It may still be July, but Pep Guardiola will get an early first test as Bayern Munich boss when his side faces rivals Borussia Dortmund in the German Supercup on Saturday. It will be just 63 days since the two teams met for the biggest prize in club soccer when Bayern triumphed 2-1 over Dortmund in the Champions League final at Wembley in a match that was in many ways the culmination of a three-season long rivalry between the current heavyweights of the Bundesliga.
Having been dominated by Dortmund for two years and witnessing their rivals claim back-to-back league titles, Bayern responded in stunning fashion last term. Adapting one of the hallmarks of Dortmund’s game -- fierce pressing -- the Bavarians won a historic treble, including winning the Bundesliga by 25 points and at an earlier stage than any side in history.
Since then, of course, Jupp Heynckes has stepped aside as manager and in his stead has stepped a man who knows all about racking up trophies: Guardiola. With him the Spaniard has brought in his former charge at Barcelona Thiago Alcantara as well as Mario Gotze from Dortmund and defender Jan Kirchhoff to add to a squad already over-spilling with talent.
While it would be unwise to read too much into such things, Guardiola’s reign has begun somewhat ominously for the rest of Europe as he has overseen a 100 percent record in pre-season. In their most recent friendly Bayern triumphed 2-0 over an admittedly weakened Barcelona. The match did highlight, though, some of the tactical and positional versatility that Guardiola is likely to bring to Bayern and that he is perfectly equipped to do so with all the options at his disposal. In the match for the Uli Hoeness Cup, Franck Ribery was used as a false nine, while captain Philipp Lahm stepped out from his full-back role and occupied a spot in central midfield.
It is a fierce task in store then for Dortmund to reverse the dominance Bayern displayed last season, starting with the Supercup in their own Signal Iduna Park on Saturday. Having been powerless to prevent Gotze heading to Munich, the club has been unrelenting in their insistence that Robert Lewandowski would not be allowed his desired move to Bayern Munich this summer.
At the same time, with the striker free to leave when his contract expires in a year’s time, his replacement has likely already been signed in the shape of Ligue 1’s joint second highest scorer last season, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. And Dortmund have also spent big on former Shakhtar Donetsk attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan to take the place of Gotze. A defense that lacked depth has also been boosted with the arrival of Greece international Sokratis Papastathopoulos from Werder Bremen.
The additions should mean that Dortmund are better able to rotate their side and keep players fresh for both the Bundesliga and the Champions League, something which they have been unable to do in the past two seasons. Yet, on Saturday Dortmund are set to be without Mkhitaryan and Lukasz Piszczek possibly as well as Jakub Blaszczykowski and Aubameyang. And with Bayern hitting the ground running, Guardiola may secure some early silverware, potentially with a repeat of the scoreline that Bayern conquered Dortmund by at Wembley as well as in last year’s Supercup.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 2-1 Borussia Dortmund
Where to watch: The DFL Supercup will kick-off at 2.30 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Gol TV.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.