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Bundesliga season preview: Bayern aims for No. 30

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Bayern Munich’s got another fight on its hands when it comes to the Bundesliga.

Sounds insane, we know; The eight-time defending league champions have seen five teams finish runner-up in Germany’s top flight, and shook off a quality challenge from Borussia Dortmund — the last team to win the league — last season to claim its 29th title.

Niko Kovac is back in the fold, as are the top stars of the team, but it’s still going to be feel a bit different with Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, and Mats Hummels leaving town and a pair of World Cup winners — Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard — arriving at the Allianz Arena.

Robert Lewandowski is still there, as is Joshua Kimmich, and most of the club’s top minute eaters from last season’s title run. Serge Gnabry, Leon Goretzka, and Kinglsey Coman will play even bigger roles, the club has quality young hotshots like Canadian teen Alphonso Davies, and Thiago Alcantara will be the straw that stirs the drink for young and old alike.

But BVB.

Dortmund has only lost Christian Pulisic, who’s headed “back” to Chelsea, and has again claimed an impressive summer haul (even if we knew a lot of the names prior to the end of the season).

Hummels is back, and Paco Alcacer’s loan has been made permanent. Oddly enough, those two moves might be the least impactful of the handful, with Bayer Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt and Gladbach’s Thorgan Hazard true difference makers in the midfield and Nico Schulz (Hoffenheim) a true hope for the back line.

Dortmund also added U.S. youth wunderkind Giovanni Reyna, though it’ll take time for the 16-year-old to run through the ranks.

The bookies think BVB is the only club with a prayer of claiming the title in place of Bayern, as reflected by 3/10 odds to the holders and 4/1 to the runners-up.

Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig are 33/1 odds, but that feels a little too much considering the additions of Ademola Lookman and Christopher Nkunku to go with Chelsea loanee Ethan Ampadu and Red Bull Salzburg star Hannes Wolf.

Bayer is a distant fourth, and has to hope that Kerem Demirbay’s move from Hoffenheim helps offset the loss of Brandt to BVB.

From Bayer on-down there’s a lot of uncertainty, as seemingly everyone lost a star of three. Eintracht Frankfurt sold Luka Jovic and Sebastien Haller and is hoping Dejan Jovelijc turns out to be their next big capture from Serbia. Hoffenheim sold Demirbay, Schulz and Joelinton (Newcastle) and is yet to really address the goals aside from lower league scorer Sargis Adamyan.

Gladbach sold Hazard and is betting on a breakthrough from Schalke purchase and former next big thing Breel Embolo. Speaking of Schalke, they could be in trouble again and will need a big show from U.S. international Weston McKennie.

All of this stands to claim the following: Though surprises are possible, the league is downright unpredictable heading into the season aside from spots 1, 2, and maybe 3.

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Americans Abroad: John Brooks will lead Wolfsburg’s back line, the aformentioned McKennie is going to be terribly important to Schalke’s hopes, and Tyler Adams returns for a first full season at RB Leipzig.

Josh Sargent is hopeful to make himself a league mainstay with Werder Bremen, and

Timothy Chandler’s still on the books at Eintracht Frankfurt, Fabian Johnson remains at ‘Gladbach, and Alfredo Morales is still at Fortuna Dusseldorf along with Man City loanee and USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

German born U.S. U-20 defender Lennard Maloney has been promoted with FC Union Berlin, while former NYCFC striker Khiry Shelton is with fellow new boys Paderborn.

And there’s an MLS connection to join Adams, Davies and Shelton: Augsburg has added FC Dallas playmaker Carlos Gruezo.

The new boys: Union Berlin has bought enough talent to rise up the table a bit, while Paderborn and Koln have more questions than Union but still some guile in their ranks. Koln in particular might have the best shot to stay up on pedigree alone.

RB Leipzig boss Nagelsmann calls Adams injury “complicated”

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Tyler Adams’ groin injury has continued to persist, and as a result he may not be ready for the start of the Bundesliga campaign.

According to RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann, Adams is struggling with lingering pain, at times appearing to have healed before reappearing as soon as he begins to resume training.

“Our medical department are doing everything they can, but Tyler’s injury is complicated,” new Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann told German publication Bild. “Suddenly you’re pain-free and expect to get involved again, but that is misleading.”

The 20-year-old American international excelled with RB Leipzig after joining in January of last year, but missed five of the final six league games with the injury. He withdrew from USMNT camp in mid-June and missed the entire Gold Cup, but was hoping to be ready for the new club campaign. Now that’s under threat.

The Bild article speculates that Adams playing in the Bundesliga finale against Werder Bremen and the DFB-Pokal final against Bayern Munich could have aggravated the injury and prolonged his recovery timeline. Adams has not trained with the team yet this preseason, although the club confirmed he has begun individual work with a ball.

The U.S. national team next plays friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay on September 6 and 10, which could be in doubt for Adams. They begin CONCACAF Nations League play in October with games against Cuba and Canada.

Everton reportedly set for sale of $28M Lookman

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Will Everton regret its failure to find the right fit for Ademola Lookman at Goodison Park?

The Toffees are set to sell the 21-year-old striker to RB Leipzig this summer for just $8 million more than they paid Charlton for her services, according to Sky Sports.

[ MORE: De Gea wants captaincy ]

Lookman scored five goals with four assists in a half-season loan for RBL in 2018, but could not find regular feature time for the Toffees upon his return.

Yes, the $28 million is still a decent fee, but Lookman is an English striker with U-20 World Cup-winning experience, and was given just three starts from his 21 appearances in the Premier League for Marco Silva‘s men last season (posting two assists in 601 minutes.

Lookman prefers to play left wing, but also operates on the right. Everton has Richarlison, Bernard, and Theo Walcott amongst a relatively deep wing corps.

The stats seem to show that Lookman simply had trouble getting the ball at Everton in comparison to RBL. Maybe he needs to be a bigger part of the show, and we’ll find out whether he can do that with Tyler Adams and Co. in Leipzig.

German Cup: Bayern Munich complete double by beating Leipzig

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BERLIN (AP) Captain Manuel Neuer returned from six weeks out injured to help Bayern Munich complete a domestic double after beating Leipzig 3-0 in the German Cup final on Saturday.

[ MORE: Valencia end Barcelona’s four-year hold on Copa del Rey ]

Robert Lewandowski scored twice and Kingsley Coman grabbed the other as Bayern claimed a record-extending 19th cup win to make up for the disappointment of losing last year’s final to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Bayern coach Niko Kovac, who was in charge of Frankfurt at the time, boosted his chances of keeping his job in Munich after bringing a successful end to what had been a testing season.

Neuer, who missed Bayern’s Bundesliga triumph the week before due to a calf injury, produced two stunning saves in either half when a goal for Leipzig might have been decisive.

Neuer somehow denied Yussuf Poulsen’s header from close range in the 11th minute, when the ball crashed back off the crossbar, and got the better of Emil Forsberg in a one-on-one after the break, when the Swedish midfielder should have equalized.

“You couldn’t write a better script,” Neuer said.

Lewandowski opened the scoring with a header in the 29th, Coman doubled the lead in the 78th after Forsberg’s miss, and Lewandowski wrapped it up with a chip over the goalkeeper in the 85th.

[ U-20 WORLD CUP: Ezequiel Barco’s golazo paces Argentina to big win ]

Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery went on late to make their last appearances for Bayern after 10 and 12 seasons respectively. Ribery became the only player to play in eight German Cup finals.

“They delivered a lot for the team and the club,” Lewandowski said. “We have to be grateful.”

Leipzig was appearing in its first, and had been hoping to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its founding date with a win. Thousands of fans made the relatively short journey from Saxony to cheer their side, though they found themselves outnumbered by Bayern fans at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, which hosts German soccer’s showpiece every year.

“It’s a huge disappointment,” Leipzig chairman Oliver Mintzlaff said. “When you come here, you want to win.”

The supporters had been warming up for hours before the encounter, downing beers and singing songs at various locations in the city before making their way to the game. Fans who arrived on chartered buses lit barbeques and shared crates of beer by the side of the road.

Leipzig coach Ralf Rangnick, the sporting director who took charge of the team on an interim basis before Julian Nagelsmann arrives from Hoffenheim, started with his strongest team, with American Tyler Adams lining up beside Kevin Kampl in midfield.

Leipzig looked sharper, fresher and quicker at the start, but one lapse was all Lewandowski needed to open the scoring. David Alaba whipped the ball in toward the penalty spot, where Lewandowski had too much space to head inside the left post.

Coman displayed a fantastic first touch to control the ball past the helpless Peter Gulacsi for Bayern’s second, and Lewandowski ensured the result was emphatic when he claimed his competition-leading seventh goal. Lewandowski was booked for removing his shirt in the celebrations, but he accepted the yellow card with a smile.

“We worked hard for the whole season. In the end you could say it was a good season for us,” the Polish striker said.

Bayern’s history meets upstart Leipzig in German Cup final

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BERLIN (AP) Their histories, and lists of achievements, couldn’t be more different.

Bayern Munich has won 54 major titles, while Leipzig has none. Bayern has been around for 119 years, Leipzig 10.

Luckily for Leipzig, though, those numbers won’t mean much when the two teams meet in the German Cup final on Saturday.

Bayern won its 29th German league title last Saturday and is bidding for a record-extending 19th German Cup win. But Leipzig will head into the match knowing it’s no pushover.

Leipzig held Bayern to a 0-0 draw in the Bundesliga’s penultimate round – delaying the Bavarian club’s title celebrations by another week – while Bayern needed penalties to get past Leipzig in their only previous German Cup meeting in October 2017.

Bayern coach Niko Kovac, who won the title with Eintracht Frankfurt against his future club last year, is preparing for his third straight final. Kovac, however, is under pressure after his debut season at Bayern and would boost his case to remain with a win.

Leipzig coach Ralf Rangnick, who is really the club’s sporting director, is leading the opposing team on an interim basis this season before Julian Nagelsmann arrives from Hoffenheim to take over.

Leipzig’s mere existence is a source of ire for rival fans who object to its fast rise, which was made possible by energy drink manufacturer Red Bull and its co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz. The 75-year-old Austrian billionaire bought a local fifth-tier team, SSV Markranstadt, rebranded it with his company’s name and financed its steady promotion through the lower leagues to the Bundesliga.

Few at the club could have imagined that it would be so successful, so quickly. Leipzig finished second and qualified for the Champions League in its debut Bundesliga season, dropped to sixth because of the added burden of European games in its next, and comfortably finished third after another solid campaign this season.

It would not have been possible without Red Bull, which already had the New York Red Bulls, Red Bull Salzburg, Red Bull Brasil and Red Bull Ghana in its portfolio of soccer clubs.

Leipzig chairman Oliver Mintzlaff defended receiving a loan of 134.2 million euros ($150 million) from the energy drink behemoth, saying Friday that it was necessary for the establishment of what has become a highly successful club.

“That we had to take a loan as a start-up company, to invest in bricks and legs, is right,” Mintzlaff told the Frankfurter Rundschau daily newspaper. “But if we were to sell everything that was achieved here, purely theoretically, the club would have made a very, very big plus. There would be big double-digit, maybe even a triple-digit million figure remaining.”

Leipzig’s turnover is 250 million euros ($279 million), compared to Bayern’s 657.4 ($734 million) for 2017-18.

Mintzlaff said the club was among the “most transparent soccer clubs,” in contrast to the likes of Volkswagen-backed Wolfsburg.

“We don’t hide anything. We wouldn’t get a license if we didn’t pay our debts,” Mintzlaff said. “Other clubs that get money from other backers do it, too. Borussia Dortmund is a stock cooperation, Hertha Berlin has got an investor on board, Schalke has (food industry billionaire) Clemens Tonnies.”

Bayern is backed by sportswear giant Adidas, carmaker Audi and financial services company Allianz, with each holding an 8.33% stake in the club, which has further lucrative sponsorship deals with Deutsche Telekom, DHL, Siemens, Goodyear, SAP, Paulaner beer and Qatar Airways. The latter is the subject of protest from some Bayern fans.

More AP German soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/Bundesliga and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Ciaran Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP