The Bundesliga’s two Borussias - Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Mönchengladbach - meet in a mouthwatering Matchday 1 encounter at the Signal Iduna Park on Saturday, with both sides out to lay down an early marker of their ambitions.
bundesliga.com eyes up where both clubs stand going into the new campaign...
With Achraf Hakimi’s loan deal coming to an end, Belgium international Thomas Meunier’s arrival from Paris Saint-Germain looks a masterstroke, while - in addition to Emre Can’s loan deal being made permanent - the club were able to see off intense competition for the signature of highly rated English teenager Jude Bellingham.
Watch: Jude Bellingham's first day at Borussia Dortmund
You’ll be excused for thinking that sounds familiar after Jadon Sancho's switch from England as a youngster, but the same could be said of 18-year-old Reinier moving on loan from Real Madrid. The Brazilian follows in the footsteps of Hakimi’s previous temporary stay in Dortmund.
But that’s not to say they haven’t been proactive, with 24-year-old Austria international Valentino Lazaro joining on a season-long loan from Inter Milan and Hannes Wolf signing up on a similar deal from RB Leipzig.
Both add depth and quality to an already talented squad that flourished under Marco Rose last year, but Dortmund’s dealings probably serve up a touch more excitement.
Dortmund kicked off their pre-season with a 6-0 victory over SC Rheindorf Altach in Switzerland five weeks ago - a match notable for Bellingham’s impressive display on debut and Erling Haaland picking up where he left off last year with a brace.
There were further wins over Austria Vienna, Duisburg and Sparta Rotterdam - as well as defeats to Bochum and Feyenoord, plus a draw with Paderborn - but most pleasing for Dortmund fans will be the early form of 17-year-olds Bellingham and Gio Reyna.
Watch: Borussia Dortmund's treasure trove of youngsters
There was even more encouragement in the shape of captain Marco Reus’ return to action after sitting out the last 14 matchdays of the 2019/20 campaign through with a groin injury. He wasted no time in reminding everyone of his talents as he scored just three seconds after coming off the bench in that cup win.
As for Gladbach, they have lost just once in pre-season - a 2-0 defeat to Greuther Fürth - and chalked up victories over Veri, Duisburg, Paderborn and VVV.
All four of those wins came with clean sheets attached, as did their resounding 8-0 dismissal of Oberneuland in the cup. That will please Rose as he looks to once again build the solid backline that saw Gladbach concede the third-fewest goals in the Bundesliga last season.
Wolf was a constant menace throughout that first round fixture, while doubles for both Patrick Herrmann and Florian Neuhaus were similarly promising for a side that left Marcus Thuram on the bench and was without the influential trio of Alassane Plea, Yann Sommer, and Denis Zakaria.
One of Dortmund’s greatest successes during the off-season has been keeping hold of Sancho, who struck 17 goals and laid on 16 assists across a remarkable 2019/20 campaign.
His influence is ever growing at BVB, and even though he’s just 20 himself, Sancho now has 100 Dortmund appearances under his belt and is someone Bellingham and Reyna can look to for inspiration.
Going into his first full season at the club, Haaland’s goals will be crucial if Dortmund plan to dethrone champions Bayern Munich, while a fully fit Reus will be desperate to drive his side forward having missed so much of last season.
Gladbach captain Lars Stindl will provide similar determination. His three goals in the last three games of last season showed that the 32-year-old Germany international was back to his best after also struggling with fitness during the first half of 2019/20.
Neuhaus’s guile, the attacking devilry of Plea and Thuram, as well as the assuredness of Matthias Ginter will all be important components behind any Gladbach success.
The form of Sommer will be too. The Foals stopper made more saves (126) than any other keeper last season, kept seven clean sheets, and had a save percentage of 75.90 percent - once again underlining his importance as the rock on which the Gladbach foundation is built.
Lucien Favre is preparing for his third season in the Dortmund dugout, and he will be hoping that this is the year his hugely talented young squad come good on their enormous promise and deliver the club its sixth Bundesliga title after two consecutive second-place finishes.
He’s well and truly put his side through their paces with seven pre-season friendlies, and it appears on early inspection that the Swiss tactician will revert to playing a 3-4-3 formation this year.
Can looks likely to drop into the three-man defence alongside Mats Hummels and Manuel Akanji. Meunier and Thorgan Hazard - in the absence of Raphael Gurreiro - could operate in the wide areas, with Alex Witsel paired with either Bellingham or Julian Brandt behind an attacking trio of Haaland, Sancho and one of Reyna or Reus.
Out to combat the Dortmund approach is Rose, whose side have thoroughly embraced his 4-2-3-1 system that offers both stability in defence and fluidity in attack.
Christopher Kramer is likely to continue in midfield alongside Neuhaus, with Zakaria working his way back to match fitness. Jonas Hofmann, Stindl, Wolf, Herrmann and Thuram operate behind Plea up top.
Any attacking quartet made up from those six will ask serious questions of Dortmund’s back three, while the likes of Sancho and Haaland will have to be at their very best against one of the league’s sturdiest defences - all of which will make for compulsive viewing.