Beating Bayern: A users’ guide

When does 0 minus 6 equal 4? The answer is when you are coach of Bayern Munich. Such is Louis van Gaal’s confidence that the Bayern coach insists Bayern can sell six players, buy none and still win another German domestic double and Supercup, with a European trophy thrown in for good measure.

German journalists have labelled the formula ”van Gaal’s theory”.

For the first time since the formation of the Bundesliga, Bayern have not bought any players over the summer break. ”The players understand what we want and everyone knows what they have to do,” explained van Gaal. ”That’s better than buying more players and maybe unsettling the squad.”

Every country has its numbers game. England has its Big Four. Spain its Big Two. In Germany there is a Big One — and Bayern are more dominant than ever. The Bundesliga has more goals than any other big league and the biggest crowds of any football league in the world. It is also the most lopsided: Bayern have won eight of the last 10 Bundesliga titles. Six of those triumphs have been complemented with a German Cup win.

Are Bayern heading for another trophy?

Since 2002, only Bremen (2004), Stuttgart (2007) and Wolfsburg (2009) have broken the mould.

So what’s the secret to breaking Bayern’s monopoly?

Years of midtable obscurity  Bremen spent eight years outside the top 5 before winning the title. Wolfsburg finished 15th twice in the three seasons preceding their title, while Stuttgart finished ninth and fifth in the two years before their triumph.

Shine after the mid season break On their way to the title Bremen went 15 games unbeaten after Christmas, Stuttgart finished their campaign with eight wins in a row and Wolfsburg won 10 and drew 1 after the winter break.

A good cup run Bremen won the double in 2004, Stuttgart were cup finalists and Wolfsburg reached the quarterfinals.

Hire a coach from South West Germany Bremen’s Thomas Schaaf hails from Mannheim, while Felix Magath and Armin Veh are both from western Bavaria.

Wear green Green is the colour for both Wolfsburg and Bremen, while Stuttart captain Fernando Meira asked to wear a green armband in ’07.

But that might not be enough. Keeping players from Bayern’s clutches is getting harder every year. Develop a world class midfielder (Michael Ballack at Leverkusen), beefy defender (Daniel van Buyten at Hamburg), prolific goalscorer (Mario Gomez at Stuttgart) or versatile front man (Ivica Olic at Hamburg) and chances are Bayern will snap them up in the summer.

So can anyone spoil Bayern’s party this time out? Here are the main contenders.

Schalke The Bundesliga has more goals than any other big league in Europe but that’s no thanks to last year’s surprise runners-up Schalke. Felix Magath’s men scored only 53 last term. Magath has since broken up the team, releasing key players like Heiko Westermann, Marcelo Bordon, Rafinha and Kevin Kuranyi. Suddenly last year’s paupers Schalke are awash with cash: Magath wants to spend 35 millions euros before the end of the month. Key man: Raul.

Leverkusen A late slump saw Leverkusen finish fourth after a wonderful start. Tears were shed when talented youngster Toni Kroos returned to Bayern but the return of old boy Michael Ballack has pulses racing on the banks of the Rhine. Key man: Michael Ballack.

Hamburg The giants of the north generally flatter to deceive. After some awful luck with injuries, they collapsed in spectacular style last year. Coach Bruno Labbadia paid the price. Hamburg wouldn’t be Hamburg without chaos behind the scenes. Dietmar Beiersdorfer has quit as sports director. Urs Siesenthaler was drafted in as his replacement but the professorial Swiss never arrived after his other employer, the DFB, blocked the move. Armin Veh saw the misfiring Marcus Berg offloaded to PSV and Jerome Boatang sent to Manchester City for a cool 12 million euros. A title winner with Stuttgart, he will quickly want to restore his reputation after a disastrous six months at Wolfsburg. Key Man: Heiko Westermann.

McClaren is licking his lips ahead of Bundesliga season

Wolfsburg

The last side to deny Bayern the title flirted with relegation last season.  A quiet pre-season in the transfer market, surprising given the slated transfers of Edin Dzeko and Grafite, who remain at the club. Steve McClaren is the first Englishman to coach a Bundesliga club and in an exclusive interview told Eurosport 2’s Tony Jeffers that the club is targeting a return to the top 5. Key man: Edin Dzeko, if he stays.

Stuttgart Magnificent in the second half of the season, but will struggle to recover from the fatal blow to its midfield following the departure of Sami Khedira, Alex Hleb and Roberto Hilbert. Key man: Cacau.

Bremen Must be ruing Mezut Ozil’s fine World Cup, but still have the capacity to outscore Bayern. Stability is the key, one-club man Thomas Schaaf goes into his 12th season as coach needing Marko Marin to step into Ozil’s boots.  Key man: Marko Marin

Andreas Evagora

Deputy Head, Eurosport 2

The season kicks off on Friday 20 August at 20:30 CET with Bayern v Wolfsburg, a match you can watch live on Eurosport2 in northern and eastern Europe. On Saturday, catch Hoffenheim v Werder Bremen and Hamburg v Schalke. On Sunday, the live action continues with Mainz v Stuttgart and Dortmund v Leverkusen. Eurosport 2 commentators have put their heads on the block and predicted the final top three positions in the Bundesliga. Do you agree? 

Andreas Evagora 1- Bayern; 2-Hamburg; 3- Bremen

Ian Holyman 1- Bayern; 2- Leverkusen; 3-Schalke

Angus Torode 1- Bayern ; 2- Wolfsburg ; 3-Schalke

Tell us what you think here or by writing to bundesliga@eurosport.com

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