Club football is finally back! The long wait to watch German football’s most exciting stars has finally come to an end. And the fixture list for the opening week couldn’t have been any more enticing.
To kick things off, we see ambitions VfL Wolfsburg travel to the Allianz Arena to face Bayern Munich. On Saturday, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund lock horns in what should be the best game of the week.
Newly promoted Köln host Hamburg on Saturday, where the latter will be looking to forget the horrors of last season. The other new boys to the Bundesliga, SC Paderborn, kick start their life in the top division against Mainz 05, a side that is really struggling for form at the moment. Whatever the results may be this weekend, one thing is a certainty: Entertainment.
Bayern start their defense against Hecking’s hungry Wolves
Defending champions Bayern Munich would have come into this season unfazed by their opponents in the first game. But a long World Cup campaign, a host of injuries, Toni Kroos’ departure and Pep Guardiola’s attempts at a change in system have instilled a sense of worry in the Bayern camp. Former Bayern coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, said “I can see them having a few difficulties to start with until they get all of their World Cup winners properly fit and integrated back into the side.”
Guardiola will have to make do without Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thiago, Rafinha and Javi Martinez, all of whom are injured. Jerome Boateng will also be unavailable for this fixture due to suspension. With the shift to a three man backline not being as smooth as Guardiola would have liked and the likes of Martinez and Boateng unavailable, a regular 4-1-4-1 is a possibility.
Wolfsburg, on the other hand, come into this game with a lot more positivity about them. A young side that is clearly on the rise, Wolfsburg have really grown under Klaus Allofs and Dieter Hecking. The recent additions of Sebastian Jung, Aaron Hunt, Joshua Guilavogui and Niklas Bendtner (of what use he shall be remains to be seen) make this side more than just European contenders. In fact, a bet on Wolfsburg pushing for second place might be completely rational one to make.
The Wolves should line up as a 4-2-3-1, with Jung and Hunt set to start. Hecking will not have the services of Ivan Perisic and Diego Benaglio though. With Bayern’s midfield looking shaky, the likes of Luiz Gustavo and Junior Malanda will look to assert themselves in the middle of the park. Maximilian Arnold too will be a regular threat through the middle.
This is going to be as competitive a game as Bayern could have asked for at this stage. Guardiola’s statement about “not being ready” is completely understandable, especially since they are up against such a threatening side. Brace yourselves for an intense battle between two sides hungry for success.
Bayern Munich: Neuer – Dante, Badstuber, Alaba – Lahm, Højbjerg, Rode, Bernat – Robben, Lewandowski, Müller
VfL Wolfsburg: Grün – Jung, Knoche, Naldo, Rodriguez – Malanda, Gustavo – Hunt, Arnold, De Bruyne – Olic
Prediction: Bayern Munich 1-1 VfL Wolfsburg
The big battle of North-Rhine Westphalia
Schalke and Dortmund might have the most intense rivalry in the state but if it goes down to sheer quality, Bayer Leverkusen are probably second best to the Black and Yellows. Dortmund go into this season hoping to end the Bayern dominance, while Leverkusen’s target will be a Champions League spot.
Leverkusen have entered a new era under Roger Schmidt. With a more attacking outlook, Leverkusen have already scored nine goals in their first two competitive games under Schmidt. Hakan Calhanoglu, Vladlen Yurchenko and Josip Drmic provide a lot of variety to an already promising attacking unit. After being probably the only side using a traditional 4-3-3, Leverkusen have now shifted to a 4-2-3-1. Lars Bender and Kyriakos Papadopoulos may be fit enough to start on Saturday, but Schmidt will make a decision as late as possible.
Dortmund have a bit of an injury crisis at the moment. Erik Durm, Marcel Schmelzer, Dong-Won Ji, Oliver Kirch, Ilkay Gündogan and Nuri Sahin will all be unavailable for this crucial opening fixture. Despite all these absentees, Klopp should be able to field an immensely strong team. The rapid recovery of Marco Reus comes as a huge boost, while Henkrikh Mkhitaryan’s growth in confidence is another positive.
Ciro Immobile is yet to score in a competitive fixture for Dortmund and will be keen on putting his name on the scoresheet on Saturday. The Leverkusen defense will have their hands full in this tie, especially since they have lost the cover of the additional midfielder that they had last season.
Goals are a guarantee in this mouth watering fixture and they should be seen at both ends. But unlike the Friday fixture, we should see a winner.
Borussia Dortmund: Langerak – Piszczek, Sokratis, Subotic, Großkreutz – Bender, Jojic – Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Reus – Immobile
Bayer Leverkusen: Leno – Hilbert, Toprak, Spahic, Wendell – Castro, Rolfes – Bellarabi, Calhanoglu, Son – Kießling
Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 3-2 Bayer Leverkusen
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga…
Both newcomers to the Bundesliga start their campaigns at home, with Köln hosting Hamburg and Paderborn welcoming Mainz. The ever so exciting Hoffenheim begin the season by facing off against FC Augsburg. The Bavarians have lost a few key figures from last season and will be hoping to start on a bright note against one of the most attacking sides in the Bundesliga.
A Max Kruse-less Borussia Mönchengladbach lock horns with VfB Stuttgart, a side whose fortunes are hard to call at the moment. After being knocked out of the DFB Pokal by Dynamo Dresden, Schalke 04 travel to Hannover hoping to get their season back on track. Hertha Berlin begin life without Adrian Ramos by hosting Werder Bremen, and the fixture list ends with a battle between Eintracht Frankfurt and SC Freiburg.