An historic occasion
The Volkswagen Arena in Wolfsburg is the setting as current German cup holders entertain Pep Guardiola’s all conquering Bayern Munich side, as they set out to defend the league title they won at a canter last season. A piece of history will also be made on Saturday as goal-line technology is used at a professional German football match for the first time ever.
Hecking v Guardiola
The game has been billed as a clash between two of the league’s most high profile coaches. Wolfsburg tactician Dieter Hecking was named coach of the year in Germany last season after guiding his team to a second-place finish in the Bundesliga and victory over Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup Final in May. The 50-year-old has been in the hot seat since January 2013 but his record against Saturday’s opponents is not good. In 18 matches against Bayern he has only won three times, collecting 12 defeats in the process including a 1-6 demolition by Guardiola’s team in March 2014.
What more can be said about his opposite number on Saturday. 17 major titles as a player, 18 major titles as a coach, the 44-year-old Catalonian has a truly phenomenal record. The build-up to the new campaign for the German giants has been about where Guardiola will start the 2016-17 season, with rumours aplenty that he will take over the reins at English Premier League side Manchester City. The club have completely denied any deal has been done and the man that legendary Dutch maestro Johan Cruyff referred to as “Being able to make something that is already good even better,” will remain fully focused on the job in hand as the Bavarian side go in search of their 26th Bundesliga title.
Unfortunately for Wolfsburg supporters, the summer recess has been more about players that may leave the club rather than ones who could possibly arrive. Their two prized assets in midfield Croatian Ivan Perišić and Belgian Kevin De Bruyneare both reportedly close to moves away from Germany with Inter Milan and Manchester City possible destinations. Hecking will be desperate to keep both of his stand-out performers but the club’s paymasters may see things rather differently. One player who has joined the club is 27-year-old striker Max Kruse from Borussia Mönchengladbach. The €12 million man looks set to start in Saturday’s showpiece.
Bayern Munich has made two major summer signings; Arturo Vidal has arrived from Juventus for a cool €35 million and 24-year-old Brazilian Douglas Costa has been brought in from Shakhtar Donetsk for €30 million. These two additions to a squad already overflowing with talent make Guardiola’s team firm favourites to finish top of the pile next May.
Wolfsburg (4-4-1-1) Casteels; Schäfer, Knoche, Naldo, Vieirinha; Perišić, Arnold, Guilavogui, Caligiuri; De Bruyne; Kruse
Bayern Munich(4-3-3) Neuer; Alaba, Boateng, Benatia, Juan Bernat; Thiago Alcântara, Xavi Alonso, Vidal; Douglas Costa, Lewandowski, Müller
By Steve Mitchell (@barafundler)