In a pre-season tour of China for both German clubs. It's 1 AM Wednesday night here, and I'm drunk off my ass and have to go back and correct errors for every sentence. But I figured it was at least worth throwing up a preview.
Let's start with the absentees - as best I can remember them:
- Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger - excused from the Asian tour
- David Alaba - had surgery today, should be ready within 6-7 weeks
- Rafinha, ankle injury, doesn't require surgery, but still 4-5 weeks away from playing ball.
So, new boys Dante, Shaqiri, and Mandzukic are all good bets to get some playing time. Old boy Daniel van Buyten still wants his name in consideration for the regular season, so he should be ready to go. Claudio Pizarro had one goal and forced another in the friendly vs. Beijing Guoan earlier this week.
And, either on the right wing or even up front, Arjen Robben will probably be working some magic. I hate to even raise the possibility of getting too excited before the season starts ... but I have to be honest, I love what I've seen from the Flying Dutchman over the past few weeks. When you consider the ugly end to his club season last year, plus the disastrous Netherlands campaign he had to endure this summer, plus his new contract, and the circumstances under which it was signed, plus the way he's bounced back from bad stretches of play before ... I almost want to think we're on the verge of a special season here. Just gonna throw that out there.
Anyway, here'e my guess for tonight's friendly - as always, keep in mind I usually get these very wrong
Shaqiri - Pizarro - Robben
Kroos - Tymo
Contento - Badstuber - van Buyten - Boateng
This could all be way off. Pizarro could start up front, Müller might start in his usual 10-spot, and a lot of different things could happen along the back line. I just have a hunch Mandzu might start against his old club, and I think the Kroos-Tymo duo has a few things to recommend it. We'll have better line-ups once available.
VfL has certainly had some turnover this year - grabbing Ivica Olic, one of our big-name players (sort of - but not really) over the last 2 years, and sending Mario Mandzu back the other way. They also brought in Brazilian defender Naldo, whose transfer was twice delayed but apparently has now gone through, signed Czech winger Vaclav Pilar, and shipped out German national team middie Thomas Hitzelberger, who is without a team as of now, from what I can discern.
The Wolves finished 8th in the 1. Bundesliga last season, and they're looking to climb at least 1 spot into the European places this year. But, given the strength of the middle sections of the Bundeliga, it also wouldn't be a shock to see them tread water or even drop a few places.
- I'm fuckin sloshed. Sorry. That's all I got.