Germany Soccer Cup

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

Columbus, NYCFC release new kits to mixed results

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New York City FC
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Two Major League Soccer clubs have put their kits out there for the 2016 season. They’ve received a mediocre welcome at best.

Columbus was the first, and their kit makes a bold statement moving away from the traditional yellow and black that so often adorns their regular shirts. Instead, the kit incorporates the Columbus flag onto it. The release has seen quite a negative reaction on social media.

The kit was unveiled at the Columbus City Hall on Wednesday, featuring the traditional adidas stripes, although instead of the usual placement on the shoulders, the stripes come down the side of the torso. Recently, adidas has the tendency to copy general jersey patterns across its multiple properties, so look for this design with other clubs in the near future.

The negative reaction to the Columbus release isn’t terribly surprising considering fans often enjoy sticking to tradition, and backlash is common when clubs deviate from the norm. As an additional hurdle, the color contrast between red and yellow is somewhat stark, lending to the difficult reception. Add in the bright pastel blue shorts and…yikes.

While the club didn’t describe how they will utilize this kit during the season, it’s likely to be the primary (at least for now) as the club release says the kit portfolio also includes last year’s black kit, which is traditionally the away kit.

NYCFC’s release of their secondary kit was more positive, receiving a mixed response on social media.

As you can see, adidas again copied their general outline with the stripes down the side of the torso. However, the German clothing manufacturer did much better with the general design of these kits than the Columbus ones. I will give a bit of personal opinion here: I absolutely love these kits. The ripple effect accentuates the crest with a near-3D effect, and the colors mesh perfectly which serves to assuage the eye from being overwhelmed by a busy design. If there’s any criticism, it’s that without an outline, the Etihad logo tends to get in the way a bit, but that’s nitpicking. Well done NYCFC. Columbus…I’ll leave that one to you all.

Men In Blazers podcast: Romelu Lukaku Pod Special

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Rog and Davo break down Leicester City’s 3 – 1 win at Manchester City, marvel at Spurs going second in the table, and talk about the headlines surrounding the mid-table clash between Chelsea and United.

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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FA Cup recap: West Brom survives with penalty win over Peterborough

PETERBOROUGH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 10:  Darren Fletcher of West Bromwich Albion celebrates with team-mate Saido Berahino after scoring his team's first goal during the Emirates FA Cup fourth round replay match between Peterborough United and West Bromwich Albion at ABAX Stadium on February 10, 2016 in Peterborough, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
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West Brom is the last team through to the FA Cup fifth round with a penalty win over Peterborough United after a 1-1 draw in their replay at ABAX Stadium.

Down 1-0 10 minutes after the halftime break, Darren Fletcher scored the equalizer in the 71st minute, and that scoreline lasted through regulation and extra time. Fletcher missed a penalty in the shootout, but Baggies goalkeeper Ben Foster saved twice to put West Brom through.

[ MORE: Full schedule for every PL club ]

Other than the penalty shootout, things were quite even throughout the match. Posh actually lead slightly on possession, and had an 8-5 shots-on-target advantage as well. Jon Taylor was the man to score for Peterborough, putting them 1-0 ahead shortly after halftime. The 23-year-old midfielder also scored in the 2-2 draw at The Hawthornes in the original matchup.

West Brom will now take on Reading in the fifth round, a team that hammered Walsall 4-0 in their fourth round meeting. Reading currently sits 15th in the Championship table

VIDEO: Alejandro Bedoya scores extra-time winner for Nantes in Coupe de France

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JULY 01: Alejandro Bedoya of the United States controls the ball during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Belgium and the United States at Arena Fonte Nova on July 1, 2014 in Salvador, Brazil.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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With USMNT World Cup qualifying not far away, Jurgen Klinsmann will certainly look to club performances to find out which of his players are grasping club opportunities by the horns.

One US national teamer in great form is Alejandro Bedoya. The 28-year-old has scored four times across all competitions since January 23rd, and his latest is a massive one. Bedoya sent Nantes to the quarterfinals of the Coupe de France with a 118th-minute winner against Bordeaux.

Bedoya has been a lightning rod for Nantes the past two or three seasons, but something he struggled for occasionally is consistent game time. Not anymore. The American has started five of their last six league matches, and since returning from some time off due to illness, Bedoya has featured in the starting lineup in nine of 11 Ligue 1 matches. What’s more, he’s finished the full 90 minutes in seven of those.

Klinsmann has looked to Bedoya in the past for a combination of electricity and defensive ability on the wing. Now, he may bring both endurance and a goalscoring threat to international competitions, which would go a long way in raising his national team stock.