Treble winners Bayern Munich launch their Bundesliga title defence against Borussia Moenchengladbach on Friday but league rivals and fans across Germany are already talking about a foregone conclusion.
The all-conquering Bavarians, who won a domestic double as well as the Champions League against German rivals Borussia Dortmund last season, are the overwhelming favourites to retain the league title.
Having spent more than £60 million to boost an already superb squad with the addition of offensive midfielder Mario Goetze from Dortmund and sought-after Thiago Alacantara from Barcelona, Bayern have set their sights on five trophies.
Coach Pep Guardiola, who took over from Jupp Heynckes in the summer, is an equally impressive transfer with the former Barcelona coach, who won 14 out of 19 possible titles in his four seasons there, returning to action after a one-year sabbatical.
"We want to achieve something that has not been done in Europe before," Bayern sports director Matthias Sammer said on Wednesday. "We want to go after the treble again and on top of that we want the European Super Cup and the club World Cup."
Even Dortmund - who won consecutive league titles in 2011 and 2012, dazzled with their European run last season and beat Bayern 4-2 in the German Super Cup the other day - are all-but conceding defeat before a ball is kicked.
"Bayern Munich have an exceptional squad," said Borussia Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp. "It may be the world's most exceptional squad. We will try to get everything we can out of our season but as it stands now that would mean second place."
Not quite everyone agrees that the rest of the league might as well pack up and go home: Germany coach Joachim Loew believes that it'll be a tight race.
"At the very top I see Bayern and Dortmund, almost level," he said. "Bayern have more depth in their squad and can replace three or even four players throughout the entire season. I do not seen any other serious contenders with all the respect I have for Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke 04."
For Friday night, however, Bayern will try to keep such talk out of their minds and concentrate on cranking out a victory against Moenchengladbach.
On the face of it, the stats suggest that Bayern should run away with it - from their number of goals per game to tackling and defensive records, Bayern were already ahead in almost every department on the pitch even before their summer strengthening, as our table shows:
|Bayern Munich||Bundesliga 2012-13 stats||Borussia Mönchengladbach|
|Bundesliga rank||Goal Attempts||Bundesliga rank|
|1||2.88||Ave Goals per game||1.32||9|
|1||472||Shots (excl blocked shots)||279||16|
|1||54.0%||% Shots on Target||45.2%||11|
|1||20.8%||% Goals to Shots||16.1%||4|
|1||87.4%||Overall Pass Completion %||78.3%||8|
|1||5749||Passes in final third||3684||14|
|1||75.5%||Pass completion in final third %||59.2%||11|
|11||28.3%||% Passes in final third||24.0%||18|
|18||11.8%||% Passes Long||12.5%||16|
|2||31.0%||Cross Completion %||23.8%||13|
|1||0.53||Ave goals conceded per game||1.44||8|
|7||80.7%||Tackles Won %||78.5%||14|
|18||1004||Blocks, Clearances & Interceptions||1673||3|
|1||93||Shots on faced||173||13|
|1||209||Total shots faced (exc. Blocked)||379||13|
Look beyond those numbers, however, and you'll see that Bayern have won only one of their last four Bundesliga matches against Moenchengladbach.
On top of that, Moenchengladbach beat Bayern 1-0 on the opening day of the season two years ago.
That defeat was the first Bayern had suffered on the first day of the season since 2001-02, when they lost to - you guessed it - Borussia Moenchengladbach.
With those omens in mind, Bayern will have been hoping that they'd drawn pretty much anyone else for the first day of the season - despite the fact that they've won all eight of their home league matches in 2013.
The two sides met at Moenchengladbach’s Borussia Park on the final matchday of 2012-13, with nothing but the home side’s outside chance of a Europa League spot still up in the air – but it didn’t stop them from producing an enthralling contest with four goals in 10 minutes which saw Bayern win 4-3 from 3-1 down.
On top of that, there's a huge amount of pressure on Guardiola's team. If they win, so what? They've only beaten one of the Bundesliga whipping boys that they will have to dispatch regularly throughout their campaign.
But if they lose? All of a sudden the high profile new boss and string of big signings will become a stick to beat Bayern with. After all, by throwing out what was already a winning formula, the German champions have taken the biggest risk seen for years in European football.
Bayern v Borussia Moenchengladbach
- Bayern have won only one of their last four Bundesliga meetings with Borussia Monchengladbach (D1 L2).
- The last two seasons to begin with a defeat for Bayern were during the 2011/12 and 2001/02 campaigns, both losses came against Monchengladbach (each ending 1-0).
- Bayern collected 91 points in 2012/13 which set a new Bundesliga record. The old record was 81 points set by Borussia Dortmund in 2011/12.
- The difference between Bayern Munich (1st) and Borussia Dortmund (2nd) at the end of the last season was 25 points, the biggest gulf in Bundesliga history.
- Monchengladbach were the only side to score first in both league meetings against Bayern Munich during last season.
- The last three teams who won on matchday one against the respective German champions could not finish the (respective) season higher than 14th in the table.
- Bayern haven’t lost any of their last 25 Bundesliga games (W21 D4); their current club record is 27 unbeaten games (May 1988 – March 1989).
- Bayern set up a new club record with their 4-3 victory over Monchengladbach on matchday 34; they have now scored in each of their last 37 Bundesliga games.
- Bayern have won all eight of their Bundesliga home games in 2013. Bayern’s last Bundesliga home game which didn’t result in a victory came against Monchengladbach (ending 1-1 on matchday 17 of the 2012/13 season).
- Mario Gomez moved to Serie A club Fiorentina. He has been the most efficient striker in Bundesliga history after Gerd Müller (minimum 20 goals); Gomez scored a goal every 113 minutes on average (Gerd Müller one in 105).
- Dante Bonfim Costa Santos moved from Monchengladbach to Bayern in summer 2012. The defensive player came to Monchengladbach in 2009 and appeared in 93 Bundesliga games for the club (eight goals).