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Who can end Bayern Munich’s Bundesliga dominance?

German football’s top flight kicks off this Friday evening as all-powerful Bayern Munich host baby-faced upstarts TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. Here’s our dummy’s guide to the teams hoping to end Bayern’s six-year hegemony in the Bundesliga.

Who can end Bayern Munich’s Bundesliga dominance?
Invincible? Bayern Munich celebrate winning the Supercup earlier this month. Photo: DPA

Boring, boring Bundesliga. That has been the tenor in German football over the last few years, as bully boys Bayern Munich have rampaged from league title to league title.

The 28-time German champions have won the Bundesliga in each of the last six seasons, often by a depressingly large points margin.

Bayern's grip on the Bundesliga trophy (or 'salad bowl') has been suffocating in recent years. Photo: DPA

Bayern’s financial muscle and relentless winning mentality make them the unassailable force at the top of the German game. But could this be the year they finally slip up again?

New coach, new problems?

With a squad in transition and a new coach, Niko Kovac, who is relatively unproven at the  highest level, there is a tiny chance that Bayern could struggle this year.

Kovac may have led underdogs Eintracht Frankfurt to a fairytale triumph in the cup last season, but some will still question whether he has the authority to manage a dressing room full of superstar egos, from Arjen Robben to Thomas Müller via Jerome Boateng and Thiago Alcantara.

Will the champions slip up under new coach Niko Kovac? Photo: DPA

Last autumn, Bayern had to haul former coach Jupp Heynckes out of retirement to stave off a growing crisis, but there will be no Plan B this year if things go pear-shaped under Kovac.

Performances in pre-season have been mixed. Imperious in the German Supercup two weeks ago, Bayern were left red-faced last weekend as they struggled to beat fourth division Drochtersen/Assel in the cup.

So if Bayern slip up, who will step up? Here’s our introduction to the main challengers, to help you hold your own in any title race discussions down your local Kneipe.

Borussia Dortmund

2002, 2012… 2019? Dortmund fans yearn for another title. Photo: DPA

The last team to beat Bayern to the title was Borussia Dortmund, who were crowned champions of Germany in 2011 and 2012.

After a chaotic last few years, the cult club from the heart of Germany’s industrial Ruhr region are hoping to relive old glory under new coach Lucien Favre.

With their iconic black and yellow jerseys, famous “Yellow Wall”, and carefully crafted image as a likeable alternative to Bayern, Dortmund have established themselves as a favourite among international fans in recent years, and they have plenty of anglo-saxon appeal in attack with England’s Jadon Sancho and the USA’s Christian Pulisic.

Chances of beating Bayern: Medium

Clever thing to say about them down the pub: “I don’t care what you say about sentimentality, Marcel Schmelzer just isn’t the player he once was.”

Schalke 04

Can Schalke rise above rivals Dortmund again, as Naldo did in the derby last year? Photo: DPA

Under their fiery, tactically astute coaching prodigy Domenico Tedesco, Dortmund’s arch rivals Schalke finished second to Bayern in the Bundesliga last season.

A grand old icon of German club football, Schalke have famously not been crowned champions since 1958, though they came agonisingly close in 2001.

With key players such as Leon Goretzka and Max Meyer having left in the summer, it seems a long shot that the club from Gelsenkirchen can break their title curse this year. Yet a promising future does beckon under Tedesco.

Chances of beating Bayern: Medium to low

Clever thing to say about them down the pub: “It's time for Tedesco to do more than just win ugly”

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim

“You go on your knees behind Bayern, and I'll push 'em over”: Julian Nagelsmann (left) offers advice to Steven Zuber. Photo: DPA

Bayern’s opponents on Friday, lowly Hoffenheim have not just exceeded expectations in recent years, they have blown them apart.

When Julian Nagelsmann took over as head coach at the age of just 29 two years ago, the club looked destined for relegation, but now they are playing in Europe, and Nagelsmann is an international star.

The youngest coach in Bundesliga history, Nagelsmann turned down Real Madrid this summer, agreeing instead to join RB Leipzig at the end of the season. In his last year at Hoffenheim, he says, he wants to win the title.

Chances of beating Bayern: Lower than Nagelsmann would have you believe

Clever thing to say about them down the pub: “They were always going to struggle playing in three different competitions”

RB Leipzig

Celebrating at the end of the season? RB Leipzig challenged for the title two years ago. Photo: DPA

Germany’s most hated club, RB Leipzig are the Teutonic (and strongest) wing of Red Bull’s global football empire.

Promoted to the top flight two years ago, their rapid rise saw them challenge for the title immediately, but they have hit rocky ground since.

An ignominious divorce from successful coach Ralph Hasenhüttl caused grumblings in the summer, and they have lost key midfielder Naby Keita to Liverpool. 

Chances of beating Bayern: Medium to low

Clever thing to say about them down the pub: “Diego Demme was always more consistent than Keita anyway”

Bayer Leverkusen

Reach for the stars: Leverkusen's Jamaican starlet Leon Bailey. Photo: DPA

Another team whose badge incorporates the logo of a multinational company, Leverkusen are our picks to be this season’s dark horses.

After an up-and-down but ultimately acceptable first year under Heiko Herrlich, Leverkusen have been quietly building one of the most promising squads in the league.

The youthful flair and pace of Julian Brandt and Leon Bailey in attack is complemented nicely by the reliable experience of the Bender twins (yes, really) in midfield. Add to that good signings such as goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky, and you have a recipe for success.

On the other hand, Leverkusen are nicknamed “Neverkusen” in English, due to their chronic ability to narrowly miss out on titles. So don’t bet your house on it.

Chances of beating Bayern: Higher than Herrlich would have you believe

Clever thing to say about them down the pub: “Bailey and Brandt will be gone by next summer”

So where can you watch it?

As avid readers will know, The Local doesn’t provide extensive sports coverage, though we will keep you abreast of key developments at the business end of the season.

For those who want more regular, English language coverage of German football, we can recommend sites such as Deutsche Welle and Bundesliga.com.

There are also a number of good English language podcasts on German football, most notably Talking Fussball.

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EXPLAINED: The Covid rules for attending German football matches

The German Bundesliga kicks off on Friday evening with a match in Mönchengladbach. Here's a run-down of the Covid rules for football fans itching to join the crowds at the stadium.

EXPLAINED: The Covid rules for attending German football matches
Crowds cheer at a match between FC Kaiserslautern and Borussia Mönchengladbach, on August 9th, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uwe Anspach

All eyes will be on Mönchengladbach this evening as the Bundesliga season kicks off with a match against reigning champions Bayern Munich – and this time, a crowd will be present in the stadium.

READ ALSO: German football fans get green light to return to stadiums next season

With several states liberalising their rules for public gatherings in recent months, many football fans are looking forward to enjoying a lively atmosphere at football matches once more. 

There’s just one problem: there are different rules for different stadiums. Here’s what you need to know about the Covid rules before you book your ticket for any of the upcoming fixtures. 

How many fans are allowed in the stadiums? 

According to a recent decision by the federal and state governments, football stadiums around the country are allowed to fill half of their seats and sell up to 25,000 tickets to fans. 

Of course, how much this limit affects the overall atmosphere – and the football clubs’ bottoms lines – depends on the capacity of the stadium. In Borussia Dortmund this weekend, the full 25,000 tickets have been sold – but that only equates to 30 percent of the stadium’s full capacity.

READ ALSO: German football: Which Bundesliga club should I support?

Meanwhile, in the stadium owned by Berlin’s FC Union, selling just 11,000 tickets is enough to fill half of the available seats. 

What do I need to show to get in? 

That really depends on the stadium in question, although in general anyone over the age of six will need to show a negative test or proof of vaccination or recovery – the so-called ‘3G’ rule – to enter the grounds. But other clubs, such as FC Cologne, have decided to only permit people who are vaccinated or recovered to attend matches from August 28th onwards – with exceptions for people who can’t get vaccinated, like children and pregnant woman.

At Mönchengladbach’s Borussia Park stadium, however, unvaccinated fans can enter with a negative test, though visitors who’ve stayed in a high-risk or virus variant area over the past two weeks will be unable to enter – along with people who’ve had recent contact with someone who has Covid. 


If you want to see action like this at FC Cologne’s stadium, you’ll need to get your Covid jabs sorted first. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund has taken a middle ground. While the 3G rule applies in principle, only 1,000 of the available 25,000 tickets will be sold to people who are providing a negative test. The remaining 24,000 seats will only be available for those who are vaccinated against – or recently recovered from – Covid. 

If you’re not vaccinated and are keen to see a match, it’s worth checking on your local club’s website beforehand or sending them an email to double-check whether you will be allowed in. 

What else do I need to know about? 

You’ll need to bring a FPP2 mask with you to matches to wear in your seat and while heading to the bathroom or bar, and also observe social distancing rules – meaning staying 1.5 metres apart from your fellow fans.

In most states, you’ll also need to provide your contact details, which will be saved by the club and potentially passed on to local health authorities in order to monitor a potential Covid outbreak. 

Will these rules continue throughout the season?

That’s still an open question. If infection rates in Germany continue to rise or high-profile superspreading events occur at future matches, the government could potentially crack down further on sports events in autumn.

This could involve limiting the seat numbers even further, or (more controversially), introducing a ‘vaccinated-only’ rule for entering stadiums. 

READ ALSO: Should Germany bring in Covid restrictions for unvaccinated people only?

A recent outbreak of Covid in the Mainz football team has also dampened celebrations slightly in the run-up to the start of the Bundesliga – leaving club owners urgently calling for both fans and footballers to get vaccinated. 

Speaking to WDR ahead of the season’s start, FC Cologne’s managing director Alexander Wehrle said widespread vaccination was the best route back to normality – a message reiterated by Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann. 

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