Cologne – The wait is finally over: the 53rd Bundesliga season is here, and Matchday 1 has plenty to whet the appetite for the next nine months of German top flight football.
bundesliga.com has five things that you really need to know about the start of the season.
Robben loves playing Hamburg
Arjen Robben has been one of FC Bayern München's stand-out players for many years now. At club level, the 31-year-old has won everything going. His exemplary attitude, professionalism and passion led recently to Pep Guardiola getting almost romantic about him, saying: "I'm in love with Arjen. When he's fit, he'll always play." A declaration of love which certainly Hamburg, Bayern's first opponents of the season, do not share.
HSV's relationship with the Dutchman is hardly one of affection, and understandably so. The Dutchman has played eight times against HSV and scored an outstanding eight goals, setting up a further four. He's been particularly prolific on home soil, where all of those assists and all but one of the goals have arrived. Last time Hamburg visited the Allianz Arena, they went home off the back of an 8-0 hiding, and their CEO Dietmar Beiersdorfer knew the reason for it. "Arjen Robben alone was worth the entrance fee tonight," he said.
When Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Mönchengladbach meet in the top match of the opening weekend, one thing can be guaranteed: excitement. These two sides have been among the most attractive to watch in the Bundesliga in recent years. The way they play football has won over many neutral fans to swell their ranks of followers.
This season, there will be a new duel on the bench too with Thomas Tuchel taking his place on the BVB bench. Just like his opposite number Lucien Favre, he is a fan of tactics and perfectionism. This promises to bring even more spice to the battle of the Borussias, which has been endowed with plenty of goals down the years, with the last goalless draw coming back in 1994.
Duel of the goal machines
Bayer 04 Leverkusen's clash with 1899 Hoffenheim is also a battle between the Bundesliga's two most prolific goalscorers currently still in action: Stefan Kießling (135 goals) vs Kevin Kuranyi (111). It is the first time since 2008/09 that Kuranyi takes to the Bundesliga stage, but his record is breath-taking. In eight seasons before moving to Russia, he always broke into double figures and was always his club's top-scorer. Only Gerd Müller, Manfred Burgsmüller and Klaus Fischer have longer records.
Kuranyi has scored four goals in four games against Leverkusen too, although Kießling's record against Hoffenheim betters that. The 31-year-old has scored a total of six goals in his last five meetings with the Sinsheim club, and his experience also stands him in good stead with no other player in the Bundesliga having appeared in more than his 345 matches (equal with Borussia Dortmund's Roman Weidenfeller).
This year, Bundesliga clubs have strengthened their squads with even more foreign stars, with FC Bayern investing in Arturo Vidal from Juventus and Douglas Costa from Shakhtar Donetsk – two world superstars. The FCB fans have plenty to get excited about with both set to be in the starting XI against HSV.
Not only Bayern have been keeping their scouts busy, though. Whether it be Yoshinori Muto or Fabian Frei at 1. FSV Mainz 05, Luc Castaignos at Eintracht Frankfurt or Mevlüt Erdinc at Hannover 96, plenty of big names are set to make their mark on the opening weekend of Bundesliga action.
The team of the moment
Last season confirmed that VfL Wolfsburg are truly a Bundesliga force to be reckoned with. They have already proven emphatically that they can do justice to this mantle by defeating FC Bayern to win the Supercup, and they can therefore be expected to push Bayern even closer this term.
Not only have the Wolves managed to keep their side intact, they have also added to it with Max Kruse supplying more strength to the front line. By keeping hold of Germany's Footballer of the Year Kevin De Bruyne, despite plenty of interest from other top clubs, Dieter Hecking's charges have underlined their ambitions. Their first test is against Eintracht Frankfurt, and De Bruyne, Kruse and co. will be doing all they can to entertain the fans from the get-go.
By Thomas Ziemann and Ben Gladwell