Bundesliga 2019-20: 5 reasons why Bayern Munich will win an 8th straight title, and 5 reasons why they won't
Last season, serial Bundesliga winners Bayern Munich prevailed in one of the tightest title races in years by pipping runaway leaders Borussia Dortmund by two points. That gave them a record-extending seventh Bundesliga title on the trot, and 28th overall.
The Munich club has a slew of standalone Bundesliga records like most wins (1093), most goals scored (4028), most points in a season (91), most wins in a season (29), most clean sheets in a season (21), most goals scored by a player in a season (Gerd Muller - 40), most goals scored by a player for the club (Gerd Muller - 365), most league titles won for a single club (Franck Ribery - 9) and of course the most Bundesliga titles (28).
As the 57th edition of the Bundesliga kicks off this weekend, Bayern will be a strong contender to add to their impressive kitty of seven consecutive German top flight titles.
Here are 5 reasons why the Bavarian giants could be the last team standing for the eighth time in as many seasons:
#1 The winning mentality
Bayern are the masters of shock and blitz wins, but also wins of the ugly type when the going gets tough.
Last season Bayern racked up four goals in a match on seven occasions. In a tight title race, the Bavarian club won 5-1 away at Borussia Mönchengladbach, followed by successive 6-0 dismissals of Wolfsburg and Mainz respectively at the Allianz Arena.
Then came a comprehensive 5-0 win over their title rivals Dortmund, before they sealed their 28th Bundesliga title with a 5-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt.
But Bayern's title campaign wasn't littered with spectacular wins all the way. The Bavarian club were made to toil at home against Leipzig, Hertha Berlin and Werder Bremen before eking out narrow 1-0 wins in all three games.
The serial Bundesliga winners had their other one-goal victories of the season away at Mainz (2-1), Bremen (2-1) and Augbsurg (3-2).
#2 The Lewandowski factor
Its almost a given that when Robert Lewandowski scores, Bayern generally win. The Polish striker is a key man for Bayern up front, racking up at least 20 Bundesliga goals in each of his last four seasons for the Bavarian club.
The record goal scorer (for a foreign player) in the Bundesliga with 202 goals, Lewandowski's 22-goal haul last season was four better than Paco Alcacer's 18. The Pole thus won his 4th Torjagerkanone, awarded for most goals in a Bundesliga season.
Lewandowski broke the records for the league's fastest hat-trick, four- and five-goal match hauls when he came in as a second half substitute against Wolfsburg in 2015-16 and blitzed a staggering 5 goals in 9 minutes. The Polish marksman's 8 Bundesliga hat-tricks is only bettered by Mario Gomez.
Bundesliga defences have been warned but they haven't always heeded the Polish threat, to their own peril.
#3 Title winning pedigree in the squad
The presence of players like Thomas Muller and David Alaba, who have won eight Bundesliga titles apiece for the club, and the quintet of Boateng, Martinez, Neuer, Rafinha and Lewandowski with five titles each, is a daunting proposition for Bayern's Bundesliga rivals.
The Munich club have the personnel with the experience and the pedigree of winning league titles which is rivaled by very few teams across the five big leagues in Europe.
#4 Form on the road
Most top teams generally win most of their home games. It is the form on the road which often determines the destination of league titles, and it is no different in the Bundesliga.
During their seven successive title winning seasons Bayern won a staggering 89 of 119 matches on the road, including a league high of 15 during the 2012-13 season. The combined away win tally of the respective second placed teams during this period was 62.
Add to that Bayern's strong home form during this period (98/119 wins) compared to the second placed team's tally of 84, and we have a good idea of why Bayern would be hard to stop during the 2019-20 season as well.
Borussia Dortmund, who finished runners-up behind Bayern in 4 of these 7 seasons, have had 80 home wins and 54 away wins during this period.
#5 Coach Niko Kovac
Kovac had a tough initiation to life at the Allianz Arena after being appointed the new Bayern coach at the start of the 2018-19 season. The six-time defending champions Bayern trailed runaway leaders Borussia Dortmund at the halfway stage but gathered momentum in the second half of the season as Dortmund faltered on the home stretch.
The Croatian departed from former coach Pep Guardiola's favoured 4-3-3, opting for a less enterprising formation with two holding midfielders, as he effectively stamped his own managerial style on the team. Kovac duly delivered Bayern's seventh Bundesliga title on the trot and the DFB Pokal, in the process becoming the first coach to win the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal after winning both titles as a player.
Kovac has strove to shore up an ageing team with younger players, preparing for life after Robben, Ribery and Hummels with the summer signings of Hernandez, Pavard and Perisic.
With the Croatian at the helm, it wouldn't be a massive surprise to see Bayern win their eighth straight Miesterschale at the end of the season.
At the same time, there are also a few reasons why Bayern could fall short of winning a 29th Bundesliga title this season. Here are five of those:
#1 Lack of an alternate goal source to complement Lewandowski
Lewandowski has carried the bulk of the burden of scoring goals for the Bavarian club. In the absence of a reliable second striker, Muller's flickering form and a paucity of goals from midfield, a lot would be riding on the Polish marksman's shoulders yet again.
Teams would size up opportunities to mark Lewandowski out of games or snip out the Pole's supply from the flanks, which would greatly diminish Bayern's attacking threat.
#2 Exit of Rob-bery
Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry, affectionately dubbed 'Rob-bery' by the German media, struck up a formidable partnership and supplied a steady stream of crosses from the wings for their leading marksman Lewandowski to capitalise on.
The retirement of Robben and the exit of Ribéry after 10 and 12 seasons respectively at the club would rob Bayern of their most potent wing threat, which would be hard to replace.
The duo, along with their fair share of assists, also scored crucial goals from midfield (Ribéry - 86, Robben - 99), thereby easing up the pressure on the forward line. In particular, Robben's marauding runs down the right and cut-backs to unleash his left footed curlers would be sorely missed by the Bavarian club.
#3 A creaky defence and the exit of Hummels
Bayern conceded 32 goals in the last Bundesliga campaign, which is the highest during their last seven title winning seasons. The Bavarian side did not let in more than 23 goals in 5 seasons (2012-13 to 2016-17) of their serial title winning run, conceding a league low of 17 in 2015-16.
Signs of a creaking defence first showed up in 2017-18 when Bayern conceded 28 goals, and those signs were accentuated last season. The problem could exacerbate with the depature of their reliable centre back Mats Hummels to title rivals Dortmund.
Moreover, the new summer reinforcements, Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard, will likely take time to get adjusted to life at the Allianz Arena.
#4 An ageing keeper
Long regarded as the world's best goalkeeper, injuries and poor form have marred Manuel Neuer in his last two seasons. Neuer, in his nine seasons at Bayern, has featured in 216 Bundesliga games, keeping a clean sheet in 108 of those games.
With 20 clean sheets in 2014-15 and a league best 21 the following season, the Bayern custodian was restricted to just three appearances in 2017-18. Neuer returned to the Bayern goal-line in 2018-19, playing 23 games which featured 11 clean sheets.
With advancing age, diminishing prowess and a dip in confidence, the 33-year-old Neuer has displayed signs of fallibility a little more often than Bayern would have liked. The seven-time Bundesliga winner remains a formidable proposition though, and his form could make or break Bayern's season.
#5 Exit of James Rodriguez
The mercurial Colombian midfielder returns to Real Madrid following the culmination of his two-season loan spell at Bayern. During his time at the Bavarian club, James Rodriguez scored 14 goals and provided 15 assists in 43 appearances from attacking midfield.
His creative spark and knack of scoring the odd goal could be missed as Bayern didn't go for a like-for-like replenishment.