Bundesliga set for blast off with a list of opening-day games to savour
Here. We. Go. The Bundesliga's big kick off is set for a spectacular round of opening day fixtures that sees champions Bayern Munich visit UEFA Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt, goal-fest specialists Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen facing off and a Berlin derby to boot.
Last Saturday's sensational Supercup curtain-raiser laid down a tremendous marker for the Bundesliga campaign ahead, and with a Matchday 1 round of games tasty enough to salivate over, this weekend is guaranteed to satiate the cravings of fans waking from a long summer's footballing slumber.
Bayern and Leipzig produced an eight-goal thriller at the Red Bull Arena last weekend and with Julian Nagelsmann's slick side collecting their first trophy of the season thanks to an incredible 5-3 win, the record German champions' attention now turns to Frankfurt.
Watch: Highlights of Leipzig 3-5 Bayern
With Sadio Mane and Co. ensuring that Bayern's post-Robert Lewandowski era got off to a magnificent start, the test now is to stop an Eintracht side brimming with confidence after their European winning exploits last term.
“We've been able to boost our team spirit and we’re well prepared to achieve big things," was forward Rafael Borre's warning as Die Adler put their focus on upsetting Friday night's visitors to Deutsche Bank Park.
Oliver Glasner's Europa League winners - who have added world champion Mario Götze to their ranks - have triumphed in two of their last four meetings with Bayern. The team that made it 10 Bundesliga titles in a row last time out will thus be aware they'll need to be at their best if they are to leave Mainhatten with maximum spoils.
“We feel ready but now we need to show that," coach Glasner said at the end of Eintracht's pre-season preparations. "We've integrated the newcomers well, everyone's doing their bit."
Watch: Tactical Analysis: Mario Götze
"Players like Götze and Randal Kolo Muani are doing really well," club captain Sebastian Rode added. "You could see how dangerous Lucas Alario is in front of goal in our last friendly. Those are things we were lacking last season. Not everything is perfect just yet, but we’re streets ahead of where we were last year. We’re on the right track.”
As are Bayern, who along with Mane, have strengthened with the likes of Matthijs de Ligt, Ryan Gravenberch, Noussair Mazraoui and Mathys Tel. "It's a new beginning and a good chance for us to grow into a new role," reflected Bayern forward Serge Gnabry. "That's nothing negative, but it's a chance we want to take. In the end, you always look forward to things getting going again."
We've seen over recent seasons that, once Dortmund and Leverkusen get going, there is very little stopping them. Pencilled in for Saturday evening's main game, popcorn will be a prerequisite for an encounter that produces more entertainment than a cinematic classic. When last season's second and third place finishers met in 2021/22, they managed a combined total of 14 goals. In their last 11 meetings, there have been 57. That's more than five goals per game between two of European football's most forward-thinking teams.
Watch: Last year's Dortmund 2-5 Leverkusen classic at the Signal Iduna Park
“We have a new 'old' coach again who has new energy and brings in a breath of fresh air," was the take of Dortmund captain Marco Reus on the return of Edin Terzic for a second spell in charge of the Bundesliga giants. Dortmund also boast a new central defensive pairing of Niklas Süle and Nico Schlotterbeck as well as exciting forward talent Karim Adeyemi, who scored on his competitive BVB debut in last weekend's DFB Cup first-round victory.
Wary of predicting a flying, stylish start to the campaign, Reus added: "It's all the more important that the results are right and then, afterwards, the [style] is added." Dortmund's on-field methods aside, Leverkusen will be keeping a close eye on Reus, who has scored six times in his last seven matches against Die Werkself.
Satisfied by the fact his team, "has more or less stayed the same," to the side which stormed to their first third-place finish in six years last season, Leverkusen coach Gerardo Seoane added that in new addition Adam Hlozek, Saturday's visitors to Signal Iduna Park had, "gained another exciting player to add to the group."
The Czech forward arrives to join his compatriot Patrik Schick - the Bundesliga's second highest scorer with 24 goals in 2021/22 - in what will be one of the division's scariest attacks. With Moussa Diaby - he of the 17 goals and 14 assists in all competitions last season - still on board and the captivating Florian Wirtz making solid progress in his comeback from injury, Bayer's prospects for the coming season are immense. "We believe in our ability but we all know that the season starts with no points on the board," Seoane said ahead of this weekend's big kick off.
And speaking of big, Hertha Berlin fans will view an opening day derby challenge against high-flying neighbours Union as a chance to gain some big revenge. The Old Lady survived a play-off fright against Hamburg before clinging to Bundesliga survival last time out, but what will have hurt most during a difficult season were the three losses against Union. Along with successive defeats in the top flight - which included Union's biggest away win in their Bundesliga history (4-1 at the Olympiastadion) - Hertha also went down to Die Eisernen in the DFB Cup.
"We don’t want to put the fans through that again," Hertha goalkeeper Oliver Christensen admitted recently. "We can’t have another nervy season," the Dane - who will look to impress under new Hertha coach Sandro Schwarz - added.
"We sense in the dressing room and, of course, on the pitch that things are finally now starting to get going; every player wants to fight for points and wins. We will give everything to start the season in the right way."
With Union still buzzing after their fifth-place finish and qualification to the Europa League group stage, Hertha's opening day task will be far from straightforward.
Throw in the fact that Bundesliga returnees Schalke (who visit Cologne) and Werder Bremen (who face Niko Kovac's Wolfsburg) are also in action, as well as the excitement around seeing last term's Bundesliga Player of the Season, Christopher Nkunku, in action for Leipzig at survival specialists VfB Stuttgart, the start to 2022/23 could not be more highly anticipated.
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