Wed, Aug 12, 2015 - Page 18 News List

Bayern eye historic fourth Bundesliga title

AFP, BERLIN

Bayern Munich head coach Pep Guardiola, left, talks with midfielder Arien Robben during their DFB Pokal first-round game against Noettingen in Karlsruhe, Germany, on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

Bayern Munich are to begin the new Bundesliga season at home to Hamburg SV on Friday, with the Bavarians bidding for a historic fourth league title and Pep Guardiola tight-lipped over his future.

Bayern’s head coach is about to start the third and final season of his contract, and is to reveal his plans for the future over the course of the campaign.

Global broadcaster BeIN Sport insists that he has already signed a four-year deal to join Manchester City for the 2016-2017 season, while Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is eager to extend Pep’s stay.

Bayern’s senior figures regularly claim that the Bundesliga title remains the priority each season, but Guardiola was brought in to bring Champions League glory to the Bavarians.

Having exited the semi-finals at the hands of Real Madrid, then Barcelona in their two seasons under Guardiola, Bayern bosses hope it will be a case of third-time lucky this term.

Whatever Guardiola decides, Bayern will have to adjust to life without midfield general Bastian Schweinsteiger, who has quit Bayern after 13 seasons for another famous red shirt at Manchester United.

Munich are the big favorites to win the German league again and become the first side to win a fourth straight crown.

However, Guardiola’s men have lost six of their past eight competitive fixtures, including defeat to last season’s runners-up VfL Wolfsburg on penalties in the DFL Supercup.

There were no surprises in Sunday’s 3-1 win against fifth-tier Noettingen in the first round of the DFB Pokal, though.

New signing Arturo Vidal gave the visitors an early lead and after the hosts pulled level, Mario Goetze and Robert Lewandowski scored for Bayern.

“It was a good test for the Bundesliga opener on Friday,” Goetze said. “We are prepared for the season, we’re in good spirits and we’re looking forward to it.”

Bayern’s advantage at the top has reduced year-on-year over the past three seasons and their main rivals are likely to be Wolfsburg and Borussia Moenchengladbach again.

Borussia Dortmund are an unknown package under new coach Thomas Tuchel after Juergen Klopp quit at the end of last season.

They are looking to once again challenge Bayern’s title stranglehold, which shows only vague signs of weakening.

Their record 25-point cushion over Dortmund in the 2012-2013 season was reduced to a comfortable 19 points in 2013-2014 while they “only” enjoyed a 10 point-lead over Wolves last term.

Bayern have boosted their midfield options with Chile international Vidal set to bring his box-to-box energy, while Brazil winger Douglas Costa can cover for either injury-prone Arjen Robben or Franck Ribery.

Around the league, Germany internationals have returned home with striker Kevin Kuranyi joining TSG 1899 Hoffenheim after a five-year stint with Dynamo Moscow and Augsburg winger Piotr Trochowski back from Sevilla.

Yoshinori Muto is the latest big-name Japanese player to grace the Bundesliga having signed for FSV Mainz 05 from Tokyo.

The Bundesliga’s new teams are Bavaria’s Ingolstadt 04, who are making their debut in Germany’s top flight, while SV Darmstadt 98 are back after a 33-year absence.

They failed to stay up on their brief sojourns into the Bundesliga in 1978-1979 and 1981-1982 and the Lillies will have to prove themselves to avoid a swift return to the second division.

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