The new Bundesliga season kicked off in earnest on Friday at the home of the champions Dortmund as they take on Werder Bremen for what is likely to be another pulsating and unpredictable nine months of football. Dortmund will embark on what could be an unbelievable hat-trick of domestic titles, with Bayern and Monchengladbach the only teams to have achieved three league titles back to back in the Bundesliga’s rich 50 year history.
Like always, the summer has seen wholesale changes in personnel both on and off the pitch, but some things never change with Bayern Munich and Dortmund the overwhelming favourites to come out on top in May.
The champions have again largely managed to stave off interest in their golden crop of young players, despite Shinji Kagawa’s defection to Manchester, Borussia Dortmund find themselves in arguably a better position after the signing of German player of the year Marco Reus. The Dortmund native who was released by Borussia as a youngster for being deemed a bit too weedy will bask in the most glorious of Friday’s homecomings.
Despite a lack of major summer signings, Dortmund will hope to get more games from Mario Gotze who since dribbling, scoring and assisting his way onto the scene two seasons ago has struggled with fitness and consistency, playing only 17 times last season. Champions League football provides the glitzy distraction from domestic duties again this season and they will look to improve upon what turned out to be a thoroughly disappointing group stage exit last year.
The Dortmund native who was released by Borussia as a youngster for being deemed a bit too weedy
Unlike Dortmund, Werder Bremen go into the campaign with a new look side after top scorer and all round talisman Claudio Pizzaro again returned to a former side and joined Bayern’s myriad of strikers. Major Signings for the North Germans include Dutch tearaway Eljero Elia, who returns for a second stint in the Bundesliga after leaving Hamburg for Juventus in 2011, young Chelsea wing wizard Kevin De Bruyne and Bayern striker Nils Petersen.
After achieving a level of consistency which eludes most football clubs in Germany, enjoying Champions League football for nearly a decade, Werder Bremen will have no European football whatsoever for the second season running and their main target will be to finish amongst the European places again.
Despite Dortmund’s recent dominance there is still a sense of trepidation when attempting to look past Bayern, it does seem hard to imagine the Bavarians will allow Dortmund a third title and will have extra motivation after the most unexpected of Champions League final defeats on their own turf. Jupp Heynckes men started the first half of the season brightly before succumbing in the second half last time out; added options up front include Pizarro and ex-Wolfsburg man Mario Mandzukic, who may help to sustain challenges in all three major competitions.
Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri was signed as an alternative and added competition for Ribery and Robben on the flanks, Bayern will be strong but strong enough to wrestle control back from Western Germany? The very public pursuit of Athletic Bilbao’s crown jewel Javi Martinez could go a long way to providing an answer.
Werder Bremen will have no European football whatsoever for the second season running
The surprise package of last season look like they may struggle to adapt to life without their spine from last season’s heroics. Monchengladbach lost Marco Reus, Dante and Roman Neustadter in the summer and went down 3-1 at home to Dynamo Kiev in their first leg Champions League qualifier. The luck of Lucien and his ability to reinvent and remodel his teams makes writing them off a dangerous game but a season similar to the last one looks a tall order despite the big money signing of Luuk De Jong from FC Twente.
Third place finishers Schalke looked, for a brief moment last season; to be genuine title contenders with Klaas Jan Huntelaar leading the scoring charts, but in the end couldn’t quite keep pace. Added quality comes in the shape of Tranquillo Barnetta who left Leverkusen in the summer for a new challenge after stagnating slightly in the past couple of seasons. The aforementioned Neustadter will provide added bite and cover in Simon Rolfes defensive midfield position.
The growing popularity of the Bundesliga has been pounced on by ITV, who will air a highlights package every week on Monday evenings. It underlines the growing stature of the Bundesliga and will be the first time that German league football will be transmitted free to air in the UK.
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