Champions League Analysis: Kevin Hatchard rates the Bundesliga challenge

RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann
Julian Nagelsmann took RB Leipzig to last season's semi-finals

From Bayern to Mönchengladbach, the Bundesliga puts up a strong challenge in this year's Champions League and we asked our German expert Kevin Hatchard to assess the country's quartet.

"RB Leipzig dumped out Spurs and Atletico Madrid last term, and they have made a better start to the season than a shaky Manchester United have."

Back RB Leipzig to qualify at 5/4 on the Sportsbook

Bayern Munich - Champions to mount a stout defence

Even when they aren't at their best, great champions find a way to win, and Bayern Munich have been doing a lot of winning in 2020. They won their final 21 matches of last season, a dizzying run of results that secured them the Bundesliga, the DFB Cup and the Champions League. This season they have already won the UEFA Super Cup (they beat Sevilla after extra time) and the DFL Supercup (they were second-best against Borussia Dortmund but still won 3-2) and they found a way to overcome Hertha Berlin 4-3 in a thrilling Bundesliga contest.

There were fears in Bavaria - and hopes outside Bavaria - that Bayern's squad was too thin to compete on multiple fronts, but a high-calibre trolley dash has strengthened the group. Dynamic winger Douglas Costa has returned, Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting knows the league from his time at Mainz and Schalke, defensive midfielder Marc Roca is a player Bayern have been sweet on for over a year, while Bouna Sarr is arguably a better back-up at right-back than Alvaro Odriozola was last term.

Robert Lewandowski scored all four goals against Hertha, and it's worth remembering he was the top scorer in the Champions League last term. Thomas Müller's competitive spirit still burns brightly, while the recent improvement in left-back Lucas Hernandez's game could allow the fleet-footed Alphonso Davies to be deployed further up the field. Coach Hansi Flick has the undisputed loyalty and respect of his players, and as we discovered with the demises of Carlo Ancelotti and Niko Kovac at Säbener Strasse, that's an important factor.

Bayern are 9/25.7 favourites on the Exchange to win the tournament and they'll take some stopping.

Borussia Dortmund - Haaland can take his team to group win

Although the same old concerns still linger about Borussia Dortmund's ability to be consistent enough to win a Bundesliga title race against their old foes from Bavaria, Lucien Favre's men seem poised to make an impact in the Champions League. England star Jadon Sancho is still in the building, 17-year-old wonderkids Jude Bellingham and Gio Reyna are producing bafflingly mature displays, and skipper Marco Reus seems fit and sharp.

The jewel in the crown is Norwegian goal machine Erling Haaland.

He bashed in 44 goals across his spells at Salzburg and Dortmund last term, while this season he scored 11 times in his first nine games for club and country.

The 20-year-old spearheads an attack that has so many potential contributors, and while it seems absurd to say that such a young player is taking on a leadership role, his strength of character and indomitable will is making that happen.

Zenit and Club Brugge have experience at this level, but I can't see them posing too much of a threat to BVB across six matches, and Lazio are talented but have faded in the last few months. Dortmund's price of 5/71.7 to win the group seems about right.

RB Leipzig - Don't worry about Werner!

It would be easy to look at a Timo Werner-less RB Leipzig and doubt their chances of qualifying from a group that includes PSG, Manchester United and Istanbul Basaksehir. However, although the loss of a man who scored 28 goals in the Bundesliga last term is doubtless a hefty blow, it may yield a necessary evolution in Leipzig's play. Inspirational and sartorially-daring coach Julian Nagelsmann has demanded that other players step up, and it's worth noting that the Red Bulls had six different scorers across their first three Bundesliga matches.

With all-action centre-back Dayot Upamecano staying put, there is a strong spine to the team, and a deep squad. There is cover for every single position, and no-one apart from Upamecano and goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi is guaranteed a starting spot. Leipzig and Nagelsmann learnt a lot from reaching the semi-finals of last season's competition, and the knockout wins against Tottenham and Atletico Madrid will have reinforced the belief of what is largely a young squad.

I think 5/4 for Leipzig to qualify is a great price.

Manchester United have made a poor start to the season, especially defensively, and I can see Leipzig's turbo-charged attack giving them lots of problems. With PSG the strongest team by a distance and Istanbul the weakest, it could be a very tight group, so I'll happily back Leipzig to do enough to squeeze into the last 16.

Borussia Mönchengladbach - Rose's team may wilt

Dashing young Borussia Mönchengladbach coach Marco Rose has been on an upward trajectory for quite some time. He led Salzburg's tyros to success in the prestigious UEFA Youth League tournament, won the Austrian double with the senior side and led them to the semi-finals of the Europa League and he has made an instant impact in Germany. In his first campaign with Gladbach, he led the Fohlenelf to fourth spot in the Bundesliga, securing a welcome return to European football's top table.

That success has allowed the club to hang onto its top stars for at least another campaign. French forward Alassane Plea is looking to excel for the third season running, classy centre-backs Nico Elvedi and Matthias Ginter are still in situ, Swiss keeper Yann Sommer is one of the best in the Bundesliga, Florian Neuhaus is a rising star in midfield (he just scored on his senior debut for Germany) and Marcus Thuram resisted the pressure of his famous name to deliver great numbers in his first season in Germany.

However, Gladbach have been given a stinker of a group (Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk), and their primary concern might end up being the battle for a Europa League berth. Given how badly the Foals struggled in Europe last term (they failed to escape their Europa League group), it's hard to see them qualifying for the knockout phase of a tougher competition. At 7/4 to qualify from Group B, they seem too short.

UEFA Champions League: UEFA Champions League (Winner 2020/2021)

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Tuesday 20 October, 5.55pm

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Bayern Munich
Man City
Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid
Man Utd
Inter Milan
RB Leipzig
Shakhtar Donetsk
Borussia Monchengladbach
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Red Bull Salzburg
Zenit St Petersburg
Lokomotiv Moscow
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