Friday's soccer news starts with the return of the Bundesliga, the first of Europe's leagues to resume and finish last season. With Germany's topflight leading the way, Bundesliga clubs showed it was possible to conduct a season in the strange world of the pandemic. Proximity undoubtedly helped, making it possible for four of Europe's five biggest leagues to complete their schedules.
Now, the Bundesliga and Italy's Serie A are the last to return to the new abnormal for 2020-21 and with the same pressure. Get the games in safely. Added to that is the push to allow limited fans into stadiums, something that's already happening in some parts of the country courtesy of last week's opening round of the DFB Pokal. How Germany navigates these issues will once again help set the tone across Europe.
On the field, it's the same story. Bayern Munich opens the season against Schalke with the same basic understanding of how things work in the Bundesliga. Bayern Munich wins. Every game since February with no clear signs that their run of form is close to ending. Somewhere behind them is Borussia Dortmund, the second-best team in Germany in an era where that doesn't mean enough.
Dortmund may have the best emerging offense in Europe, much less the Bundesliga. Keeping it together is the issue. That still might not be enough to pass Bayern or factor in Europe. That's the strength for the newly minted champions of Europe. This is Bayern's game until they start dropping points.
Tyler Adams's RB Leipzig is also in the conversation at the top of the Bundesliga table. Their 3rd-place finish and run to the Champions League semifinals spoke to the quality of that team. Though there's the noticeable gap between Leipzig and Bayern, only three points separated them from Borussia Dortmund.
John Brooks's Wolfsburg finished 7th, taking the last European spot. John Brooks wasn't in the squad for Wolfsburg's 4-0 win at FK Kukesi in the second round of Europa League qualifying. Wout Weghorst opened the scoring in the 21st minute with Maxence Lacroix making it 2-0 in the 33rd. Weghorst scored again in the 74th with Admir Mehmedi finishing off the goals in the 89th minute.
Timmy Chandler's Eintracht finished 9th, pushing up the table and into the conversation for that final European spot. It didn't work out, but Eintracht is a team that understands how to stay in position to matter. Their -1 goal difference last season needs work. They brought in Andre Silva from AC Milan to try to address that scoring issue.
Josh Sargent has gotten plenty of support from his coach at Werder Bremen. Florian Kohfeldt's opinion hasn't changed, saying earlier this month, "right now, I can't imagine a starting XI that doesn't include Josh Sargent." That's what any player wants to hear as Sargent tries to help the club climb out of relegation danger.
Also in the Europa League qualifiers, Cameron Carter-Vickers was on the bench for Spurs in their 2-1 win at Lokomotiv Plovdiv. Trailing from a 71st minute goal, Spurs went up two men in the 78th and 79th minutes. Harry Kane equalized from the penalty spot in the 80th with Tanguy Ndombele scoring in the 85th minute.
"I have to admit, everyone on their side in the stadium had a moment where they really dreamed, and we had a moment we felt a nightmare could arrive," Spurs manager Jose Mourinho said. "I knew that the game would be tricky, and, as I was saying at half-time, the first half was not bad at all. I couldn't complain much with the players, just asking them for a bit more intensity."
ESPN previews the 2020-21 Bundesliga season with the network taking over the wrights and showing games on the ESPN+ streaming service. The Guardian previews the second week of the Premier League season. The Telegraph's Tom Morgan asks about the future of big crowds for English sports. Inside World Football's Samindra Kunti on the financial situation at Juventus. The NY Times' Tariq Panja updates the political situation at Barcelona.
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