Cologne - As the holders and hosts of next week's 2014 Supercup Klassiker, the pressure is on for Borussia Dortmund.
Ebb and flow
BVB's comprehensive win over arch rivals FC Bayern München in last season's competition raised the bar exponentially at the Signal Iduna Park, but come May the following year, it was once again the Munich Reds that sat top of the domestic pile.
"They're the best team in the Bundesliga," conceded Dortmund's effervescent head coach Jürgen Klopp in spite of last summer's 4-2 triumph on home soil. "The cool thing about the Supercup is that the losers are not too bothered, but the winners are delighted, and we won it. If we put everything into the mix, play a tactically sound game, give it our all and play with passion, we know we can beat them."
By the time BVB next managed to get one over on their Bavarian nemesis on Matchday 30 of the 2013/14 campaign, however, it was already too late. Bayern had wrapped up the title in record time a few weeks earlier, and not even a first league defeat at the Allianz Arena since October 2012 was going to spoil the party. Victory in the tipped the Klassiker scales back in die Münchner's favour in any case.
The gamesmanship was temporarily put on hold as five members from the Dortmund ranks joined forces with Bayern's double-winning sextet to help Germany to football's ultimate prize at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, where Klassiker icons Kevin Großkreutz and hit it off particularly well. The Dortmund stalwart went as far as to label the pair "one and the same", before waving farewell to his friend and companion and joining up with BVB in the Swiss spa town of Bad Ragaz for pre-season.
Klopp was understandably "delighted" to have his prized utility man back on board, a welcome constant following Robert Lewandowski's decision to join Mario Götze in the Bavarian capital. In the 2013/14 Bundesliga top scorer's stead, BVB have recruited three new faces - Ciro Immobile, Dong-Won Ji and Adrian Ramos - while bringing in World Cup winner Matthias Ginter to shore up a back line breached five times in three outings by the Reds in league and cup last term.
"Dortmund are going to be a threat this season for sure," Lewandowski warned. "They’re always a good team regardless of who leaves the club. The Supercup's in Dortmund - effectively a home game for them - so it's going to be a special night for me. I spent four years there, but now I'm going there as a Bayern player and obviously I want to win."
Lewandowski's winning drive helped Dortmund to their fourth Supercup crown last summer, albeit in a team display that proved little more than a false dawn for the Pole's former club. His loyalties now elsewhere, the 25-year-old will be hoping BVB ultimately come up short once again in 2014/15, although the Ruhr district outfit's 28 goals in seven pre-season outings suggest that might just be wishful thinking.