Lewandowski looming for Dortmund
Jurgen Klopp summed up the German Super Cup between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich perfectly: "The winner will celebrate, but the loser won't grieve too long over the result."
It is the first competitive match of the season, and it starts off where it all ended last year, a final between Dortmund and Bayern, this time in the beautiful Westfalenstadion to see another story of Der Klassiker unfold. For all the disharmonies between the two clubs and the verbal jousting between officials, the two German powerhouses have more in common than they'd care to admit.
As recent friendly losses for BVB and FCB suggest, both have to cope with the struggle of integrating their World Cup players in a shorter timespan than usual. It has been a pattern for FC Bayern over the past decade to have their weaker seasons after an international tournament, but this time Klopp's Black and Yellows hardly gain an advantage as they find most of their key players recovering from international duty as well.
It is a new situation for Klopp to see most of his players arriving late to summer training due to their prolonged vacations. New signings have less time to gel with the side and vice versa, hence team chemistry might be an issue at the beginning of the season for Dortmund as far as replacing Robert Lewandowski and integrating four new signings goes.
Marco Reus is missing for Wednesday, but the Dortmund star's recovery is going better than expected. He should be available for the Bundesliga's start after all. Only Ilkay Gundogan and Nuri Sahin won't make it in two weeks.
"The boys are still strained from the recent weeks of heavy exercise, which is why they lack freshness at this point. But we aren't preparing for friendlies against Liverpool or the Super Cup. We are preparing for a long and arduous season," Klopp explained after BVB's 4-0 loss to Liverpool on Sunday.
Even if the Super Cup will never be known as anything other than a glorified friendly, they are usually fun and chaotic games to watch -- and you never want to lose to your rivals whatever the fixture. In the 2014 edition, there will be a few firsts -- one of them is Lewandowski returning to Dortmund in a Bayern shirt. It will be a weird, surreal feeling for BVB supporters.
Another, more significant first is seeing Mats Hummels introduced as the new captain of Dortmund. The announcement hardly came as a surprise, since Hummels has always been one of the most eloquent players of the team and has developed more and more into a leading figure.
Sebastian Kehl, who made the conscious choice to retire the captain's armband after six years, expressed his approval: "The coach and club have found a great solution with Mats."
Who would dare to disagree with the veteran?
Hummels is the right choice, considering his sterling reputation within the team and his state of mind regarding Borussia Dortmund. He wants to be part of a developing team rather than leaving for a rival or a new league. Handing Hummels the strap with the big "C" was more a reward for his efforts and long-term pledge to BVB than a plot to kill off transfer rumours, but such a thing is a pleasant side effect. In addition to Hummels' captaincy, the club are moulding their future elsewhere with chief executive Hans Joachim Watzke renewing his contract until 2019.
He has been the architect of Dortmund's successes after lifting the club out of crisis, and with this contract extension, the trinity of Klopp, Michael Zorc and Watzke will continue to at least 2018 which is great news for the club and all its fans.
Now it's up to the team to reward the boss' choice with a piece of silverware on Wednesday.