Munich - GOAL! The Bundesliga Magazine is the DFL's weekly TV programme, offering a global audience a unique perspective on Germany's top flight throughout the season. We have in-depth previews of the upcoming league action, exclusive interviews, behind-the-scenes reports, the best goals from the latest league encounters and much more besides. Coming up in this week's season preview special...
Amidst all the big-name comings and goings over the close season, the most eagerly anticipated arrival of all to Germany's top flight has, unusually, been not a player but rather a coach. Pep Guardiola, the man who took FC Barcelona to aesthetic heights rarely if ever surpassed in club football, has emerged from a year-long sabbatical to take up the reins at FC Bayern Munich. Topping the league, DFB Cup and UEFA Champions League-winning exit of his predecessor Jupp Heynckes is, to put it mildly, a tall order, but such is the faith in the 42-year-old Catalan tactician's ability to take the record champions' game up to an even higher level that Munich, and indeed the country's footballing community as a whole, has been experiencing a positive attack of Pepmania since he touched down at the end of June.
After two years at the top of the domestic pile, Borussia Dortmund had to bow down before the inexorable FC Bayern machine in 2012/13 - although it should be noted that, despite coming off second-best in the DFB Cup and, of course, Champions League final head-to-heads, and finishing a massive 25 points adrift in the table, the Yellow-Blacks remained unbeaten against their Munich rivals for the third season running in the Bundesliga. That notwithstanding, Dortmund are working their socks off to ensure the title race is an altogether closer-run affair this time around. At the club's pre-season training camp in Bad Ragaz, Switzerland, head coach Jürgen Klopp outlined his plan for developing his rejigged team into a "pressing machine with a very special mentality and a very special hunger to play our kind of football." The first real test of the season was certainly .
FC Bayern Munich
With Pep Guardiola installed in office, the spotlight swiftly shifted to the new FC Bayern head coach's number one - indeed, exclusive - transfer target for the campaign ahead. With negotiations far from finalised, Guardiola was unexpectedly unambiguous about his desire to bring Thiago Alcantara on board from his former employers FC Barcelona. The gifted midfielder, fresh from skippering Spain's U-21s to victory at the European Championships in Israel, duly signed up in Munich within days. A box-to-box playmaker equally comfortable operating from deep or just behind the front-line, Alcantara wasted no time adapting to his new surroundings, putting in a couple of impressive performances at the Telekom Cup mini-tournament in Mönchengladbach. His class was evident in flashes as well at the Supercup summit in Dortmund, even though there was ultimately nothing to be had in that one for him and his new teammates.
FC Schalke 04
Just up the road from Dortmund, things are buzzing at FC Schalke 04 as well. Having secured a Champions League qualifying slot on the final matchday of a topsy-turvy campaign, Jens Keller's Royal Blue troops are seeking to build on that last-gasp success with a more consistent showing, and perhaps even something more tangible, in 2013/14. The Gelsenkirchen outfit have been given a massive boost in that regard by Julian Draxler's commitment to a new contract through to 2018. Rapidly developing into one of the hottest properties in the European game, the 19-year-old Germany international can now look forward to some gifted fresh company in the middle of the park as well. In Christian Clemens, late of 1. FC Köln, and Leon Goretzka, signed from VfL Bochum after a dazzling debut professional season in Bundesliga 2, Schalke have added two more of Germany's brightest starlets to their ranks.