Here we go! Bayern Munich are preparing for another season in the most insignificant competition of the season: the DFL-Supercup. It is a trophy that has eluded the Rekordmeister the last two years, and now they have to take on the club that handed them their worst loss last season, VfL Wolfsburg.
Bayern enter the season more prepared than they have been in a few years though, with several players declining international duty to recuperate after a long season a year ago. Wolfsburg are just as deep, not needing to make too many additions in order to maintain a formidable side.
The two have put on several entertaining sparring matches over the past few years, and both will be trying to elbow their way to several titles this season. While the match has no tangible implications, it could be a stepping an important stepping stone for one before the season starts.
The Match (41st Meeting)
Location: Vollkswagen Arena, Wolfsburg, Germany
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Television and Streaming:
US: Fox Soccer Plus, Fox Deportes, Fox Soccer 2Go
Canada: Sportsnet One, Sportsnet World, Sportsnet World Now
UK: BT Sport Europe
Germany: Sky Bundesliga 1 | HD, Sky Go, ZDF, TeleClub Sport Live
Bundesliga: 28 W, 4 D, 4 L
DFB Pokal: 4 W, 0 D, 0 L
Largest Victory: 6-1 (Bundesliga: March 8, 2014, Wolfsburg; DFB-Pokal: April 16, 2013, Munich)
Largest Defeat: 1-5 (Bundesliga: April 4, 2009, Wolfsburg)
While results in the Supercup do not have any tangible bearing on how the season will unfold, the fact remains the last time Bayern won the Supercup, they won the European treble as well. The past two season have resulted in two underwhelming results against Borussia Dortmund, but this season they have a different fish to fry.
Pep Guardiola will not be able to use his biggest sparks to start cooking either. After an trying to manage a squad that had more damaged parts than a car after a crash, Guardiola still does not have important pieces back healthy. His defense is to the point where, although not the best option, using three center backs may be the only option.
Nonetheless, Guardiola is not short on one thing he was at times last season: bodies. With Douglas Costa, Joshua Kimmich, and now Arturo Vidal in the team, the gaffer can come up with a creative solution to get the results he needs. Douglas has already proved he belongs in Bayern's team, and even if Arjen Robben is not available for selection after returning to training, the 24-year-old will provide plenty of width Bayern did not have last season.
The biggest question of course is whether Vidal, their recent €40 million signing, will be ready to step right into the side. Because of his participation in the Copa America, his preseason did not start until his move to Bayern was complete. Guardiola said his decision regarding Vidal will come before the match starts, and it is not out of the realm of possibility he uses Vidal right away like he did Xabi Alonso last season.
Bayern will surely hope to win this Supercup after unable to lift it the past two seasons, but the takeaways from the match will be more important than the result.
Projected Lineup (3-4-3 Diamond):
Douglas Costa – Robert Lewandowski – Thomas Müller
Juan Bernat – Xabi Alonso – Philipp Lahm
David Alaba – Jérôme Boateng – Rafinha
Bench: Sven Ulreich, Mehdi Benatia, Sebastian Rode, Pierre-Emile Hôjbjerg, Arturo Vidal, Arjen Robben, Mario Götze
Out/Suspended: Holger Badstuber (thigh), Dante (muscle injury), Jan Kirchhoff (achilles), Javi Martínez (knee), Franck Ribéry (ankle), Arjen Robben (muscle problems)
Anytime a team has a spectacular season, the obvious question is whether or not that success is repeatable. Klaus Allofs used the last two years to assemble a side that could catch German football unawares, but is that element of surprise still there? Has Dieter Hecking overachieved in his first true top manager job?
Allofs is doing his best to make sure the answer to those questions are positive ones. He has swatted away those trying to pull away Kevin de Bruyne from his grasp, hanging onto his prize young player. He added one of the Bundesliga's best strikers to boot, snatching Max Kruse from Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Their additions were minimal, but Wolfsburg now have a year of experience together, an important bond for a team with high aspirations. However, with only two months in a Wolfsburg uniform, Kruse has yet to get on the same wavelength as his compatriots, a light connection Bayern can surely exploit. Hecking has to hope Kruse speeds up the assimilation process, for the German international may have to play if Bas Dost is still not fit to play.
The Wolfsburg Bayern will face will be a familiar one, for they have not changed stylistically. The breaks forward and the early balls are still there, though their unwise aggressive defensive nature is as well. Hecking will be missing a few key pieces – perhaps even de Bruyne with back trouble – but his side still have the potency to match Bayern blow-for-blow.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
André Schürrle – Kevin de Bruyne – Daniel Caligiuri
Christian Träsch – Maximilan Arnold
Ricardo Rodriguez – Robin Knoche – Naldo – Sebastian Jung
Bench: Koen Casteels, Timm Klose, Marcel Schäfer, Joshua Guilavogui, Paul Seguin, Vieirinha, Nicklas Bendtner
Out/Suspended: Bast Dost (thigh), Aaron Hunt (tendonitis), Luiz Gustavo (knee), Ivan Perisić (knee)
Some different names will take the field, but the match will look similar to that of contests past. Wolfsburg have the ability to control the match, but with so many ball-winners in Bayern's team, they will most likely try to catch Bayern on the break. The avenues they usually use will be jammed though if Guardiola does in fact use three center backs, and Kruse's inexperience with his mates will not be helpful to try to find a breakthrough. If Bayern can draw an aggressive Wolfsburg out of their cage, they can use late runs to get in positions to score.