The German Super Cup, the annual preseason bout between Germany’s league and cup champions, could be seen as irrelevant. After all, it is just the preseason.
But remember what happened last year?
A year ago, Jurgen Klopp’s team entered the Super Cup as back-to-back German champions and the toast of the Bundesliga. BVB had wrested the laurel wreath from their rivals to the south, Bayern Munich. Experts predicted a Dortmund three-peat, and Bayern were cast as the team with a point to prove.
Bayern did just that, switching momentum back in their favor by winning 2-1 in the first game of the ‘real’ season. It was the first win for Bayern over Dortmund after five straight defeats. And we all know what happened next: Bayern ended up as champions not only of Germany but of Europe to boot.
Now, the Black-and-Yellows enter Saturday’s contest after a season that saw Bayern turn them black-and-blue. And Dortmund’s brightest two stars from last year, Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski, are eyeing different pastures. Gotze will be wearing the Bayern red this season, while Lewandowski is widely thought to be joining him sooner than later. (Lewandowski had a move to Bayern this summer blocked by BVB’s management – much to the anger of the Polish striker.)
Gotze will not even travel to Dortmund on Saturday, still sidelined from the same injury that kept him out of the Champions League final. Considering that Dortmund fans have painted him as a Judas, that might not be such a bad thing. For Lewandowski, the match presents an opportunity to forget about his personal gripes and return to normalcy.
Aside from Gotze, new manager Pep Guardiola will also have to make do without Franck Ribery (quad), Manuel Neuer (muscular issue), as well as Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez (fitness issues). In their place, expect Thiago to play a key role and watch for Guardiola to spring some surprises. The new boss has experimented with moving captain Philipp Lahm into the midfield throughout preseason, and found success.
As it was for Bayern last year, this Super Cup is Dortmund’s chance to prove they are a serious challenger for the Bundesliga title. For BVB, this is a measuring stick game in the truest sense; Dortmund know that in head-to-head matches last year, the optical difference in quality between them was barely recognizable, especially at Wembley. But have Bayern further distanced themselves under Guardiola’s regime?
Strange things happen in football, and life for a club can change quickly. Dortmund knows all too well what that feels like. Can they flip the script on Bayern this time around?