Bundesliga Matchday 1: Bayern launch bid to make it 10 in a row
The biggest stars in German football are back as the Bundesliga gets underway this weekend.
Bayern Munich are going for their 10th consecutive title but have looked shaky under new boss Julian Nagelsman in pre-season.
Can the Bavarians complete a decade of dominance or will Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig or another team step up and take their crown?
Borussia Monchengladbach vs Bayern Munich (Friday, 7.30pm)
The sun could well be setting on Bayern’s dominant era and the pressure is already on new man Nagelsman after a winless pre-season.
An unconvincing run of one draw and three defeats has turned up the heat and a 2-0 defeat to tonight’s opponents Gladbach 16 days ago will fill the hosts with confidence.
Centre-back Dayot Upamecano followed his old Leipzig coach to the Allianz Arena for more than £38million but immediately needs to impress as he replaces David Alaba.
Pipped to the post by Union Berlin, Gladbach will be free of any European distractions this season and have strengthened their ranks with the arrival of Luca Netz while permanently securing Hannes Wolf.
The Austrian attacking midfielder, who was on loan at Borussia-Park last year from RB Leipzig, contributed 0.20 goals and 0.13 assists per 90 minutes.
Union Berlin vs Bayer Leverkusen (Saturday, 2.30pm)
Last season's seventh and sixth-placed teams go toe-to-toe on the opening weekend after two tight matches last season.
Union Berlin just edged out their opponents in 2020-21, with a 1-0 win at Stadion An der Alten Forsterei before a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture.
A stoppage-time winner from Max Kruse in their final game of the season secured a first European campaign for Union in 20 years, via the inaugural Europa Conference League.
For the second successive season, Bayer Leverkusen have lost their most influential player to the Premier League.
First it was Kai Havertz and now it is Leon Bailey, who has made the switch to Aston Villa.
Step forward Patrik Shick. One of the standout players at Euro 2020, the Czech international averaged 0.43 goals per 90 minutes last term.
Another good season could well see him follow in the footsteps of both Havertz and Bailey.
Wolfsburg vs Bochum (Saturday, 2.30pm)
Last season’s surprise package Wolfsburg begin life under new head coach Mark van Bommel against promoted Bochum — back after 11 seasons in the second tier.
Die Wolfe finished fourth last season but still lost coach Oliver Glasner to Eintracht Frankfurt, despite securing their best placing since being runners-up in 2014-15.
Impressively, Wolfsburg achieved that while having just the eighth-best expected goals total last season (49.5).
They overachieved in scoring 61 times, with Dutchman Wout Weghorst accounting for nearly a third of those goals (20).
Bochum lost nine times but still won the title after hitting their straps in February.
Thomas Reis’ side were the 2. Bundesliga’s third-highest scorers, despite having only the eighth-most shots per 90 minutes.
They will need to be similarly clinical to ensure their top-flight stay lasts more than a season.
Borussia Dortmund vs Eintracht Frankfurt (Saturday, 5.30pm)
Jadon Sancho might have returned to the Premier League but no one is quite as good at regenerating after losing talent as Dortmund.
BVB still have Erling Haaland, who finished third in the scoring charts last season on 27 goals and second for goals per 90 minutes (1.01), and he will be aided by the arrival of PSV Eindhoven attacker Donyell Malen.
Now under the impressive former Borussia Monchengladbach boss Marco Rose, Dortmund will fancy their chances of ending Bayern’s decade-long Bundesliga dominance.
Frankfurt are also entering a new era with Adi Hutter leaving for Monchengladbach, replaced by another Austrian in the shape of former Wolfsburg coach Glasner.
Die Adler have been upwardly mobile in recent years, finishing fifth last season.
Losing 28-goal top scorer Andre Silva to RB Leipzig will be significant. But it is hoped the arrival of Colombian forward Rafael Santos Borre on a free transfer from River Plate will soften that blow.
Saturday's other games
Augsburg vs Hoffenheim (2.30pm)
Arminia Bielefeld vs Freiburg (2.30pm)
Stuttgart vs Greuther Furth (2.30pm)
Mainz vs RB Leipzig (Sunday, 2.30pm)
Bo Svensson takes charge of Mainz from the start of the season for the first time after coming in to steady the ship in January.
Mainz were second from bottom with just six points on the board when the Swede replaced ex-Huddersfield boss Jan Siewart, having lost six straight at the beginning of the campaign.
Eventually finishing 12th, Mainz had the joint fourth worst defence but their expected goals against tally was nowhere near as bad. Tightening up is top of their priority list.
RB Leipzig are yet another member of last season’s top seven to have changed coaches this summer.
With Nagelsmann lured to Bavaria, former RB Salzburg boss Jesse Marsch has arrived to continue the project.
Runners-up to Bayern last term, Leipzig still finished 13 points off the pace, thanks largely to failing to match their expected goals total of 65.3.
The arrival of Andre Silva from Frankfurt should improve matters on that front. The Portuguese had an expected figure of 35.8 over the last two seasons, netting 40 times.
Sunday's other game
Koln vs Hertha Berlin (4.30pm)