Two and Half Favourites


Posted by Radu M. Pandea

Posted in Bundesliga / Football


Germany’s top flight clubs gear up again for weekly battle.

Bundesliga Week 1 Preview

August 24 – The day has come, the Bundesliga starts the journey once again. After a disappointing Euro 2012, where the German national team failed to end the 16-year drought, the 18 clubs of the country’s top flight are gearing up once again for 34 weekly battles which decides who’s the best in the country.

For two years now, the yellow and the black are setting the tone, Borussia Dortmund’s philosophy of playing the game overcoming the empire of Bayern Munich to contest their supremacy. Now the time has come to start another quest for glory, with these two teams topping the list of favourites, but will there be somebody else to challenge their authority?

For all the teams, the season started last week with the first round of the DFB Pokal, some already shattering their morale with an early exit in the hands of lower league teams, a wound which for some will take some time to heal. The majority though managed to escape this tricky stage, adding some confidence before this weekend which gets everything going in the league.

As usual, the new season starts with the reigning champions in the spotlight. Friday evening, after the introduction show, the 50th season of the Bundesliga will start, with Borussia Dortmund welcoming Werder Bremen to Signal Iduna Park, in a repeat of the game which opened the first season of the Bundesliga, exactly 49 years before.

In 1963 it was the Weserstadion which hosted the season opener, Werder claiming a 3-2 win, but in 2012 it will be very hard for the Werderaner to get the same result. Thomas Shaaf’s squad had a disastrous end of the last season, and they started off in the same manner this one, losing against third league Preussen Münster to end their Cup campaign at the first sight.

Dortmund also started on the wrong foot the season, losing the DFL-Supercup against their main rival Bayern,  but they got some air back in their lungs with a win in the domestic cup. Knowing that they are in the hunt to exceed what they did last year, hoping to make much more of their place in the Champions League, BVB need to start strong and gather points if they want to have breathing space when the fatigue inevitably comes playing in all competitions. The squad is more or less the same in terms of depth, the summer departures being as numerous almost as the signings.

Werder was on the same track from the point of view of transfers, but as it was shown last week, the new faces failing to bring enough to prevent that humiliating defeat in the Cup. The game might be a classic only on paper, because on the pitch the superiority of the hosts should be seen from the first whistle. Backed up by 82.000 rabid fans, Borussia will not settle with anything less than a win, another result being clearly a surprise.

Bayern Munich won the first trophy in play this season but they are a long way from erasing the pain of coming in second THREE times last season. The Reds did everything possible this summer to adjust and replace the unsuitable wheels in their clock like mechanism, and it seems like they found the right pieces. Mario Mandzukic’s appearance in the squad seems to have a great influence on the big guns Frank Ribéry and Arjen Robben but mostly on a revived Thomas Müller.

Unfortunately for FCB, they’ve won the two official games so far, but their injury situation is a big problem, any new additions to the list of wounded potentially starting a small crisis. They start the season away in a brand new first league Bavarian derby, second tier champions SpVgg Greuther Fürth welcoming them on Saturday in a grand début for the Kleeblätter in the top flight.

There’s some familiar first league faces in Mike Busken’s squad and for sure they will try to use them to force a surprise against Bayern, but against an experienced coach like Jupp Heyenkes, it’s hard to find the tricks to astonish a team the size of FCB. It won’t be an easy task for the Reds, a repeat of the 6-2 Cup win two years ago being a bit improbable, but Bayern should still show the difference in value and get the first win in the bag.

Editor’s Note:  Listen to Talking Fussball for a two-part Bundesliga preview podcast with the panel of experts based in Germany and close to the action.

Having talked about Borussia and Bayern, we already introduced the top favourites to win the title this season, the two teams with all the ingredients of a title contender. After them there is a question mark, with a number of teams having enough quality in their squads to tip them as contenders, but the inconsistency shown in the last seasons bringing doubt to their fans.  We could end up with more than one team strong enough to battle with the big two, but we might as well end up with none. A first answer to this dilemma could come after this first week, although for some it will be too early to judge.

Schalke 04, Borussia Monchengladbach and VfL Wolfsburg are the teams you would set your sights on and for good reasons. The first two had good performances respectivelz last season and they managed to keep a good nucleus of players in the squad.  Felix Magath’s Wolfsburg squad seems to be the best in terms of depth from the entire league. For all three, the first matches are quite difficult respectivelz, their opponents being teams with a strong word in the league.

Gladbach will be the first from the three to play, hosting 1899 Hoffenheim in a game in which both teams search the result which will bandage them after some hard defeats. Lucien Favre’s side had a very bitter defeat in the Champions League, ruining the changes of a group stage spot with a 3-1 defeat at home against Dynamo Kyiv. Their opponents are coming from an even tougher position, a 4-0 defeat in the Cup against Berliner AK, a mid-table team in the fourth league of Germany. It could be a battle of the new strikers, both Luuk de Jong and Eren Derdyiok having the makings of top goalscorers, but both still in the integration stage, with a lot of things to prove.

Wolfsburg will end the day with their game in Stuttgart, a fixture which brings head-to-head two very talented squads but with a lot of unknown values still waiting to be defined. The Swabians started their season on solid ground following their 2-0 win in the Europa League against Dynamo Moscow but Magath will for sure love to bring them back to earth.

The experienced manager has moved a lot on the transfer market and he has build a great squad.  But he needs to get his team on his page, as his methods are not exactly loved by some of a more rebel spirit. Being the first game, both sets of players will look to impress, making this game probably the highlight of the match-day as it brings head to head two teams quite well matched and with a lot of offensive strength.

Schalke’s mission will not be any easier than the one of Wolfsburg, their visit to Hannover giving them a very difficult mission. No team has won against Mirko Slomka’s squad in AWD Arena since April 30, 2011, that’s 18 games without defeat, proof of the power that Hannover has at this ground. The Miners were undefeated last year at home and they will look to build on that result to maybe get a better one this time. Both teams have made minimal changes over the break, choosing to keep the core of the team quite intact, hoping that continuity will be the one which will bring the results this season. It will be for sure a great game, a real feast from the first round, one which might shape the road that these teams will take this season.

You cannot ignore the other fixtures as they can bring a lot of quality football and some potential candidates for European places. It will be an interesting comeback for Eintracht Frankfurt to the first league, hosting Bayer Leverkusen while another team makes an emotional return to the Bundesliga. Fortuna Dusseldorf was as low as the fourth tier in 2004, but only eight years later they are starting the season in the top flight, travelling to Augsburg, meeting a team of great team spirit, a spirit which kept them in the league at the end of last season. Completing the schedule, SC Freiburg are visited by FSV Mainz while Hamburger SV start the season at home against FC Nuremberg.

Editor’s Note:  Sport Eagle’s Salman Mitha will be tweeting live from SGL Arena for FC Augsburg vs. Fortuna Dusseldorf.  Follow on Twitter @Sal_SportEagle kickoff at 15:30 CET.

The season is finally starting and the excitement will for sure be at the highest level for all the teams involved, the only chance to start the match day with equal chances from top to bottom. Sport Eagle will guide you through the whole season day by day, and we can only hope we have an exciting footballing year which we will enjoy together!

Bundesliga – Week 1

Friday, August 24

Borussia Dortmund vs. Werder Bremen, 20:30 CET

Saturday, August 25

Kickoff at 15:30

Monchengladbach vs. 1899 Hoffenheim
Hamburger SV vs. 1.FC Nuremberg
FC Augsburg vs. Fortuna Düsseldorf
SC Freiburg vs. Mainz 05
Greuther Fürth vs. Bayern Munich

Kickoff at 18:30

Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Bayer Leverkusen

Kickoff at 20:45

VfB Stuttgart vs. VfL Wolfsburg

Sunday, August 26

Hannover 96 vs. Schalke 04, 17:30 CET



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