It has been over two months since the football fraternity witnessed any of the Bundesliga’s sheer entertainment, but the wait is finally over. Germany’s top flight restarts this Friday and TheHardTackle takes a look at the games that will kick start the most unpredictable league in Europe.
Borussia Dortmund v Werder Bremen
The reigning champions start their campaign against Thomas Schaaf’s rebuilt Bremen side. Dortmund come into this game with a squad that is more or less unchanged from their previous triumph, barring the departures of Shinji Kagawa and Lucas Barrios and the arrivals of Marco Reus and Julian Schieber. Sven Bender is surely out for this game, while Lukas Piszczek seems doubtful.
Schaaf is all set to unleash his new signings on matchday one. The likes of Nils Petersen and Gebre Selassie will be keen to impress their new manager right from the start, and a cracker against the two-time defending champions seems the perfect way to start. The controversial Eljero Elia has also been deemed fully fit and should start on either wing, with Aaron Hunt on the other.
Given Dortmund’s growing confidence, it seems highly unlikely that they will be beaten at home this week. It is going to take a lot from the wily old Schaaf to undo Dortmund’s opening game of their title defense.
Borussia Mönchengladbach v Hoffenheim
Lucien Favre and his boys enter the new season with aspirations in stark contrast to those of last season. The difficulties associated with European football will be a tough problem to deal with for Gladbach, and this may show in their first game of the season. Having kicked off their campaign with a DFB Pokal game followed by the Champions League play-off game, The Foals could suffer from some tired legs. The only player who will be missing is former Hoffenheim striker, Peniel Mlapa.
Hoffenheim were one of the most active clubs in the summer transfer window, signing Tim Wiese, Joselu and Eren Derdiyok, to name a few. Their losses might just exceed their gains, but the guile of Markus Babbel will be hugely important over the course of this season. Their shocking loss to fourth-tier Berlin AK-07 will spur them to bounce back with a victory over the highly touted side from North Rhin-Westphalia.
An upset is on the cards. Gladbach still seem to have that fluid motion from last season, but the loss of the enigmatic Marco Reus may prove too hard to handle for the first few weeks.
Freiburg v Mainz 05
Under Christian Streich, Freiburg have been an extremely solid and resolute side. The Bresigau-Brasilianer may not have had an explosive transfer period, but they have managed to hang onto most of their key players. They will be a hard side to break down and the midfield duo of Cedric Makiadi and Daniel Caligiuri will be key to their success against Mainz.
Mainz are not too different from Freiburg in the sense that they were extremely quiet in the transfer market as well. They did lose a lot more players, but this is a squad that did not rely too much on any individual and the brilliance of Thomas Tuchel will be a huge boost to them.
It seems very hard to separate these mid table sides in their first game of the season. A draw seems the fairest result.
Augsburg v Fortuna Düsseldorf
Like Freiburg, Augsburg had a sensational Ruckrunde last season, to keep them in the top flight of German football. It was under the brilliant tutelage of Jos Luhukay that Augsburg managed to stay up. His unexpected departure, coupled with that of Axel Bellinghausen, is a huge loss for Augsburg and their chances seem slim in their first game under new coach, Markus Weinzierl.
Fortuna Düsseldorf will prove to be a gritty opponent and their lack of experience in the Bundesliga is surely not going to be a hindrance this weekend. Bellinghausen will prove to be a thorn in Augsburg’s plans and could be the major factor in separating these two relegation-zone dwellers. Other additions like Cha Du-Ri and Nando Rafael give Fortuna the upper hand.
A victory for the visitors seems like the most likely result. Augsburg still have a lot of work to do.
Hamburg v Nuremberg
Hamburg are another one of those sides who haven’t made much use of the transfer window. With four departures and four new signings, Thorsten Fink’s side are in for a topsy-turvy season. The Dinosaur will be looking to use home advantage against a far superior Nuremberg side, and it looks like Rene Adler is going to be in for a rough night.
Der Club have struggled to push for European qualification in the last few years, but their squad this season seems perfect to do so. With exciting additions like Timo Gebhart and Sebastian Polter, Nuremberg look set to pick up the three points.
Dieter Hecking’s side will have a good amount of work to do even though they are touted as favorites in this game. A hard fought win for Nuremberg.
Greuther Fürth v Bayern Munich
New boys Greuther Fürth couldn’t have asked for a harder opponent to start their life in the Bundesliga. This being their first season in Germany’s top tier, not much is expected of Fürth. With no high profile signings over the course of the summer, the first timers are in for a disastrous debut game in the Bundesliga. Mike Büskens’ priority should be damage control since a demoralizing thrashing at the hands of Germany’s most successful club isn’t the nicest way to start off.
Bayern will be out to destroy. This will be a perfect game for Bayern’s additions to stake a claim for a first team spot. Mario Mandzukic was most impressive in the German Super Cup and will be looking to build on that performance on Saturday. Xherdan Shaqiri may also be in line for some playing time. Juup Heynckes has all the freedom in the world to tinker around.
As much as one would love to see an upset, it just seems unfathomable in this mismatch. This David versus Goliath encounter isn’t going to be going David’s way.
Eintracht Frankfurt v Bayer Leverkusen
Frankfurt have returned to the Bundesliga and with an experienced manager, in Armin Veh, at the helm, their stay can last longer than just a season. A lot of hype has been surrounding their new signing, Takashi Inui. The young Japanese attacker will be looking to follow in the footsteps of his compatriot, Shinji Kagawa, and a good showing against Leverkusen will be most useful in boosting his reputation.
The Hyypia-Lewandowski era started on a slow but commendable note, and this next saga will be the most important. Neverkusen will be hungry to return to Champions League football but their transfer activities may just have let them down. Philipp Wollscheid seems set to get his Leverkusen debut, this game being a great chance for him to cement his place in the starting eleven.
This is not going to be an easy game for Leverkusen, but a victory for the visitors seems most likely. Hard fought, but they will go home with three points in the bag.
Stuttgart v Wolfsburg
Bruno Labbadia’s side was another of Germany’s quiet sides during the transfer window and this may cost them dearly in their season opener. The good news for them is that the core of their team has remained the same, but they may have required some reinforcements for the new season. Going up against a highly rejuvenated Wolfsburg side is going to be difficult.
Wolfsburg are one of the most improved sides over the summer and will be an almost unstoppable force this season. Under the iron grip of Felix Magath, their new signings shouldn’t take too long to settle in and soon set the Bundesliga by storm. Watch out for the likes of Bas Dost and Vaclav Pilar.
Stuttgart are a good side, but are unfortunate to be the first to face this hungry Wolfsburg side. Magath and his boys should go back home with three well earned points.
Hannover v Schalke
Like Gladbach, Hannover will have to deal with the play-off round in Europe. This extra game could be taxing on Mirko Slmoka’s boys and having had to travel away for their game, the continental hangover could come into play. Yet, one cannot deny that they will be tough to break down and that their potentially dangerous attack must be kept on a tight leash.
If Schalke are to push for the title, these are the games that they cannot afford to waste. With youngsters like Julian Draxler and Lewis Holtby coming of age, Schalke will be far more explosive. Another factor in their favor is that their European campaign starts only later, and fatigue will not be a bother.
On paper Schalke should take this game, but there is momentum on Hannover’s side. A hard fought and tactically grueling draw seems most probable.