Thursday, August 9, 2007

Round 1 Preview

August 10th

Stuttgart v. Schalke at the Gottlieb-Daimler Stadium

The season starts off with a huge encounter involving the top 2 teams from last season. Stuttgart’s young guns look to repeat, but will start this game without Mario Gomez, who was a difference-maker last year. Meanwhile, Schalke will use Mesut Özil rather than Ivan Rakitic as Lincoln’s replacement, hoping he can take the offensive impetus off of Kuranyi and that Lövenkrands is more involved in the buildup than he was during the Ligapokal.

August 11th

Bayern Munich v. Hansa Rostock at the Allianz Arena

Bayern’s €70 million men ease their way into the new season at home against newly promoted Hansa Rostock. Expect Ribery, Klose and Altintop to get their first starts, but concerns over LB linger with Jansen picking up a knock last week. Hitzfeld is expected to employ a 4-5-1 with Toni and Podolski still nursing injuries. Rostock brought in 7 players themselves; however, the most expensive signing was €250,000 for Brazilian Junior Alves. They will need to rely on veteran midfielder Stefan Beinlich to calm their nerves as only 5 players on trainer Frank Pagelsdorf’s side have Bundesliga experience.

Bayer Leverkusen v. Energie Cottbus at the BayArena

Leverkusen, who earlier this week was the first victim of the German Cup losing 1-0 to my favorite St. Pauli, will look to bounce back against last year’s surprise Energie Cottbus. Cottbus, who bucked the odds and finished 13th last campaign, returns with a foreign squad who has problems communicating. Leverkusen has a whole new back line in front of the higly-rated young keeper Rene Adler. Much of the early season could be shaky times for Michael Skibbe’s side.

Bochum v. Werder Bremen at Friendship Stadium

Bremen begins life after Klose with an away trip to Bochum. Bremen will start their season at the right time as many of the injuries that plagued them in pres-season are over. Carlos Alberto, Almieda and Naldo return to start the season. Questions about Rosenborg’s ability to replace Klose should be quickly answered, as Thomas Schaaf was smart enough to use him often late last year and he produced superbly. Bochum will sit back on Bremen and hope to catch them on the break, but the loss of the Bundesliga’s top scorer Theofanis Gekas will be a lot to overcome and whether Stanislav Šesták is up to replacing the Greek international is one of Bochum’s big question marks this season.

Hannover 96 v. Hamburg SV at the AWD Arena

Trainer Huub Stevens took over a near-bottom team last year and turned the fortunes of one of the most talented teams in the Bundesliga. They are now in the UEFA Cup and the most likely to return to their 2005 status. Talisman Rafael Van der Vaart is joined by new forward Mohamed Zidan and attacking midfielder Romeo Castelan to help him in attack. And the return of Vincent Kompany should provide defensive stability. Hannover’s fortunes rest on Dutchman Arnold Bruggink, who trainer Dieter Hecking has built the team around. He has plenty of support staff and Hanover could make a run for Europe this year.

Eintracht Frankfurt v. Hertha Berlin at the Commerzbank Arena

Hertha Berlin returns to the Bundesliga with new coach Lucien Favre, who has sold off 11 players and brought in only 3. Scary times for this giant of German football, who will have to rely on their impressive youth setup to keep them up. Frankfurt, a perennial yo-yo team, begins the season with new addition Mehdi Mahdavikia. The Iranian right-winger should provide more options in attack for Friedhelm Funkel’s side. This one would only be exciting if it were at the end of the season.

Wolfsburg v. Arminia Bielefeld at the Volkswagon Arena

Wolfsburg starts a new era under Felix Magath. He has faced his first crisis, losing his big signing defender Ricardo Costa for six months. But with Magath’s penchant for getting his teams in top condition, they should still be expected to improve. Ernst Middendorp returns for his third stint at Bielefeld after two years at Kaiser Chiefs. He has brought along Sibusiso Zuma and Rowen Fernandez from the famous South African side. Expect Zuma the Puma to be one of the revelations of this year’s campaign.

August 12th

Nurnberg v. Karlsruhe at the EasyCredit Stadium

Karslruhe comes in with a high powered offense, but their season hinges on whether the team that rocked the Zwei can produce a decent percentage of those goals in top flight. If Tamás Hajnal adapts to the league, the tiniest team in the Bundesliga may well stay up. Nurnberg has a smothering defense and should be able to handle Karlsruhe easy in the first game. What remains to be seen by the cup winners is if Ivan Saenko is ready to be a team player and Marek Mintál is fully back from injury to provide an attack.

Borussia Dortmund v. Duisburg at Westfalenstadion

Thomas Doll, who was so successful with HSV until last year, takes over the full campaign at the German giants. He seems to have held off Roma for defender Dedé and he has good attacking options with Mladen Petrić providing the service to Giovanni Federico. It looks to be a better year for BVB. Duisburg is the most likely team to go down and things are not starting well for Rudi Bommer’s side. They start the season without midfield engine Youssef Mokthari, who is out for four weeks.

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