Soccer

BUNDESLIGA 2017-18: Bayern eyes record 6th straight title

(AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

By CIARAN FAHEY

Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) With the Bundesliga set to resume this weekend, it's unlikely that any team will challenge Bayern Munich's dominance and prevent the side from extending its league record to six straight titles.

Following the retirements of Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso, Carlo Ancelotti's side has been boosted by the arrivals of French midfielder Corentin Tolisso for a Bundesliga-record 41.5 million euros from Lyon and Colombian star James Rodriguez from Real Madrid, as well as defenders Niklas Suele and Sebastian Rudy from Hoffenheim.

"Everything's going according to plan," Ancelotti said after wins against Chemnitzer FC in the German Cup and Borussia Dortmund in the German Supercup, a minor showpiece to open the season.

Bayern starts the league at home Friday against Bayer Leverkusen.

Leipzig, which surprised many by finishing second in its debut season in the top flight, is likely to find it tougher this time around as other sides are warned and it has to cope with Champions League football.

French forward Jean-Kevin Augustin has arrived at the club funded by Red Bull from Paris Saint-Germain to replace David Selke, who joined Hertha Berlin. Portugal winger Bruma has been signed from Galatasaray.

However, Leipzig's biggest success in the transfer market has been in convincing top performers Emil Forsberg and Naby Keita to stay.

"For us it is important that both players are playing with us next season. And I can promise you that. That's the only thing I know," said sporting director Ralf Rangnick, who may yet make more signings before the end of the month.

Borussia Dortmund might be best placed to challenge Bayern, though a lot will depend on the side's ability to keep forwards Ousmane Dembele and Bundesliga top-scorer last season, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Dembele remained suspended by the club for pushing for a move to Barcelona, which has lodged a big money bid and may make another, while Aubameyang has been far from committal on his continued involvement.

Dortmund has a new coach, Peter Bosz, who arrived from Ajax with a reputation for helping young players.

Hoffenheim's progress under coach Julian Nagelsmann is expected to continue. Germany's coach of the year despite being the league's youngest at 30, Nagelsmann saved the side from relegation in his first season and clinched European football in his next.

Hoffenheim needs to overcome a 2-1 deficit against Liverpool to reach the group stage of the Champions League, otherwise it will join Cologne, Hertha Berlin and Freiburg in the Europa League.

Both Leverkusen and Schalke have new coaches in Heiko Herrlich and Domeniko Tedesco, respectively, and they are charged with overseeing vast improvements after disappointing campaigns for the sides last season.

"We will not rest until Schalke is back where it belongs," Schalke chairman Christian Heidel said.

Schalke has consolidated its squad, but Leverkusen has lost important players with Hakan Calhanoglu joining AC Milan and Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez leaving for West Ham.

Neither side qualified for Europe, nor did Borussia Moenchengladbach, Frankfurt or Wolfsburg, which only clinched survival through a relegation playoff.

"One thing is clear - no one wants a repeat of the relegation fight and playoff," said Wolfsburg coach Andries Jonker said.

Nevertheless, the Volkswagen-backed club remains a candidate for the drop.

Hamburger SV, the only founding member of the Bundesliga still remaining since 1963, will likely be involved in another relegation scrap with the likes of Wolfsburg, Augsburg, Mainz and the two sides to earn promotion - Stuttgart and Hannover - back in the top flight after their season in the second division.

More AP German soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/Bundesliga

Updated August 17, 2017

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