The new season will begin once more with the German Supercup as its first official match, Bayern traveling to Dortmund on 14 August. It will be Ancelotti’s first game as Bayern manager, and it will also make for a very special debut game for Mats Hummels. The first round of DFB cup games will take place between 19-22 August – the exact dates haven’t been scheduled yet – and Bayern will be facing Jena, in Jena. On the Friday after the cup game, the Bundesliga season officially begins with Bayern’s home game against Werder Bremen, kicking off at 8:30pm. Carlo Ancelotti’s team will have another historic goal to chase in trying to defend the title once more, but after winning four times in a row, Bayern will of course be favourites for the title once more.
The opening match against Werder Bremen kicks off the season with a game that has lots of history; both teams clashing for the 100th time last season as only the fourth fixture in Bundesliga history to ever achieve that number. Over the last couple of seasons, Bremen has turned into one of Bayern’s favourite opponents, failing to win 13 games in a row against the 26-time Bundesliga champion from Munich. Looking further into the fixture’s history, however, reveals a different story, since Bremen was something like a bogey team: Bayern lost to them more often than to any other Bundesliga team (26 times). Despite this, the role of favourite and underdog will be firmly allocated before the game at the Allianz Arena.
Fortunate Champions League weeks
Right after the start of the Bundesliga season comes the first international break before the first difficult away game against Schalke is waiting for Bayern. The first mid-week fixture comes in the week after that, with the first Champions League game of the season followed by a home game against Ingolstadt on Bundesliga matchday 3. However, Bayern are quite lucky in that all of their six Champions League games in the first half of the season are followed by home games: after Ingolstadt, there will be Cologne (30/09 – 02/10), Mönchengladbach (21 – 23/10), Hoffenheim (04 – 06/11), Leverkusen (22 – 23/11), and Wolfsburg (09 – 11/12). While these tasks won’t be easy, the advantage of playing at home could become an important factor. Bayern’s biggest opponent in the league, Dortmund, will have to travel for five of their six Bundesliga fixtures following Champions League games, but they will be facing easier opponents – at least on paper.
The weeks between end of October until December will be complicated and important; on matchday 8, the third Champions League game is followed by an away game in Gladbach and then the second round of the DFB Cup (25 – 26/10), an away game in Augsburg, match day 4 in the Champions League, Hoffenheim at home and – after only a short international break – the two top clashes against Dortmund and Leverkusen. This phase of the season will likely be a good indicator for who will be able to hold their own against Bayern this season.
The schedule will be tough for all the international players whose summers were shortened by the various tournaments. Ancelotti will have to frequently rotate players to ensure he can reach his goals; in October and November there will be up to 15 games for those players who will have national team duties on top of their Bayern schedules. The new coach will have to make use of his entire squad, while at the same time managing to find a good balance to be on top form for the important fixtures we mentioned above.
Crunch time check
On 11/12 April, the Champions League quarter-finals will take place. FC Bayern was a regular in that phase of the competition over the last couple of seasons and as always, the goal for this season will be to go far. With Leverkusen away, there will be a difficult task to tackle between the first and the return leg (18 – 19/04), followed by a home game against Mainz (21 – 23/04) and a possible DFB Cup semi-final (25 – 26/04), then a trip to Wolfsburg (28 – 30/04), only to go on straight into a possible Champions League semi-final on 2/3 May.
Should Bayern reach this, the decisive game about whether or not they will play the big final in Cardiff (3 June 2017) will be on 9 or 10 May. The DFB Cup final will be played one week before the Champions League final on 27 May 2017.
An eye on the opposition
The Bundesliga is Bayern’s core business and, no matter how difficult it might be to believe for some, it is the most important title for the club. Keeping up the winning streak and gaining a fifth league title in a row would be yet another outstanding performance. The schedule has some potential stumbling blocks lined up for Bayern, especially since the biggest opponent, Borussia Dortmund, will have to face easier competition in the league after the quarter- and semi-finals in the Champions League and German Cup, Gladbach being the only big name on their list. Should Dortmund get eliminated in the Champions League at an earlier stage than Bayern, things would likely get even more difficult.
While the reigning champion will have to get used to a new coach, Dortmund is going through yet another period of turmoil, losing key players like Gündogan and Hummels, and Mkhitaryan ready to leave. It will remain to be seen if they can be serious opposition, even with promising young signings like Emre Mor or Dembélé. Thomas Tuchel has proven more than once that he can handle big-name losses, both at Mainz and last season at Dortmund, when nobody had expected such a good season after completely changing their style of play. It would be foolhardy by Munich to not take them seriously; Bayern will drop points in the Bundesliga at some point and – unless things should change drastically during the season – Dortmund will be in a very good position to take advantage of that.
The two are followed by the usual suspects of potential favourites. Leverkusen proved that they can play good football after their elimination from international football last season, but as always they’re struggling to stay stable. Should Roger Schmidt manage to keep their level throughout the season and all their players fit, they can be strong competition. Gladbach, Schalke, and Wolfsburg complete the list of favourites, even if they are trailing slightly; Wolfsburg in particular had a very poor last season, but will have the advantage of no European games throughout the next season. In addition, it will be interesting to see how far RB Leipzig has managed to come: the highly controversial newcomer will have to find their way around the Bundesliga, but has the financial means to sign good players. Ralf Rangnick has given them a solid footballing basis and it’s not unlikely that they will end up at the high end of the table sooner than many would hope.
The schedule certainly offers many interesting constellations; those who want to have a look at the entire schedule including all surrounding dates can find a good overview over at bundesliga.de.