The Bundesliga is back with a bang with a matchup made in German top-flight heaven as Eintracht Frankfurt host Bayern Munich on Matchday 1 but where will the battle be won and lost?
In eager anticipation of the meeting between last year's UEFA Europa League winners and the reigning German champions, bundesliga.com weighs up some of the intriguing on-field battles that will light up the opening night of the new season...
Sadio Mane vs. Kevin Trapp
With Robert Lewandowski now in Catalunya, Bayern have to replace the goals of a man who struck 35 times in the league last term and set a new single-season record in 2020/21 by finding the back of the net on an incredible 41 occasions. Enter Sadio Mane, the recently-crowned African Player of the Year 2022 and a man who plundered 120 goals and 38 assists in 269 games for former club Liverpool, where he lifted the English Premier League, as well as European and African titles along the way.
And, if Mane's competitive debut is anything to go by, he will be firmly in the running this year. The Senegal superstar was on target as Bayern claimed their first trophy of the campaign by beating RB Leipzig 5-3 in the traditional Supercup curtain-raiser. Scoring goals is exactly what Mane has been brought to the club to do, with Julian Nagelsmann explaining that his new recruit will lead the line.
Watch: Sadio Mane's first competitive Bayern goal
"Sadio is a striker, he will definitely play as a striker," said Nagelsmann prior to the Supercup, before adding post-match of his new hero: "It was a very good performance from [Mane]. He is a humble and grounded player. He is extremely good for us - in the dressing room too. He has outstanding qualities and is an outstanding guy."
It means Frankfurt stopper Kevin Trapp will have to be equally as outstanding against his new foe. And the Germany international should be encouraged by his ability to stop Lewandowski from scoring in either of the two meetings between these sides last year. Lewandowski actually failed to score in eight of 14 contests with Trapp, but the 32-year-old is yet to keep a clean sheet in his 13 Bundesliga fixtures against Bayern and has conceded 36 goals in the process at an average of 2.8 per game.
Trapp did, however, excel in Eintracht's Europa League-winning campaign and put in a Man of the Match display in the final against Rangers. Not only did he produce a jaw-dropping save from Ryan Kent in extra-time, but he also made the decisive stop in the shootout that ultimately led to the Eagles’ triumph. You can guarantee that Trapp will be up for the challenge of stopping Mane in his tracks.
Alphonso Davies vs. Ansgar Knauff
Youth, pace and both love a race; the Deutsche Bank Park pitch will be on fire when these two twinkle-toed speedsters face off on the flank as they seek to showcase their incredible credentials as the Bundesliga's best in show for 2022/23. Canadian dynamo Davies is emboldened by a challenge and what better way to prove he's still the crown prince of the Bundesliga terrain than a battle with the man recently named the Europa League's best young player.
Watch: Welcome back Alphonso Davies!
Knauff soared to new heights in an unforgettable European-winning campaign with the awesome Eagles, scoring and assisting in spectacular fashion as the men from Mainhattan lifted a major international cup for the first time in 41 years.
Davies, of course, has been there and done that. The 21-year-old whom Thomas Müller nicknamed The Roadrunner was polishing his six major winners' medals in 2020, just when Knauff was making his senior debut for parent club Borussia Dortmund. The Bundesliga's second-fastest-ever player was once clocked at a top speed of 22.6 miles per hour and the first-ever Canadian to wear Bayern red will be working hard over the summer months to increase the capacity of his speedometer ahead of the new season's opening encounter.
Germany Under-21 international Knauff - some 14 months younger than his Bayern counterpart - is ready to add to his 17 Bundesliga appearances for Eintracht in what is part of an 18-month loan deal from BVB. And what a boon it would be for the Lower-Saxony starlet if he could overcome Davies and Bayern on opening day in front of the Frankfurt faithful. Not that the visitors will be in town just to take part with the beginning of the defence of their Bundesliga title getting underway. All told, with some wonderful wing wizardry set to be served up, this Matchday 1 feast could go either way.
Sebastian Rode vs. Joshua Kimmich
When it comes to big-game experience, few can compare with the combined know-how of Bayern's evergreen on-field master of versatility, Kimmich, and cool, calculated match-reader Rode. The latter is the 31-year-old midfield captain who went from Eintracht to Bayern and then Dortmund, before bringing all of that experience back home again to lift the Europa League trophy as the man with the Frankfurt captain's armband. Kimmich, meanwhile, is a solid bet as Bayern's skipper of the future with the 27-year-old having already amassed 201 Bundesliga games for the Bavarian giants.
"He's the best No.6 in the world," legend Lothar Matthäus said of the player who is heading into an eighth season with Bayern. "The great thing is he's world class at right-back and in midfield," current Nagelsmann added. Once the opening whistle sounds at Deutsche Bank Park on 5 August, you can visualise a midfield Matrix tussle with Kimmich and Rode rising above the rest as they dictate battle with their footballing minds, setting the tempo at which teammates and fans alike travel along to.
Watch: Kimmich the Boss...
With the pair having played a combined total of almost 700 senior games, there is nothing they haven't seen but you can be certain a Matchday 1 meeting of this magnitude will have both bursting out of the blocks as they look to wrestle control and dictate the flow.
Randal Kolo Muani vs. Manuel Neuer
Welcome to the Bundesliga, Randal Kolo Muani. As your first test, we present you with the challenge of getting past the world's greatest goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer. As baptisms of fire go, this one couldn't be any hotter for Eintracht's new frontman, Kolo Muani, the French forward who once flew with Les Canaris of Nantes before emerging as an Eagle in Frankfurt.
But don't be fooled, the 23-year-old is no shrinking violet in front of goal. Over the course of three seasons, the France Olympian found the net three times and assisted once in three victories against Paris Saint-Germain. He also brings his electric pace and goal-getting prowess to the Bundesliga as a French Cup winner and a player with plenty to prove.
"He’s fast, robust and a very good finisher," said Eintracht's board member for sport Markus Krösche of the man who grew up in the same region as Kylian Mpbappe. But greatness in the Bundesliga is measured on occasions like the one Kolo Muani is set to step into and they don't come bigger than Bayern or trying to get one over the magnificent Manuel Neuer, who has seen strikers come and go and remains standing strong.
"It’s better for me to get the ball before the striker than to have a one-on-one situation in the box," the perennial trophy winning goalkeeper and Germany No.1 once said. "If he can’t get the ball, he won’t get any opportunity." A challenge laid down to Kolo Muani - and the rest of the division - then.
Gearing up for a 17th season in Germany's top division, Neuer is rapidly closing in on 500 Bundesliga appearances so Kolo Muani had better have something special up his sleeve if he is to outfox Bayern's 36-year-old sweeper-keeper revolutionary. But with necessity being the mother of invention, who knows what surprises await as the Bundesliga roars back into action in August.
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