Munich – The opening matchday of of the 51st Bundesliga season gets into full swing on Saturday afternoon with some intriguing encounters, among them a Lower Saxony derby and a metropolitan meeting in Berlin as top-flight football returns to the capital.
Hannover 96 - VfL Wolfsburg
Two of this season’s European hopefuls, Hannover 96 and VfL Wolfsburg, meet at the newly renamed HDI-Arena, 2012/13's last-gasp survivalists 1899 Hoffenheim host 1. FC Nuremberg, while Eintracht Frankfurt travel to back-in-the-big-time Hertha BSC Berlin. bundesliga.com has the overview.
Hannover will be looking to qualify for the Europa League for the third time in four seasons after missing out last time around. A win against regional rivals and fellow European aspirants Wolfsburg would thus be the perfect way to kick off the new season.
“We've worked hard these past few days and weeks,” said Hungarian midfielder . “We weren’t really that fresh in Hamburg in pre-season, but we'll be well-rested for Wolfsburg and ready to get stuck into them.”
Wolfsburg are likely to be without several first-team players for the Niedersachsenderby. Makoto Hasebe is suspended after being sent off in the final game of last season, while Bas Dost and Daniel Caligiuri also miss out.
“Our last two games against Halle and Victoria Hamburg in the DFB Cup weren’t that great, but that doesn’t matter for Saturday,” said coach Dieter Hecking. “We want to play our own game at Hannover.”
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - 1. FC Nuremberg
Hoffenheim may have struggled last campaign, but they are in buoyant mood ahead of their opening match of the season. “You can feel the excitement ahead of the match – not only amongst the players. We have trained well, we’ve prepared well. Now it’s finally time to get going,” said head coach Markus Gisdol.
Gisdol was boosted by the return of several first-team players on Thursday. David Abraham, Fabian Johnson, Jeremy Toljan, Tobias Strobl, Sejad Salihovic, Sven Schipplock and Anthony Modeste all took part in training on Thursday, although it remains to be seen which of them will be fit enough to play a role on Saturday.
Nuremberg also travel to Hoffenheim with a full list of players to choose from. “All players are available,” said Michael Wiesinger. “We have looked closely at the side this week and have a few ideas in mind. I will decide the starting line-up on Saturday.”
Alexander Esswein is just one of the players hoping for a starting spot. “Alex has proven that he understood our position,” said Wiesinger. “The lad has great potential, but he must learn to be consistent with us.”
Hertha BSC Berlin v Eintracht Frankfurt
Promoted Hertha will be determined to avoid an immediate return to Bundesliga 2 this season. Eintracht Frankfurt, promoted the season before, surprised everyone last season by finishing sixth and former Eagle expects a tough test: “Eintracht had a successful season last year, which creates a very good atmosphere,” he explained.
Franz will miss the clash against his former club through suspension, while Pierre-Michel Lasogga is out for around five weeks with an ankle injury.
"We are capable"
Frankfurt coach Armin Veh says his team are confident of getting something from the game in the capital on Saturday. “We believe we are capable of picking up points away from home,” he said. “We have had a good pre-season and we have managed to keep hold of most of our players from last season.”
is set to start in goal after returning from injury, while Sony Kittel is yet to return to full training following knee surgery. Marc Stendera, who tore cruciate knee ligaments in a pre-season friendly against VfR Aalen, is Eintracht’s only long-term casualty.