Key Battles That Will Shape Borussia Dortmund's Clash with Bayern Munich
The new German domestic season kicks off with a bang on Wednesday evening when Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich once again clash over the right to call themselves the best in one of the strongest footballing nations in the world.
These two clubs have dominated Bundesliga title races for the past few years and meet each other in the German Super Cup for the third consecutive season.
Jurgen Klopp's team will have it all to play for, having played second fiddle to Pep Guardiola's champions for the duration of last season, with some new additions to each squad looking to turn the tide in their team's favour.
Although the German Super Cup very rarely means very much in the context of an entire league campaign, both sides will be desperate to draw first blood from their opponents in what will undoubtedly be one of the tightest title races in recent years.
Here are the key battles that should dictate how such a showdown will go.
Robert Lewandowski vs. Matthias Ginter
As confirmed by Klopp on the club's official website just a few days ago, Dortmund will be without Mats Hummels for this high-profile clash against their Bavarian rivals.
Therefore the coach will be expected to shuffle his defence around to accommodate for the loss of his newly appointed club captain and undoubtedly the best defender in his ranks. Yet with Neven Subotic also sitting out Sunday's defeat to Liverpool with a cold, Klopp may be forced to start new signing Matthias Ginter at the centre of his defence, along with Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
This baptism of fire for the young German international will undoubtedly be made all the more worse with the likelihood of former Dortmund legend Robert Lewandowski leading the line for Bayern on the day. A striker who has wasted no time settling in at the Bavarian club, with a handful of goals in their pre-season tour already.
For Ginter, this will be a perfect start to a chapter in his career that will see him come up against some of the best forwards in European football. But is he ready to take on the might of Lewandowski just yet?
Sven Bender vs. Thiago Alcantara
Despite the high-profile nature of this clash of the titans on Wednesday night, both Dortmund and Bayern are expected to rest key midfielders due to a lack of match fitness.
Klopp's side are still without Ilkay Gundogan and Nuri Sahin, while Bayern have yet to see Bastian Schweinsteiger return to full training following his strenuous World Cup campaign for the German national team.
As such, the middle of the park on Wednesday night should be dominated by two players: Bayern's Thiago Alcantara and Dortmund's Sven Bender.
The 25-year-old defensive midfielder will be under immense pressure to keep Dortmund's shape intact without the aforementioned first-team midfielders that usually accompany him on such tasks. Instead, Bender will be alongside Sebastian Kehl or Oliver Kirch as they take on the might of Bayern's attacking threat.
For Bayern, such a threat will likely come from 23-year-old Spanish international Thiago, who will undoubtedly be desperate to get back into the swing of things, having missed much of last season and the World Cup through injury. The young player was quickly establishing himself in the first-team last season, and with Toni Kroos' departure, the playmaker role is perfectly placed for him to embrace.
Ciro Immobile vs. Dante
Although Bayern have done well in this current transfer window to sure up certain aspects of their side, Klopp will take confidence in the fact that Guardiola has not yet found a solution to his own centre-back problems.
In particular, the rapid degeneration of Dante's form and ability as a top-class central defender as he creeps over the 30-year-old mark. Although such an age is often when most defenders hit their peak, the Brazilian international looked rather suspect at times for his club last season and far from impressive in his one appearance for Brazil at the World Cup.
Klopp will be hoping to attack such a weakness with a brand new solution. Ciro Immobile, a SerieA sensation in front of goal for Torino last season, has all the skills, pace and composure to run at the towering defender and offer plenty of problems.
Bayern may look stronger than Dortmund overall, but Immobile could have the better of Dante throughout this coming match.
David Alaba vs. Lukasz Piszczek
Although both Lukasz Piszczek and David Alaba play in defence for their respective sides, each defender is undoubtedly one of the best attacking out-balls in any game for Dortmund and Bayern, respectively.
Other, more direct battles will be going on throughout this match, but one that could truly dictate how this game goes is whether Piszczek or Alaba dominates the other on that one specific wing.
Dortmund's left-hand side will be run by the less-impressive Marcel Schmelzer, while Guardiola has not yet confirmed who will replace Rafinha on his right flank, meaning both coaches are likely to encourage their sides to push through their stronger full-backs.
Alaba is one of the best players in the world when it comes to the full-back position, but Piszczek would undoubtedly go down as a close second. What will decide such a duel on the day is simply which one of these two players wants it more.