The 55th Bundesliga season begins on Friday night as reigning champions bayern munich goes in search of a sixth successive title. Carlo Ancelotti's side starts at home to Bayer Leverkusen and will begin as overwhelming title favourites. Can anyone stop them? Part two of this season preview focuses on the champions' chances, plus looking at other teams like last season's runners-up RB Leipzig, 2. Bundesliga champions VfB Stuttgart and the often inconsistent FC Schalke 04.

1. FC Koln

Cologne finished a fantastic fifth last season and qualified for European football for the first time since 1992.

Unfortunately, they've lost star striker Anthony Modeste to the Chinese Super League. Jhon Cordoba has been brought in to replace him from Mainz but how much will they miss Modeste's goals in 2017-2018?

STAR PLAYER: Jonas Hector - Jonas Hector started to figure in a more defensive midfield role last season. He filled the gap with class and panache and that's what you'd expect from a top professional like Hector. He's still one of the best defenders in the Bundesliga.

ONE TO WATCH: Lukas Klunter - Klunter broke into the first-team line-up towards the end of 2016-2017 and scored his first senior goal against Bayer Leverkusen in May. He will get more chances to flourish on his early promise.

POINT TO PROVE: Jhon Cordoba - Cologne paid Mainz nearly £15 million for Cordoba's services and it wasn't like he was a proven goalscorer either at his previous club.

He has big shoes to fill to replace the goals of Modeste.

PREDICTED FINISH: 11th - It will be a tall order to repeat last season's heroics, especially with no Modeste and a Europa League campaign to juggle. Mid-table would be disappointing for the fans but not too bad with the added fixture congestion this season.

RB Leipzig

They might be unpopular but no-one really cares around Leipzig what others think about them. In their maiden campaign at this level, they finished a stunning second, beat Borussia Dortmund and produced some of the best football in the league. Naby Keita is staying and with Timo Werner's goals and Emil Forsberg's assists, can they launch a more sterner title bid this time around?

STAR PLAYER: Timo Werner - After several unfulfilled years at VfB Stuttgart, Werner finally flourished at RB Leipzig. 21 goals was a fine return which also saw him finally break into the German international setup. Werner will only get better and that can only be a good thing for Leipzig.

ONE TO WATCH: Bruma - In an inconsistent Galatasaray side, Bruma sparkled and his assists record should take the pressure slightly off Forsberg in this area. He is very fast too, so will be a nightmare for full-backs to deal with.

POINT TO PROVE: Dominik Kaiser - Lost the captaincy last week to Willi Orban and shouldn't be too surprised. Kaiser started just seven league games last season and with more matches for Leipzig, this season will want more game time.

PREDICTED FINISH: 3rd - RB Leipzig are here to stay and will prove that last season was no fluke. In the league, might be pipped by Borussia Dortmund but another top-three finish is very likely.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen

2016-2017 was a disastrous season for Bayer Leverkusen. Results were poor, players started arguing and Roger Schmidt lost his job in March. They finished well below expectations in 12th place. Over the summer, Omer Toprak, Hakan Calhanoglu and Javier Hernandez have left. Can their understudies make the most of the opportunity presented to them?

STAR PLAYER: Karim Bellarabi - An Achilles injury in September wrecked Bellarabi's 2016-2017 season but he did return after the winter break and scored the Bundesliga's landmark 50,000th goal against FC Augsburg.

With Calhanoglu gone, he will have more responsibility on his shoulders.

ONE TO WATCH: Benjamin Henrichs - Henrichs became a regular fixture in the team last season and was one Leverkusen's better performers. He's likely to continue his impressive form under new coach Heiko Herrlich this season.

POINT TO PROVE: Admir Mehmedi - Mehmedi must improve and be prepared to fight for a place in the team or find another club. The choice is his and the Swiss international knows this is a pivotal campaign for him personally.

PREDICTED FINISH: 8th - Should improve on last season's forgettable campaign but lack the overall firepower and creative assets to mount a sustained top-four challenge.

1. FSV Mainz 05

European football took a lot out of Mainz last season. They sold Yunus Malli to VfL Wolfsburg in January and survived only on goal difference. That led to the summer departure of Martin Schmidt and their new coach is 38-year-old Sandro Schwarz. Will another season of struggle await for the Mainz fans?

STAR PLAYER: Stefan Bell - Bell is the standout player in a fairly average side. One of the best heading players in the Bundesliga, he is a feared opponent in both penalty areas and will be leading from the front once more this season.

ONE TO WATCH: Danny Latza - One of the most surprising feats of last season was Danny Latza's pre-Christmas hat-trick against Hamburg. Normally a defensive midfielder, Latza is now clear of injury and ready to shine at Mainz.

POINT TO PROVE: Jean-Philippe Gbamin - Gbamin was a bit of a laughing stock in his debut season. He picked up three red cards which are inexcusable. He needs to eradicate the clumsy attributes within his game.

PREDICTED FINISH: 18th - There doesn't seem to be enough overall quality within the squad. Mainz will battle hard throughout but look to be the weakest team and therefore, favourites for me to lose their Bundesliga status.

Borussia Monchengladbach

A costly run of one win in 11 matches scuppered Borussia Monchengladbach's European chances last term. That led to the sacking of Andre Schubert and in came Dieter Hecking. Hecking is proven quality and one of the best managers in the Bundesliga.

The signings of Vincenzo Grifo and Matthias Ginter look smart. Will it take them back to the top four?

STAR PLAYER: Lars Stindl - Stindl won the Confederations Cup in the summer and arrives into his third campaign with Monchengladbach brimming with confidence. He has managed double figures three seasons in a row now and is reaching his ultimate peak.

ONE TO WATCH: Vincenzo Grifo - The Italian will be on the brink of a maiden international call-up if he makes the successful step from Freiburg to Monchengladbach. He has plenty of qualities and his aim will be to add a few more goals to his game.

POINT TO PROVE: Jonas Hofmann - Hofmann has failed to deliver on his early burdening reputation and has had plenty of chances too in his career.

2017-2018 could be his last opportunity to shine at one of the big Bundesliga sides.

PREDICTED FINISH: 5th - No European football this season could be a blessing in disguise for Borussia Monchengladbach. This means they can focus completely on the Bundesliga and they will be a serious top-four challenger.

Bayern Munich

The reigning champions might start without the retired Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso but they've strengthened well with the arrivals of club-record signing Corentin Tolisso, ex-Hoffenheim duo Niklas Sule and Sebastian Rudy plus the two-year loan signing of James Rodriguez from Real Madrid. Can anyone get close to Carlo Ancelotti's kings of German football?

STAR PLAYER: Robert Lewandowski - The top Bundesliga goalscorer in the last 10 years, Lewandowski's record is simply stunning.

He can score all types of goals, works well with his teammates and always sets high standards. His personal goal will be to win back the Torjagerkanone that he lost last term to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

ONE TO WATCH: Joshua Kimmich - Made a flying start to last season and added goals to his game. Kimmich is one of Germany's most versatile players and should play a more prominent role now Lahm and Alonso have retired.

POINT TO PROVE: Thomas Muller - Muller struggled last campaign and was often put on the sidelines by Ancelotti. Six league goals was a poor return for a player of his calibre. He will be hoping for much better this time around.

PREDICTED FINISH: 1st - It would be a huge surprise to see Bayern Munich toppled this season.

They are so strong in every department. Experience and class tell. More Meisterschale joy awaits.

FC Schalke 04

Schalke lost their first five matches last season, finished a woeful 10th and fired another manager in the summer as Markus Weinzierl lost his job. It has been a quiet summer in terms of newcomers and a shock change in captaincy too with Ralf Fahrmann displacing Benedikt Howedes. Will things improve in Gelsenkirchen this season under new head coach Domenico Tedesco?

STAR PLAYER: Leon Goretzka - Goretzka shone at the Confederations Cup and has plenty of admirers within the European game. He was recently appointed vice-captain by the new manager. Goretzka is getting better with every passing season.

ONE TO WATCH: Breel Embolo - A horrific broken ankle and a broken leg in October 2016 stopped Embolo's debut season in its tracks. He showed flashes of what he was capable of before the injury and is a formidable danger in Schalke's attacking armoury.

POINT TO PROVE: Yevhen Konoplyanka - Konoplyanka was once highly-coveted by Liverpool FC but has struggled since leaving his homeland in 2015. Schalke have their doubts, can he prove them wrong?

PREDICTED FINISH: 9th - One thing you can guarantee with Schalke is inconsistency. Perfect one week, pathetic the next. I see nothing but more frustration for the Schalke faithful this season.

VfB Stuttgart

The pain of relegation in 2016 from the top-flight was quickly forgotten for VfB Stuttgart. They return to the Bundesliga as champions of the second-tier and will aim to be much stronger this time around. Experienced arrivals at the back and the goals of Simon Terodde suggests good times ahead. Can Stuttgart defy their own expectations?

STAR PLAYER: Simon Terodde - Terodde has been the top scorer in the last two 2. Bundesliga campaigns. He is a menace in the penalty area and will relish the step up to a higher level.

ONE TO WATCH: Julian Green - After being frustrated with a lack of opportunities at Bayern Munich, Green left for VfB Stuttgart in January. He now has a great opportunity to show the champions what they let go.

POINT TO PROVE: Holger Badstuber - Has had dreadful luck with injuries in the past five seasons. Stuttgart have taken a gamble on signing Badstuber. Staying fully fit will be a notable achievement for the ex-Bayern Munich defender.

PREDICTED FINISH: 16th - Goalscoring looks like being a huge problem, especially if Terodde doesn't transfer his 2. Bundesliga strike rate. This means a relegation playoff spot come May 2018.

VfL Wolfsburg

Two seasons after finishing as runners-up to Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg's decline has been nothing short of staggering. They required a two-legged playoff against Eintracht Braunschweig in May to retain their Bundesliga status. It is a squad with plenty of experience and plenty of potential. Can they improve on last season's relegation flirtation?

STAR PLAYER: Mario Gomez - Where would Wolfsburg be without the goals of Mario Gomez? Probably playing 2. Bundesliga football would be the answer. Gomez is clinical, deadly in the six-yard box and now the new captain of the club. He will lead from the front once again.

ONE TO WATCH: John Anthony Brooks - This is a fresh challenge for one of the Bundesliga's best central defenders. 'JAB' is a popular figure in the league and likely to become an integral part of the new backline.

POINT TO PROVE: Yunus Malli - When he left Mainz in January, Yunus Malli said he was joining a 'top-six club'. He didn't deliver on the sizeable fee Wolfsburg paid in his first 12 matches. The fans and Malli will expect better in his first full season.

PREDICTED FINISH: 10th - The goals of Gomez will be crucial to Wolfsburg's chances. It is a long way back from the dizzy heights of 2014-2015. This season is about small progress and they must improve on last season's shocker.