The long torturous wait is finally over for Bundesliga fans as the 9th of August brings in the 51st edition of the German Bundesliga. There is much to remember from the 2012-2013 season for every fan. Bayern waltzed to the title and won it in April, there were plenty of feisty mid-tables games and the battle to beat the drop turned out to be a nail-biting one. The performances of German sides in the Champions League brought praise from the world of football and loads of excitement for the fans of the Bundesliga.
But that was 2012-2013. The start of a new season brings in a whole new level of enthusiasm, anticipation and hope for everyone, gives clubs and its fans ample chances to renew rivalries and create new ones. The Bundesliga is known for its unpredictability and guaranteed entertainment value, and much the same can be expected of this season as well. TheHardTackle previews round one of the campaign.
Champions kick start the season against Gladbach
A little over three months back, on matchday 34 of the 2012-2013 season, Germany was treated to a truly spectacular game that ended 4-3 after one side raced to a 3-1 lead in the first half. Unfortunately the game’s result was of little consequence since the home side were destined for a mid-table finish and the away side had already won the league by a record margin.
Fans and neutrals will be hoping for a similar level of fun and excitement as these two teams, Bayern Munich and Borussia Mönchengladbach, face off again in the season opener at the Allianz Arena. There have of course been changes to both sides since then, especially in the case of the hosts of this game. Treble-winning Bayern have seen some new faces join their squad this summer, and the most noticeable one will be that of the change in management and the style of play that comes in due to this.
Ex-Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has won plenty of lauds and trophies during his tenure with the Spanish club, and much of the limelight on the opening day will be on him as he fields his new side for his first league game in Germany. Bayern have been under the microscope since the 1st of July, and their preseason games have been closely watch and scrutinized. The Spanish gaffer has favoured the 4-1-4-1 heavily with occasional switches to a 4-3-3 involving a false nine approach. Some interesting points to note were the choice of personnel Guardiola used in the pre-season games. Full back and skipper Lahm was fielded in midfield on quite a few occasions, and a single pivot in midfield shielding the back four was preferred to the double used last season. New boys Thiago and Jan Kirchhoff were largely used in this role while versatile attacker Thomas Müller was used in a more central midfield role alongside Kroos or Shaqiri. This was of course pre-season and it is hard to read into such games which are generally affected by injuries and non-availability of players. Bayern will be without the services of long-term casualty Holger Badstuber, and Mario Götze who has just started training with the first team after his hamstring injury.
Gladbach on the other hand will look forward to this season as one where they can build up on their existing squad and possibly challenge for a Europa League spot. Lucien Favre’s men had a rather quiet campaign last season after their stormy showings in 2011-2012 when they finished 4th. The losses of Reus, Dante and Neustädter hit them hard and they struggled to cope with it. Gladbach have seen further changes this summer with striker Mike Hanke and defender Niklas Dams leaving the club, but the new faces that have come in should give their fans some hope this season. Brazilian attacking midfielder Raffael, who played a key role in Schalke’s revival last season, has been brought in alongside Max Kruse from Freiburg.
Bayern Munich: Neuer – Lahm, Boateng/Martinez, Dante, Alaba – Schweinsteiger – Robben, Muller, Thiago, Ribery – Mandzukic
Gladbach: Ter Stegen – Daems, Domínguez, Stranzl, Jantschke – Xhaka, Marx – Arango, Raffael, Herrmann – De Jong
Prediction: Bayern Munich might have a new manager, but it is hard to overlook the wealth of talent they have in their side. Bayern 3-0 Gladbach.
Early battle cry for Europe sounded at the Bay Arena
Bayer Leverkusen finished finished third last season and will kick start their new campaign against Christian Streich’s Freiburg, who finished 5th and reached the semi-finals of the DFB Pokal. Freiburg were the surprise package of the Bundesliga in 2012-2013, impressing with their determination and strong displays, especially against the so-called big boys of the league.
But the Europa League qualifiers have come in for a rude shock this summer has their entire side has been ripped apart by a mass exodus of players. Players key to Streich’s plan last time around such as Cedrick Makiadi, Max Kruse, Daniel Caligiuri, Johannes Flum and Jan Rosenthal who constituted a large part of Freiburg’s midfield have all left the club for fellow Bundesliga sides. Replacements have come in the form of Admir Mehmedi, Francis Coquelin and experienced Gelson Fernandes for the middle of the pitch, while Hanke joins to shore up the striking department. Nonetheless, Streich will feel hard done by the movements just when it looked like he was building a strong Freiburg squad for the future.
Leverkusen will also feel hard done by the losses of attacker Andre Schürrle and full back Daniel Carvajal both of whom played crucial roles in Die Werkself’s successful campaign. But Sami Hyypiä should feel quite confident considering the inflow of talent they have had. Hamburg’s much acclaimed attacker Heung-Min Son, who set the Bundesliga on fire last season with some blistering performances, has made his way to the Bay Arena while Robbie Kruse, Andres Palop, Emir Spahic and Giulio Donati’s inclusions should give the side some quality depth.
Bayer Leverkusen: Leno – Spahić, Toprak, Wollscheid, Donati/Stafylidis – Reinartz, Bender, Hegeler – Son, Castro, Kießling
Freibrug: Baumann – Hedenstad, Ginter, Diagné Fallou, Sorg – Schuster, Fernandes – Schmid, Klaus, Pilař – Hanke
Prediction: Leverkusen boast a well drilled side as compared to what is a newly assembled one for the visitors. Leverkusen 2-0 Freiburg
Schalke look for perfect start
The Royal Blues welcome The Dinosaurs from the North to the Veltins Arena on matchday one’s final game on Sunday. Hamburg will not be travelling with fond memories of previous visit, a game they lost 4-1 courtesy of a hat trick by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and a Michel Bastos strike. Both sides have made major changes to their roster after some rather inconsistent showings last season largely due to injuries and losses in form.
Schalke look to have done quite well in the transfer market, bringing in reinforcements for departments that proved their Achilles Heel last season. Adam Szalai, top scorer for Mainz 05 last season has been brought in to strengthen and support Huntelaar up front, while Santana has crossed the border to add steel to the defense. Young wingers Leon Goretzka and Christian Clemens have also been added to the squad, while midfielder Annan makes a return from his time at Osasuna. Hamburg on the other hand have added Lasse Sobiech from Dortmund and Swiss international Johan Djourou from Arsenal to the defense, an area Hamburg needed much addressing after last season’s campaign. Cameroonian forward Jacques Zoua who was impressive for Basel in the Champions League should provide the goals for Hamburg.
Schalke will definitely look at this season as one of consolidation and a possible improvement on their league position in the table. Last season, the Royal Blues had one of their best starts to a Bundesliga campaign, sitting pretty behind Bayern in second after nine games before things started to go downhill for them.
Schalke 04: Hildebrand – Uchida, Höwedes, Matip , Kolašinac – Jones , Neustädter – Farfan, Szalai, Draxler – Huntelaar
Hamburger SV: Adler – Aogo, Diekmeier, Westermann, Djourou – Rincón, Badelj – Jansen, Skjelbred, van der Vaart – Rudņevs
Prediction: Schalke have had quite a good pre-season and their added fire power in Szalai should give them the edge. Schalke 04 – 2-0 Hamburger SV
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga (predictions)
- FC Augsburg vs Borussia Dortmund ( 0 – 3)
- Hannover 96 vs VfL Wolfsburg (2 – 2)
- Hertha Berlin vs Eintracht Frankfurt (0 – 1)
- Hoffenheim vs Nürnberg (0 – 0)
- Eintracht Braunschweig vs Werder Bremen ( 0 – 1)
- Mainz 05 vs VfB Stuttgart ( 1-1)