The 59th season of the Bundesliga gets underway on 13 August, with title holders Bayern Munich the traditional campaign curtain-raisers, this time with an away trip to Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Bayern then face back-to-back home games against Cologne and Hertha Berlin – two sides looking to rebound from a difficult 2020/21 campaign – but where might the destiny of the 2021/22 season be decided? Bayern are the hunted once again, but their path to a tenth straight title will be riddled with traps and challenges.
You won't want to miss these key dates on the 2021/22 Bundesliga calendar…
After the aforementioned back-to-back home games, Bayern will be back out on the road on Matchday 4 for a fixture which is slowly emerging as one of the most eagerly anticipated on the Bundesliga calendar – even before Julian Nagelsmann switched allegiances in the summer. Nagelsmann deserves much of the credit for turning Leipzig into Bayern's closest challengers last season, after coming third in his first season at the helm, and it will now be his job to ensure the record champions manage to keep one of their biggest rivals for the title at arm's length in a fixture which could lay an early marker in the title race.
Watch: RB Leipzig's 2021/22 key dates
Jesse Marsch stepped into Nagelsmann's big boots this summer and, after winning back-to-back Austrian Bundesliga and cup doubles with Red Bull Salzburg, he has all the credentials to help Leipzig take that final step and finally dethrone Bayern. This will be the American's first true test of the season, after trips to Mainz and Wolfsburg and his home debut against VfB Stuttgart, and a perfect early opportunity to signal his intent in the Leipzig hot-seat, all the while turning up the heat on his predecessor.
Bayern and Leipzig were not the only clubs to make managerial changes in the summer, with Marco Rose joining Borussia Dortmund after two successful years at Mönchengladbach. His Foals led the Bundesliga for eight straight matchdays up to Matchday 14 of his first season at the helm, while he had them as high as fifth just after the midway stage of last term, and an equally strong start to life in Dortmund could strengthen their credentials for a more sustained challenge this season. This could well be the fixture which separates the men from the boys, in determining who really has what it takes to challenge the Bayern juggernaut.
Watch: Borussia Dortmund's 2021/22 key dates
Coming just ahead of the third international break of the season, supremacy in this fixture will carry a sweet, long aftertaste. Dortmund have won on their previous three visits to the Red Bull Arena, drawing the one before that. The only time Leipzig got the better of BVB in the Bundesliga was on their very first meeting, back on Matchday 2 of the 2016/17 season, while the Westphalians emerged victorious also in their last meeting: last season's DFB Cup final, when a 4-1 win in Berlin denied Leipzig what would have been their first ever piece of major silverware. That now takes pride of place at Signal Iduna Park, though the trophy both of these clubs crave is of a more spherical shape, and the winner of this fixture will boost their chances of obtaining it.
Just three rounds of matches after that trip to Leipzig, Dortmund enjoy home advantage for the first Klassiker of the season. The last time a Klassiker came so late in the season was back in 2012/13 – the year Bayern wrestled back the title after Dortmund's back-to-back triumphs of 2011 and 2012 under Jürgen Klopp. Back then, the spoils were shared on Matchday 15, snapping a streak of two successive away wins for Dortmund at the Allianz Arena. Die Schwarzgelben have not won in Munich since a 3-0 triumph late in the 2013/14 season, losing seven in a row and conceding 30 goals in the process.
Watch: Bayern Munich's 2021/22 key dates
If they are to be taken seriously this time around, Rose will be pencilling in this fixture as the one for his side to make a statement. It is hoped fans will be back at Signal Iduna Park too, and if the Südtribüne can unite behind their team, this will undoubtedly be the sternest challenge Bayern will face ahead of the winter break. The Klassiker is always one of the biggest fixtures on the Bundesliga calendar, and the two meetings in 2021/22, the second following on Matchday 31, won't be any different.
Matchday 1: Schalke vs Hamburg
Arguably one of the most illustrious editions of Bundesliga 2 in living memory starts with a bang, as Schalke play host to Hamburg on the weekend of 23-25 July. The fourth-largest football temple in Germany, the Veltins-Arena, hosts the team whose own Volksparkstadion is the sixth-largest in the country, underlining the level of support these two clubs enjoy, and how big this opening-day fixture is for what promises to be a spectacular Bundesliga 2 campaign. With Dynamo Dresden, Hansa Rostock and Ingolstadt all promoted from the third division, there is quite a top-flight feel about Germany's second tier, and there could hardly be a better way of getting the action going, less than a fortnight after the final of UEFA Euro 2020.
Matchday 7: Werder Bremen vs Hamburg
The Nordderby is back, albeit in Bundesliga 2 for a change. Following Werder Bremen's relegation, and Hamburg's failure at the third attempt to reascend to the top flight, all eyes will be trained on the Weserstadion on Matchday 7 when a derby which has been missing for three seasons returns. Once again underlining the strength of Germany's second tier this season, this was the most-played fixture in the Bundesliga up to Hamburg's relegation in 2018, as both were the longest-serving clubs in Germany's top flight. The most supported clubs of Northern Germany, separated by 72 miles, now continue their rivalry – which sees Werder ahead with 39 wins compared to Hamburg's 34 and 35 draws from 108 league meetings – on a new stage, but with the same passion. One of the greatest rivalries in German football will be reignited on the weekend of 17-19 September, and it is not one to be missed.