MUNICH, GERMANY - AUGUST 12: Marco Reus of Dortmund controls the ball during the Bundesliga Supercup 2012 match between Bayern Muenchen and Borussia Dortmund at Allianz Arena on August 12, 2012 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Borussia Dortmund kick off the campaign for their third straight Bundesliga title.
The 50th season of the German Bundesliga kicks off this weekend. We're shaping up for what could be a truly special year. The Bundesliga has developed a very strong depth over the last several years thanks in part to the increased development of young German players throughout the league. Borussia Dortmund have won back to back titles, and Bayern Munich have been shut out of trophies for the last two seasons. Can Bayern find their groove back this season? Dropping down the table a bit, Werder Bremen and Wolfsburg have had their struggles over the last several years, can they put things right and find their way back up the table and in Europe?
Friday, August 24
Borussia Dortmund vs Werder Bremen - 20:30 CET / 2:30 PM EDT
The Champions kick off their title defense in the traditional Friday night match against a retooled Werder Bremen side. Borussia Dortmund are already without midfielder Sven Bender due to the hernia operation he underwent earlier this month, and right back Lukasz Piszczek will be a matchday decision due to a thigh strain he picked up in Tuesday's training. Werder were given a boost with Eljero Elia making the trip to Dortmund. The midfielder suffered a bruised foot in Werder's loss last weekend in the DFB Pokal and was doubtful to make the trip a few days ago. New boys Marco Reus and Nils Peterson will be looking to make an impression on their new managers in their first Bundesliga appearances since moving this summer.
Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 2 - 0 Werder Bremen
Saturday, August 25
Augsburg vs Fortuna Düsseldorf - 15:30 CET / 9:30 AM EDT
I don't think either side could have asked for a better opponent in their opening match. Augsburg get a promoted side, and Düsseldorf get a side that was promoted last year and lost their manager after the season. To top it off, Düsseldorf also signed arguably Augsburg's most influential player from last year. Axel Bellinghausen returns to Düsseldorf where he spent his first four years as a professional in order to face the team where he spent the last three.
Prediction: Augsburg 1 - 1 Fortuna Düsseldorf
Greuther Fürth vs Bayern Munich - 15:30 CET / 9:30 AM EDT
Congratulations on winning the 2.Bundesliga last season, Greuther Fürth. Welcome to the Bundesliga. Your reward is playing Bayern Munich in the first match! It's the first match for many of Bayern's new boys will be looking to put on a show in their first league match. Mike Büskens has his work cut out for him to keep this one close.
Prediction: Greuther Fürth 0 - 4 Bayern Munich
Freiburg vs Mainz 05 - 15:30 CET / 9:30 AM EDT
Freiburg came on strong at the end of last season under the stewardship of Christian Streich. It's going to be interesting to see what he can do with a full season at the helm. They weren't very active in the transfer market, so they will basically be playing with what they have. Mainz is going to be relying heavily on Maxim Choupo-Moting to score their goals this season with the departures of Sami Allagui and Mohamed Zidan.
Prediction: Freiburg 1 - 1 Mainz 05
Hamburg vs Nürnberg - 15:30 CET / 9:30 AM EDT
I'm really excited to see what Maximilian Beister can do against a Bundesliga opponent. He was absolutely brilliant on loan at Fortuna Düsseldorf last season helping them advance from the 2.Bundesliga to the Bundesliga via the playoff. Both sides lost to lower division clubs in the DFB Pokal last weekend, so I think there's a possibility that we could see a cautious match here.
Prediction: Hamburg 1 - 0 Nürnberg
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs Hoffenheim - 15:30 CET / 9:30 AM EDT
Gladbach started their European campaign this week against Dynamo Kyiv at Borussia Park, and that didn't go to plan. Gladbach scored first but gave up three unanswered goals. With away trip to Kyiv midweek, we'll have to wait and see if Lucien Favre will choose to rest any of his key players this weekend. Hoffenheim have a lot of new players ready to go, and they desperately need a great performance to wipe away the tears from that 4-0 beatdown by the hands of Berliner AK. Markus Babbel did give several of his starters the match off against Berliner, but he has his work cut out for him in getting his defense to gel with new goalkeeper Tim Wiese. The ease at which the fourth division side passed through their backline has to be concerning. This match seems destined for the upset which is why it won't happen.
Prediction: Borussia Mönchengladbach 2 - 1 Hoffenheim
Eintracht Frankfurt vs Bayer Leverkusen - 18:30 CET / 12:30 PM EDT
Frankfurt's return to the Bundesliga can start out on the right foot in their match Saturday evening against Bayer Leverkusen. They've brought over Olivier Occean from fellow promoted club Greuther Fürth, and I think he can get his Bundesliga goalscoring tally started this weekend. Leverkusen aren't going to have a bad season by any stretch, but I think Frankfurt have what it takes to get the win in their Bundesliga return.
Prediction: Eintracht Frankfurt 2 - 1 Bayer Leverkusen
Stuttgart vs Wolfsburg - 20:45 CET / 2:45 PM EDT
In a rare Saturday night match, Stuttgart will host Wolfsburg. I expect big things out of both clubs this year. Stuttgart have a great attacking group of Vedad Ibisevic, Shinji Okazaki, Tamas Hajnal and Martin Harnik. This will be a great test for Felix Magath's revamped defense heading into the season. Stuttgart are going to score in this match. It will hinge on if Wolfsburg can keep them from scoring too many. The visitors brought in some attacking help this summer with Bas Dost, Ivica Olic, and Vaclav Pilar. I think Stuttgart is too strong defensively for this Wolfsburg team that are still figuring themselves out offensively.
Prediction: Stuttgart 3 - 1 Wolfsburg
Sunday, August 26
Hannover 96 vs Schalke 04 - 17:30 CET / 11:30 AM EDT
The lone match on Sunday is a tasty encounter between Hannover 96 and Schalke 04. The Royal Blues travel to the AWD Arena with last season's leading goal scorer Klaas Jan Huntelaar ready to build upon last year's amazing feat. Schalke had an offense to compete with anyone last season, but their defense was abysmal at times. If they can find a way to come together and compete as one unit instead of four separate entities, Schalke could be in for a very special season. Hannover are coming off of a wild 5-3 victory over Slask Wroclaw in the Europa League. With the away leg next week, it will be interesting to see if Mirko Slomka puts out his full lineup this week or if he gives us a mix of starters and reserves.
Prediction: Hannover 96 1 - 3 Schalke 04