Picking favorites in the Bundesliga
Borussia Dortmund's quest for its second straight title begins Friday, as the 2011-12 German Bundesliga season kicks off. Dortmund won the Bundesliga with 75 points last season, finishing comfortably ahead of Bayer Leverkusen (68) and Bayern Munich (65) in the title race. Dortmund is trying to become the first repeat winner in the Bundesliga since Bayern's back-to-back titles in 2004-05 and 2005-06.
Here are some statistical nuggets ahead of the 2011-12 season:
• ESPN's Soccer Power Index gives Bayern Munich a 60.6 percent chance to win the Bundesliga this season, with Dortmund the second favorite at 33.7 percent. Both Bayern (97.5 percent) and Dortmund (92.5) are heavy favorites to grab two of the Bundesliga's four places in Champions League (three automatic, one qualifier).
• The average age of the starting lineups used by Borussia Dortmund last season was 23.7 years, which made it the first team to win the Bundesliga with an average age under 24. Two of the younger players who made an impact were Shinji Kagawa (22) and Robert Lewandowski (22), who each scored eight goals this past season.
• Borussia Dortmund paved the way to its title with a virtually impenetrable defense. Dortmund allowed just 22 goals in 34 matches in 2010-11, which tied it for the second-lowest goals-against total in Bundesliga history. Dortmund also finished with a league-best 14 shutouts.
• Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez scored a league-leading 28 goals last season. Gomez had an impressive conversion rate, as 60.9 percent of his shots on goal (28 of 46) found the back of the net.
• While Gomez was the top goal scorer in the Bundesliga last season, Bayern also acquired Manuel Neuer, who is widely considered the league's best goalkeeper. Neuer has posted at least 11 shutouts in each of his first five professional seasons with Schalke.