Bundesliga season preview, predictions: Bayern on top? Sure, but then who?

1 Comment

To call Bayern Munich’s path to the 2013/14 Bundesliga title a cake walk is, on a relative scale, pretty accurate. The Bavarians thumped the competition en route to a 19-point advantage over No. 2 Borussia Dortmund that still doesn’t show how big of a gap Bayern opened up.

With the season tipping off Friday afternoon — Bayern plays Wolfsburg at 2:30pm ET — is there any chance Dortmund or another rival mounts a legit challenge to the champs? Sure there is, but it’s going to take a combination of injuries and World Cup fatigue, plus Pep Guardiola being mentally-outdueled by another manager.

[ RELATED: Julian Green named in 18 for Bayern’s Bundesliga opener ]

So… yeah. It’s a tough haul.

Relegation battlers: Well, the two new clubs for sure. FC Koln and SC Paderborn 07 will join the fray that is one of the stiffest challenges in club soccer: surviving the Bundesliga. Hamburger needed the relegation playoffs to survive, so they’ll certainly be considered a drop candidate as well, while Freiberg, Augsburg and even John Anthony Brooks’ Hertha Berlin could face a fight to hold onto their places in the top flight.

The title fight: Unlike La Liga, there seems to be a true mix of teams that could compete for the league’s No. 2 slot. Most would consider Bayern Munich the favorites despite the losses of Toni Kroos and Mario Mandzukic — they did add Robert Lewandowski, the best player from their top rival — but it gets a little nutty after that (and really, it should be a little tighter between No.1 and No.2 this season).

source: AP
Immobile

Dortmund replaced Lewandowski with Torino scoring machine Ciro Immobile, Augsburg’s Ji Dong-won and Hertha’s Adrian Ramos. More importantly, perhaps, they picked up Matthias Ginter from Freiberg to aid in their hopes of not surrendering as many scoring chances as they did last season.

But Schalke was active, too, adding Sidney Sam from Bayer Leverkusen and Tranquillo Barnetta back from loan. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting slides into the forward ranks as well for a club that didn’t lose much. Bayer Leverkusen added Josep Drmic and Kyriakos Papadopolous, while Monchengladbach snared Thorgan Hazard on loan from Chelsea and USMNT defender Fabian Johnson.

So, yes, it’s going to take a ton to unseat Bayern Munich… but the battle afterwards is anyone’s game.

Predicted order of finish (2013/14 finish)
1. Bayern Munich
2. Borussia Dortmund
3. Schalke
4. Borussia Monchengladbach
5. Bayer Leverkusen
6. Wolfsburg
7. Hoffenheim
8. Augsburg
9. Mainz
10. Eintracht Frankfurt
11. Hannover
12. Stuttgart
13. Hamburger SV
14. Werder Bremen
15. Hertha Berlin
16. FC Koln
17. Freiberg
18. Paderborn

Rio prosecutors launch probe into soccer final violence

Twitter/@brfootball
Leave a comment

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro launched an investigation Thursday into the fan violence surrounding the Copa Sudamericana final between local club Flamengo and Argentine team Independiente.

[ SOURCE: LAFC close to signing third DP, Geraldes of Sporting CP ]

Clashes broke out on the night before Wednesday’s match at Maracana Stadium, and continued throughout the day. There was vandalism inside the stadium during the match and violence afterward, with more than 50 Flamengo supporters being detained over the two days.

The Rio prosecutor’s office said in a statement it would be questioning officials at Brazil’s football confederation, South American soccer’s ruling body, CONMEBOL, and local police about the incidents.

The statement added that “a profound investigation of the facts is needed so we can identify and punish the criminals that disguised as fans to spread chaos, fear and disorder in society.”

Major Silvio Luiz, head of policing for the final, criticized Flamengo’s handling of ticket sales.

Flamengo drew the second-leg match 1-1, and lost the final 3-2 on aggregate. The Copa is the second most prestigious club competition in South American soccer.

Ligue 1 set to use VAR starting in 2018/19 season

Twitter/@GGFN_
Leave a comment

With video replay technology becoming more and more prevalent in soccer across the globe, another major European league has revealed it too will join those ranks.

[ SOURCE: LAFC set to sign third DP with Sporting CP’s Geraldes ]

Ligue 1 has announced that the French top flight will begin to utilize video replay and have a video assistant referee (VAR) starting in the 2018/19 season.

Major League Soccer and the German Bundesliga are just two of the major global leagues to implement the system thus far. In MLS, the technology can be used in four instances; when goals are scored, during penalty situations, when a straight red card is given and during cases of mistaken identity.

French outlet L’Equipe wrote on Thursday that Ligue 1 would also follow a similar structure in what decisions VAR officials will be reviewable.

Spain has also announced that it will introduce VAR in 2018, ahead of the next La Liga season.

Top Premier League storylines — Week 17

Twitter/@ManCity
Leave a comment

The title is looking more and more like it’s heading to Manchester, so will Tottenham be able to slow the Premier League leaders on Saturday?

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

 

Here are the four biggest storylines ahead of this weekend’s action.

Can anyone stop the Cityzens?

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

Nobody has found a way to halt Pep Guardiola‘s side yet this season in PL play, so why would that change this weekend? City remain unbeaten through 17 matches, and while Spurs enter the weekend unbeaten in its last four, Mauricio Pochettino and Co. have their work cut out. The City attack, which has scored 52 goals this season, has shown no signs slowing down during the first four-and-a-half months of play, giving Tottenham a big test defensively. Harry Kane and his 12 goals will surely have a say in the get together, but Spurs has been lacking thus far in another go-to finisher.

Will the Toffees keep rolling under Big Sam?

Everton vs. Swansea City — 3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

It’s been quite the turnaround recently at Goodison Park, and Everton has the chance to extend its unbeaten streak to six games on Monday. Sam Allardyce has brought life to the Toffees as of late, with Everton scoring 11 goals over the last five matches.

Foxes aim to climb higher, while Palace shoots for safety

Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Foxes have found their footing this season, and dare I say there are some glimpses of the team that won the title two years ago? Since Leicester’s 2-0 defeat to Man City, the Foxes have looked the part of a top-tier PL side, winning four of five matches, including victories over Tottenham and Burnley. Meanwhile, Palace has made the relegation battle a very intriguing one, as Roy Hodgson and Co. sit just a point inside the bottom three. Amazingly, Palace is unbeaten in seven of its last eight matches, but the club remains in 18th place.

Clarets aim for third consecutive victory

Brighton vs. Burnley — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Clarets don’t boast a bonafide goalscorer, but Burnley looks like a well-oiled machine as Sean Dyche‘s side sits on the edge of the top four. Although the side likely won’t be pulling off a Leicester-sided feat in 2017/18, what the Clarets are accomplishing is quite amazing given the squad currently in place. Brighton has gone through its share of struggles recently, going winless in its last six matches, and scoring just three goals in that span. They’ll likely have a hard time breaking past Burnley’s tough backline.

NYCFC busy on Thursday with Abdul-Salaam, Stuver additions

Twitter/@MLSCentral_
Leave a comment

New York City FC is moving on from the club’s first-ever MLS SuperDraft selection, but they’ll be acquiring a solid defensive piece as the team continues to rebuild at the back.

[ SOURCE: LAFC finalizing deal to make Sporting CP’s Geraldes third DP ]

On Thursday, NYCFC announced a trade sending former 2015 first-round pick Khiry Shelton to Sporting KC in exchange for defender Saad Abdul-Salaam.

Shelton, who spent three seasons with NYCFC, struggled to find playing time under manager Patrick Vieira, particularly once the organization drafted England youth international Jack Harrison in 2016.

Vieira and Co. will be getting back a player also selected in the 2015 SuperDraft in Abdul-Salaam.

With the departures of Ethan White, RJ Allen and Andraz Struna this offseason, the move certainly makes sense for NYCFC, who were severely lacking at the right back position heading into this week.

NYCFC signed Malmo defender Anton Tinnerholm on Wednesday to help improve the backline.

The Eastern Conference side also added goalkeeper Brad Stuver from the Columbus Crew on Thursday, with the 26-year-old presumably serving as the backup to Sean Johnson in 2018.