Bayern Munich asked retired Arjen Robben for permission before giving new signing Philippe Coutinho his old No.10 shirt and club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge believes the Brazilian is a worthy successor.

After a difficult 18-month spell with Barcelona, Coutinho completed a season-long loan move to Bayern on Monday, with the German champions able to make the switch permanent for €120million.

Bayern have been undertaking something of a rebuild in recent months, with various older players being moved on or retiring.

Chief among those are Franck Ribery and Robben, with the latter opting to hang up his boots after a 10-year spell at the club that saw him win 20 trophies.

Given their respective contributions to Bayern, Rummenigge confirmed they intended to leave the No.7 and No.10 jerseys unoccupied, but Robben gave permission for Coutinho to take his.

When asked about where Coutinho will play, Rummenigge told a news conference: "Hasan [Salihamidzic, sporting director] and Niko [Kovac, coach] have already agreed on all the tactical variants, and Hasan had a talk with Arjen Robben this morning.

"We did not want to give his number away for the time being, as a special gesture, but we also wanted to show how important and valuable this is.

"It was also a very important sign for Philippe that the club is also fully behind him, so Arjen has no problem at all, he wishes him all the best, and he is a more than worthy successor."

Coutinho could make his Bayern debut on Saturday when they travel to Gelsenkirchen to face Schalke in the Bundesliga.

Three months on from Rafinha's emotional farewell, there is a Brazilian back at Bayern Munich.

Thiago Alcantara, a Spain international born to Brazilian parents, had been the club's lone ongoing link to the country until Philippe Coutinho formally arrived from Barcelona on Monday.

The Vasco de Gama product has a lot to live up to Allianz Arena, where many of his compatriots have shone in the past.

An option for Bayern to buy the attacking midfielder on a permanent basis hints at a bright future in Bavaria, but can he emulate the likes of these former favourites?

 

Giovane Elber

The only non-European member of the club's hall of fame was a human highlight reel throughout his six excellent seasons.

Signed from Stuttgart in 1997, the 'Samba Striker' wrote his name into the annals by forging an entertaining and prolific partnership with target man Carsten Jancker.

Elber scored the bulk of goals - 140 of them in all competitions - to help deliver four Bundesliga titles, three DFB-Pokal triumphs and a Champions League crown in 2001.

The fringe Selecao forward signed off with a league-high 21 goals in his final season in Germany before joining Lyon in 2003.

 

Ze Roberto

Versatile, reliable, valuable.

Ze Roberto favoured function over flair as he rivalled Elber's longevity in Bavaria and won as many Bundesliga titles.

Three were secured in the four years after his switch from Bayer Leverkusen, but a change in direction under Felix Magath led to a divorce between player and club.

Magath soon made way and Ze Roberto returned from South America on a two-season loan deal that showcased his development into an intelligent, crafty, goal-scoring central midfielder.

 

Paulo Sergio

Elber's success prompted the German giants to invest in another Brazilian attacker and together they exacted European revenge on Manchester United.

In the second of his three seasons at Bayern, striker Sergio netted a vital late winner in a 1-0 first-leg triumph at Old Trafford in the Champions League quarter-finals in 2001.

Elber then found the net in a 2-1 victory in the return encounter to help confirm the club's progression en route to continental glory.

Though the goals dried up after a fine first season, former Roma man Sergio continued to trouble United as he put another past Alex Ferguson's men less than a year on from their previous meeting.

Lucio

Like Sergio and Ze Roberto before him, Lucio cut his teeth in the Bundesliga at Bayern's rivals Leverkusen.

The elegant centre-back traded up in 2004 and stayed for five years, winning three domestic doubles in that time.

Lucio attracted as much acclaim for his ability to carry the ball forward as his faultless defending and scored seven goals in 144 top-flight appearances during his stay.

Spells at Inter, Juventus and Sao Paulo followed for the 2002 World Cup winner, who continues to play in his homeland aged 41.

 

Dante

Schooled in the same ball-playing style as Lucio, defender Dante squeezed an incredible amount of silverware into three seasons under Jupp Heynckes and Pep Guardiola.

The left-footer won the treble in his first campaign at the club and barely veered from that level, lifting the Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup to go with another two Bundesliga titles.

A cult figure wherever he goes, the afroed ex-Borussia Monchengladbach player left Bayern with a full trophy cabinet when he moved to Wolfsburg in 2015.

 

Rafinha

"He was always there when the team needed him," Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said as Rafinha said goodbye to the club in May.

At right-back or left, as Philipp Lahm's understudy or Joshua Kimmich's mentor, Rafinha found ways to make himself useful.

He might only have won four caps for Brazil but the diminutive and adaptable defender was a big contributor at club level, making 266 appearances during a Bayern career spanning eight seasons.

Seven successive titles cemented a rich legacy.

Philippe Coutinho accepts his time at Barcelona "didn't work out" the way he had hoped after he completed a loan move to Bayern Munich on Monday.

Coutinho joined Barca from Liverpool in January 2018 in a deal potentially worth a reported €160million and things began promisingly, as he scored eight goals in his first 18 LaLiga games.

However, he struggled for consistency and failed to hold down a spot in the starting XI last season, playing only 22 matches from the beginning.

Coutinho became a scapegoat for fans and came in for increased criticism – as did coach Ernesto Valverde and team-mate Ivan Rakitic – after Barca's Champions League semi-final exit to Liverpool, despite them winning the first leg 3-0.

The Brazil international had been suggested as a potential makeweight in a deal to take Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain back to Camp Nou, but Bayern secured his loan signing with a €120m purchase option.

Coutinho acknowledges things could have gone better in LaLiga but insists he is excited to be joining the German champions.

"Concerning Barcelona, things didn't work out the way we wanted," Coutinho told reporters at his Bayern presentation.

"But that's the past. This is a new club, a big club, an important club. I hope I'll be here for a long time and win lots of titles."

Despite the difficulties Coutinho had at Barca, he is adamant it was not all a negative experience – though he had no doubts about leaving for Bayern.

"Within those years I did have great experiences," he said. "I learnt a lot, won a lot with that club and then we had the Copa America, which I won with Brazil and that was really important.

"Now I have a chance at a new club, a big club. I didn't have any doubts when Hasan [Salihamidzic, Bayern sporting director] called me.

"He really wanted me to come here, so they flew to Barcelona, we met, they showed me the project and that's why I really want to thank them, because from the first second [it was clear] how they see me. That was important for me to see."

Coutinho could make his debut away to Schalke on Saturday.

Philippe Coutinho's loan move to Bayern Munich is complete and so begins the club's season-long assessment of whether to activate their option to buy him on a permanent basis.

The former Liverpool star has suffered a loss of form since making a big-money move to Barcelona in 2018 and will now have the chance to reinvent himself in the Bundesliga.

While Bayern have chased Leroy Sane throughout the transfer window, it appears Coutinho and Ivan Perisic - signed on loan from Inter - will be the players tasked with replacing Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.

Niko Kovac must also fill the creative void left by James Rodriguez's return to Real Madrid and Coutinho, who is accustomed to playing centrally, could be anointed chief playmaker.

Here, we use Opta data to assess the merits of such a move, comparing the strengths and weaknesses of his game in comparison James.

 

Direct and dangerous

Shedding the more pedestrian James and deploying Coutinho in his place should give Bayern a greater degree of dynamism going forward.

The Brazilian causes problems with his willingness and ability to beat defenders, traits not exhibited quite so regularly by James.

Over the past two seasons, Coutinho attempted an average of 2.4 more dribbles per match and completed them with a success rate of 58.1 per cent.

James trusts less in his ability to go beyond markers, a dribble success rate of 44.2 per cent explaining his hesitance.

Yet, as the silky former Real Madrid man showcased at the Allianz Arena, his skills in other departments are sharper than most.

 

Bayern to get creative with solution to missing assists

James tallied 67 appearances across all competitions in his two seasons with Bayern.

Coutinho, in the same period, featured in 96 matches for Liverpool and Barcelona, clocking up over 2,000 more on-field minutes.

Despite the huge discrepancy, the pair each recorded 19 assists.

James, with his 89.2 per cent passing accuracy, created 3.5 chances per 90 minutes, during which he averaged 95 touches.

He outperformed Coutinho in both departments, the former Anfield favourite averaging 2.1 chances created from 82 touches per game.

Perisic will help bridge the gap, but it seems Robert Lewandowski might have to make peace with a less consistent supply line this season.

 

New firepower in front of goal

Where the champions can reasonably expect clear return on their investment is in goals scored.

Despite well-documented difficulties, Coutinho still did his part at Barca by notching 13 times in LaLiga. Those goals contributed to a solid combined two-season tally of 33, averaging out at 0.5 per 90 minutes.

James, the Golden Boot winner at the 2014 World Cup, managed seven in each of his Bundesliga campaigns.

He struck a total of 15 times in all for Bayern, having averaged 2.3 shots and 3.5 touches in the opposition box per match.

Coutinho's role is still to be determined and how his team-mates receive him remains to be seen, but an average of 3.3 shots and 4.6 touches in the opposition box over the course of 90 minutes portrays a player who will actively seek out his own opportunities.

Philippe Coutinho has completed his season-long loan move from Barcelona to Bayern Munich, who have an option to make the deal permanent for €120million.

LaLiga champions Barca revealed the potential future fee is on top of an initial €8.5m loan payment.

The figures fall short of the €160m deal that Barca negotiated with Liverpool in January 2018.

Coutinho's switch from England to Spain attracted plenty of fanfare but he failed to deliver on expectations and spent periods out of Ernesto Valverde's preferred XI last season.

Barca are reported to have offered the midfield misfit to Paris Saint-Germain in a player-plus-cash exchange for Neymar.

Premier League clubs Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham were also linked with the former Inter man, but Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said the 27-year-old expressed firm interest in a move to Allianz Arena.

"Philippe made it very clear to us during the negotiations in Barcelona that he absolutely wanted to move to Bayern," Salihamidzic said.

"He's a world-class player with great ability, who we can deploy in a number of positions in our forward line, so the Bayern squad has gained even more quality.

"Philippe Coutinho will help us achieve the ambitious targets we've set for this season."

An exciting scorer and provider at Anfield, his chief responsibility under Niko Kovac will be to fill the creative void left by James Rodriguez's return to Real Madrid after a two-season loan spell.

Coutinho said: "For me, this move means a new challenge in a new country with one of the best clubs in Europe.

"I'm very much looking forward to that.

"Like Bayern, I have big ambitions and I'm convinced that I can achieve them together with my new team-mates."

On Sunday, the Bundesliga club sealed the signing of French midfielder Mickael Cuisance from Borussia Monchengladbach on a five-year contract, while Ivan Perisic joined on loan from Inter last week.

The three new additions further reinforce Kovac's squad following the departures of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery at the end of the last title-winning campaign.

Philippe Coutinho has endured a difficult spell at Barcelona, but now the Brazil playmaker has the chance to reignite his career at Bayern Munich.

Bayern and Barca representatives confirmed on Friday that a deal had been agreed for Coutinho to join the Bundesliga champions on a season-long loan deal and the move was officially completed on Monday.

There is also an option for Bayern to buy the former Liverpool star outright for €120million at the end of the loan.

While some Bayern fans were underwhelmed with the signing of Ivan Perisic as an alternative to Leroy Sane - whose anterior cruciate ligament injury has ended the chances of an imminent move for the Manchester City winger - Coutinho's arrival will surely soften the blow should the 27-year-old recapture his Liverpool form.

Below, we analyse how Bayern could line up in 2019-20.
 

4-2-3-1: Manuel Neuer; Joshua Kimmich, Niklas Sule, Lucas Hernandez, David Alaba; Corentin Tolisso, Thiago Alcantara; Serge Gnabry, Philippe Coutinho, Kingsley Coman; Robert Lewandowski.

Coutinho's ability to not only thread sublime throughballs behind the lines, but also unleash wicked shots from range, makes him the perfect fit to play behind Lewandowski.

Niko Kovac is blessed with two rapid wingers in the form of Gnabry and Coman, who will be able to stretch the opposition and open up space for Coutinho to exploit in the centre.

While Thiago can sit as a deep-lying playmaker, Corentin Tolisso has the energy to get up in support of the front line, which would also enable Coutinho to drop back into midfield and use his dribbling skills to drive upfield.

4-3-3: Manuel Neuer; Joshua Kimmich, Niklas Sule, Lucas Hernandez, David Alaba; Thiago Alcantara, Javi Martinez, Philippe Coutinho; Serge Gnabry, Robert Lewandowski, Ivan Perisic.

Potentially a system that would be suitable for big European nights, Bayern could deploy Coutinho in a central midfield three.

Javi Martinez would come in as the holding midfielder, with Thiago able to keep things ticking over alongside the former Athletic Bilbao man.

Coutinho would be given freedom, able to drift wide and link up with the advancing full-backs, or burst forward in possession through the centre.

Brazil coach Tite often plays Coutinho in a similar role for the national team.

 

3-4-1-2: Manuel Neuer; Benjamin Pavard, Niklas Sule, Lucas Hernandez; Joshua Kimmich, Corentin Tolisso, Thiago Alcantara, David Alaba; Philippe Coutinho; Thomas Muller, Robert Lewandowski.

Hernandez came in as Bayern's record signing from Atletico Madrid, but he is not the only defender to have joined the Bundesliga giants, with fellow World Cup winner Pavard having also arrived.

Hernandez may be likely to start more games, but Pavard's introduction could also lead to Bayern deploying a back three, with Coutinho utilised in a playmaking role behind a front two - in this case, Lewandowski and Muller.

One concern with this line-up could be a lack of pace, though Kovac would have the option to introduce Coman, Gnabry or Perisic from the bench if required, with Muller and Lewandowski likely to thrive off Coutinho's creativity.

 

4-2-3-1: Manuel Neuer; Joshua Kimmich, Niklas Sule, Lucas Hernandez, David Alaba; Corentin Tolisso; Thiago Alcantara; Serge Gnabry, Thomas Muller, Philippe Coutinho; Robert Lewandowski.

Coutinho was often forced to play wide at Barca, though that was in more of a front three or a 4-4-2.

At Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp regularly deployed Coutinho on the left flank, with the Brazilian encouraged to drift infield and link the play or get off a deadly shot.

Kovac could use his new signing in a similar way, allowing Coutinho to cut inside and switch the play to Gnabry on the opposite flank, while there would also be room for Muller to play as a second striker.

Real Madrid lead the race to sign Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar, while Barcelona are optimistic.

Neymar, 27, is set to leave Ligue 1 champions PSG before the transfer window closes on September 2, with either Barca or Madrid his likely destination.

It remains to be seen just where the Brazil forward ends up, but Madrid have apparently moved ahead of their rivals in the race.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID LEAD BARCELONA IN RACE FOR NEYMAR

Contacts intensified between the parties involved in getting Neymar from PSG to Real Madrid, according to AS.

However, the cover of Sport says Barcelona are "optimistic" about signing the star they sold to PSG for €222million two years ago.

They also report that PSG are making constant calls to the LaLiga champions as they try to find an agreement.

 

ROUND-UP

- Napoli appear to be growing tired of waiting for Mauro Icardi, who is unwanted at Inter. According to Corriere dello Sport, Napoli want an answer from the forward regarding a potential switch by Saturday.

- One more time? Real Madrid are set to make a final push to sign Paul Pogba from Manchester United, according to The Times, who say the Premier League club are expected to reject any offers for the France international.

- A player set for an exit from Old Trafford is Alexis Sanchez and more details are emerging about his move from Manchester United to Inter. Fabrizio Romano reports Inter are in talks with United to sign Sanchez on a season-long loan with an option to buy for €15m (£13.7m), with United to pay part of the Chilean's wages.

- Could Emre Can leave Juventus after just one season in Turin? Bayern Munich and PSG are interested in the former Liverpool star, according to Tuttosport, with the Serie A champions set to let a midfielder leave after the arrivals of Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot. PSG are also set to meet with Paulo Dybala's representatives on Tuesday, reports in Italy say.

- Amid fresh rumours PSG are chasing Gianluigi Donnarumma, the goalkeeper has reiterated his desire to stay at AC Milan, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Daniel Sturridge could be close to making a decision on his future. The Daily Express report the former Liverpool forward is in talks with Turkish side Trabzonspor, while Ligue 1 outfit Monaco could also make Sturridge an offer if Radamel Falcao departs.

Borussia Dortmund have been drawn against Borussia Monchengladbach in the second round of the DFB-Pokal, while holders Bayern Munich will travel to second-tier side Bochum.

Dortmund saw off lower-league opposition Uerdingen in the first round but have a far tougher test to come against Gladbach in one of two all-Bundesliga ties.

Bayern continue the defence of their crown with a trip to Bochum, who they beat en route to winning the competition in 2015-16.

Elsewhere, last season's beaten finalists RB Leipzig will take on top-flight rivals Wolfsburg for a place in round three.

The two remaining semi-professional sides in the competition, FC Saarbrucken and Verl, were paired with Koln and Holstein Kiel respectively in Sunday's draw.

The games will be played on October 29 and 30.

 

Draw in full:

Kaiserslautern v Nurnberg
Verl v Holstein Kiel
MSV Duisburg v TSG Hoffenheim
Saarbrucken v Koln
Darmstadt 98 v Karlsruher SC
Bayer Leverkusen v Paderborn
Freiburg v Union Berlin
Fortuna Dusseldorf v Erzgebirge Aue
Bochum v Bayern Munich
Arminia Bielefeld v Schalke 04
Borussia Dortmund v Borussia Mönchengladbach
Hertha Berlin v Dynamo Dresden
Wolfsburg v RB Leipzig
Werder Bremen v Heidenheim
Hamburger SV v Stuttgart
St. Pauli v Eintracht Frankfurt

Bayern Munich have completed the signing of midfielder Mickael Cuisance on a five-year contract.

The France Under-20 international moves to Allianz Arena from Borussia Monchengladbach and will begin training with his new team-mates next week.

Bayern reportedly paid €10million to prise him from Bundesliga rivals Gladbach.

The club's sporting director, Hasan Salihamidzic, tipped the former Nancy player to enjoy a bright future in Bavaria.

"He has a lot of technical skills and great potential," Salihamidzic said.

"Mickael should develop with us. We are convinced that we will have a lot of fun with him."

Cuisance broke through for 24 Bundesliga appearances at Gladbach during the 2017-18 season but only one of his 11 top-flight games last term were as part of the starting XI.

He becomes the fifth French player in Niko Kovac's squad, joining Benjamin Pavard, Lucas Hernandez, Corentin Tolisso and Kingsley Coman.

"I know this is a big step for me but I feel ready and I'm very proud to be wearing Bayern's jersey," Cuisance said.

"For me personally, it's great that some French players already play for Bayern. That will certainly help me with the integration into the team."

Bayern are expected to imminently announce the loan signing of Barcelona star Philippe Coutinho, who is believed to be undergoing a medical on Sunday.

Philippe Coutinho has landed in Germany to finalise his season-long loan move to Bayern Munich.

The Brazil international is expected to undergo a medical on Sunday before agreeing a deal that includes an option for the Bundesliga champions to purchase him on a permanent basis.

Barca spokesman Guillermo Amor announced Coutinho's impending departure on Friday, ahead of the club's season-opening loss to Athletic Bilbao.

Signed from Liverpool in January 2018, the 27-year-old struggled to find his best form at Camp Nou and was restricted to 22 LaLiga starts last season.

Coutinho had been linked to Paris Saint-Germain as a potential makeweight in a swap deal that would have sent compatriot Neymar back to Barca, while Premier League clubs Arsenal and Tottenham are said to have investigated loan moves before their transfer window closed.

Leroy Sane will not be signed by Bayern Munich this year, the club's chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge says.

The Manchester City winger, who has two years left on his contract, faces an estimated seven months on the sidelines after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the Community Shield against Liverpool.

Sane is undergoing surgery in Austria this weekend, the Germany international opting to be treated by Professor Christian Fink rather than City's usual specialist, the Barcelona-based Dr Ramon Cugat.

Despite the 23-year-old being likely to miss most of the 2019-20 campaign, reports have suggested Bayern could still continue their chase for Sane even though Ivan Perisic has arrived on loan from Inter and Philippe Coutinho is set to follow from Barcelona.

However, despite the need to replace veterans Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, Rummenigge has ruled out a move for Sane ahead of the Bundesliga's transfer window closing next month.

"No, guys. Everyone knows what a cruciate ligament tear means and what the downtime is," Rummenigge told reporters on Saturday.

Bayern have confirmed a deal in principle is in place for Coutinho to join on loan from Barca for the season, with the deal for the Brazil international including a purchase option.

Rummenigge, meanwhile, would not say whether Bayern intend to keep defender Jerome Boateng at the club.

"I cannot say anything conclusive today about that," he added. "The transfer market is open until September 2. And then we'll see how the whole thing develops."

Boateng was an unused substitute as Bayern opened their title defence with a 2-2 home draw against Hertha Berlin on Friday, when Benjamin Pavard and Niklas Sule started in central defence.

Bayern have also confirmed Javi Martinez, who was not available to face Hertha due to injury, returned to training for Saturday's session.

Mickael Cuisance has passed his Bayern Munich medical and left Borussia Monchengladbach after the Bundesliga clubs reached a transfer agreement.

Gladbach confirmed the midfielder will join the champions with immediate effect following the completion of relevant paperwork on Saturday.

Bayern are yet to verify whether Cuisance has officially signed his contract at the Allianz Arena.

Their sporting director, Hasan Salihamidzic, announced the France Under-20 international's imminent arrival on Friday as he confirmed a deal was in place to secure Barcelona midfielder Philippe Coutinho on an initial season-long loan.

"After two seasons with Borussia, Mickael Cuisance will leave to join Bayern Munich with immediate effect," read a Gladbach statement.

"The 20-year-old midfielder completed a medical in Munich on Friday, with both clubs reaching an agreement on the transfer deal on Saturday."

Bayern commenced their title defence with a 2-2 draw against Hertha Berlin, while Gladbach begin their season on Saturday at home to Schalke.

Steven Bergwijn has signed a new contract with PSV until 2023, the Eredivisie club have confirmed.

The Netherlands international had been heavily linked with a switch to Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich, while Manchester United were also reportedly interested during the Premier League transfer window.

But Bergwijn, 21, will instead continue his career-long association with PSV, where the forward has won three Eredivisie titles.

Explaining his decision, Bergwijn told PSV's official website: "This is the right decision.

"There were other options, but ultimately everything has to fit. For me, but also for PSV, and the result is that I stay here with great pleasure and with great confidence."

Head coach Mark van Bommel expressed his delight at tying down one of PSV's most prized assets, Bergwijn having scored 14 league goals last term.

"Steven has exceptional qualities and you, of course, like to have such a player in your team as a coach," he said. "It is fantastic news that Steven will stay."

Bayern were reportedly interested in Bergwijn due to a lack of progress in their pursuit of Manchester City star Leroy Sane, who has sustained a serious knee injury.

Ivan Perisic has made the move to Munich on loan from Inter, while Philippe Coutinho is also set to arrive on an initial temporary deal from Barcelona.

Barcelona have agreed a deal to send Philippe Coutinho on loan to Bayern Munich, according to the club's official spokesman Guillermo Amor.

Coutinho moved to Camp Nou in a reported €160million deal from Liverpool in January 2018 but has struggled to recreate the form he showed at Anfield.

The Brazil international had been linked as a possible makeweight in Barca's attempt to bring back former forward Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain.

However, Bayern emerged as favourites to land Coutinho and Amor, speaking to Movistar+ prior to Barca's LaLiga opener at Athletic Bilbao, confirmed the move is imminent.

"It's possible to confirm we have an agreement to loan Coutinho to Bayern," he said.

The arrival of Coutinho will further help Bayern offset the departures of club legends Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, with Ivan Perisic having joined on loan from Inter this week.

Manchester City winger Leroy Sane had been a target, but Bayern's attempt to pull off a deal was hindered by a serious knee injury sustained by the Germany international.

Barca's agreement to send Coutinho will also cast doubt on their chances of signing Neymar, with the LaLiga champions thought to be pursuing a player-plus-cash deal.

Halfway through last season, Borussia Dortmund were in pole position to dethrone Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga.

The new year saw Lucien Favre's bright young side falter just enough for Bayern's know how to tell, with Niko Kovac's men claiming a seventh successive top-flight crown.

But it means the anticipation is for a memorable tussle once again this time around, with the processions of recent campaigns hopefully a thing of the past. Throw in an ambitious chasing pack and you have quite a spectacle.

Before the first ball is kicked, five Omnisport journalists have put their necks on the line with some top-four predictions.

We totted up the overall scores and here's what we came up with. Apologies in advance to all at Signal Iduna Park…

 

1st – Borussia Dortmund

Unlike our near-unanimous choice for Manchester City to be Premier League champions, the panel was understandably split down the middle over who will prevail out of Dortmund and Bayern. BVB just got the edge.

STRENGTHS: Wonderful attacking quality, expertly coached by Favre, which is now bolstered by the arrivals of Julian Brandt and Thorgan Hazard. The returning Mats Hummels – alongside the likes of the talismanic Marco Reus and Axel Witsel – ensures a pleasing blend between experience and future stars.

WEAKNESSES: Can they handle the pressure better than last time around? Hummels is a fine addition but has a significant job on his hands to shore up a vulnerable defence in front of the gifted but error-prone Roman Burki.

2nd – Bayern Munich

Despite an unconvincing close season in the transfer market, defined by the unseemly Leroy Sane saga, it remains hard to back against the Bundesliga's dominant force. But we have!

STRENGTHS: Supreme title-winning pedigree and, although lacking some of the depth they would like, the best collection of individual players in the league. Robert Lewandowski is going for a fifth Torjagerkanone, while there are signs Manuel Neuer might be back to his best.

WEAKNESSES: Light in attack after the departures of club greats Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben. Significant doubts remain over whether Kovac is the right man from the job, seemingly from the terraces to boardroom level. As such, Uli Hoeness' mooted departure as chairman could lead to turmoil.

3rd – RB Leipzig

German football's new kids on the block were the only other a unanimous choice to finish inside the top four.

STRENGTHS: Julian Nagelsmann has cast himself as a generational coaching talent and should be the man to take last season's beaten DFB-Pokal finalists on to the next level. They have bought shrewdly by bringing in the likes of Christopher Nkunku and Ademola Lookman.

WEAKNESSES: The distraction of star forward Timo Werner entering the final year of his contract. Adapting to Nagelsmann's detailed pressing system is likely to be a challenge.

4th – Bayer Leverkusen

Peter Bosz's time in charge of Dortmund might have ended abruptly but he is doing plenty to convince with a vibrant Leverkusen side.

STRENGTHS: Kai Havertz scored 20 goals in all competitions last season and is a superstar-in-waiting. They have bought well, with Moussa Diaby an exciting replacement for Brandt. The arrival of Hoffenheim duo Kerem Demirbay and Nadiem Amiri also strengthens Bosz's hand significantly.

WEAKNESSES: The coach's system is always likely to lead to defensive vulnerability and there is a lack of quality cover for Jonathan Tah and Sven Bender at centre-back.

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