German football officially kicks off with Sunday's DFL Supercup. Double winning Borussia Dortmund will travel to the Allianz Arena in Munich to take on last season's ultimate runners up Bayern Munich.
If you weren't aware, the last two years in head to head matchups between these two sides has been demonstrably one sided: BVB have won five straight over Bayern with a 12 goals to 3 differential. They left no doubt in May's DFB Pokal Final when they handed the Bavarians a 5-2 thrashing that was never really close.
Remarkably, only three months have passed since that match. I know what you're thinking. "What has changed in only three months? Dortmund were significantly better the last time we saw these two teams on the same pitch." My response that question is simple. "Everything has changed. Nothing has changed."
Wait. That's not simple.
Everything Has Changed
Both clubs had their sights on Borussia Mönchengladbach striker Marco Reus in an attempt to get an edge on their rival. On January 4, the Gladbach man announced that he was spurning Bayern's advances for BVB. Allegations were thrown around in the media by everyone's favorite "sources" on seemingly every possible facet of this transfer. It's very fair to say that Bayern aren't accustomed to losing out on a transfer target to another club. They especially aren't accustomed to losing out on a transfer target to another German club.
In addition to Reus, Dortmund brought in Stuttgart's Julian Schieber. Like Reus, Schieber is a talented young player who will serve as a backup to the stupendous Robert Lewandowski. Both men will be helping to fill the void left in the side with the departure of Shinji Kagawa to Manchester United. Kagawa finished the season with 13 goals and 5 assists. It won't be an easy task, but Reus has the talent to get the job done.
Bayern put their nose to the grindstone in the transfer market to improve all parts of the team. They strengthened the back line with Dante from Gladbach, and Hoffenheim's Tom Starke was signed as Manuel Neuer's backup after the retirement of Jörg Butt. Bayern managed to beat everyone to the signature of Basel's Xherdan Shaqiri. The very talented Swiss attacker will begin the season as an understudy to Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, but Thomas Müller better keep his game in check if he hopes to keep Shaqiri out of Jupp Heynckes' preferred 4-2-3-1 all season. In an effort to add depth and competition to the forward position, Bayern signed Mario Mandzukic and Claudio Pizarro. Finally, Bayern went out of their way to sign a world class central midfielder to partner and push Bastian Schweinsteiger to be a better player. No? They haven't? Oh boy.
Nothing Has Changed
The last time I checked, Jürgen Klopp was still the manager of BVB. He's won back to back Bundesliga titles and a DFB Pokal Title. He's beaten Bayern in five straight matches. Only a fool would argue that Klopp isn't currently the best manager in the Bundesliga. That's not a slight against Jupp Heynckes. He's an excellent manager in his own right, but the things that Klopp has accomplished with this team still blows my mind. As we covered earlier, scoring 12 and conceding 3 in their last five matches (all wins) against Bayern is impressive. Has Klopp figured out how to play against this Bayern team? His success over the last few years shows that he has.
Everyone Is Hurt
While this is a great moment for the Bundesliga to show off the two best teams in a one-off match for a cup, there will be several players missing due to various injuries. Bayern will be affected far more than BVB.
Bayern are going to be without Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mario Gomez, Diego Contento, Rafinha, and David Alaba. That is your starting center forward, starting central midfielder, starting left back, and two reserve fullbacks. Gomez and Alaba will be out for some time, Schweinsteiger has just returned to training, and Contento and Rafinha should return in the next few weeks.
BVB will be missing their central midfield pairing of Sebastian Kehl and Sven Bender. Kehl is still suffering from a knee injury he picked up in the preseason, and Bender will be undergoing a hernia operation on both groins Monday. Yeah. I said both groins. Luckily for BVB, Mario Götze has recovered enough from his pinkeye infection and will be ready to go against Bayern. Due to his limited training over the last week, I imagine we may see him off of the bench.
Borussia Dortmund (4-2-3-1): Weidenfeller; Schmelzer, Subotic, Hummels, Piszczek; Leitner, Gündoagn; Großkreutz, Reus, Blaszczykowski; Lewandowski
Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Gustavo, Boateng, Badstuber, Lahm; Tymoshchuk, Kroos; Robben, Müller, Ribery; Mandzukic
The match kicks off at 2:00 PM ET, 8:00 PM local time from the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. Gol TV will have the broadcast for those of us in the United States.
For more on the Bavarians, head over to Bayern Munich blog Bavarian Football Works.