Matchday 1: A Typical Situation in These Typical Times
While the Pokal is a nice appetizer, the steak is finally here. The 2017-2018 Bundesliga season kicks off on Friday with the defending champions at home and continues all weekend with some intriguing matches. The league has undergone many changes this offseason, but one constant remains the same – Bayern are the club in the pole position. Who will challenge them and will they hold on will be determined in the coming months, but the first step to the end of the season starts here.
Rather than do a linear review of each match this weekend, I divided them into three tiers – matches not to miss, matches I want to see but would watch on replay, and matches I do not feel the need to watch. While I would always keep on a Bundesliga match over other leagues, if pressed for time this is how I would prioritize. The rankings are entirely subjective and this week focuses more on big picture items.
Wolfsburg v. BVB – We are always a top tier match.
Bayern Munich v. Bayer Leverkusen (Friday) – While it seems like Carlo Ancelotti’s job is always in jeopardy, a poor offseason following a disastrous exit from the Champions League has people asking if he is the right fit for the venerable club. Fans will still be tasting blowout defeats by Liverpool and Napoli as Leverkusen visit the Allianz Arena. No doubt we always want to see Bayern drop points, but I want to see if their poor form carries over into the matches that actually count.
Schalke v. RB Leipzig – The Bundesliga loves its young managers, and Domenico Tedesco has his hands full with this club. Can he make a positive first impression against the club who could be the favorites in the Bundesliga? RB Leipzig continued their “magical” (read – cash infused) run to scaring Bayern for the title. Now they have to balance Champions League with large clubs trying to poach their talent. A kickoff to the season with two clubs with a lot of promise and some outstanding questions.
Hertha Berlin v. VfB Stuttgart – As long as Pal Dardai is with Hertha, I feel they are a competitor. Again the capital club smartly reinforced this year and have a good solid club. Combine that with a chance to see Stuttgart back up in the Bundesliga, and this match tickles my interest. Will it be a top of the table battle come spring? No, but it has enough new faces for both sides to make this worth recording on my football streaming app and catching in my spare time.
Hoffenheim v. Werder Bremen – I am a big Julian Nagelsmann fan and enjoy watching him manage, preparing myself to know his tricks when he takes over Bayern (or maybe another big club…). Their tussle with Liverpool in Champions’ League group stage qualification shows they could approach elite level, and I rate Serge Gnabry highly. It will be interesting to see if there is a Liverpool hangover.
Monchengladbach v. FC Koln (Sunday) – Both clubs underwent roster changes in the offseason, with Koln simultaneously looking to be competitive in Europe and build an affordable strategy for the future. This match will be of interest simply to see how the teams line up and play, and see if they resemble their form from last season.
Hamburger v. Augsburg – On one hand, as an American, I should always want to watch national team player Bobby Wood. On the other, watching trains wreck together simultaneously have little interest to me. Losing to Osnabruck in the Pokal showed me Hamburger are going to be an eyesore again this year unless they invest heavily. This would be much more interesting as an end-of-the-season six pointer, but as a season kick-off, I’d skip.
Mainz v. Hannover – There are two reasons I’d want to see this match, and neither are incredibly inspiring. The first is to see the home crowd’s reaction to Hannover, who will be granted the RB Leipzig corporate ownership exemption this season. The second is to watch Alexandru Maxim play, who I think will be a good signing for Mainz.
SC Freiburg v. Eintracht Frankfurt (Sunday) – I always like to see Kevin Prince-Boateng play, but even his debut for the visitors barely moves the needle on my radar for this match.