If you are to believe everything that Sky tell you, then you will consider the Premier League to be “the best league in the world ™” but after their national sides performance at the World Cup, all eyes will be on the Bundesliga, which kicks-off tonight. And with three different Champions in the last four seasons this is as competitive as you get.
At the heart of it all, fresh from leading FC Twente to their first ever Dutch title just three months ago – Steve McClaren is now ready to leave his mark on the Bundesliga, already creating history by becoming the first English coach to manage a Bundesliga side. Having been unduly treated by the English press, dubbed “the wally with the brolly” after England failed to qualify for Euro 2008 – the former Middlesbrough manager has since gone abroad to revive his career, becoming the first British manager since Bobby Robson (Porto 1996) to lift a domestic trophy abroad.
McClaren’s new side, Wolfsburg, will have a big challenge on their hands in their opening game tonight, as they take on last season’s double winners and Champions League runners-up – Bayern Munich – a side they finished a staggering 20 points behind last season in eight place. Somewhat luckily for the former England manager, Wolfsburg will have no distraction of European football this season, having finished well outside the positions – this could well allow them to mount the title challenge that many people expect them to do.
The club have only won the Bundesliga only once previously in their 65 year history, that was two seasons ago under former Bayern Munich coach Felix Magath. Wolfsburg look to be much the same side season, albeit from Christian Gentner, Obafemi Martins and Jan Simunke departing for Stuttgart, Rubin Kazan and Kaiserslautern respectively. In terms of transfers, McClaren seems to have identified the weakness that hindered Wolfsburg last season – their defence. He has signed two centre-backs in the close season – cut-price, national team star, fresh from the World Cup, Arne Friedrich has signed for a steal at £2million, along with Simon Kjaer, whom many Premier League clubs were interested in, was persuaded otherwise and joins the German side for £12million.
Also, despite many advances from different clubs, Wolfsburg look set to hold on to striker Edin Dzeko. Tonight’s opponents, Bayern Munich, who were dominant in Germany last season, haven’t changed much over the summer – their only business has been Toni Kroos returning from loan at Bayern Leverkusen. The Bavarians had no fewer than 13 players playing at the World Cup, so fatigue and susceptibility to injury could be a big factor this season for Louis Van Gaal’s side. Already missing out on tonight’s game, are Ivica Olic and Arjen Robben, along with Mark Van Bommel, who is in a race to be fit, if not, Danijel Pranjic will take over. While Wolfsburg will be without their first-choice keeper Diego Benaglio whose wife is having the couple’s first child.
When asked about tonight’s game, McClaren said: “What could be better in the first game than to take on the champions? before going on to say “It will be a great evening.” After their exploits at the World Cup, all eyes will be on German football this season, and with McClaren now part of the league, interest from further afield will come also – shame about the accent though.