Munich - Old friendships will be tested to the full when FC Bayern München tackle VfL Wolfsburg at the Allianz Arena on Saturday (kick-off 15:30 CEST).
"Friends for life"
Set against the backdrop of Munich's annual Oktoberfest, fireworks are guaranteed in a Matchday 7 encounter carrying particular significance for Luiz Gustavo, Ivica Olic and Mario Mandzukic.
"It certainly is no ordinary away game," former Bayern midfielder Gustavo told fcbayern.de. "I spent two years at Bayern and now I'm coming back on the opposing side, but it's also a good feeling. We're playing against a top team which is exactly what every player wants to do. I'll also be able to see all the friends I made during my time at the club."
Of all his peers still plying their trade in the Bavarian capital, Gustavo has formed a lasting friendship with Brazil compatriots Dante and Rafinha, as well as fellow left-sided exponents Franck Ribery and David Alaba. "They're friends for life. We were always in a really good group. That's why we had so much success together," he beamed.
Gustavo's Wolfsburg debut was no less triumphant, but the Brazilian has not exactly had everything his own way since making the summer switch. "It was the first time in my life that I'd been sent off twice in three matches," he explained after receiving his marching orders against both Bayer 04 Leverkusen and 1. FSV Mainz 05. "I never collected a red card or two cautions in two-and-a-half years at Bayern, but that's football. I try to learn from these things."
One man who has put past experiences to good use is Wolfsburg striker Olic. The Croatian international is enjoying arguably his most fruitful spell to date in a Wolves shirt, having joined the club from FC Bayern in 2012. The veteran forward has scored four times in his last three Bundesliga outings after failing to find the back of the net in Wolfsburg's first three league assignments.
Like Olic, international team-mate and ex-Wolves striker Mario Mandzukic has rippled the net on four occasions since the start of the campaign. Indeed, the 27-year-old is the club's top marksman this season, trailing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Vedad Ibisevic, Nicolai Müller and Stefan Kießling by one in the leading scorer's charts.
Ominously, the Croatian frontman was on target in both fixtures against his former employers last term, with the Bundesliga's record champions running out 3-0 winners at the Allianz Arena on Matchday 5 and 2-0 victors at the Volkswagen Arena in February. Having won 18 and drawn one of their last 19 home meetings against the Wolves, Bayern can now make it 20 not out with a positive result on Saturday afternoon.
FC Bayern: Neuer - Rafinha, Boateng, Dante, Alaba - Lahm - Robben, Müller, Schweinsteiger, Ribery - Mandzukic
VfL Wolfsburg: Benaglio - Träsch, Naldo, Knoche, Rodriguez - Luiz Gustavo, Polak - Perisic, Diego, Schäfer - Olic