BERLIN, Aug 23 — The Bundesliga is arguably the most open of Europe’s big five leagues, yet when it comes to the crunch this season looks likely to become another battle between Borussia Dortmund and an increasingly frustrated Bayern Munich.
Bayern, Germany’s biggest and brashest club, are still smarting after finishing second to Dortmund in the Bundesliga for the last two seasons, plus the German Cup last term.
Their frustration boiled over when club president Uli Hoeness made an outspoken attack on their rivals from the industrial Ruhr region in a television interview shortly after Dortmund won last year’s title.
“At the moment, what Dortmund have are players who are somewhat hungrier, but they have no world class players,” he said, adding they would have to do well at international level as well to earn his admiration.
For the second season in a row, Dortmund, who kick off the championship at home to Werder Bremen tomorrow (1830 GMT), have sold a key member of their title-winning team.
Last time around, it was Nuri Sahin, who departed for Real Madrid and was shunted into the reserves, and now Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa has departed hoping his move to Manchester United turns out to be more fruitful.
Dortmund have, however, replaced Kagawa with Marco Reus — one of the Bundesliga’s hottest properties — from Borussia Moenchengladbach, indicating that they are once again up for the battle.
They also have playmaker Mario Goetze raring to go after an injury-plagued time last season.
“Marco Reus’s set-pieces, free kicks and amazing shooting technique make him a different type of threat and if we can use him in the right way, I’m sure he’s going to bring us a lot of joy,” said defender Mats Hummels.
“But I wouldn’t like to compare the two. Shinji was a great player for us and I’m sure Marco will be too.”
Compared by coach Juergen Klopp to a Volkswagen Beetle car because of their ability to keep going where others come spluttering to a halt, Dormtund’s intense high-tempo attacking game is unmatched in the league.
They have maintained the nucleus of their young team and can count of the wall of noise provided by the 25,000 fans in the Suedtribune, the largest standing area in a European stadium.
Bayern have made two big signings in Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri and Croatia forward Mario Mandzukic, although their attempt to lure Athletic Bilbao’s versatile Javi Martinez has turned into a long-running saga.
The Bavarians, who visit promoted Greuther Fuerth on Saturday (1330 GMT), have offered an estimated €40 million (RM160 million) for the player, which would break the German record they paid for Mario Gomez three seasons ago.
They are already looking forward to a two-horse race with Dortmund and drew first blood by winning the Supercup final 2-1 on August 12, ending a run of five successive defeats against their rivals from the north.
“There are always other teams to be considered, but basically I think these two are the strongest in terms of quality and have the greatest consistency,” said midfielder Thomas Mueller.
Schalke 04, third last season, cannot be discounted even after the departure of Spanish forward Raul, who enjoyed a prolific scoring career in two seasons at the club.
“The whole team has to stay fit for the entire season. The other point is to win the big games against Bayern, Dortmund, Leverkusen and whoever else,” said midfielder Lewis Holtby.
“We have to stay in top form, especially with the Champions League to think about too. I think that’s a good recipe for winning titles.”
VfL Wolfsburg, coached by disciplinarian Felix Magath, could be dark horses if he can stay on good terms with playmaker Diego, back at the club after a year on loan with Atletico Madrid. — Reuters