The season after The Season starts now

Posted by Susie Schaaf

Phew! Finally! After a long, agonizing preseason filled with tactical and personnel questions, the 51st edition of the Bundesliga kicks off Friday night at the Allianz Arena as title holders Bayern Munich take on their bogey team in Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Just a few weeks ago in the Telekom Cup, Bayern beat 'Gladbach handily, 5-1. But Foals manager Lucien Favre thinks a result like that is unlikely to be repeated, telling reporters at the pre-match press conference, "It was only a friendly, so we shouldn't read too much into it. We made some bad mistakes on the day that are really easy to put right."

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Historically, Favre seems to have the right of it as the Foals play Bayern Munich tough. Starting with the teams' battles for supremacy in the 1970s, through the Lothar Matthaeus and Stefan Effenberg transfers in the 1980s, to former 'Gladbach striker Jupp Heynckes leading the Bavarians to a historic treble last season -- while there isn't currently bad blood, it's always a battle when these sides match up.

The final match of the 2012-13 season saw Bayern go down 2-0 in the space of five minutes at Borussia Park, but Munich scraped back for a 4-3 win in Heynckes' last Bundesliga match as manager. And when the sides met up in the last match of the first half, Bayern could only manage a 1-1 draw at home.

The 2011-12 Foals beat Bayern at home and away, although Munich would dump 'Gladbach out of the Pokal that season in a penalty shootout.

That was then and this is now, however, and Moenchengladbach will be looking for a victory after crashing out on the opening round of the DFB Pokal to Darmstadt. "It's been a short week as far as training is concerned, but we've prepared well all the same," Favre said.

The Foals coach will have his whole squad to choose from, while Bayern's Pep Guardiola with be without flu casualty Thiago Alcantara, golden boy Mario Goetze and want-away Luiz Gustavo. Noting the trio of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez and Dante are not yet at peak strength, it will be interesting to see who Guardiola chooses as his Startelf for this one. And your guess is as good as mine.

Thomas Mueller as false nine? Mario Mandzukic up top? It seems likely that Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben will start on the wings, Philipp Lahm and David Alaba as wingbacks, and Manuel Neuer in goal, but after that many questions arise.

Finally, Bayern supporters across the world finally get to see what Guardiola's tinkering is all about. He'd tell reporters that he's simply "happy" that the season is starting for real after a "very, very good preseason."

"I'm excited," he said. "I think we're ready for the challenge."

Bayern Munich might be ready, but I think I am not. This preseason has left me in shambles, agonizing over every tactical switch, every player move, every transaction. Of course, I now never lack for things to write about. But I've got to tell you, I rather enjoyed last season's air of invincibility, when I knew where Bayern Munich's place in the world was -- firmly on top.

It's finally time to get this new season started, and see what the fuss is all about. Are you ready for a long and interesting ride? Auf gehts!

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