Bundesliga 2018-19 guide to the season - new managers, VAR and English youngsters

Bundesliga 2018-19 guide to the season - new managers, VAR and English youngsters

The Bundesliga kicks off on Friday, with Bayern Munich going for their seventh title in a row.

 

Four of the league's top teams are going through some managerial flux - so what is new this season in Germany?
New face in charge at Bayern
Niko Kovac
Niko Kovac (right) has led Bayern Munich to two cup wins already

For the first time in a decade, Bayern Munich are led by a man who has never won a league title as a manager.

Niko Kovac's sole trophy in management came in his final game before joining Bayern, guiding Eintracht Frankfurt to a 3-1 win in May's German Cup final against his soon-to-be employers.

He 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."

Former Croatia boss Kovac fielded wing-backs at Eintracht last year, but used Heynckes' preferred 4-2-3-1 set-up in the Super Cup.

Benedikt Warmbrunn, Bayern reporter for regional newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, thinks the former Bayern and Croatia defender, who was born in Germany, is starting to impress after initial scepticism.

"At first, many people were a little bit disappointed because Kovac didn't seem to be a coach who would develop the team or create something completely new - like Pep or, maybe, [Thomas] Tuchel," Warmbrunn told BBC Sport.

"But, after the first weeks, I have to say Kovac brings a lot of new energy into the team. He is a hard-working man, and it looks like that is exactly what the team and the club need right now.

"Bayern are expecting to win the Bundesliga, there's no discussion about that. Considering the Champions League, it's a totally different story. I think they know that the semi-finals would be a great success."

Kovac will hope to do better than the last Bayern manager who had not won a domestic championship - Jurgen Klinsmann did not even see out the 2008-09 season before being sacked.
Robert Lewandowski
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

Bayern play Hoffenheim in Friday's Bundesliga opener (19:30 BST), with live text commentary on the BBC Sport website.
Other leading teams make changes too

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.
Julian Nagelsmann
Julian Nagelsmann will face his future employers RB Leipzig at least twice this season

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."
A growing English presence in the Bundesliga
Jadon Sancho
Jadon Sancho (left) has come up against Liverpool and former club Manchester City in pre-season friendlies

There are at least seven English players who could feature in the Bundesliga this season - although some are less likely to play than others.

Borussia Dortmund have the most high-profile - England Under-19 winger Jadon Sancho, who made 11 appearances last season after a £10m move from Manchester City. But Dortmund also have another - 21-year-old midfielder Denzeil Boadu, who played against Liverpool in pre-season.

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Borussia Monchengladbach are another club with two English players. They signed England Under-19 winger Keanan Bennetts from Tottenham this summer and right-back Mandela Egbo, 21, made his Bundesliga debut in February. They also had defender Reece Oxford on loan last season but he has returned to West Ham.

England Under-20 striker Kaylen Hinds has been at Wolfsburg since last summer and made his debut on the opening day of last season.

Freiburg - who had Ryan Kent on loan last year- have 21-year-old left-back Chima Okoroji, who was born in Germany to a Liverpudlian mother and Nigerian father. The Bayern Munich academy product has yet to make his Bundesliga debut, but he has been given a squad number this season.

Defender Daniele Collinge, 20, is at Stuttgart - but is only with their reserve team so a first-team breakthrough does not appear to be imminent.

Another Bundesliga player with English links is Augsburg midfielder Kevin Danso, who lived in Milton Keynes for 10 years and came through the MK Dons academy before moving to Germany. The 19-year-old has since become a senior Austria international.

There could be another Englishman in Germany if Leipzig get their way. They are reportedly willing to pay £22m for 20-year-old winger Ademola Lookman, who had a successful loan spell from Everton last season.
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.

Leon Goretzka's free-transfer move from Schalke to Bayern, and Thomas Delaney's switch from Werder Bremen to Dortmund are among the higher-profile switches.

Bayern are 1-6 favourites to win the title for the seventh season in a row and Lewandowski - who has already scored four cup goals - is 1-2 to retain his top scorer trophy.

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