Munich - The 2012/13 Bundesliga season begins in earnest on Saturday afternoon (15:30 CEST) with four fixtures to whet anybody's appetite for football.
Borussia Mönchengladbach - 1899 Hoffenheim
Borussia Mönchengladbach lead an exciting list of encounters, last season's fourth-placed finishers looking to bounce back from midweek European heartache with the visit of first-round DFB Cup victims 1899 Hoffenheim. 1.FSV Mainz 05 travel to SC Freiburg, Hamburger SV welcome 1.FC Nuremberg and Bundesliga newcomers Fortuna Düsseldorf go in search of Matchday one spoils at FC Augsburg.
Teams are often measured on their ability to recover from setbacks, and this is certainly the case for Mönchengladbach and Hoffenheim. While not quite terminal, the Foals face an uphill battle if they're to turn around a first-leg Champions League qualifying defeat in Kyiv next week, and that after taking the lead on Tuesday night. Hoffenheim, meanwhile, were dumped out of the German Cup by fourth division outfit Berlin AK, going down with a resounding 0-4.
The concern is that neither side looked as if they were shaking off pre-season cobwebs. Mönchengladbach, having set the bar so high last term finishing fourth, have since lost prized assets defender Dante and attacking gem Marco Reus to Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund respectively. And while the likes of Luuk De Jong and Alvaro Dominguez have come in, the Foals looked a little toothless in a 3-1 defeat against Kyiv. The omens aren't great for this one either: Hoffenheim have won five of their last eight meetings against the west Germany club, and will be looking to Eren Derdiyok to wipe the slate clean with the points at Borussia Park.
SC Freiburg - 1. FSV Mainz
Mainz travel to Freiburg on Matchday one, looking to keep their place at German football's high table for a fourth season running. Thomas Tuchel's men haven't quite hit the heights of 2009/10 since Lewis Holtby returned to Schalke and Andre Schürrle moved to Leverkusen but, in Hungarian Adam Szalai, they have a striker who potentially has the arsenal to fire Mainz into the top half of the table and beyond.
Christian Streich's Freiburg managed an admirable 12th-placed finish last term, and will be hoping to follow the Mainz model of top-fight consolidation this time round. Home form played its part, as the Southern club won six and drew six from 17 league games - going unbeaten at the Badenova stadium since Streich's arrival, although one of those five defeats included a 2-1 reverse against Saturday's visitors Mainz.
SV Hamburg - 1.FC Nuremberg
2012/13 could prove a pivotal chapter in Hamburg's history. After narrowly beating the drop last season, Thorsten Fink's side will have to hope Saturday's DFB Cup exit at the hands of Karlsruher SC was just a blip on the road to recovery - not that their performance inspired much confidence. Goals were an issue last term - at both ends of the pitch - with Hamburg conceding a handsome 57 at the Imtech Arena alone, but they did manage to shut-out Nuremberg on Matchday 15. (2-0).
Joining Hamburg on the DFB Cup scrapheap were Nuremberg after a dismal showing at fourth-division TSV Havelse. While Dieter Hecking stabilised order following the departure of star man Ilkay Gündogan last season, the summer departures of Philipp Wollscheid and Albert Bunjaku this time round look to have hit them harder. A tenth-placed finish was somewhat of an overachievement in 2011/12, helped by the fact that the Bavarian club managed as many wins away as they did at home (six).
FC Augsburg - Fortuna Düsseldorf
FC Augsburg finished seven points clear of the drop zone at the end of 2011/12, and they will be out to prove their 14th-placed finish was no fluke as the new campaign gets under way. Their away form wasn't great and they struggled for goals at home, but the acquisition of Aristide Bance and Knowledge Musona should soon remedy that, with both on the score sheet in Augsburg's German Cup win over Wilhelmshaven last Friday.
Fortuna Düsseldorf travel south, meanwhile, in search of their first Bundesliga points in 15 years. It's been a rollercoaster of a ride for Fortuna since they dropped from the Bundesliga in 1996/97 - at one point they were playing in the fourth tier - and, above all, survival is all that matters for Norbert Meier's troops now that they are back in the big time. Top-flight know-how comes in the form of Du-Ri Cha and Andriy Voronin, as Fortuna look to avenge the 5-2 reverse at the hands of Augsburg, who went on to seal Bundesliga promotion in 2010/11.