Bundesliga Preview, Matchday 1: Borussia Dortmund Begin Title Defense

The 2011-2012 German Bundesliga season kicks off with Borussia Dortmund beginning their defense at the Westfalenstadion against Hamburg. Schalke travel to Stuttgart and Bayern München host Borussia Mönchengladbach to end the weekend.

Friday, August 5

Borussia Dortmund vs Hamburger SV

The 2011-2012 Bundesliga season kicks off in style with the defending champs hosting Hamburg. Jürgen Klopp and his side know that they will have to be clinical to beat this Hamburg side. Against Schalke 04 in the DFB Supercup, Dortmund created a ton of chances but were unable to finish them. Mario Götze, Shinji Kagawa and Kevin Großkreutz are as formidable attacking three that you'll see in the sport. It will be a test for the Hamburg backline to keep the Dortmund attackers in front of them and not allow open shots on goal. İlkay Gündoğan will feature in his first league match as the replacement for Nuri Şahin as the connection between the Dortmund defense and offense. Hamburg midfielders Eljero Elia and Son Heung-Min will need to be exact in their attacks as they will likely come few and far between against the excellent Dortmund defense. Pick: Borussia Dortmund 3 - 0 Hamburger SV

Saturday, August 6

1. FC Köln vs VfL Wolfsburg

After Wolfsburg's poor season last year, they'll be looking to get off to a good start on the road against Köln. Manager Felix Magath has strengthened his side with some excellent summer signings, and the club will look to stay up the table this year. The addition of Srđan Lakić from Kaiserslautern adds some goal scoring punch to the attack. The big question for Wolfsburg will be in defense with Simon Kjær, Marco Russ, Arne Friedrich and Patrick Ochs need to improve and improve quickly. Lukas Podolski and Milivoje Novakovič will be looking to strike at any weaknesses they find in the Wolfsburg defense and have the quality to put the ball in the back of the net. New Köln manager Ståle Solbakken will be looking to impress in front of the home fans. Pick: 1. FC Köln 1 - 1 VfL Wolfsburg

FC Augsburg vs SC Freiburg

Augsburg will come out firing in front of the home fans in their first Bundesliga match. Freiburg will be looking to Senegalese striker Papiss Cissé to continue his goal scoring form from last season. Augsburg forward Nando Rafael has to score goals. Without Rafael getting goals, their campaign will be short and sweet. Pick: FC Augsburg 1 - 0 SC Freiburg

VfB Stuttgart vs FC Schalke 04

I believe this Schalke side is good enough to qualify for next season's UEFA Champions League. It's going to be interesting to see what lineup Ralf Rangnick. Klaas Jan-Huntelaar is seen as Rangnick's "guy" in his formation, and he's preferred to play Raul underneath him. Who will be playing in the "2" of the "4-2-3-1"? The three options are Alexander Baumjohann, Lewis Holtby and Jermaine Jones. Stuttgart's going to be without defenders Ermin Bičakčić and Georg Niedermeier. Cacau will be expected to lead the Stuttgart attack from the top with goals. It's going to be difficult against the brilliant Benedikt Höwedes. Pick: VfB Stuttgart 1 - 2 FC Schalke 04

Hannover 96 vs 1899 Hoffenheim

This season is a "first" for Hannover. They'll be competing on three fronts this year with the Bundesliga, DFB Pokal and Europa League. Ivorian forward Didier Konan Ya is in a race to be fit for the match and if fit he'll pair with Mohammed Abdellaoue up top. They were an excellent combo for Hannover last year, and they'll need to do the same again this year. Hoffenheim will be without Vedad Ibišević for two months as he recovers from a thigh muscle tear, and they'll be counting heavily on Ryan Babel. Hannover needs a solid victory to start their campaign. Pick: Hannover 96 2 - 0 1899 Hoffenheim

SV Werder Bremen vs 1. FC Kaiserslautern

Will the world be witness to the 'Christian Tiffert Show' on Saturday? Tiffert led the Bundesliga in assists last season, but I don't see him having the same effect this season. Kaiserslautern have brought in Israel forward Itay Shechter, but he likely won't have the same effect on the side that Srđan Lakić did. Bremen will be attacking in full force with Mehmet Ekici, Aaron Hunt and Marko Marin. Ekici has the potential to become a star in Bremen. Veteran forward Claudio Pizarro is probable for the match but some recent reports suggest that he will get minutes this weekend. Pick: SV Werder Bremen 3 - 1 1. FC Kaiserslautern

Hertha BSC Berlin vs 1. FC Nürnberg

Hertha's first match back in the Bundesliga is definitely a winnable one. Nürnberg will be looking for goals on the road and hoping to do so on the back of Christian Eigler. They lost Mehmet Ekici, Julian Schieber and İlkay Gündoğan with the expiration of the first two players loan deals and the sell of Gündoğan. That's a huge part of their offense from last season. I think midfielder Andreas Ottl will help Hertha control the match. They'll get a goal or two in front of the massive home crowd. Pick: Hertha BSC Berlin 2 - 0 1. FC Nürnberg

Sunday, August 7

1. FSV Mainz 05 vs Bayer 04 Leverkusen

Mainz is coming into this match after being eliminated from the Europa League on Wednesday night. Leverkusen struggled in their defeat in the DFB Pokal last weekend, but they have the creative attack to take the match to Mainz from the opening whistle. Bayer purchased André Schürrle from Mainz in the summer, and the kid is really talented. If you haven't had the opportunity to see him play before, please do and do it soon. I would expect to see Leverkusen roll out a "4-2-3-1" with a midfield five of Simon Rolfes, Lars Bender, Schürrle, Michael Ballack and Renato Augusto. This is an important year for Ballack. He turns 35 in September and is in the last year of his contract with Leverkusen. It's time for him to show his value again. Pick: 1. FSV Mainz 05 0 - 2 Bayer 04 Leverkusen

FC Bayern München vs Borussia Mönchengladbach

We start the weekend with the defending champions, and we end the weekend with the team they'll be fighting off for this year's title. Bayern enter this match with 'Glabach with goals on their mind. Reports at the beginning of the week suggested that both Arjen Robben and Franch Ribery would be out for this match, but now suggestions that both will be fit enough for minutes. Mario Gomez scored goals for fun last season, and he will like his chances to get started against 'Gladbach. Holger Badstuber and Jerome Boateng won't be tested too often by the 'Gladbach attack, but they will have to keep an eye on talented Marco Reus. He's the sort of player that can jump up at any time and put the ball in the back of the net from the midfield position. Manuel Neuer gets to start his Bayern career in style in front of the home supporters. How many saves until they cheer him? Pick: FC Bayern München 4 - 1 Borussia Mönchengladbach

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