Get ready for passion aplenty, full stands and high-quality football this Friday as the new Bundesliga season kicks off with a meeting between champions Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg. Excitement is already gripping Germany as supporters gear themselves up for a campaign likely to be far more competitive than Bayern's stroll to the title last term.
With the country still basking in their 2014 FIFA World Cup™ triumph, the early indications are that Josep Guardiola's men will struggle to leave their rivals in the dust for a second year running. FIFA.com shines a spotlight on five enlightening statistics that suggest the new German season will offer up unmissable entertainment.
world champions will be back defending Bayern's colours this term, with only Real Madrid-bound Toni Kroos having departed in the summer. The club's German internationals will be battling against history, though, as the iconic Bavarian outfit have never clinched the Bundesliga following a World Cup win for Die Nationalmannschaft, missing out in 1954/55, 1974/75 and 1990/91. They will thus be counting on Guardiola's experience as they aim to buck the trend, recalling how the Spaniard steered Barcelona to La Liga and UEFA Champions League glory in 2010/11, fresh from La Roja's World Cup odyssey in South Africa.
goals and 23 assists to his name in two seasons, Marco Reus has more than fulfilled his promise at Borussia Dortmund, and the gifted forward will be more crucial than ever for Jurgen Klopp's side. Last year's runners-up have been shorn of Robert Lewandowski since the Polish striker opted to join former team-mate Mario Gotze at Bayern, but Reus will be hungry to impress after a late injury extinguished his World Cup dream.
The 25-year-old is still smarting after missing out on the festivities in Brazil, as he recently explained to German sports magazine Kicker. "When you look how the World Cup ended, it hurts even more that I couldn't take part in it," he said, before admitting that he missed the sight of his friend Gotze brandishing a shirt bearing his name after the Final. "To be totally honest, I'd already switched off the TV by then and gone to bed." Dortmund will be hoping their young dynamo takes his obvious frustration out on their domestic rivals.
years of loyal service to a single club is almost unheard of in the modern game, but that is exactly how long Thomas Schaaf spent furthering the Werder Bremen cause. First brought through Bremen's youth ranks, he graced the first team for 17 years, after which he switched to management and put in another 14 years as head coach.
As a result, a number of German fans may feel a little disoriented this season as Schaaf embarks on a new challenge away from the Weserstadion. Following a year out of the game, the 53-year-old will return as coach of Eintracht Frankfurt, swapping the green and white of Bremen for red and black. Noted for his typically northern German composure, Schaaf may even feel a little disoriented himself in his new surroundings, but, like Bremen, Frankfurt are a club who respect longevity. After all, Karl-Heinz Korbel set a Bundesliga record by making 602 appearances for Die Adler (the Eagles) between 1972 and 1991, earning himself legend status in the vibrant, demanding city.
top-flight outings are all that Uwe Hunemeier can claim, in contrast, but the 28-year-old defender will soon boost his tally as he captains promoted Paderborn in the elite division. The club will be taking their maiden steps in the Bundesliga, as will 40-year-old coach Andre Breitenreiter, and they are steeling themselves for an almighty challenge.
"We're the biggest outsiders in the history of the Bundesliga," Breitenreiter told T-online. "If you look closer at the resources we have and the conditions we work in, we lie bottom of the table – and by a long way." Hailing from a town of 140,000 inhabitants in the eastern part of North Rhine-Westphalia, Paderborn have nonetheless vowed to approach their task with a commitment to attacking football and could perhaps even emerge as this season's surprise package.
new faces are eagerly awaited in the Bundesliga this term, and not least at ambitious Wolfsburg, who hope Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner can rediscover his goalscoring touch as they launch an audacious bid for the title. Hertha Berlin have put their faith in experience, meanwhile, with the 'sleeping giant' of the German capital recruiting Dutch defender John Heitinga.
As for Hamburg, who came perilously close to suffering a first ever relegation last season, they have their fingers crossed that Swiss international Valon Behrami can bring a little more defensive stability to their midfield. Expectations have also been raised at Borussia Monchengladbach, with the club hoping Thorgan Hazard can follow in the footsteps of older brother and Chelsea sensation Eden, while Dortmund have swooped for Italian international Ciro Immobile to replace Lewandowski.
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Will Mainz be able to challenge for a European place again this season after surprising everyone in Germany last year? Do Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke and Wolfsburg have what it takes to sustain title challenges? And will Cologne's fans be rewarded for their loyalty and enthusiasm as the club returns to the top tier? Let us know your hopes for your favourite team this season and join in the conversation with supporters from all over the world!