The Bundesliga returns this weekend with the champions Bayern Munich in action this Friday against Werder Bremen. The match will be the debut of new Bayern manager Carlo Ancelotti and will once again pit Bremen striker Claudio Pizarro against his former club.
The Italian manager has already got off to a flying start with FC Bayern, beating Borussia Dortmund in the German Super Cup and routing lower division side FC Carl Zeiss Jena in the opening round of the DFB Pokal Cup. Bayern are heavy favorites to win on Friday, as they are to win the league in general.
But although Bremen are a far cry from the force they were when they won the league back in 2004, Die Werderaner have proved themselves to be a stumbling block for much stronger teams and will once again look to Pizarro, the most prolific foreign goal-scorer in league history, as they seek to kick off their season with an upset of the defending champions.
Ancelotti inherited a squad that was already arguably the best in Europe and having retained the services of leading goal-scorer Robert Lewandowski, the former Real Madrid and AC Milan manager has been relatively quiet on the transfer market with Portugal midfielder Renato Sanches his only major signing of the summer.
While it would be nice to see the new season start off with some upset drama, it’s difficult to make a case for anything other than a Bayern victory.
Watch Bayern Munich take on Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga season opener on Friday August 26 at 2:30 p.m. EST on FS1.
Borussia Dortmund vs. Mainz
Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel will face his former club Mainz on Saturday. Tuchel’s Dortmund was on the losing end of Bayern’s win in the Super Cup but have otherwise looked strong in preseason, beating Man United and drawing Man City in friendlies and routing Eintracht Trier in the DFB Pokal Cup.
Crucially, Tuchel has been able to keep hold of star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and bringing in Andre Schurrle on a transfer from Wolfsburg. While Dortmund did part ways with center-back Matts Hummels and winger Henrikh Mkhtaryan, last season’s league runners-up looked to have mitigated the losses well and again look like the side best equipped to challenge Bayern’s hegemony.
Mainz have also had a successful preseason, following up a 1-0 loss to Sevilla with a 4-0 rout of Liverpool and a win over Unterhaching in the DFB Pokal Cup. While the club have been linked with a move for Arsenal’s Serge Gnabry, it remains to be seen whether a transfer for the German Olympic soccer hero will materialize, thus Mainz manager Martin Schmidt will again look to last season’s leading scorer Yunus Malli to score the goals against Dortmund.
Catch Borussia Dortmund vs. Mainz on Saturday August 27 at 9:30am ET on FS2.
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Gladbach and Leverkusen will go into their season opener against one another without their respective key players from last season. Gladbach saw midfield anchor Granit Xhaka leave for Arsenal early in this summer’s transfer window, while Leverkusen striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez will be out for two weeks with a fractured hand.
Leverkusen had a good season last year under manager Roger Schmidt. With Chicharito onboard for another campaign, Leverkusen will be in the hunt for a top four finish and will look to get their season off with a win. But Gladbach are certainly no pushovers, especially at home, where they only lost two Bundesliga matches last season.
With Chicharito out, Schmidt will look to club talisman Stephan Kiesling to carry on with the goalscoring form he’s shown throughout his career at Leverkusen. Gladbach meanwhile, are likely to start U.S. international Fabian Johnson who put in a Bundesliga Best XI level campaign last season and is a key player for the club going forward.