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Bundesliga Weekend Preview: Round 1

The Bundesliga returns this weekend and promises to deliver just as much entertainment and excitement as it did last season.

Wolfsburg are looking to defend their title, but Bayern Munich will be desperate to regain their place at the top. And who will be struggling to avoid the drop? 

These questions and many more will be answered during a fascinating 2009/10 Bundesliga season, which starts tomorrow... 

Friday 7th August
(all times local)

20:30 VfL Wolfsburg – VfB Stuttgart

Saturday 8th August

15:30 Borussia Dortmund – 1.FC Koeln
15:30 1.FC Nurnberg – Schalke 04
15:30 Werder Bremen – Eintracht Frankfurt
15:30 Hertha Berlin – Hannover
15:30 Mainz – Bayer Leverkusen
18:30 Hoffenheim – Bayern Munich

Sunday 9th August

15:30 VfL Bochum – Bor. Moenchengladbach
17:30 SC Freiburg – Hamburg      

VfL Wolfsburg – VfB Stuttgart  

The action gets underway on Friday with champions Wolfsburg opening the defence of their title at home to VfB Stuttgart. The match sees Armin Veh taking control of the champions against the club that he led to the title in 2007.   

The Wolves still have their key players from last season in the form of Grafite, Edin Dzeko and Zvjezdan Misimovic, but it remains to be seen if there will be starting places for summer signing Karim Ziani, and Thomas Kahlenberg. Obafemi Martins looks set to start on the bench.    

VfB Stuttgart under Markus Babbel were almost as much of a surprise in the second half of the season as Wolfsburg and the Swabians were still mathematically in with a chance of winning the title going into the final game of the season.   

The loss of Mario Gomez will be a blow, and after failing to land Klaas-Jan Huntelaar there was a doubt as to where the goals would come from, but Pavel Pogrebnyak has now signed. The return of Aliaksandr Hleb on loan adds further quality. 

Prediction: Wolfsburg 2-2 Stuttgart    

Borussia Dortmund – 1.FC Koeln  

Dortmund go into the new season full of confidence following a very promising first season under the guidance of trainer Juergen Klopp. The Yellow and Blacks have sold over 50,000 season tickets and a sell-out crowd will fill the Signal-Iduna Park for the visit of Koeln.   

The passionate home fans will look forward to Dortmund debuts for both Markus Feulner and South American striker Lucas Barrios.    

Koeln achieved safety last season following promotion, but having re-signed prodigal son Lukas Podolski from Bayern Munich, they then lost trainer Christophe Daum, whose heart took him back to Turkey.  Novice trainer Zvonomir Soldo has taken over.   

Prediction: Dortmund 2-1 Koeln    

1.FC Nurnberg – Schalke 04  

Promoted via the play-off, Nurnberg will want to start the season well as they begin their season at home to Schalke. Promoted sides are always the favourites to go straight back down again, but ‘der Klub’ look like the strongest of the three teams to have come up from the second division.  

Schalke have championship winner Felix Magath at the helm, but with little summer investment the Koenigsblauen cannot expect miracles from their new trainer this season. 

Nonetheless, a win will be expected at the easyCredit Stadion as they travel south to face Nurnberg.    

Prediction: Nurnberg 1-1 Schalke    

Werder Bremen – Eintracht Frankfurt  

Last season was highly disappointing for Werder with a 10th place finish for a club more used to the top three. Two Cup final appearances placated the fans somewhat but they will be expecting more from their side this term. 

Diego is gone, so a lot of expectation passes to youngsters Mesut Oezil and Marko Marin. With Claudio Pizarro’s future still not sorted, Werder will look to summer signing Marcelo Moreno for the goals. 

Frankfurt begin life after Friedhelm Funkel with Michael Skibbe at the helm and hope that they will be able to pull themselves out of the mid-table obscurity in which they have found themselves in recent seasons. It will be a tough opener for them as they travel to the Weser Stadion on the opening Saturday of the season.   

Prediction: Werder 2-0 Frankfurt    

Hertha Berlin – Hannover  

Expectations have had to be tempered at the Olympiastadion during the summer. Hertha were title contenders right up to the final weeks of the season, but had to settle for Europa League qualification. 

The loss of Andriy Voronin, Marko Pantelic and Josip Simunic combined with a lack of investment means that a tougher season is in store for the ‘Old Lady’.  

The pressure is already on Hannover trainer Dieter Hecking following his side's embarrassing defeat in the DFB Pokal first round (one of only two Bundesliga clubs eliminated). 

Normally it would be too early to be thinking about the first trainer casualty of the season, but we’ve already had one in Mainz, so a poor start for Hannover would have the vultures circling over Dieter Hecking.   
Prediction: Hertha Berlin 2-0 Hannover        

Mainz – Bayer Leverkusen  

Sacking your trainer less than a week before the start of the season is far from ideal, but that is what Mainz have just done. Norwegian Jorn Anderson was fired earlier this week following defeat in the DFB Pokal with the excuse that he and the management had differing goals (?). 

Visitors Bayer Leverkusen under veteran trainer Jupp Heynckes will be looking to take advantage from the unrest and instability at the newly promoted side by taking away all three points from the Bruchwegstadion.   

Patrick Helmes is sitting out the first months of the season through injury so Eren Derdiyok will partner Stefan Kiessling in attack. Sami Hyppia should start in defence with Henrique having returned to Barcelona.    

Prediction: Mainz 0-2 Leverkusen      

Hoffenheim – Bayern Munich  

Saturday evening sees last season’s surprise package Hoffenheim hosting this season’s Bundesliga favourites at the Rhein-Neckar Stadion. Hoffenheim stormed to the top of the table at the half-way stage last season before slipping away.   

Vedad Ibisevic has recovered from the injury which ruled him out of the second half of the season, and with new signings Franco Zuculini, Josip Simunic and Maicosuel in their ranks, Ralf Rangnick’s side will provide Bayern with a tough opening fixture.     

The Bavarians made a poor start to last season and never really recovered (they didn’t lead the table at any stage). Under new trainer Louis van Gaal they will want to start with three points, but face a tough task against Hoffenheim.   

Luca Toni is not being considered, while Franck Ribery could have to settle for a place on the bench. There should be places for youngsters Holger Badstuber and Thomas Muller.   

Prediction: Hoffenheim 1-1 Bayern Munich  

VfL Bochum – Bor. Moenchengladbach  

Both Bochum and Moenchengladbach are tipped to spend the coming season battling against relegation, so taking points early in the season against weaker teams will go a long way to securing their ultimate Bundesliga safety.  

Neither side have been huge spenders during the summer but Gladbach will hand Bundesliga debuts to Spaniard Juan Arango and Raul Bobadilla.   

Prediction: Bochum 2-1 Gladbach  

SC Freiburg – Hamburg

In a change to tradition, Sunday now has a match which will be played in the evening and the first of the season sees last season’s second division champions hosting one of the Bundesliga favourites in the form of Hamburg.    

Like the other promoted sides Freiburg will have one target and one target only this season- survival. 

HSV on the other hand will want to stage an attack on the league title and with the quality players at their disposal that should be achievable.   Hamburg fans will welcome debutants Marcus Berg and Ze Roberto, but Eljero Elia won’t feature as he is injured.   

Prediction: Freiburg 0-2 Hamburg  

Mathew Burt, Goal.com