Bookmakers are betting as though only Bayern Munchen and Dortmund are locks for the German Bundesliga top three but one thinks that Leverkusen is almost as likely to get on the podium as the teams from Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia.
Leverkusen finished last season’s German Bundesliga like a steam train, collecting 24 points from its last nine games to climb the ladder over that period from eighth to third. That Leverkusen finished five points clear of fourth-placed Monchengladbach was a remarkable achievement given that the Bayer-backed side endured a miserable run from October to February when both Charles Aranguiz and Kevin Kampl were injured. Aranguiz and Kampl are fit to kick off the new German Bundesliga campaign and it has spent big money to acquire the services of ex-Hoffenheim striker Kevin Volland.
One is not ruling out Leverkusen challenging for the German Bundesliga title along with Bayern Munchen and Dortmund. One is expecting Leverkusen to be far more consistent this term and there is a decent chance that both Bayern Munchen and Dortmund will regress. Bayern Munchen has a new manager in Carlo Ancelotti and his record in domestic competitions is not as good as his record in international events. Dortmund has shipped in and shipped out several players, with the big story being the transfer of key defender Mats Hummels to Bayern Munchen. There are definitely question marks about Dortmund’s defence without Hummels, who will receive a hot reception if he starts for Bayern Munchen at Signa Iduna Park when the two teams clash on Saturday 19 November.
Several bookmakers, including 888Sport and Betfair, are offering odds of +125 about Leverkusen making the German Bundesliga top three for the second consecutive season and the third term in five. One thinks that the bookmaking fraternity is overrating Monchengladbach, Schalke and Wolfsburg, with a double-digit points gap between Leverkusen and those three sides not out of the question because the Foals, the Royal Blues and the Wolves do not look any stronger on paper than they did last season.
Darmstadt defied the odds to survive in last term’s German Bundesliga but one thinks that the Lilies are destined for the dreaded drop this season, with Bet365 listing them at odds of -161 to be relegated, either automatically or via the play-offs. Some bookmakers are offering shorter odds than -161 about Darmstadt being in the German Bundesliga bottom two, which are the automatic relegation spots.
Football punters are in danger of drowning in statistics these days but one piece of data stuck in my brain after reading it a couple of months ago: Darmstadt led the German Bundesliga in set-piece goals last term, which is a crazy statistic for a team that struggled to string together more than a handful of passes in most of its divisional matches.
The summer has not been kind to Darmstadt, either. Gone from Darmstadt’s roster are, among other, goalkeeper Christian Mathenia, assists leader Konstantin Rausch and top goal scorer Sandro Wagner. Also, Darmstadt has a new coach in Norbert Meier following Dirk Schuster’s move to Augsburg.
Meier’s managerial resume does not make for good reading. Famously, Meier lost his job at Duisburg 11 years ago for pretending that Koln midfielder Albert Streit had struck him. The German Football Association banned Meier from any coaching activities for three months. Meier has failed in each of his full-time managerial positions at Duisburg, Dresden, Dusseldorf and Bielefield since the early 2000s.
Bayer Leverkusen to Finish in the Top Three
Darmstadt to be Relegated
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