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Talking football with Xabi Alonso

Bundesliga 6 days ago
Read
Aug 22, 2014

Familiar refrain in Bayern opener

The Bundesliga is booming on the back of Germany's success in Brazil, proudly proclaiming its product the "League of the World Champions" to the billions watching all around the globe.

Since 2002, the reigning Bundesliga champions have enjoyed the privilege of commencing proceedings with a match on home soil. Those select few champion teams have never failed to win this prestigious game. Bayern, of course, did not disappoint. The Reds sealed a deserved, yet nervy, 2-1 success against Wolfsburg in the opening joust of the 52nd Bundesliga campaign.

- Report: Robben wins the points for Bayern

It's a rousing occasion. It's somewhat different from the norm as the national anthem is played pre-match. And the Germans certainly had something to sing about as the capacity crowd rose to greet six World Cup-winning heroes. Bayern broke out the bunting (and the flowers) to welcome back Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Mario Gotze and Thomas Mueller to the starting lineup.

Jerome Boateng (suspended) and Bastian Schweinsteiger (knee injury) were also present in civvies, soaking up the acclaim, too, for their efforts in national colours. Germany team coach Joachim Low was also in attendance.

Dante and Arjen Robben were also in action in Brazil until the final weekend for their respective countries, but both started. The Brazilian rock returned to his 2012-13 form with a commanding performance alongside Holger Badstuber at the back. The German international is back to league action, four operations later, and after almost 20 months out.

Bayern manager Pep Guardiola sprang a major surprise, handing the 17-year-old Gianluca Gaudino a league debut. At the serious risk of showing my age here, I remember his dad Maurizio, a Bundesliga winner with VfB Stuttgart, plying his trade at Manchester City in the mid-90s. All the early signs indicate young Gianluca will outdo his graceful, but temperamental father.

Bayern's squad strength is typified by Guardiola still being able to field nine full internationals in the starting 11 -- Gaudino and Juan Bernat being the odd ones out. Yet wasn't this a massively depleted Bayern with Franck Ribery, Javi Martinez, Schweinsteiger, Thiago and Rafinha all missing? And with all those aforementioned World Cup stars allegedly running on empty after such a short break? The good news is that team captain Lahm, freed from the burden of international football, can concentrate on becoming the most popular Bavarian of all time.

For the record, Muller opened the scoring on 37 minutes, showing immediately what his alleged summer suitors Manchester United were missing out on. Robben, surely a worthier candidate for the World Cup's best player rather than Argentina's Lionel Messi, doubled the lead just after the interval.

Arjen Robben picked up where he left off at the World Cup by collecting a goal on Friday in Bayern's opener.
Arjen Robben picked up where he left off at the World Cup by collecting a goal on Friday in Bayern's opener.

It should have been game over and goodnight, but ex-Bayern star Ivica Olic reduced the arrears with a "worldy" goal, leaving Neuer stranded. Junior Malanda should have equalised for the visitors with 10 minutes to go. A real candidate for miss of the season. Or decade. Look away now, Wolves fans. Simply horrible.

As for Bayern's various new summer arrivals, Robert Lewandowski dilly-dallied on more than a few occasions, but surely the best is yet to come from arguably the Bundesliga's most potent striker. Substitute Sebastian Rode thought he had settled matters late on league debut for Bayern, but Muller was adjudged to have strayed offside. Bernat, a 10 million euro acquisition from Valencia, was rampant roaming the left side and a definite man-of-the-match candidate in a storming debut.

The Bavarians have now won six out of their seven outings when returning to defend the famous "Salad Bowl." Bayern's overall record in Munich against Wolfsburg is imperious: 17 wins out of 18 with just a solitary draw to the woeful Wolves.

The record German champions are aiming for a fourth "three-peat" Bundesliga success (1972-74, 1985-1987, 1999-2001) in their illustrious history, and started it off looking like they can do it.

Yes, Jurgen Klopp is now the longest-serving miracle worker in the league (since July 2008) at Borussia Dortmund. But even Klopp has his work cut out to reduce those gobsmacking 25- and 19-point deficits of the previous two seasons.

Indeed, the only slight downer for the sell-out crowd in the Bavarian capital was missing out on the privilege of witnessing Nicklas Bendtner's Bundesliga debut. The free transfer signing from Arsenal failed to make the Wolves' squad. A shame.

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