their point across.
Watch: Behind the scenes at Eintracht’s multicultural Media Day
One of those foreign imports into the Bundesliga is Sweden’s Emil Forsberg. Making his bow in the German top flight alongside his team last season, the RB Leipzig winger played a massive part in the Bundesliga debutants’ remarkable campaign as they finished second behind Bayern and qualified for the Champions League. Forsberg laid assist after assist onto plates for his teammates – 19 in total – as Leipzig saw off all comers in a barnstorming campaign. Now the Swede has his feet firmly under his sturdy Ikea table after a year in the Bundesliga, how will he do second time around?
It’s been a busy summer for Serge Gnabry. Ending the 2016/17 season with Werder Bremen, it was announced just a week before his first game in the EURO U21 Championship with Germany that he was to join champions Bayern Munich on a three-year deal. After winning the tournament in Poland, the 22-year-old secured a year’s loan with European debutants Hoffenheim as he looks for game time on the national and international stage. Keep an eye out for a Gnabry with a point to prove this season.
H: Home support
If you want to be successful in a season then you need a strong base of operations. Home support makes such a difference so it’s a good thing the Bundesliga boasts the highest average attendances in Europe with some of football’s most affordable tickets. 19,049,362 people watched 612 Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 matches in the flesh last season and it’s those packed stadiums that makes the Bundesliga atmosphere one of the most envied in world football.
Football can be a tribal affair. Them vs. us, us vs. them – but the sport also has the ability to bring people together like no other. Humans band together in times of tragedy and Borussia Dortmund experienced that at first hand last season when their team bus was targeted with a bomb ahead of their Champions League semi-final tie against Monaco at the Signal Iduna Park. Defender Marc Bartra suffered a broken wrist in the attack, which saw the football world unite behind the Spaniard and Dortmund, while BVB fans and local residents also joined together to assist stranded Monaco fans with the hashtag #bedforawayfans after the match was rescheduled.
Bartra also created inspirational headlines when he launched a global search for a solitary Dortmund fan who wore her Black-and-Yellow kit among Schalke fans during the Revierderby at the VELTNS Arena. Within a week the Spaniard was able to meet fan Steffi and gift her his shirt. It was ‘Echte Liebe’ – true love – Dortmund style.
J: James Rodriguez
It was the coup of the summer by Bayern Munich. Carlo Ancelotti said he was the man he wanted and before the world could even react, 2014 World Cup golden boot winner James Rodriguez was in Munich signing a two-year loan deal with the record German champions. Fresh from winning a second consecutive Champions League title, James – who curiously has a species of coral named after him: Paragorgia jamesi – appeared hungry for more success in the Bundesliga as he impressed during Bayern’s mixed-bag tour of Asia. Without doubt the Colombian could be a match-winner for the Bavarians this term.
For many, the highlight of the Bundesliga footballing calendar. Der Klassiker pits two of Germany’s most successful teams and biggest names – Bayern and Dortmund – against each other for bragging rights and, more often than not, silverware. The pair have already met once this season in the Supercup (Bayern won on penalties) after four meetings across three competitions in 2016/17 (both sides won two each). The two rivals meet in the Bundesliga on Matchday 11 in Dortmund ahead of the return in Munich on Matchday 24. And don’t rule out further meetings between the sides in the DFB Cup or even the Champions League this term.
Watch: Highlights of the Supercup Klassiker in Dortmund
A man who knows a thing or two about a Klassiker – he’s played in 26 overall – and more importantly about finding the back of the net is Robert Lewandowski. Twice a Bundesliga top scorer, the Pole will be itching to get his crown back from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang this season after falling just short last time out. The Bayern striker also has another milestone in his sights: Claudio Pizarro’s record as the top scoring non-German in the Bundesliga is just 40 goals away. At the rate Lewandowski scores goals, expect him to cut that gap dramatically if not completely by May of next year.
The shield of silver at the end of a 34-match tunnel that every player wants to get his hands on. Steeped in history, the 11kg shield has been held aloft by every champion since 1949, and most recently by Bayern captain Philipp Lahm for the past five seasons. The World Cup-winning skipper has now hung up his boots, closed his trophy cabinet and passed the armband onto Manuel Neuer. We know we’ll see a new captain lifting the Meisterschale in May, but will he also come from a different club? There will be no lack of challengers willing to take on Bayern for the honour.
Heading into what is already his second full season in charge of Hoffenheim at the tender age of just 30, Julian Nagelsmann remains a coaching sensation and will now lead the Sinsheim club in a maiden European campaign after their best-ever Bundesliga finish. His success has also seemingly opened the door for other bosses once considered too young to take charge in the Bundesliga. He and Schalke’s Domenico Tedesco (31) are in fact younger than some of their players but are two of the most highly regarded products of Germany’s famed coaching development system. The pair even make Hannes Wolf (36), Manuel Baum and Alexander Nouri (both 37) and Sandro Schwarz (38) seem old!
A British institute of higher education in the Bundesliga? Not quite! In fact, British teenager Reece Oxford has joined a German institute of higher footballing education by signing for Borussia Mönchengladbach on a season-long loan from West Ham United and looking to prove himself to examiners in the Bundesliga. The 18-year-old has already been impressing ahead of his first Bundesliga test against Cologne on Matchday 1, having started in most of Gladbach’s pre-season fixtures, and even scoring his maiden goal against Malaga.
Watch: Reece Oxford attempted to show off his German ‘skills’ at the Gladbach Media Day
P: Pass master
Pass and move, pass and move – it’s the foundation of the beautiful game. Bayern rather unsurprisingly topped the standings for passes made last season (24,110), but it was their very own Spanish passing maestro who came out on top personally. Thiago averaged 119 touches of the ball per game in 2016/17, and was the only player alongside Julian Weigl to have a pass completion rate above 90 per cent. The Spain and Germany internationals are both set to miss the opening games of the new season through injury but will no doubt be back delighting audiences and teammates alike with their passing abilities in due course.
Q: Quality assured
If there was a quality assurance sticker for football leagues, the Bundesliga would be flaunting it with pride to all its friends. Laden with world champions, goalscoring machines and even the world’s best goalkeeper for the last four years running, the Bundesliga has it all. As the league with the highest average number of goals per games in recent years, the Bundesliga provides quality viewing as a guarantee.
R: RB Leipzig
No longer the surprise package, Leipzig now know the Bundesliga and the Bundesliga knows Leipzig. They blew away all comers last time out as they stormed to a second-place finish in just their maiden top-flight campaign, but every football fan will tell you about the famous second-season syndrome. Ralph Hasenhüttl and his side have strengthened in a bid to stave off any such threat with Bruma and Jean-Kevin Augustin just two new arrivals, but all eyes will be on the East German city to see how the Roten Bullen perform second time around.
Watch: RB Leipzig ready for Round 2
That’s Officer Steinhaus to you! Now, police officers are no strangers to taking up a whistle and notepad to keep the peace, but Bibiana Steinhaus is not your average police officer. She will in fact be the first woman to take charge of a top-flight men’s match in Germany, or in any major European league for that matter. She already received a taste of what it’s like to mix it with giants of the German game when she refereed Bayern’s DFB Cup first round tie against Chemnitz. And 'tie' was a bit of a buzzword on the day as cameras caught the champions’ Franck Ribery messing with Steinhaus’ shoelaces and untying them. Professional as ever, she did rebuff flirty Franck’s efforts with some firm justice.
Watch: Steinhaus’ firm justice with Ribery
Football is a team game, but personal honours are of course up for grabs once again this season. We’ve already mentioned Aubameyang and Lewandowski in this A to Z, and if form is anything to go by then they will be the main protagonists once more in the race for the Torjägerkanone awarded to the Bundesliga’s top scorer. Last season it was 31 vs. 30 when the curtain finally came down – Will we see more goalscoring records broken this season? Will someone new step up to challenge these goal machines? We’ll know the final answer to that on 12 May 2018.
This summer was a busy one for the Bundesliga’s stars both young and old. Germany were triumphant in the Confederations Cup just the day after their U21 counterparts lifted the European Championship title. Youth was a key element in both squads but so was experience on the Bundesliga stage. Leverkusen’s Benjamin Henrichs was at the Confed Cup with 38 Bundesliga appearances to his name at the age of just 20. Over at the U21 squad in Poland, their 23 players had already amassed a whopping 1,122 Bundesliga appearances between them. It’s testament to a league that gives youth a chance both on and off the pitch, and expect to see some names flourish this season too!
Quiz: How well do you know Germany's U21 European champions?
V: Video Assist
We are well and truly moving into the 21st century now! Broadcasters are able to capture action on the pitch from almost every angle and beam it for your viewing delights, and now the referees will be getting on the act too. Video Assist will make its Bundesliga bow when Bayern host Leverkusen and it’s there to make sure that decisions are correct even more often with a referee based in Cologne watching the action on a screen and alerting their colleague to any event they may have missed. Keep your eyes peeled and more importantly: Don’t celebrate too early in front of your friends – One review could make you look a bit silly…
Watch: How Video Assist works
There is a new Wolf joining the pack this season and he has no intention of lying down and playing dead. Hannes Wolf is the freshest face to take his seat in a Bundesliga dugout this season, joining ranks of young coaches such as Nagelsmann, Tedesco, Nouri, Schwarz and Baum all under the age of 40. Whilst the idea of Wolf leading Wolfsburg in the chase for the Bundesliga would be a little too much to ask for, you can still expect him to lead the charge with Stuttgart on their immediate return to the top flight.
There have been plenty of new arrivals in the Bundesliga this summer. Some old faces have returned but there are also many new ones set to make their bow in the German top flight. Established international stars such as James Rodriguez have joined the Bundesliga family as well as a host of relatively unknown young guns to add that X-factor to the league. How will the likes of Corentin Tolisso, Bruma, Dan-Axel Zagadou, Jorge Mere, Philipp Lienhart, Amine Hart and more settle into life in the Bundesliga?
Y: Yellow Wall
It’s big, it’s yellow, it’s a wall that the world actually wants to see. Dortmund’s south stand – the Yellow Wall – is the 25,000-strong beating heart of Germany’s biggest stadium. There to encourage on those in Black and Yellow whilst scaring the life out of those who oppose them, the Yellow Wall is a sight to behold and surely one of the wonders of the footballing world. Check that bucket list and if a visit to witness the wall in action is not on there, grab yourself a pen and stick it at the top.
Watch: Fortress Dortmund
Last but not least it’s the return of a world champion to the Bundesliga. Ron-Robert Zieler’s second foray over in Britain is over and the 2014 World Cup winner has decided that he much prefers life in Germany as he’s set to appear between the sticks for promoted Stuttgart. The 28-year-old brings both international and Bundesliga experience to the Mercedes-Benz Arena, which is exactly what VfB need as they look to re-establish themselves in the top flight.