Berlin: German champions Borussia Dortmund entertain Werder Bremen when the new Bundesliga season kicks off on Friday aiming to claim a hat-trick of league titles.
Dortmund lifted the Bundesliga shield for the second consecutive season in May — leaving arch-rivals Bayern Munich empty handed for the last two seasons — and can expect a sell-out 80,720 crowd at their Signal Iduna Stadium.
Borussia have only one injury concern amongst their title-winning squad with Poland right-back Lukasz Piszczek having strained a thigh muscle in training on Tuesday.
“It’s not dramatic, but is still close as to whether he will play,” said Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp.
Bremen badly need a win at Dortmund to brush off their shock German Cup first-round defeat to third division minnows Prussia Muenster last weekend.
New signing Eljero Elia should be fit after the Netherlands winger bruised his foot in the embarrassing defeat.
Bayern claimed their first win over Dortmund since February 2010 a fortnight ago when they enjoyed a 2-1 victory in the pre-season Supercup final in Munich, but defender Mats Hummels said the champions will “not lose sleep over the defeat”.
Having earned a record 81 points to win last season’s title, Dortmund are playing down expectations for a third straight league title.
“There is only one club for which the only way is to be successful and that’s Bayern Munich. I’m just pleased we are competing with them,” said Klopp.
Bayern open their season at newly-promoted Bavarian neighbours Greuther Fuerth, who are making their Bundesliga debut alongside newly-promoted Fortuna Duesseldorf and Eintracht Frankfurt.
Munich are set to start with Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger on the bench as he recovers from a foot injury.
The Bavarian giants include a host of new signings such as Swiss midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri, Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic and Brazilian centre-half Dante.
With Bayern’s Germany striker Mario Gomez, who scored 41 goals in 52 games last season, sidelined for the next three weeks after ankle surgery, Mandzukic and Peru striker Claudio Pizarro are battling for the lone striker berth.
Schalke 04, who along with Dortmund and Bayern have secured their Champions League berth this season, open their campaign against Hanover on Sunday with questions marks over captain Benedikt Hoewedes and winger Jefferson Farfan.
Hoewedes pulled out of training with a bruised hip from the Royal Blues’ German Cup 5-0 hammering of third-division minnows Saarbruecken last weekend, while Farfan has a knee strain.