The 2018/19 Bundesliga season is here with a mouthwatering fixture that will see champions Bayern Munich hoping for a blistering start against a Hoffenheim side that will come to the Allianz Arena, all guns out.
The last encounter between the two teams had seen Hoffenheim race into a 2-0 lead within the opening 12 minutes of the match, a setback that Bayern had not faced on its home soil in 40 long years. However, on that occasion in January of last season, the match concluded with the Bavarians responding with five goals to win comfortably, an outcome that Kovac and his men would love to repeat on the opening night.
History favours the champions, but it counts for nothing tonight 💪
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) August 24, 2018
There have been just three arrivals at Munich this summer, all of which were known before the end of the 2017/18 season. Leon Goretzka had agreed on a move from Schalke last January, while Serge Gnabry returned to Bayern after a season on loan at Hoffenheim. The biggest recruitment out was that of the new manager Niko Kovac, a former Bayern player, and the man tasked with taking over from legendary boss Jupp Heynckes.
“We have to try to bring joy, passion, team spirit and harmony,” the recently appointed Kovac said ahead of his first Bundesliga match as Bayern coach. Interestingly, while he was managing Eintracht Frankfurt, he failed to oversee a win against Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim. Eintracht losing two and drawing the rest.
“The only chance you have against Bayern is if you play boldly. It will be difficult, but we are optimistic,” Nagelsmann said ahead of Hoffenheim’s first ever appearance in a Friday night Bundesliga opener. The division’s youngest-ever coach when he arrived on the Hoffenheim scene as a 28-year-old in February 2016, Nagelsmann has managed to win twice and draw one of his four matches against the record champions.
As far as Bayern Munich is concerned, the state of their summer transfer window makes it seem like the Bavarians have decided to save their money this summer in the hope of making a mega-signing next year. With players like Paulo Dybala and Antoine Griezmann being considered for this deal. Nonetheless, summer of 2019 is a season away and could come following a campaign of relative disappointment for Kovac’s men.
Bayern won the Bundesliga last season by 21 points and should take the title again this year, but probably not as comfortable due to Borussia Dortmund strengthening by spending cleverly in the transfer market and recruiting the weathered Lucien Favre as coach.
If Bayern manages to succeed this season too, it would be their seventh league title in a row, something which appears to have been taken as a given by the club’s fans, who demand the club to compete for the treble year after year after having a taste of it in 2012/13 under Heynckes.
This being the first game of the league season, and against a tough opponent at that, Kovac is expected to start his best possible eleven.
In attack, we can expect to have Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller, with the flanks being managed by either Arjen Robben or Franck Ribery, if not both. The fans still continue to hope that Kingsley Coman will get his first competitive start under the new coach. However, after being proved wrong for the first time, we can’t be too certain about that for the opening game which will be Kovac’s third game. In midfield, we can expect Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez. to start. In defense, naturally it will be Joshua Kimmich at right back, David Alaba at left back (if fit, otherwise we can see Rafinha taking his place), and Mats Hummels at center back. The question is whether Niklas Sule or Jerome Boateng will be given the nod by the new manager. Considering the rumors of Boateng’s departure, it’s probably going to be Sule who starts on Friday. Behind the defense will be Manuel Neuer who will be looking forward to making his return to Bundesliga in style.
There’s no secret that the losses Bayern suffered at the hands of Nagesmann have contributed largely to Carlo Ancelotti’s waning at the club.
Will Kovac suffer the same fate as his much more experienced predecessor?