BERLIN (AP) — Bayern Munich is under pressure to improve on perfection as it opens its Bundesliga defense against former German heavyweight Borussia Moenchengladbach on Friday.
While 'Gladbach hasn't won the Bundesliga since its 1970s heyday, Bayern is still basking in the glory of its unprecedented treble-winning season and has strengthened its squad further under new coach Pep Guardiola.
"Anyone who thinks that Bayern is satisfied after the treble, that we're a little more comfortable now, is sorely mistaken," Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said. The additions of Mario Goetze from domestic rival Borussia Dortmund for 37 million euros ($49 million) and Thiago Alcantara from Barcelona for 25 million euros ($33 million) are designed to help Guardiola create an era of dominance to eclipse that of his former side, Barcelona.
Already last season, Jupp Heynckes led Bayern to a 7-0 aggregate win over Barcelona in the Champions League semifinals. But Guardiola was hired on the basis on his 14 titles in four years at the Spanish club, and will be expected to build on his predecessor's achievements.
"You can see his handiwork already, how the forward comes back, or lining up with a 'false-9.' It's typical Barcelona," Moenchengladbach coach Lucien Favre said Thursday. Heynckes left the 42-year-old Guardiola a formidable task in the Bundesliga, where last season Bayern claimed a record 91 points and wrapped up the quickest title in 50 years of the league — achieving the most wins among a host of other records.
Guardiola will be without the injured Luiz Gustavo for his first Bundesliga game, while Thiago was a doubt with fever. "'Gladbach are one of the best teams in the Bundesliga. It will be very, very, very dangerous," Guardiola said on Thursday.
Bayern opened the season against Moenchengladbach two years ago and lost 1-0 following a defensive mix-up. Favre knows such favors won't come easily again. "It will be difficult to annoy Bayern," he said.
Almost a third of fans responding to a survey by Kicker magazine said they believed the Bavarian side will win the 51st Bundesliga title. Kicker said that only a quarter of the 27,700 respondents favored Dortmund, which as runner-up finished a record 25 points behind Bayern last season.
Schalke was seen as the third most likely candidate, with a mere 3.6 per cent of the vote. "With all due respect for clubs like Schalke or Leverkusen, I don't see (them) as realistic candidates for the title," Germany coach Joachim Loew said.
Dortmund, which defeated Bayern 4-2 in the season-opening Super Cup, opens its league campaign at Augsburg on Saturday. "We have 16 opponents in the Bundesliga that we need to worry about more than just one from Munich," Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp said after beating Bayern two weeks ago.
Dortmund, which won the title in 2011 and 2012, will start the season without offseason signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who injured his ankle in a friendly, while Ilkay Gundogan is doubtful to play Saturday with back problems.
Bayer Leverkusen, which finished third last season, opens its campaign at home on Saturday against Freiburg, which finished fifth despite modest resources. Eintracht Frankfurt, which finished level on points with Freiburg, opens Saturday at promoted Hertha Berlin, back in the Bundesliga after a one-year absence.
Also Saturday, Hoffenheim hosts Nuremberg and Wolfsburg visits Hannover. Promoted Eintracht Braunschweig — back in the Bundesliga after 28 years — hosts Werder Bremen, which begins its first season in 14 years without Thomas Schaaf as coach.
Mainz hosts last season's German Cup finalist Stuttgart on Sunday. Schalke hosts Hamburger SV, the only club that has never been relegated from the Bundesliga.