Cologne - One hundred and four days since the final ball of the 2013/14 Bundesliga season was kicked on 10 May, the German top flight returns for another campaign this weekend, and there are some truly mouth-watering clashes in store on the opening Saturday of the new season.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - FC Augsburg
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Last season’s entertainers Hoffenheim begin their campaign at home to FC Augsburg, who finished one place ahead of the Sinsheim club in eighth in 2013/14.
Markus Gisdol’s side set Germany’s top flight alight last season, racking up an incredible 72 goals in their 34 league matches, but Hoffenheim skipper Andreas Beck is wary of an Augsburg side who were without a doubt the surprise package of the Bundesliga last season. “Augsburg are very uncomfortable opponents,” he said. “Recent matches against FCA have all been hard-fought, tight games. That’s what we’re expecting on Saturday.”
Augsburg boss Markus Weinzierl, meanwhile, is looking for a reaction from his players after Sunday’s first round at the hands of fourth-tier 1. FC Magdeburg. “That match showed that 95 per cent simply isn’t enough,” he explained. “The cup exit was a wake-up call for us and we need to show the sort of hunger and desire we did throughout last season against Hoffenheim.”
Hertha Berlin - SV Werder Bremen
Hertha Berlin coach Jos Luhukay is set to hand Bundesliga debuts to four of his new signings in the capital club’s clash with Werder Bremen at the Olympiastadion.
Japanese star Genki Haraguchi has impressed Luhukay during pre-season and is likely to start on the left-hand side of midfield, with Dutchman Roy Beerens on the opposite flank. Beerens’ compatriot John Heitinga is expected to start in central defence, while former Borussia Dortmund striker Julian Schieber could line up in attack. Striker Valentin Stocker, however, is still some way short of match fitness and is unlikely to start the game. “We have to be patient with him,” admitted Luhukay on Friday.
Bremen, who finished the 2013/14 season one place behind Hertha in twelfth, lost 3-2 on their last visit to Berlin, but head coach Robin Dutt is confident of getting a result in the capital on Saturday. “It’s not an easy game for us, but I wouldn’t call it an impossible task either,” he said at his pre-match press conference. “I sense the team is ready to take a big step in the right direction this year. I’m confident we’ll have a good season.”
Eintracht Frankfurt - SC Freiburg
Two of last season’s strugglers, Eintracht Frankfurt and SC Freiburg, meet at the Commerzbank Arena, with both sides looking to improve on last term’s respective 13th- and 14th-place finishes.
Under a new head coach in Thomas Schaaf and without the burden of European football, Frankfurt are looking to stabilise, as well as entertain, following last season’s battle against relegation. “At the start of a season, people always like to hear a position in the table,” said the former Werder Bremen coach, who replaced VfB Stuttgart-bound Armin Veh at the end of last season. “But for us, the priority is how we perform.”
Die Breisgauer have a similar remit ahead of the new campaign, and will travel to the Commerzbank Arena in confident mood having cruised to a 4-1 victory there in 2013/14. “That was a special game for us,” admitted head coach Christian Streich. “It gave us an enormous boost for the rest of the season.”