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Fanzone preview: The German Bundesliga

  • Story Highlights
  • Bundesliga champions Wolfsburg kick off the new season against Stuttgart
  • Eight teams will have a new coach in charge for the forthcoming campaign
  • Franck Ribery could be a key player for Bayern Munich if he stays at the club
  • Have your say on who you think will win the Bundesliga in the Sound Off below
By Timothy Abraham
For CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The new Bundesliga season kicked off on Friday when defending champions Wolfsburg beat Stuttgart 2-0 at the Volkswagen Arena -- Fanzone details what to expect from the new campaign:

Fanzone preview: The German Bundesliga

So what's new?
No less than eight teams underwent a change of coach during the off season with Bayern Munich's appointment of Louis van Gaal the most high profile after the disappointing reign of Jurgen Klinsmann and Jupp Heynckes' spell as caretaker boss.

Felix Magath has left champions Wolfsburg to help revive ailing Schalke, who finished eighth last time round, with former Stuttgart chief Armin Veh moving into the hot seat.

Brazil playmaker Diego was the most significant player departure from the Bundesliga after he swapped Werder Bremen for Italian giants Juventus in a deal worth $35 million.

Fact Box

Reigning Champions: Wolfsburg

Champions League Qualifiers:
Wolfsburg, Bayern Munich, Stuttgart

Europa League Qualifiers: Hertha Berlin, Hamburg, Werder Bremen

Werder filled the void left by the influential midfielder with the $12 million signing of promising youngster Marko Marin from Borussia Monchengladbach.

Striker Mario Gomez moved to Bayern Munich from Stuttgart for a Bundesliga record fee of $43 million while Wolfsburg increased their goal options with the capture of Nigeria forward Obafemi Martins.

One change in the structure of the Bundesliga is the reduction of the winter break from six to three weeks to help ease fixture congestion and enable the national team longer to prepare for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. .

Lukas Podolski

Lukas Podolski is back at his former club Cologne

Key players:
Speculation over the future of Bayern Munich star Franck Ribery - who has been linked with Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester United - has been the main transfer topic that has filled column inches during the off season.

If Ribery remains with the club he could prove to the difference between Bayern and the rest of the title contenders although the arrival of defensive midfielder Anatoliy Tymoschuk from Zenit St Petersburg will add some much-needed steel to their midfield.

Brazil striker Grafite notched 28 goals in 25 Bundesliga matches last season and his form in the 2009/10 season could be key if Wolfsburg can hold onto their title.

The battle for places in Joachim Low's squad for the 2010 World Cup could also have a knock-on effect on the fortunes of several Bundesliga sides. Who will win the Bundesliga title? Sound Off below.

Bayer Leverkusen pair Stefan Kiessling and Patrick Helmes could well be vying for one place in Low's squad, while Lukas Podolski in particular will be keen to be make up for lost time with Cologne following his emotional return to the club after a stop-start spell at Bayern.

Wolfsburg

Wolfsburg won their first Bundesliga title last season

Key clubs:
Hoffenheim enjoyed a creditable first Bundesliga campaign and were top heading into the winter break before they faded in the second half of the season following a serious injury to leading striker Vedad Ibisevic.

If the Bosnia international can rediscover his touch, and new signings Franco Zuculini and Maicosuel settle in quickly, then Ralf Rangnick's men could again upset the established elite and this time stay in contention until the end of the season.

Schalke supporters will hope that new boss Magath can repeat the heroics he achieved with Wolfsburg last time round.

The 56-year-old steered the Wolves to their first Bundesliga title by improbably pipping Bayern Munich to the post, ending the season top of the division with a two point lead over the German giants at the top of the division after 34 games.

Elsewhere, if Podolski can show the form he is capable of and finds the net regularly he may add the firepower Cologne need to move from perennial relegation strugglers to European hopefuls.

Louis van Gaal

All eyes will be on new Bayern Munich coach Louis van Gaal when the new season starts.

Expert view:
CNN's Kate Giles - "Well as much as I hate to say it, Bayern Munich are the favorites to do the business this season. By their high standards, last season was a flop.

"After similar disappointment in 2007, they came back hard in 2008 and were little short of unstoppable. I would not expect anything different this time round.

"To add to an already star-studded squad, they have made top-class signings in Gomez, Tymoschuk and Ivica Olic. What's more, they will be masterfully led by new coach van Gaal - who has the credentials and experience lacked by Klinsmann.

"Nonetheless, the past few years have proved the Bundesliga title is not necessarily a foregone conclusion, and there are a few other sides that can challenge the favorites. Video Watch the predictions of CNN's Kate Giles for the coming campaign »

"Wolfsburg will be hoping for a repeat of last season's glory. And after managing to hold on to strike duo Grafite and Dzeko, they are bound to get enough goals to present a solid challenge although the distraction of the Champions League could be their undoing.

"Stuttgart will also be looking to pick up where they left off and cannot afford a slow start this time round. Consistency will be the key if they are to turn into title challengers, although the departure of Gomez to Bayern will leave a huge void.

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"Bayer Leverkusen are worth keeping an eye on and have added the experience of Sami Hyypia to their talented young squad while veteran coach Heynckes could be the man to unlock their potential.

"At the wrong end of the table, Nuremberg will hope to improve on the unwanted Bundesliga record of being relegated seven times while fellow new boys Mainz and Freiburg must add to their squads to have any realistic hope of survival."

All About BundesligaFC BayernMunichFranck RiberyVfB Stuttgart FCMario GomezDiego RivasVfL Wolfsburg FC

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