Bayern Munich kick off the 2014-15 Bundesliga season against Wolfsburg at the Allianz Arena on Friday.
The two sides met in last month's preseason Telekom Cup final, which was no contest as Bayern were 3-0 winners. With the season proper having begun, however, the German double winners will need to be wary of the threat the Lower Saxony side pose.
Bayern looked unconvincing as recently as a week ago, but they seem to have recovered fitness quickly following what was an abbreviated preseason for their many World Cup participants. Their 4-1 DFB-Pokal win against Preussen Munster was a decisive and clear victory and will give them confidence ahead of Friday's match.
Here's a look at the XI Pep Guardiola may choose to take on Wolfsburg:
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer
With Pepe Reina having arrived, Bayern have a highly qualified backup should Manuel Neuer ever need to be given a rest. With only two competitive matches having been played thus far, though, the Germany international is not suffering from fatigue. He should start, as per the usual, between the posts.
Martinez's loss has turned out to be Dante's gain; the Brazilian defender came in for his Spanish teammate in the DFL-Superpokal and then played the full 90 minutes in Munster. Dante can expect competition for playing time from any possible new signing, but for the time being, he is assured of a spot in the starting lineup.
Center-Back: Holger Badstuber
Holger Badstuber was restored to the Bayern starting lineup against Munster and held his own in central defense. His recovery following nearly two years on the sidelines will take some time, and it may be that Guardiola decides to give him a rest. With Bayern short of center-backs, however, the 25-year-old could well start against Wolfsburg.
Center-Back: David Alaba
A "Swiss army knife" of sorts, David Alaba has shown his versatility by filling in at both center-back and in central midfield since returning to training in July. Long a left-back, the Austria international has yet to feature in such a position this term, with Guardiola having opted to use a system without players in outside-defensive roles. Alaba played well in the Pokal as a central midfielder last weekend, but with Jerome Boateng suspended, should be restored to a central defensive role.
Right-Midfield: Mario Gotze
Mario Gotze is known as an attacking player but lined up on the right side of midfield in the Pokal opener. He is an extremely intelligent and versatile player. Although he may be promoted to the left-forward position, with Rafinha sidelined and Pierre Hojbjerg still relatively inexperienced, the Dortmund academy graduate may well line up at right-midfield for a second consecutive match.
Central Midfield: Philipp Lahm
Philipp Lahm was restored to the Bayern starting lineup against Munster; the captain can expect to start there again, especially with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thiago Alcantara both out injured. He may not last the full 90 minutes, due to only having had limited training following the World Cup, but the retired Germany international's leadership will certainly be called upon in Friday's match.
Central Midfield: Sebastian Rode
With Alaba filling in at center-back, Sebastian Rode is most likely to fill the void in central midfield. The 23-year-old impressed during the preseason, his versatility as a ball-winner and in possession proving him to be a formidable asset for Guardiola. Other options in the position are Gianluca Gaudino and Pierre Hojbjerg, but neither has made the impact that Rode has since training resumed in July.
Left-Midfield: Juan Bernat
Juan Bernat seems to have impressed Guardiola since his arrival in Munich, having started every game following the preseason opener against Memmingen. As long as Alaba is being used in central midfield or defense, it appears that the Spain under-21 international will be more or less assured of this role.
Right-Forward: Thomas Muller
Thomas Muller has had a spring in his step since returning from the World Cup. The 24-year-old seems to have taken huge amounts of confidence from his and Germany's performance in Brazil and looked bright ever since. He scored and assisted a goal against Munster and has been a constant threat in attack. It seems Arjen Robben will have his work cut out if he is to reestablish himself as a starter on the right.
Center-Forward: Robert Lewandowski
After having a brilliant preseason, Robert Lewandowski is scoreless in two competitive games for Bayern. He had a great chance against Munster but saw his penalty kick saved. The Poland international is still likely to start, however; he's in great shape and won't be too fazed by just a couple matches without getting on the score sheet. He's still Bayern's best striker and is sure to start.
Left-Forward: Arjen Robben
Pep Guardiola ruled Franck Ribery out during his Thursday press conference (via Spox) and also noted that, although now fit, Arjen Robben hadn't played a single minute since returning to Bayern training. There are a few options for the left-wing, from Gotze (who could be replaced in midfield by Pierre Hojbjerg) to Xherdan Shaqiri, although the latter has struggled in both of Bayern's competitive matches thus far this season. Robben may well be restored to the starting XI and play for an hour or so depending on his fitness.
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