James and Tolisso set for FCB debuts
With five weeks to go until the start of the season, the first whiff of Bundesliga air will blow through Germany this weekend. The ninth Telekom Cup takes place at the BORUSSIA-PARK in Mönchengladbach on Saturday, providing a first test of strength for record champions FC Bayern, hosts Borussia Mönchengladbach, Hoffenheim and Werder Bremen.
The semi-final between Gladbach and Bremen will open the tournament at 14:00 (CEST), before FCB take on Hoffenheim at 15:15. Each game will last 45 minutes. In the event of a draw, there will be no extra-time and the winner will be decided by a penalty shootout. The two losing semi-finalists will contest the third place play-off at 16:30 before the final at 17:45.
"We're going there to win," declared Bayern goalkeeper Tom Starke ahead of the meeting with his former club. In the absence of Manuel Neuer and Sven Ulreich (both in recovery training), Starke and youth talent Christian Früchtl will keep goal for the title holders, who won the tournament for the third time last January after successes in 2013 and 2014.
Following two friendly wins against regional league opposition (4-1 against Wolfratshausen and 9-1 against Erlangen-Bruck), the Reds can now test themselves at Bundesliga level. However, Starke is wary of Hoffenheim, who had a "mega season" in 2016/17 as they finished fourth and qualified for Champions League qualifying for the first time. "They're on cloud nine," said Starke.
Coach Carlo Ancelotti will leave it late to decide which team plays in the Telekom Cup. As well as Neuer and Ulreich, Arjen Robben and Jérôme Boateng are also not fit enough to take part. New signings James and Corentin Tolisso could make their first appearance in an FCB shirt, though. "If James is fit, then he can play," promised Ancelotti. "It's still pre-season, the coach will try lots of things," explained Starke.