‘Optimistic’ Bayern primed for season opener
Even in the fast-moving world of football, 82 days is quite a stretch. That's how long has passed since the end of the last Bundesliga season, but the new campaign is finally here and points are once again at stake on Friday when FC Bayern welcome Hamburger SV to the Allianz Arena (Live in English from 20.30 CET on Twitter and FCB.tv Web Radio). The Reds are aiming to win an unprecedented fourth straight league title. "That's the target. We want to do what no team before us has ever done," confirmed Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, "but we can take nothing for granted. Our rivals will try and get at us."
The chairman was doubtless thinking of Wolfsburg, Dortmund, and perhaps also Gladbach, Leverkusen or Schalke. Hamburg, who only retained their top-flight status last May in a dramatic relegation play-off, are not realistic title contenders, but Bayern know the official opening match of the 53rd Bundesliga season will be anything but a stroll. "I prefer playing teams who've just won," noted Rummenigge. Hamburg were knocked out of the DFB Cup last weekend by fourth-tier Jena in the biggest upset of the first round.
'Outstanding, amazing squad'
FCB have an outstanding recent record in meetings between the clubs with consecutive 8-0, 3-1 and 9-2 victories at home and 5-0 and 6-0 away, but the chairman strongly warned against complacency: "We have to take it very seriously and not be distracted." The champions are certainly well-prepared after a smooth and productive preseason, and the entire squad is fit with the exception of long-term absentees Franck Ribéry, Javi Martínez, Holger Badstuber and Jan Kirchhoff.
Pep Guardiola faces a tough task deciding who will start and which players must be left out of the 18-man matchday squad. "Bayern have always had an outstanding, amazing squad," commented the Spaniard, "and it's the same this year. Some of my players will be unhappy, but they'll all get to play this season, some more and some less."
On the eve of the Bundesliga restart, Guardiola heaped special praise on the four summer signings, who he believes will significantly strengthen the team. "I'm happy and highly motivated," Guardiola declared, a feeling shared by Rummenigge: "We've brought in very sensible reinforcements. I believe we can be very optimistic about the new season. I'd like us to start with a win." The Bundesliga is back!
Pre-match news from Hamburg
Coach Bruno Labbadia: "I want us to give a passionate performance and go to Munich looking to take something from the game. Regardless of the opponents I'm not the kind of guy who's prepared to settle for going somewhere without wanting to come away with something. But it has to be a very good day if you're to beat them. We'll have to run hard, show tactical discipline and avoid errors. And we'll have to apply pressure to them to give ourselves breathing space."
Unavailable: Drobny (sports rehab), Götz, Jiracek (both not match fit)
Doubtful:Cleber (neck), Altintas (hamstring)