The Bundesliga returns on Friday afternoon, and we all are better for it. The opening kick on Friday features the annual tradition of the champions hosting. This year, we are presented with Bayern Munich hosting Borussia Mönchengladbach. For my money, the match to keep an eye on this weekend takes place on Saturday when Bayer Leverkusen takes on a rebuilt Freiburg side.
Friday, August 9
Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Mönchengladabch
Pep Guardiola gets his first taste of Bundesliga action on Friday when Bayern Munich host Borussia Mönchengladbach. Gladbach has been a bogey team of sorts for Bayern in recent years, with the Bavarians only managing one win in their last four matches against The Foals. While Guardiola seems to have settled on a 4-1-4-1 formation for his players, Gladbach's additions this summer have given Lucien Favre a bit of wiggle room himself. He has the opportunity to run out several different formations with this side now. The matchup to watch will be Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben running at the Gladbach defense. Can they stop them?
Time & Location: 20:30 Local / 2:30 PM Eastern; Allianz Arena, Munich
Prediction: Bayern Munich 2 - 0 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Saturday, August 10
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Freiburg
Christian Streich's rebuilt Freiburg side will take the field for the first time in the Bundesliga with a stern challenge. A trip to Bayer Leverkusen is tough for any side, let alone a side that sold five regular starters over the summer. The signings that Freiburg have made this summer have been good, but it remains to be seen if that will transition to the field. Leverkusen have the opportunity to push Borussia Dortmund for the second place spot in the table. A lot falls on the shoulders of Stefan Kießling and Heung-Min Son. While Andre Schürrle is now playing his football in England, Son and Kießling must form a working partnership on the field to find goals in any way they can.
Time & Location: 15:30 Local / 9:30 AM Eastern; BayArena, Leverkusen
Prediction: Bayer Leverkusen 2 - 1 Freiburg
Hannover vs. Wolfsburg
Both Hannover and Wolfsburg made moves to strengthen their squads this summer with the objective of finding their way back into Europe. While Hannover did manage to hold onto Mame Biram Diouf, at least for now, they'll need to figure out another way to score goals. The easiest way is to get Szabolcs Huszti started on the right foot like last season. Dieter Hecking has been slowly transforming Wolfsburg into a much better team. The biggest issue comes up top. There have been rumors that Ivica Olic might be on his way out by the end of the transfer window, and Bas struggled to get his feet under him for long periods of time last year. With Diego, Ivan Perisic and Vieirinha playing behind one of those guys, goals will begin to come.
Time & Location: 15:30 Local / 9:30 AM Eastern; AWD-Arena, Hanover
Prediction: Hannover 1 - 1 Wolfsburg
Hoffenheim vs. Nürnberg
Uh, this likely isn't going to be the most visually appealing matchup this weekend. Hoffenheim didn't really improve their squad by any significant stretch this summer in the transfer window, but they did rid themselves of some players in what was turning into a bloated squad full of mediocre players. Nürnberg should find a way to win this game. Hoffenheim's misery will continue this year. It'll be a long 34 games.
Time & Location: 15:30 Local / 9:30 AM Eastern; Rhein-Neckar Arena, Sinsheim
Prediction: Hoffenheim 0 - 1 Nürnberg
Augsburg vs. Borussia Dortmund
Drawing Borussia Dortmund in the opening match of the Bundesliga isn't a good move, Augsburg. The Fuggerstädter are one of my relegation choices for the upcoming season and need to get off to a great start if they have plans to stay up this year. BVB are just too powerful for Augsburg, and it starts with their point man Robert Lewandowski. The Polish striker may want out of Dortmund, but when he's on his game, there aren't many players in the world that are better. Unfortunately, we won't get to see Henrikh Mkhitaryan this weekend. He'll miss the match due to injury.
Time & Location: 15:30 Local / 9:30 AM Eastern; SGL arena
Prediction: Augsburg 0 - 3 Borussia Dortmund
Hertha Berlin vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
Eintracht Frankfurt is one of the sides that I'm really excited to see play this season. They were very entertaining last season and have added several really good players this summer. The Olympiastadion will be rocking on Saturday for Hertha Berlin's first game back in the Bundesliga since the end of the 2011-12 season. This should be one of the funnest games this weekend.
Time & Location: 15:30 Local / 9:30 AM Eastern; Olympiastadion, Berlin
Prediction: Hertha Berlin 1 - 2 Eintracht Frankfurt.
Eintracht Braunschweig vs. Werder Bremen
The only appeal that I see this match having is that Eintracht Braunschweig is kicking off their Bundesliga campaign at home and the crowd should be electric. Both sides will likely be fighting relegation all season long. Braunschweig just isn't good for the Bundesliga. It's sad, but it's true. I don't really know what we should expect out of Robin Dutt and Werder. It's likely not going to be good.
Time & Location: 18:30 Local / 12:30 PM Eastern; Eintracht-Stadion, Braunschweig
Prediction: Eintracht Braunschweig 1 - 0 Werder Bremen
Sunday, August 11
Mainz vs. Stuttgart
Shinji Okazaki will get the first opportunity to go up against his old team on Sunday when Stuttgart visits the Coface Arena. Okazaki moved to Mainz in order to find more playing time. With Adam Szalai moving to Schalke, Mainz will need some goals out of Okazaki this season. Stuttgart found their way into the final round of qualifying for the Europa League group stage. They've played three competitive games this year and have scored three goals. Here's the problem: Vedad Ibisevic has scored all three goals. They need more help this season.
Time & Location: 15:30 Local / 9:30 AM Eastern; Coface Arena, Mainz
Prediction: Mainz 0 - 1 Stuttgart
Schalke vs. Hamburg
Schalke drew the Dinosaur in the first game of the season, and Jens Keller's side needs to get off to a good start this season to keep up with the other three Champions League contenders. If you're Keller, do you play a 4-2-3-1 with just Klaas-Jan Huntelaar up top or do you go with a 4-4-2 with Adam Szalai partnering Huntelaar? The most exciting thing here? We get to watch Julian Draxler. Take away your team biases for one minute and admit that Draxler is one of the most entertaining players in this league. Torsten Fink has his work cut out for him this year. They didn't spend enough money improving the squad this summer and sold one of their better players (Son). I'm scared for you, Mr. Fink. You better make Europe this season, or you might be in the unemployment line.
Time & Location: 17:30 Local / 11:30 AM Eastern; Veltins-Arena, Gelsenkichen
Prediction: Schalke 2 - 1 Hamburg