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

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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

Mourinho’s agent: Coach paid $27 million in taxes in Spain

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04:  Jose Mourinho manager of Manchester United stands alongside his substitute Marouane Fellaini of Manchester United during the Premier League match between Everton and Manchester United at Goodison Park on December 4, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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MADRID (AP) Jose Mourinho’s agent says the Manchester United manager paid more than 26 million euros ($27 million) in taxes when he lived in Spain from 2010-13.

The information was made public on Tuesday by Gestifute, a company run by Mourinho’s agent, Jorge Mendes.

[ MORE: Pulisic wanted by Arsenal, Spurs ]

The Portuguese company has been releasing details about its clients’ tax declarations after European media outlets published what they claimed were details of apparent tax arrangements made by top soccer players and coaches, including Mourinho, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil.

Gestifute, which also has Ronaldo as a client, has already published documents allegedly showing that Spanish fiscal authorities have certified that Mourinho and Real Madrid star Ronaldo are “up to date on … obligations.”

Mourinho coached Real Madrid from 2010-13 and took charge of United this season.

Staying in Dallas: New contract for MLS Defender of the Year Hedges

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 12:  Giles Barnes #10 of the Houston Dynamo battles for the ball with Matt Hedges #24 of FC Dallas during their game at BBVA Compass Stadium on March 12, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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This is going to turn out to be one of the most exciting years of Matt Hedges’ life.

The FC Dallas man lead one of the best back lines in Major League Soccer to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters’ Shield.

[ MORE: PST talks with Hedges, Zimmerman ]

He’s also likely set for a chance to return to the USMNT fold under new coach Bruce Arena, as Hedges is one of the best players to be largely ignored by Jurgen Klinsmann.

Hedges, 26, was named the MLS Defender of the Year and made the Best XI, and now he’s inked a new long-term deal with FC Dallas.

The four-year deal will keep Hedges in Dallas through his 30th birthday. Capped once, Hedges has 159 appearances with 11 goals for FCD.

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Two more Pulisic suitors in North London? USMNT teen in demand

Dortmund's Emre Mor, left, celebrates with Dortmund's Felix Passlack and Dortmund's Christian Pulisic, right, after scoring during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and SV Darmstadt in Dortmund, Germany, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. Dortmund defeated Darmstadt with 6-0. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
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Christian Pulisic is one of the most exciting young prospects in the world.

It’s a statement that isn’t often said without hyperbole when it comes to American standouts, but the 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund man has seen his names in the gossip pages a few times this year.

While Liverpool has often been the destination, Italian site Calcio Mercato says Premier League interest is wider than Merseyside. The clubs? Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.

[ VOTE: Who should win USMNT player of year? ]

Dortmund doesn’t want to sell the youngster, who is locked up through 2019. The whispered price has been $31 million at a minimum, but perhaps BVB would be tempted given their wealth of young attacking options.

Pulisic has made 27 appearances for Borussia Dortmund, nabbing four goals and six assists. He has 11 caps and three goals for the USMNT as well.

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Real Madrid asks for “utmost respect” to Ronaldo following tax drama

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 03:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid reacts after missing a chance during the La Liga  match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF at Camp Nou on December 3, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Cristiano Ronaldo had been linked with massive tax evasion, but Real Madrid would ask you to kindly go back to treating him like a king now that he’s proven his innocence.

In a move usually reserved for politicians aiming for high office, Ronaldo’s agent released some of his tax documents to prove everything’s above board.

It all looks good, unlike what befell Neymar and Lionel Messi, so back off, huh?

[ MORE: Wednesday’s Champions League preview ]

From Real Madrid:

In view of the stories published over recent days and in consideration of the certificate issued by the Spanish Tax Agency which confirms that our player Cristiano Ronaldo is up to date with all of his tax obligations, Real Madrid C. F. call for the utmost respect to be shown towards Cristiano Ronaldo, whose conduct has been absolutely exemplary throughout all of his time at our club.

Only the utmost for CR7.

Real Madrid hosts Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday in a match which will decide Group F of the UEFA Champions League.

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