Challengers have squandered their big chance
When Bayern Munich fell to an undeserved 2-1 defeat at Borussia Mönchengladbach in December, they dropped to seventh in the Bundesliga table, and were seven points off top spot. For the second season in a row, their title rivals let them off the hook, and they went on to lift the Meisterschale for the eighth campaign running.
The Bavarians haven't lost since that reverse at Borussia Park, and they dropped just two points in 2020. A 21-match winning streak saw them win the DFB Cup and then sweep aside the best in Europe as they lifted the Champions League trophy, with coach Hansi Flick emulating the achievement of the great Jupp Heynckes by matching the treble of 2013.
With the addition of Leroy Sané, Bayern have enough firepower to dominate domestically, with Robert Lewandowski coming off the best season of his stellar career, and the likes of Serge Gnabry and Thomas Müller in outstanding shape. The only concerns are over the futures of midfield maestro Thiago and influential defender David Alaba, and while Bayern can probably afford to lose the former, the departure of the latter would constitute a hefty blow.
Borussia Dortmund have a mouth-watering attack of their own, with Jadon Sancho still in the building, and striking sensation Erling Haaland averaging nearly a goal a game in the Bundesliga. However, Lucien Favre's men lost home and away against Bayern last season, and they folded under pressure in the Champions League against PSG.
The loss of rampaging wing-back Achraf Hakimi is a blow (he left Real Madrid to join Inter Milan, after excelling on loan in Germany), and while former Birmingham City tyro Jude Bellingham is an intriguing acquisition in midfield, I still don't believe Dortmund will be consistent enough or defensively stable enough to pip Bayern.
RB Leipzig saw their title hopes drown in draws in 2020, and that inability to turn stalemates into wins won't be helped by the loss of Timo Werner to Chelsea. Coach Julian Nagelsmann is the biggest star at the club, and the agreement of a new contract with superb centre-back Dayot Upamecano is a massive fillip, but this young group still doesn't feel ready to win the title.
Bayern are [1.18] to win the title yet again, with Borussia Dortmund [7.4] and RB Leipzig [16.0], and that Bayern price seems about right given their form under Flick. Perhaps a more attractive long-term bet is to back Bayern to do the domestic double again at 11/8 on the Sportsbook. They have won the DFB Cup in five of the last eight seasons.
Lewandowski v Haaland could be a gripping battle
The top goalscorer (torjaegerkanone) trophy seems likely to go to either Lewandowski or Haaland. Lewandowski is the 8/11 favourite after scoring 34 league goals last term, but if Haaland maintains his current rate, he won't end up too far short of that tally, and he's priced at 7/2. If you want options at far bigger prices, Hoffenheim's Andrej Kramaric (80/1) is capable of a 25-goal season if he stays fit, Wout Weghorst (25/1) has scored 33 league goals in his last two campaigns, and Patrik Schick (40/1) scored ten goals in 22 BL appearances for Leipzig last term, and should score plenty in a freewheeling Leverkusen side.
Will Bayer or Gladbach be best of the rest?
With Bayern, Dortmund and Leipzig highly likely to compose the top three, the battle for fourth spot should be between Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach for the third season running. Gladbach won the race last term, after Bayer had snatched the golden ticket the year before.
Leverkusen have lost an elite performer in Kai Havertz, and their failure to retain tenacious forward Kevin Volland feels like a financial misjudgment (he's indicated he would've stayed for better contract terms). Patrik Schick will bear the attacking burden after signing from Roma, and he has already shown he can score Bundesliga goals during a loan spell at Leipzig.
Bayer will always be good to watch under Peter Bosz, but concerns persist over how much pressure their gung-ho approach puts on their defenders. Edmond Tapsoba has made a good start to life in Germany, but it's asking a lot for a 21-year-old to carry a defence in his second season as a top-flight player.
A couple of stops away on the RE train line, Gladbach are an intriguing proposition under Marco Rose, who delivered Champions League qualification in his first campaign as Foals boss and completed a double of sorts by being voted the sexiest coach in the league. French forward Marcus Thuram had a superb debut season in the league, and with Rose's guidance he should get even better. At time of writing, Gladbach have kept all of their best players: Yann Sommer is a rock in goal, Matthias Ginter and Nico Elvedi have found consistency in defence, Denis Zakaria and Florian Neuhaus are a superb mix of silk and steel in midfield, and Alassane Plea has now reached double figures in terms of goals in back-to-back seasons.
Given Gladbach's stability, and the players Bayer have lost, Gladbach are the value selection here in the Top 4 Finish market at 17/10 on the Sportsbook.
There's a lot of buzz about big-spending Hertha Berlin, who survived the drop with room to spare after Bruno Labbadia repaired the wreckage of the Jurgen Klinsmann era. Brazilian forward Matheus Cunha has been outstanding since his January move from Leipzig, and former Lyon midfielder Lucas Tousart should be a successful addition. However, the lack of defensive depth is a problem - without centre-backs Dedryck Boyata and Jordan Torunarigha, Hertha slipped to an embarrassing 5-4 loss at lowly Eintracht Braunschweig in the first round of the DFB Cup. I can see Hertha qualifying for Europe, but not via a top four finish, so their price of 5/1 in this market is probably about right.
Will Mainz finally slip into trouble?
It feels like Mainz have been flirting with relegation for a while now, and their policy of developing young talent and selling it on carries an element of risk. A late-season surge lifted them clear of trouble last term, but I'm still not convinced by coach Achim Beierlorzer, and it's not beyond the realms of possibility that one or two stars like Jean-Philippe Mateta or Robin Quaison could be sold before the transfer window shuts. At 4/1 in the Bottom Two Finish market, Mainz are worth considering.
Newly-promoted Arminia Bielefeld are favourites in this market at 10/11, but I'd like to see how they cope with the Bundesliga before committing at such a short price. They have momentum after winning the title, and they are excellently coached by Uwe Neuhaus.