The commencement of the 2014-15 German Bundesliga season is still a little over a week away, but before the domestic league kicks off the big two will come face-to-face again in the German Super Cup.
Bayern Munich won the league-and-cup double last season, finishing ahead of Borussia Dortmund on both occasions, and the two will renew rivalries on Wednesday evening at Signal Iduna Park.
While it might not give a complete indication of what to expect from the upcoming season, a Dortmund-Bayern affair is never one to be missed, and plenty of onlookers will be keen to glean what knowledge they can from the match.
And by the way: SuperCup in Germany tonight. Lewandowski vs Dortmund...!! Rummenigge vs Watzke. Oh yes! Bayern vs Dortmund too...— Jan Aage Fjortoft (@JanAageFjortoft) August 13, 2014
The first point to note about the match is that we're unlikely to see full-strength sides from either team.
The German contingent from Bayern and Mats Hummels from Dortmund went the distance and won the World Cup in Brazil this summer, earning them an extended holiday, and thus they are behind in pre-season fitness work.
At the very most, we could see some off the bench—or if they start, they'll be nowhere near peak levels of fitness or ability.
Bayern will also be without injured midfielder Thiago Alcantara, while Nuri Sahin missed Dortmund's most recent friendly through fitness issues too.
Dortmund's Soft Centre
There isn't too much that Jurgen Klopp has done wrong with his team over the past few seasons, and last year's inability to more strongly challenge for the title was certainly down to the huge numbers of injuries that BVB suffered, especially in defence.
However, they did tend to stick with a fairly consistent 4-2-3-1 formation lsat season, which left a midfield double pivot to protect the defence. Shorn of the driving ability of Ilkay Gundogan and with Sven Bender picking up another spate of injuries, Dortmund's centre of the park was a little lightweight at times, high on technique but lacking in defensive solidity, a domineering figure and runners from deep.
The German Cup final of last season saw Bayern expose that double pivot a number of times, getting runners behind them to draw out defenders.
This pre-season has been difficult to gauge as a result of injuries and other absences, but their most recent fixture—a 4-0 mauling by Liverpool—exposed the same deficiencies on a number of occasions when central runners from the opposition exploited gaps and the lack of mobility of Dortmund's midfield.
Pep's Altered System
Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola switched during last season from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-1-4-1 when he felt the need, but this summer has seen Bayern deploy a 3-4-3 for many of their fixtures.
It's a system which allows the German champions to keep their forwards high up the field and have the rest of the team try to press extremely intensely in the opposition's half of the field, with the wing-back pressing almost in a winger's area and the wide central defender in turn pressing in a full-back's zone.
Guardiola has always advocated that ability to defend high up the pitch and win back the ball extremely quickly, but in turn it will naturally leave his side open and vulnerable to counter-attacks, especially down the inside channels if teams are brave enough to commit numbers forward at pace after turnovers.
Under Klopp, Dortmund have habitually been excellent at this—when they have everybody fit and available.
The likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ciro Immobile should be ready for action, but without Marco Reus and of course Robert Lewandowski, who will be playing against them instead of for them, it remains to be seen whether Dortmund have enough in the armoury right now to make Bayern's lack of familiarity with the system count.
A title is at stake, but it's as open a fight as we're likely to see in Germany this year due to the changes and absences in both camps.