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Bundesliga 2017-18: James checks in as Aubameyang stays – five stars to watch

17 August 2017 09:00

Bayern Munich are again the team to beat in the Bundesliga in 2017-18, as Carlo Ancelotti bids to lead the champions to a sixth consecutive title with a re-shuffled squad.

Meanwhile, closest rivals Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig have kept hold of their star strikers, with bridging the gap their target.

Leon Goretzka has stayed at Schalke after shining at the Confederations Cup, as Domenico Tedesco's men look to return to the upper echelons of the top flight.

Here, we examine five players to watch out for in the Bundesliga this season.

 

JAMES RODRIGUEZ

James Rodriguez's stock has taken a hit since Zinedine Zidane took over at Real Madrid. The attacking midfielder, who burst onto the global scene at the World Cup in 2014 and impressed in his first season at the Santiago Bernabeu, was often left out by Los Blancos' head coach over the last two campaigns.

James still got his share of appearances when Madrid rested their top stars and was productive when he did, as his record of eight goals and six assists in 22 LaLiga games (13 starts) last season proves.

But the 26-year-old's absence from the biggest games, culminating in him not even making the bench for the Champions League final, will have hurt.

James will therefore be desperate to bounce back after joining Bayern on a two-year loan deal with an option to buy. He will believe he remains among the world's elite, and Carlo Ancelotti will provide him the chance to prove it.


PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang appears highly likely to stay at Borussia Dortmund after an intense transfer window of speculation.

The Dortmund star has opted not to take up the chance of a lucrative move to the Chinese Super League, while the European clubs tipped to sign him have not reached an agreement with Peter Bosz's new side.

That means the Gabon striker should continue terrorising Bundesliga defences after top-scoring in the division with 31 goals last season, although Dortmund finished a massive 18 points off Bayern's pace last season, even with his fine form.

Want-away star Ousmane Dembele may be gone by the end of the transfer window, so Aubameyang will rely on support from Christian Pulisic and new arrival Maximilian Philipp. Can he take a step forward to reach another level?


LEON GORETZKA

Leon Goretzka, at least for now, remains at Schalke despite heavy speculation linking him with a move to Bayern or the Premier League.

The 22-year-old midfielder shone as Germany won the Confederations Cup, starring with two goals in the semi-final triumph over Mexico.

With his contract due to expire in 2018, Goretzka can play himself into a situation that would see him have a pick of top clubs in a free transfer move.

The looming World Cup in Russia will also be central to his thoughts, with the competition for Germany places fiercer than ever, another reason he must continue to shine.


TIMO WERNER

Timo Werner enjoyed an extremely successful first season with RB Leipzig in 2016-17, scoring 21 Bundesliga goals in 31 games and leading the promoted side to a second-place finish.

The 21-year-old also seized the chance given to him by Germany coach Joachim Low, who rested most of his senior stars at the Confederations Cup.

That move allowed Werner to net three times in four outings at the tournament, enough for the Golden Boot.

This season could therefore see Werner secure billing as one of the Bundesliga's biggest stars and ensure he is a key part of the national team's World Cup plans.

The striker has been an unpopular figure among Bundesliga fans, though. 

Leipzig's controversial business model means their players are already targets and Werner's dive to win a penalty in a home win over Schalke last December meant he was still being booed by Germany supporters in their Confeds warm-up matches.


REECE OXFORD

English players rarely move abroad and even less often venture to the Bundesliga.

Reece Oxford, though, has taken that step, joining Borussia Monchengladbach on a season-long loan from West Ham.

The 18-year-old, who can play in defence or midfield, joins a club who finished ninth last season, having finished third and fourth in the two campaigns before.

Oxford should therefore be able to express himself without facing the pressure of a relegation scrap alongside fellow exciting talents Nico Elvedi, Denis Zakaria and Thorgan Hazard.

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