This season, The Set Pieces will be taking a closer look at German football. We’ve sent Archie Rhind-Tutt out there to immerse himself in German culture and to travel to games around the country. We’ve seen Hamburg humiliated in the German Cup by fourth flight opposition. It’s all been very interesting. Now it’s time for the big kick-off and every week, we’ll be looking ahead to the Bundesliga fixtures, profiling and highlighting the games that you can watch on television, as well as the ones you can’t. As always, we’re open to suggestions for new ways of covering the league. Let us know what you think by writing to us: [email protected]
Bayern Munich vs Hamburg (Friday 1930, BT Sport Europe)
After their lukewarm display in the German Supercup loss against Wolfsburg last week, Bayern may have one or two concerns heading into the new season. Facing Hamburg at home, however, is not one of them. In fact, die Rothosen fans may want to look away now, as Bayern have recorded their largest ever wins against Hamburg in two of the last three seasons – both at the Allianz Arena. The omens aren’t good and a ball hasn’t even been kicked yet.
S0 what do Pep Guardiola & Co need to do to turn their fortunes around? It is likely that Douglas Costa and Arturo Vidal will make their home Bundesliga debuts for the club and what better time to do so than against a considerably weaker side who will let them dominate the ball? Guardiola will set his forward line out to be fluid and interchangeable, with Costa and Robben causing trouble down the flanks followed closely by the always excellent David Alaba and Philipp Lahm who is likely to be moved to right-back in order to accommodate their new Chilean midfielder into the side.
Whilst Guardiola has countless midfield options in Thiago, Sebastian Rode and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, he will probably station Thomas Muller to play in support of Robert Lewandowski just as he did in the Supercup final. This could leave them quite light in midfield, but due to the occasion and opposition, Xabi Alonso shouldn’t be too exposed to counter attacks as the only sitter in front of the back four. Muller provides intelligent movement in the final third, as well as a considerable goal threat which could be the key to unlocking an already very questionable Hamburg defence.
If Bayern score the first goal in this match, it would be a huge shock were they not go on to win the game. With the strength of the squad, players will be keen to show Guardiola that they deserve to be in his plans for the season, which could lead to goals, goals and more goals. Here is a potential Bayern line-up for tomorrow evening’s match:
After somehow escaping the drop again, manager Bruno Labbadia will hope to give the Dinosauren faithful something to shout about on matchday one. Good luck with that. Hamburg remain the only side in Bundesliga history never to have been relegated, but boy are they trying their best to change that. With five different managers over the last two seasons alone, president Jens Meier doesn’t mess around and Labbadia will already be feeling the heat.
The addition of Albin Ekdal from Cagliari is an astute one. The Swede is a well rounded midfielder, both technically gifted and capable in the tackle. He will provide a much needed presence in the centre of the park, something they have lacked for two or three seasons now. If you combine his qualities with those of Lewis Holtby and Marcelo Díaz, that is a triangle of players who complement each other really nicely and instantly elevate the potential of this Hamburg side.
As usual, the main worry for Hamburg is their defence. Despite the arrival of veteran centre back Emir Spahić after his release from Bayer Leverkusen, there is nothing hinting towards stability in their backline, especially after having played so little with each other. This was proven last week against Carl Zeiss Jena, a club in Germany’s fourth tier who caused an upset to beat them in the DFB-Pokal first round.
If they are organised and disciplined, there is always a possibility of a point being nicked. However, Hamburg have looked completely off the pace early on this season and Bayern will have to play terribly to not put two or three past them. Here is a potential Hamburg line-up for tonight’s match:
Borussia Dortmund vs Borussia Monchengladbach (Saturday 1730, BT Sport Europe)
Well, what an opening weekend fixture this could be. Dortmund begin a new era under Thomas Tuchel after the resignation of Jurgen Klopp, but Lucien Favre and Gladbach won’t stand on ceremony. Buoyed by their excellent 2014/15 campaign, they don’t want to finish third again, or second for that matter. They want top spot. And with the talent at their disposal, why not?
Dortmund have settled well over the summer, but this will be a huge test against a very good Gladbach side. Their key men going forward will be Marco Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who both hit impressive form towards the end of last season. Question marks will always remain over the Dortmund defence after they conceded far too many goals last season, but after four clean sheets in four matches during pre-season, Tuchel looks to have steadied that ship. The signings of Gonzalo Castro from Leverkusen, Roman Burki from Freiburg and Julian Weigl from 1860 Munich also look to be smart pieces of business for very little money, and the retention of Ilkay Gundogan was a huge boost.
On the other hand, Gladbach have also strengthened, despite selling striker Max Kruse to Wolfsburg. They have kept the core of last season’s squad together with names such as Granit Xhaka and Tony Jantschke, as well as adding Josip Drmic from Leverkusen and former Hannover captain Lars Stindl to their ranks. And that’s not to mention the permanent signing of Thorgan Hazard from Chelsea for £8m following a successful loan spell.
Bayern are undoubtedly favourites for the title, but there is no reason why these two teams cannot challenge them until the very end, and a win on Saturday would be a good start.
Wolfsburg vs Eintracht Frankfurt (Sunday 1430, BT Sport Europe)
A new contract for manager Dieter Hecking tells you the mood at Wolfsburg. The former policeman was hired in 2012 with the twin aims of avoiding relegation and trimming the squad. Three years later? They are a Champions League outfit challenging for the title. No wonder he’s been granted a two year extension to 2018.
Star player Kevin de Bruyne’s future remains in doubt. He had an excellent season with 10 goals and 20 assists to his name, and everything in the final third goes through him. Brazilians Naldo and Luiz Gustavo are also integral figures in the spine of the squad. The addition of Max Kruse from Gladbach will provide silkiness and a goal threat up front, which they lacked at times last season bar a purple patch in January for Bas Dost.
Already with a Supercup victory against Bayern to their names, Wolfsburg will be confident heading into the new season. Three points on the board at home would be a brilliant start, and while Frankfurt are more than capable of holding their own, they will need to produce a brilliant performance to get anything from this game. They too were strong last season, spearheaded by bulky veteran Fußballgott Alex Meier, but they’re under new management now. Thomas Schaaf resigned at the end of last season citing a lack of support from the boardroom. Good luck, Armin Veh…
Stuttgart vs Cologne (Sunday 1630, BT Sport Europe)
Stuttgart, like Hamburg, seem to do their very best to get relegated every year. After winning the Bundesliga title in 2007, they have dropped like a stone after a string of questionable signings and managerial appointments. Having avoided the drop by the skin of their teeth last year, surely they can only get better, right?
With former Leipzig coach Alexander Zorniger in charge, Stuttgart have not been shy in the transfer market. They’ve signed six players with Lukas Rupp, Mitchell Langerak and Emiliano Insua the standout additions. After the contract extensions of Alexandru Maxim and Timo Baumgartl this week, things are looking good for die Roten ahead of the new campaign. They will also be hoping that Filip Kostic and Daniel Ginczek can produce their late season form more often this season, as well as relying on the experienced Geoffroy Serey Die and Martin Harnik as a source of leadership when things get tough.
Cologne have kept departures to a minimum, but the sale of their leading scorer Anthony Ujah to Werder Bremen will hit them hard. Austrian Philipp Hosiner has come in, who has a very respectable goalscoring record so they will be hoping that he can hit the ground running.
Werder Bremen vs Schalke (Saturday 1430)
Bremen under Victor Sripnik were occasionally impressive last season, finishing tenth, but going on a five game winning streak between December and February, either side of the winter break. Schalke, on the other hand will want to forget last season and everything that was in it. Jens Keller? Sacked. Roberto Di Matteo? Gone. In comes André Breitenreiter, formerly of Paderborn, to try to pick up the pieces.
The departure of strikers Franco Di Santo and Davie Selke to Schalke and RB Leipzig respectively left a huge hole in the Bremen forward line, forcing them to splash a combined £6m on both Anthony Ujah and Aron Johansson. Both of these strikers will score goals in the Bundesliga, with Ujah already proven in a Cologne shirt last season. Schalke have also dipped into the market as they look to spend their worries away, with the signings of Johannes Geis from Mainz, Matija Nastasic from Manchester City and Junior Caicara from Ludogorets. Geis is an excellent signing, and will bring an injection of quality to their midfield which they so desperately needed.
Mainz vs FC Ingolstadt (Saturday 1430)
Mainz struggled last season, but looked revitalised under Martin Schmidt after he replaced Kasper Hjulmand in February. Finding a balance between youth and experience was the key for Die Nullfünfer as they comfortably avoided relegation and played some good football in the process. FC Ingolstadt enter the top flight as the champions of the second tier with nothing to lose. Ralph Hasenhüttl and his men will be looking to surprise a few, and to put some pressure on the likes of Hamburg, Stuttgart and Hertha as they look set for a season fighting the drop.
For Mainz, the departures of star men Johannes Geis and Shinji Okazaki will be difficult to recover from, but the signings of Fabian Frei for £2.5m and Max Beister on a free represent two excellent pieces of business. Ingolstadt have also strengthened, signing the pacey Elias Kachunga from relegated Paderborn and Orjan Nyland, a giant of a keeper from Molde.
Augsburg vs Hertha Berlin (Saturday 1430)
Augsburg were brilliant last season, qualifying for the Europa League against all odds and expectations. Hertha Berlin? Not so much. They looked awkward and disjointed and were fortunate not to be relegated. Augsburg, with the witty Markus Weinzierl in charge, played without fear.
Neither side have strengthened considerably over the summer, with Augsburg bolstering their defence in the form of right back Daniel Opare from Porto and left back Philipp Max from Karlsruhe who should end up replacing Chelsea-bound Abdul Rahman Baba. Hertha have added the busy Vladimir Darida to their ranks after poaching him from relegated side Freiburg. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s return to Bayern is a big blow for Augsburg after the 19 year-old midfielder had made a considerable impact in his six month loan spell last season, but in Daniel Baier and Piotr Trochowski they have more than enough ammunition in midfield.
Bayer Leverkusen vs Hoffenheim: (Saturday 1430)
With 111 goals scored and 91 conceded between these two teams last season, this fixture has goalfest potential (cue the dull 0-0 draw). Under Roger Schmidt, Leverkusen are a lean, mean, pressing machine with speed and energy. The grace of Son Heung-Min, the pace of Karim Bellarabi and the creativity of Hakan Calhanoglu make up a forward line many teams in Europe envy. And that’s before you mention Lars Bender, Christoph Kramer, Omer Toprak and Stefan Kiessling.
Where there are goals, Hoffenheim are usually involved. Under Markus Gisdol, Die Kraichgauer are known for their goalscoring but also their goal-shipping. The likes of Anthony Modeste, Kevin Volland, Sead Salihovic and Roberto Firmino (now of Liverpool) were always a difficult front line to defend against as they often find themselves in four, five and even six goal thrillers. The arrivals of youngsters Pavel Kaderabek and Joelinton are rough diamonds, and they will be hoping that they find their sparkle sooner rather than later. The signing of Charles Aranguiz for Leverkusen is a fantastic one, as the Chilean suits Roger Schmidt and Leverkusen’s crazy and energetic style to a tee. Centre backs Jonathan Tah and Kyriakos Papadopoulos also add considerable depth and potential to their backline.
SV Darmstadt vs Hannover: (Saturday 1430)
Dirk Schuster and Darmstadt will be in good spirits following their promotion while Hannover, who avoided the drop by just two points last season, might be a little nervous under new boss Tayfun Korkut.
In spite of their minimal budget, Darmstadt have brought in some fresh faces in the form of Junior Diaz, Konstantin Rausch and Jan Rosenthal all on free transfers. These are three experienced Bundesliga defenders who will provide lots of know how and solidity as they look to sure up their backline. Hannover have also been busy, bringing Oliver Sorg, Felix Klaus and Mevlut Erdinc to the club but are considerably weaker after losing key players Joselu, Lars Stindl and Leonardo Bittencourt in a matter of weeks.