Cologne - The Bundesliga champions against the team that pushed them hardest last season – and won the DFB Cup for good measure: The 2015 German Supercup meeting of FC Bayern München and VfL Wolfsburg promises to be a classic by any standard of this popular season curtain-raiser.
The 'challengers' – the Cup winners or, in the event of a double, the league runners-up – have enjoyed home advantage in the fixture since 2011, and a sell-out 30,000 crowd at Wolfsburg's Volkswagen Arena will be joined by a live audience in over 200 countries around the world come the kick-off on Saturday, 1 August (20:30 CEST). With the Wolves widely expected to give Bayern an even closer run for their money in 2015/16, the game thus has a psychological resonance well beyond the trophy ceremony at its finish.
New stars, same hunger
Bayern have double grounds for particularly wanting to prevail in this one. For starters, they came up short in each of the last two Supercups, against Borussia Dortmund. "At the moment, we're totally focused on the game against Wolfsburg. It's time to go on the offensive. We've lost the last two – hopefully this will be an exception to the rule that good things come in threes," director of sport Matthias Sammer mused at the end of Bayern's eight-day summer tour of China.
There is also the matter of the sides' most recent meeting, kicking off the second half of the season at the end of January. The champions suffered their first defeat of the campaign as the hosts played themselves into a counter-attacking frenzy, on the way to a 4-1 win. It could, however, be a radically different Bayern midfield they find themselves up against on Saturday. Summer signing Douglas Costa showed impressive early form down the flanks in friendly wins against Valencia CF and FC Internazionale Milano in China while Arturo Vidal, freshly snapped up from Juventus, could yet get his first run-out against the Wolves.
While Bayern are playing in the Supercup for the ninth time, this will be Wolfsburg's first appearance. The chances of marking their debut by becoming the seventh team to win it don't look bad at all on paper, with the 'non-champions' having come out on top for the past four years. "We're delighted to have such a real highlight for the fans at the Volkswagen Arena, a week before kicking-off our defence of the DFB Cup," VfL sporting director Klaus Allofs said. "Getting to play for the first trophy of the season in front of our own supporters is a very special challenge and an added incentive for the team."
As well as Germany's recently crowned player of the year Kevin De Bruyne, that team includes World Cup winner André Schürrle and new signing Max Kruse. Given the firepower on show at both ends, this year's encounter looks well set to continue in the entertaining vein that has produced 49 goals in the 15 Supercups to date.