Cologne - With a European Footballer of the Year award and a FIFA World Cup winners medal amongst his vast collection of silverware, when it comes to football, Germany's most-capped international Lothar Matthäus is a man worth listening to.
bundesliga.com caught up with the former FC Bayern München and Borussia Mönchengladbach midfielder turned Sky pundit to discuss the upcoming season.
bundesliga.com: Mr. Matthäus, what significance does Borussia Dortmund’s 2-0 Supercup victory over FC Bayern München carry going into the new season?
Matthäus: For Dortmund, it was certainly a deserved victory and a really good win with which to begin the season. However, we should be wary of placing too much importance on it. After all, last season Dortmund lifted the Supercup, but ended 19 points behind Bayern.
bundesliga.com: But would you say Dortmund have more of a chance of winning the title this season?
Matthäus: The outstanding favourite is, and remains, Bayern - even despite their injury worries and the late returning FIFA World Cup stars. You can see that Pep Guardiola’s side are prepared for every eventuality. The signing of Pepe Reina, for example, shows clearly that the powers that be are always a step ahead. I just hope that the race for the title goes right down to the wire, and isn’t decided so early again.
bundesliga.com: You mentioned their injuries, though. Are Bayern uncharacteristically vulnerable?
Matthäus: They’ve certainly been badly affected. It’s not just the injury to Javi Martinez so close to the start of the season that’s causing them to worry, but also the knocks suffered by Bastian Schweinsteiger and Franck Ribery, as well as some of their other World Cup participants, who won’t necessarily be at 100 per cent yet. It might be that Guardiola has to do without a few key players early on. They could start a little bit more slowly than usual.
bundesliga.com: Do Bayern need to find a replacement for Javi Martinez urgently?
Matthäus: Bayern have had their success in the past playing 4-2-3-1, as opposed to with a three-man defence. The squad is full of players who can perform at the highest level in several positions, so I’m not sure a transfer is particularly necessary.
Bundesliga.com: What about Dortmund’s transfer activities? Can coach Jürgen Klopp fill the hole left by ’s departure to Bayern?
Matthäus: Dortmund have actually really well. The big question is whether Klopp will change his system, which, last season was so oriented towards Lewandowski. He’s got more options this season, and Dortmund will certainly be a force to be reckoned with again.
bundesliga.com: Which other teams would you anticipate being around the top four?
Matthäus: The current four UEFA Champions League participants [Bayern, Dortmund, FC Schalke 04 and Bayer 04 Leverkusen] are for me the best placed to qualify again this time around. Behind them, I think VfL Wolfsburg have a good opportunity to make the jump into the top four.
bundesliga.com: Which teams will be behind those you’ve already discussed?
Matthäus: In mid-table, it’s always the smallest details which decide things. Hamburger SV and VfB Stuttgart won’t be as far behind this season as they were last year. They’ve both strengthened on and off the field, and you can be sure that the players who perhaps underperformed a little last year, won’t do the same again this campaign. On the other hand, I imagine FC Augsburg and 1. FSV Mainz 05 will probably drop a few places because it’s always hard to repeat such famous seasons. You’ve already seen it with Mainz, where they’ve failed to qualify for the UEFA Europa League and been knocked out of the DFB Cup. Every position between 7th and 14th will be well contested, and you simply can’t afford a poor run otherwise you’ll find yourself fighting relegation.
bundesliga.com: How do you rate the two newly promoted sides, 1. FC Köln and SC Paderborn 07?
Matthäus: Firstly, I’m really pleased that 1. FC Köln are back in the big time. They’ve learnt from their past mistakes off the field, and that’s now being reflected in their success on the field. With such good fans behind them, they shouldn’t be anywhere near the relegation zone, but it’s part and parcel of the Bundesliga that it’s more difficult for promoted sides to stay up. That will particularly be the case for Paderborn, who, like Eintracht Braunschweig and SpVgg Greuther Fürth before them, have come from nowhere to shake things up. First and foremost, they should enjoy their debut season in the Bundesliga and if that little bit of luck comes their way, then they’ll have to use it to try and keep themselves afloat.
bundesliga.com: How much of a boost will the World Cup win give to the Bundesliga?
Matthäus: The Bundesliga has been admired from abroad for years now because of its high level. That doesn’t just mean its high-quality football, but also its perfect organisation, modern stadiums and fantastic atmospheres. The World Cup win merely strengthens its position.