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Bundesliga's Budding Stars (Pt. 1)

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Maximilian Philipp (24) - FW - Borussia Dortmund

The centre-forward lived up to his potential during his first year in Dortmund last season, netting nine goals in 20 appearances after a move from SC Freiburg.

Philipp has notched eight goals or more in three consecutive seasons, and was not starstruck by the major move from a small club to one of Europe's elite. A fantastic free-kick taker and a skilled player from the area just outside the box with his long-shot ability, the 24-year-old was a bargain for Dortmund last summer at €18 million.

The return of Marco Reus and his hopeful-health next season means Dortmund should have a proven scoring and playmaking duo to wreak havoc in the Bundesliga, but their lack of a true striker and uncertainty defensively again leaves BvB far behind Bayern in 2018.

Dayot Upamecano (19) - CB - Leipzig

Leipzig's big, powerful centre-back made an international name for himself this past campaign, debuting as an 18-year-old and finishing with 25 league appearances. A French under-21 international, Upamecano is described as a "no-nonsense tackler" but with "in-game defensive intelligence, much like Bayern Munich and Germany supremo, (Mats) Hummels." He finished the season winning 3.6 aerials duels per match on average, also playing the full 90 minutes in five Champions League games.

With plenty of big-game experience under his belt and still a teenager, Upamecano and fellow Leipzig centre-back Willi Orban look to lead Leipzig on another deep run in the Europa League in 2018-19, in hopes of a top-four finish and return to the Champions League next season.

The duo must help shore up a Leipzig defence that allowed way too many goals last season (53), tied for fourth-most in the Bundesliga. Upamecano's performance is crucial in Leipzig's further success, as the squad's attack is too good to be let down by poor defending.

Denis Zakaria (21) - CM - Borussia Mönchengladbach

At just 21 years old, Zakaria earned a position with the Swiss squad at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, this after he was part of the Swiss team at the 2016 European Championships at just 19 years old.

Zakaria was stellar at Swiss-side Young Boys as a teenager before making the big leap to Gladbach in the winter of 2017. Since, he's accumulated 29 Bundesliga appearances and looks to play an integral part in helping Borussia bounce back after two subpar, mid-table seasons.

His squad is strong enough to compete with the Bundesliga's best aside from Bayern, but the central midfield is a position where Borussia have been pretty mediocre since the early 2010s. Zakaria has room for improvement and must improve his discipline and focus, as he numbered a staggering 11 yellow cards in 29 appearances last season. But, his passing percentage of 89.3% was a very impressive number.

Benjamin Pavard (22) - CB/RB - VfB Stuttgart

Pavard was a rock at the back for Stuttgart last season, helping lead the club to a surprising 7th-place finish. However, within one summer he went from a scarcely-known player in Germany to an international phenomena thanks to his performance at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Pavard's half-volley spinner-goal in France's 4-3 defeat of Argentina was one of the tournament's few jaw-dropping goals, but it was more than just his wonder goal that caught eyes. At just 22, Pavard started all but one game at right back and was rarely anything less than solid for the French en route to their World Cup triumph.

Bayern Munich and other notable clubs took immediate notice, as Pavard is reportedly possibly already on the move to the Bavarian giants this summer. With Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels aging and increasingly injury-prone, it would be a wise move for Bayern to add the youngster Pavard along with the club's fellow bright young defenders, Joshua Kimmich and Niklas Süle.

Michael Gregoritsch (24) - CAM - FC Augsburg

The only non-striker with more than 12 goals in the Bundesliga last season, Gregoritsch was vital in Augsburg avoiding a relegation battle and finishing comfortably mid-table. His 13 goals led Augsburg and we won an average of 3.2 aerial duals per match - second on the team behind Caiuby.

The giant leap was surprising to see from the Austrian attacker, but his talent showed at his previous two-year stint at Hamburg. Gregoritsch scored for fun with Austria's U21 squad, netting 21 goals in only 26 appearances, and has earned five appearances with the Austria senior team.

Another season like last and it may be difficult for the small-ish Augsburg to retain Gregoritsch in the future, as larger clubs will come swooping in for his immense talents.

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