Tension builds ahead of DFL Super Cup
"It's not a friendly," Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola said. "It's a final. We will play to win." He is taking the Super Cup seriously and does not want his squad to suffer of a lack of confidence heading into a difficult season. With Germany winning the World Cup in Brazil, many of Bayern's internationals still have a very long way to reach their highest fitness level and it will certainly show in the course of the season and especially in the Super Cup.
"We've got eight or nine fit players, no more," Guardiola said. "I'll talk to the players after training and then decide who will play." It's likely that most World Cup winners will be rested -- along with new keeper Pepe Reina, who will remain in Munich while his new teammates travel to Dortmund -- at the Westfalenstadion when the Bavarians play their biggest domestic rivals.
Bayern were victorious in the 2012 Super Cup, before Dortmund stole the show last year with a 4-2 victory in their stadium and a great counterattacking outing, which Guardiola remembers well. "I know our opponents better than last season, but I also know how hard it is to win in Dortmund," he said. "They are a great counterattacking side with a very good defensive structure."
One player who lifted the Super Cup trophy last year has changed sides this summer. Robert Lewandowski will have an early return to his old club, making his competitive Bayern debut in front of the sold-out 80,667 crowd -- for the first time as a visitor.
As both teams still lack fitness, the main worries for Guardiola and Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp are integrating new players into their systems and fine-tuning tactics. Bayern have enjoyed a successful spell in the past few weeks and their immense depth is paying off as several quality players, including Lewandowski, have not been at the World Cup for long or at all and therefore have fresh legs for the start of the season.
Dortmund have a bit more work to do. Their German internationals did not play as much as Bayern's in Brazil, but the injury of Marco Reus and replacing top scorer Lewandowski with different types of players in Ciro Immobile and Adrian Ramos will need some time to be sorted out.
There has been more bad blood between Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and his Dortmund counterpart Hans-Joachim Watzke in the buildup to the Super Cup. Rummenigge spoke publicly about Reus' buyout clause, which will activate next summer, and told reporters that 25 million euros -- rather than the widely reported 35 million euros -- is all that's needed to sign the BVB talisman.
Watzke, of course, did not like an official from another club making public confidential details of his players' contracts and is certainly afraid of losing another star to Munich in 2015 after Mario Gotze and Lewandowski moved south. While many consider Rummenigge's statements as provocations and the typical Bavarian arrogance, it is certainly part of the business now and shows how far Dortmund have come in the past few years. Bayern are taking them very seriously and are heating up the rivalry ahead of the season.
The final rehearsal ahead of this season is the Super Cup, and both clubs want to boost their egos and see how things stand after a long summer. Tactically, Bayern could play with a 3-4-3 again, like they did for parts of the preseason and also in last season's DFB-Pokal final win over Dortmund. Guardiola already confirmed that his team will play several different systems next season, naturally with a main focus on possession and quick transition. Dortmund will almost certainly play a 4-2-3-1, possibly turning into a 4-4-2 in certain situations.
The styles of both teams have not changed much and it will be a question of fitness and the desire to win Wednesday in Dortmund. Even without most German World Cup winners, both teams have formidable options, which can provide an entertaining and competitive game to look forward to -- and maybe a preview of things to come in what should be a much closer Bundesliga campaign than the last.