Hosts Borussia Mönchengladbach have invited some illustrious guests for what promises to be a tournament which will tickle the tastebuds of Bundesliga fans all around the world.
The waiting is nearly over
The wait for the drama, emotions and excitement of Europe’s top league is almost over and bundesliga.com analyses how ready European champions FC Bayern Munich, UEFA Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund, five-time Bundesliga winners Gladbach and the league’s founding members and ever-presents Hamburger SV are for the upcoming season.
The tournament commences on Saturday when Gladbach face Dortmund and Hamburg put Pep Guardiola's Bayern to the test. On Sunday, the two beaten semi-finalists jostle for third place before the grand finale.
There’s little doubt about who will be the team to beat in 2013/14 with European trailblazers Bayern looking to confirm their success from last season. Pep Guardiola has replaced Jupp Heynckes and has already scribbled his own signature onto the team with the signing of Thiago Alcantara (pictured). The Spain Under-21 captain could make his debut on Saturday with all eyes on what system Guardiola plays. Without their other big summer signing Mario Götze, who may also miss the start of the season, and with Bastian Schweinsteiger still not fully fit after a heel operation, only a few indications of the new Bayern will be gained, but the German record champions' insatiable search for silverware is sure to continue.
The Telekom Cup would have been an ideal opportunity for Dortmund to show there is life after Götze, but injury means they are unable to parade his designated replacement Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (photo) could be involved, however, with Jürgen Klopp keen to take a closer look at the Ligue 1 second highest goalscorer from last season. And all eyes will inevitably be on star striker Robert Lewandowski, the Westphalians’ most lethal weapon, even if Klopp suggests his side is shooting with a bow and arrow compared to Bayern’s bazooka.
2012/13 was a transitory year for Borussia Mönchengladbach, who had to rebuild a squad which had lost Marco Reus, Dante and Roman Neustädter. They very nearly qualified for Europe for a second successive season, though, and with the new faces of Luuk de Jong, Granit Xhaka and Alvaro Dominguez now settled in with a year’s Bundesliga experience under their belt, Lucien Favre’s side are ready to challenge again the way they did in 2011/12, when they reached the Champions League play-offs. They have added the Bundesliga-experienced Raffael with up-and-coming Max Kruse (photo) also on board the good ship Borussia, which will be aiming to set sail from their home port with the bounty on Sunday.
After two largely disappointing seasons, the expectations are growing that 2013/14 could be the year in which Hamburg finally return to Europe. Coach Thorsten Fink has spoken with cautious optimism about his side’s chances while Raphael van der Vaart (pictured) is beginning to flourish with the added responsibility of being club captain. The Dutchman turned HSV's fortunes around last term and, with the exciting prospects of Jacques Zoua and Hakan Calhanoglu beefing up Hamburg’s play going forwards, the Red Shorts will be keen to land an early blow on Bayern and show them that they are not going to have everything their own way this season.