BERLIN: Bayern Munich kick off the new Bundesliga season on Friday with the coaches of 13 of their 17 rivals expecting them to dominate again -- although Usain Bolt's recent shock defeat is being used as inspiration.
Bayern host Bayer Leverkusen at the Allianz Arena in the season opener, with the Bavarians the overwhelming favourites to win the title. In a survey by AFP subsidiary SID of the 18 coaches in Germany's top flight, the overwhelming consensus is that Carlo Ancelotti's Bayern will claim a sixth straight league crown. "I'm tipping Bayern, but nothing is set in stone," said Cologne's coach Peter Stoeger. "If Usain Bolt can lose a 100 metres race, perhaps someone else can be champions in Germany." Jamaica's Bolt could only settle for bronze over 100m behind Justin Gatlin at the IAAF World Championships in his final individual race before retiring in London.
In the last decade, Bayern have won the Bundesliga title seven times -- five of which have been on the spin since 2012. They finished 15 points ahead of second-placed RB Leipzig last term. "Our required standard is to win the Bundesliga title," said Bayern president Uli Hoeness bluntly. According to the SID survey, only Borussia Dortmund's new boss Peter Bosz, Hoffenheim's Julian Nagelsmann and Stuttgart's Hannes Wolf opted not to say which name they think will be engraved on the trophy for 2017/18.
Leverkusen's Heiko Herrlich was the only coach who tipped Dortmund, the last team to break Bayern's stranglehold in 2011/12, to be champions. But his was a lone voice. Bayern have strengthened their squad by signing midfielders Corentin Tolisso from Lyon and James Rodriguez from Real Madrid. However, Bayern will be without the steadying influence of ex-captain Philipp Lahm and Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso, who both retired in May.
"If everything goes normally, FC Bayern will be the champions again," said Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuettl. "We want to surprise again, even if this season will be a lot harder." Bayern boss Ancelotti sees Dortmund, who are battling to keep hold of wantaway teenage winger Ousmane Dembele, as their main rivals. "Of course, we want to be champions again and I think we can do it," said the Italian.
"From everyone else, Borussia Dortmund will be our challengers." Ancelotti expects Leipzig to struggle to come to terms with their first season in the Champions League group stages.
"We'll have to see how Leipzig fare, they have a stressful season ahead of them with the new experience of the Champions League," added Ancelotti. Ex-Germany international and Bayern captain Stefan Effenberg expects a two-horse race in Germany with Dortmund challenging for the title. "I think Borussia Dortmund are in a position to annoy Bayern Munich this year," the 49-year-old told SID. "Of course, for that to happen, things will have to go well.
"I don't see three or four teams challenging, but everyone will be closer together." Effenberg thinks Leverkusen are fortunate to play Bayern first.
"This is an advantage for Leverkusen, because when Bayern Munich get on a roll, then you don't walk off the pitch there as winners," he said. "In the first game, it's a bit different. If you're lucky, then anything is possible."