The German Bundesliga kicks off tonight, with Bayern Munich competing for their seventh consecutive title.
Four of the league’s top teams are going through a managerial crisis – so we decided to highlight what’s new this upcoming season in Germany.
New face in charge of Bayern
For the first time in a decade, Bayern Munich will be led by a man who has never won a league title as a manager, though has already won his new club two cups.
Niko Kovac’s only trophy in management came in his final game for Eintracht Frankfurt where he led his side to a 3-1 win in May’s German Cup final against his soon-to-be employers.
The 46-year-old has already taken charge of Bayern in two competitive games, the German Super Cup – in which Bayern beat Eintracht 5-0, and a less impressive 1-0 victory at fourth-tier Drochtersen/Assel in the first round of the German Cup.
“He’s got some characteristics of Jupp [Heynckes], some of Pep [Guardiola],” said Bayern defender Javi Martinez.
“The preparations were tough and intense, but that’s exactly what we need. You could see in the Super Cup against Frankfurt that we’re all fit.
“Only once before have I experienced a more intense pre-season – Marcelo Bielsa at Athletic Bilbao. Sometimes we trained for three and a half hours.”
Kovac will hope to do better than the last Bayern manager who had not won a domestic championship – Jurgen Klinsmann who did not even see out the 2008-09 season before being sacked.
On another note, Robert Lewandowski wants to leave the club but Bayern will not sell him – he has scored four competitive goals this season before the league has even started.
Dortmund also have a new man in charge
Borussia Dortmund, who have not finished in the top two in the previous two seasons, also have a new manager in Lucien Favre. The Swiss left Nice this summer to replace Peter Stoger, who was only in interim charge after Peter Bosz was sacked in December.
“He’s a perfectionist and that’s exactly what we need,” goalkeeper Roman Burki said of Favre, who has previously managed Hertha Berlin and Borussia Monchengladbach.
In his first competitive game, Dortmund were almost knocked out of the cup by second division Greuther Furth. Summer signing Axel Witsel forced extra time with a 95th-minute equaliser, and Marco Reus scored a winner in the final minute of the extra period.
What about the rest?
Elsewhere, a strange situation has developed around top-four contenders RB Leipzig and Hoffenheim.
In June, the clubs announced that Julian Nagelsmann would leave Hoffenheim for Leipzig – at the end of this season.
The 31-year-old is regarded as one of Europe’s most promising managers, leading Hoffenheim into the Champions League for the first time.
While Leipzig are waiting 12 months for their manager, sporting director Ralf Rangnick will double up as head coach for the 2018-19 season.
Nagelsmann, who says he turned down an approach from Real Madrid this summer, said: “I’m actually very ambitious this year, perhaps 2-3% more. I want to prove that I chose the right and proper way to communicate my switch.
“It was important to establish clarity in my relations. I owe it to the club and employees to ensure this historic season does not become dominated by speculation about my future.
“I know the change won’t be to blame for losing games, although the media will write that.”
Bavarian reporter Warmbrunn said: “I think Bayern’s main rivals this season will be Dortmund and Schalke. In the next season everyone will be watching Leipzig with their then new coach Nagelsmann.”
What hasn’t changed?
The video assistant referee is going to be used again in the Bundesliga this season, although with slight tweaks.
A graphic will be shown on the screen in the ground to explain the VAR decision, and a new system has been developed to make offside decisions easier to judge.
There have not been many huge transfers in the Bundesliga this season – although the deadline is not until 31 August.