20:30 (CEST), Friday 18th August, Allianz Arena (Munich, Germany) BT Sport 2
Bayern Munich will look to make it six consecutive Bundesliga titles as they once again host the season opener against their week 1 opponents Bayer Leverkusen. The visitors have had plenty of change over the summer with the loss of Hakan Çalhanoğlu to AC Milan and Ömer Toprak to Borussia Dortmund to name a few. New manager Heiko Herrlich has brought in two players this summer with Sven Bender joining from Borussia Dortmund and Dominik Kohr coming from Augsburg.
The champions have had a busy summer strengthening their squad’s depth and have done so with the likes of James Rodriguez and Sebastian Rudy whilst splashing the cash to bring in Corentin Tolisso from Lyon. Bayern want to continue the status quo of dominating the Bundesliga but could Leverkusen spring the unlikeliest of surprises on Friday Night.
Last Time Out
Chemnitzer FC 0-5 Bayern Munich (DFB Pokal)
It was business as usual for Bayern Munich as they walked all over 3. Liga side Chemnitz in the opening round of the DFB Pokal. Robert Lewandowski opened the scoring on 20 minutes as Bayern would take a single goal lead into the dressing rooms. In the second-half, Bayern would find their goal scoring boots. On 51 minutes Kingsley Coman extended the advantage and 10 minutes later Lewandowski completed his brace.
Bayern enjoyed 76% of possession and continued to pepper the Chemnitz goal. On 79 minutes Franck Ribéry chimed in with an excellent free-kick before Mats Hummels completed the destruction minutes before full time. It was a clinical display by the record champions to start their domestic campaign.
Karlsruher SC 0-3 (AET) Bayer Leverkusen (DFB Pokal)
Bayer Leverkusen had a much tougher time beating Karlsruhe who should’ve put themselves in front early on in the first half when Oskar Zawada was saved by the face of the strong Bernd Leno. The visitors would need extra time to eventually beat the stubborn Karlsruhe defence and 3 minutes in Dominik Kohr headed home the opener.
On 99 minutes, Joel Pohjanpalo found the back of the net and moments before the halftime whistle in extra time, Leon Bailey scored his first goal on German soil to send Leverkusen through. Less than convincing at times but enough to avoid an embarrassing exit.
Bayern Munich Lineup
With key players making their return off the bench in their cup triumph against Chemnitz. Manuel Neuer has been given enough time to recover from injury and is set to make his first start with Sven Ulreich dropping to the bench. David Alaba and Arjen Robben played 27 and 28 minutes respectively and I expect them to make the jump into the starting 11 with Kingsley Coman and Joshua Kimmich making way.
Bayer Leverkusen Lineup
Heiko Herrlich will be hoping his side can build on their DFB Pokal triumph and potentially cause an upset at the Allianz Arena. The back four is set to remain the same after keeping a clean whilst there are players pushing for a start with Leon Bailey and Joel Pohjanpalo both making impacts off the bench last time out. Julian Brandt should be introduced into the starting line-up on the left with Admir Mehmedi making way. Can’t see too many changes taking place but Brandt’s inclusion into the starting XI will be a must for Leverkusen.
Key Battle: Manuel Neuer vs Bernd Leno
Two of the best goalkeepers in Germany are set to go head to head on the opening night of the Bundesliga. What better to showcase the talents of German football than to see Manuel Neuer and Bernd Leno. The later in Leno had a difficult season last year which saw him ship 55 league goals and only keep 6 clean sheets in what was his worst season to date. Leno had to with an extremely weak defensive and the shot stopper can only do so much. He was at fault for some of those conceded by Leverkusen, whether he was unable to collect or poor positioning.
Neuer, on the other hand, was called upon when required which has really been the theme of his career at Bayern Munich. Arguably the best keeper in the world, Neuer at times bailed out Bayern when the record champions were having poor patches in games…which was a rarity. Neuer is yet to play in pre-season and will, it could be the best chance Leverkusen has of beating Germany number 1.
It’s fair to say that Bayer Leverkusen enter their opening day clash in Munich as underwhelming underdogs. Playing their game simply won’t happen as much with Bayern generally dictating the play. A way to exploit the record champions will be to play on the counter and with the pacey players Leverkusen has at their disposal like Karim Bellarabi and Leon Bailey, this can be an effective possibility. One hopes that Bayer can create enough chances to trouble Bayern Munich on Friday night.
Raining Goals on opening day
Bayern have enjoyed a generally easy fixture to open the season and it generally paves the way to success. In their past two seasons, they have played Hamburg and Werder Bremen who had both avoided the relegation in those campaigns. Hamburg were hit to the tune of 5-0 on opening weekend in the 2015/16 season whilst Werder Bremen were hammered 6-0 to start last season. Bayer themselves are coming off one of their worst seasons in the past 15 years, perhaps another omen to disappoint the masses.
A game of Firsts
For the first time in the Bundesliga, we will see our first female referee with Bibiana Steinhaus confirmed as the match referee on Friday night. Steinhaus has certainly earned her right to officiate the opening fixture after applying her trade in the second and third tiers of German football over the past few years. She is very much a fair referee who takes a no nonsense approach, Steinhaus will be a welcomed addition to the Bundesliga officiating ranks.
Prediction: Bayer Leverkusen 0-2 Bayern Munich
To spice the Bundesliga season up, a Bayern defeat on opening day would certainly go down nicely for the neutrals but unfortunately it’s very unlikely. Leverkusen have a shaky defence and it’s one the likes of Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski can easily exploit. I expect Bayern to fly out of the gates and take the initiative early on with little respite from a tentative Leverkusen outfit.
Can Bayer Leverkusen spring an unlikely upset against Bayern Munich? Let us know in the comments section below.
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