Bayern Munich V Bayer Leverkusen, Bundesliga, Allianz Arena, 18th August 2017
The 2017/18 Bundesliga season kicks off on Friday with a high-profile game at the Allianz Arena between reigning champions Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen, disappointing underachievers from the last campaign after a third-place finish the year before.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Bayern have had an underwhelming pre-season but have started the competitive campaign in an all-familiar fashion with a win over Dortmund (albeit on penalties) in the German Supercup, and an easy win in the DFB-Pokal against Chemnitzer FC, a game in which Robert Lewandowski bagged a brace. Bayer also romped to an easy win in that competition against lower-league opposition in the shape of Karlsruher, but season expectations have been significantly dampened for Die Werkself through a number of notable departures on the playing-staff front. Not only that, a new coach is in place – Heiko Herrlich has taken the hot-seat filled at various times last season by both Roger Schmidt and Tayfun Korkut. Herrlich is a former Leverkusen player of some distinction, but to date his coaching pedigree includes only stints at significantly smaller clubs in the shape of VfL Bochum, Munich-based SpVgg Unterhaching and SSV Jahn Regensburg.
It is the club’s transfer business that has been the most worrying aspect of Bayer’s preparations, however. Last season’s scorer in a 2-1 defeat at the Allianz, Hakan Çalhanoğlu, has been a notable summer departure, leaving for Milan. Other major losses for the club include Javier Hernández, who is now in the Premier League with West Ham, and Ömer Toprak who has left for Dortmund. Making the opposite journey from the Westfalenstadion is Sven Bender, while Dominik Kohr has been brought in from Augsburg, but that leaves the club looking considerably short of high-quality recruits – it could be a tricky start to the campaign for the club and their new coach.
Bayern, on the other hand, have been adding quality to quality. James Rodríguez has arrived on a two-year loan from Real Madrid, while Niklas Süle, Corentin Tolisso and Sebastian Rudy have also arrived to bolster Ancelotti’s options. Douglas Costa has departed, while precious experience has been lost to retirement as Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso have hung up their boots after sterling careers.
Head-to-head reading doesn’t inspire much confidence either for the visitors; Bayer have only won one of the last ten against the Bavarians, which was back in 2015. At the Allianz, the away team hasn’t been victorious since 2013; Bayern have won the last four at home, including last season’s 2-1 win in which Thiago Alcântara and Mats Hummels notched for the home side.
Despite their underwhelming pre-season, Bayern are overwhelming favourites to win this game – recruitment, head-to-head and common-sense all lead to that conclusion. There is no value to be had in backing a Bayern win however, so there is a need to be more creative in our betting.
Bayern Munich -1 will get you odds of 1.67 with a number of high-profile bookmakers, while going Bayern half-time and full-time could get you 1.70 with 32red and 888sport.
Going over 3.5 goals is 2.38 with Marathonbet, while looking at Robert Lewandowski as first goalscorer can secure odds as good as 3.25 with PaddyPower.
An uphill task for Bayer Leverkusen awaits on Friday night; for the rest of us it is an opportunity to sit back and enjoy the return of the much-loved Bundesliga. To Bavaria we head.