The drama of last season’s final day title showdown has hardly faded and we are already preparing for the opening weekend of the 2023/24 Bundesliga season. Bayern Munich will be looking for a twelfth consecutive title, whereas the potential challengers will have been buoyed by what happened last year. Newcomers Darmstadt and Heidenheim will be itching to get their campaigns off to a positive start, while the league sees two new trainers taking control. Here’s what the opening weekend of the new season has in store…
Werder Bremen v Bayern Munich
The reigning Bundesliga champions open the defence of their league crown against a former rival that has become somewhat of a whipping boy for them over recent seasons. Thomas Tuchel’s side were somewhat surprisingly beaten at the Allianz Arena 3-0 by RB Leipzig in the Supercup so a positive start in the Bundesliga opener is a must.
Harry Kane will make his league debut after a short cameo on Friday. Thomas Tuchel will be demanding a much improved display from his side, which could spell bad news for opponents Werder Bremen.
The Grün-Weißen had an even more disappointing start to the season being knocked out of the DFB Pokal in the first round against 3.Liga side Viktoria Köln and with Niclas Füllkrug publicly criticising the defence, the mood in the Werder camp doesn’t look ideal for a trip south to face the champions.
Bayer Leverkusen v RB Leipzig
The opening day of the new season sees two potential title challengers going head-to-head at the Bay Arena. The transformation of the Werkself from a side in the bottom two into a side challenging for a European final was down to the appointment of Xabi Alonso and the Spaniard will have to pit his wits against the new Supercup winners on Saturday. An 8-0 win in the Pokal against FC Teutonia Ottensen was a good start to the season with new signings Victor Boniface and Jonas Hofmann both getting on the scoresheet.
The Roten Bullen will be full of confidence having inflicted a second successive defeat on Bayern at the Allianz Arena and will be keen to start the league season in similar style. Dani Olmo looked in superb early form, with Xavi Simons also grabbing plenty of admiration. Last season’s poor start cost Domenico Tedesco his job, but Marco Rose will want to see his side set the early pace with three points on the Rhine.
VfL Wolfsburg v Heidenheim
Last season’s 2.Bundesliga champions 1FC Heidenheim open their debut season in the Bundesliga with a trip to Wolfsburg. As with all newcomers a positive start to the season is a must and although it will be their first-ever match in the Bundesliga Frank Schmidt’s side will need to have no fear as travel to the Volkswagen Arena. They hit the goal trail scoring eight in the Cup against Rostocker FC and last season’s top-scorer Tim Kleindienst will be looking to open his Bundesliga account on day one.
The Wölfe also had a good Pokal win (6-0 v Makkabi Berlin) and will be desperate to make up for the huge disappointment of missing out on European qualification following their final day defeat to Hertha Berlin last season. Niko Kovac had two new fullbacks in Rogerio and Joakim Maehle, with centre back Cedric Zesiger also making his first start.
Hoffenheim v Freiburg
Hoffenheim were scrapping at the bottom of the table last season, whereas Freiburg were scrapping at the top for a top four finish. The former achieved their aim of survival, whereas the Breisgauer missed out on the Champions League by a whisker. Neither side have made wholesale changes to their squads this season and meet at the Europa Park after both eased through the first round of the DFB Pokal.
The hosts have added some firepower to their attack with the loan signing of Dutch striker Wout Weghort, who spent last season on loan at Manchester United- from Old Trafford to the PreZero Arena is quite a downgrade, but TSG fans will want to see the big man back to the form he showed in his previous Bundesliga stint at Wolfsburg. It will be interesting to see how trainer Pellegrino Matarazzo combines Weghorst and perennial top scorer Andrej Kramaric.
Freiburg were unlucky to miss out on a top four finish last season and will want to have another crack at Champions League qualification this season. The wily Christian Streich manged to successfully steer the Black Forest club through three competitions last season and consistency was the name of the game. Aside from keeper Mark Flekken all their key performers have been retained so they will expect a three-point start to the new campaign.
Augsburg v Borussia Mönchengladbach
Being one of the two Bundesliga sides dumped out of the DFB Pokal first round wasn’t the start Augsburg wanted but they will face a tough opener on Saturday when they host Gladbach at the WWK Arena. Enrico Maaßen’s side faded badly in last season’s Rückrunde and will want to see a fresh start to kick off the new season.
The Foals are a club in transition with a new coach and a new-look team following numerous departures of key players in the summer. If their Pokal win against TuS Bersenbrück is anything to go by, new coach Gerardo Seoane will travel south in full confidence of taking three points from the Fuggerstädter.
VfB Stuttgart v VfL Bochum
Having scraped to Bundesliga survival last season in the play-off with Hamburg, the Swabians will want to avoid a repeat performance this season as coach Sebastian Hoeneß gets a chance to implement his ideas from the start rather than putting a rescue plan into effect. The latest transfer rumours circulating spell bad news for him as key players Wataru Endo, Borna Sosa and Konstantinos Mavropanos are all being linked with moves away from the Mercedes Benz Arena.
Bochum were many people’s tip to go down last season and for a large part of the season that pessimism looked justified. Their fighting spirit and the efforts of new coach Thomas Letsch paid dividends in the end, but the Ruhr side are going to have to find another gear if they are not to face a similar fate this season.
Borussia Dortmund v Köln
Last season’s runners-up start at home to Köln with every intention of taking their title challenge one step further this season and stopping Bayern’s eleven year dominance of the Meisterschale. The pain from the Mainz debacle last season and the spoilt title-party will still hang over the Signal Iduna Park this weekend, but a good start against the Billy Goats will at least go some way to easing the pain and creating a new sense of hope amongst the fans.
Köln were the team that could have, but didn’t to BVB a favour on that fateful matchday 34 last season when they conceded a late Jamal Musiala goal to hand the title to Bayern. Steffen Baumgart has lost two pillars in Jonas Hector and Ellyes Skhiri, but will still be targeting a good start on their short trip to the Ruhr for the Saturday night game.
Union Berlin v Mainz
Sunday sees Champions League new boys Union Berlin hosting Mainz at the Alten Försterei. Die Unioner massively overachieved last season, but they will be keen to prove that this is the new norm in Köpenick now that they have usurped Hertha as the top dogs in the capital.
The club have set about strengthening Urs Fischer’s squad with quality as well as quantity being added. A sign of the club’s ambition is the signing of experienced German international Robin Gosens as well as their reported chase of former Bayer Leverkusen striker Kevin Volland.
Mainz fell away at the tail end of last season although the squad has been strengthened in the summer with the arrival of two players from relegated Schalke- Tom Krauß and Sepp van den Berg. Bo Svensson will be hoping that they can catch Union cold on Sunday and avoid a repeat of the 2-1 defeat suffered in Berlin last season.
Eintracht Frankfurt v Darmstadt
The final game on Sunday sees Dino Toppmöller’s debut as Eintracht Frankfurt coach as he moves out of the shadows as an assistant to being the main man in the technical rea. The Adler’s season was beset with problems last season and the club failed to build on the glory of their Europa League win. There have been player departures, but plenty of interesting arrivals will make their first home game an interesting affair.
Darmstadt need a good start to the season, but won’t have been helped by their first round Pokal exit last weekend at the hands of Regionalliga side FC Homburg. The euphoria of promotion will seem a million miles away should the Lilie get a rude awakening to the start of the Bundesliga campaign.