Bayern Munich resumes their power struggle with Borussia Dortmund on Saturday for the German Super Cup with the Bavarians chasing Manchester City star Leroy Sane to reinforce their squad.
The blockbuster Bundesliga curtain-raiser in Dortmund once more pits Germany’s top clubs together after Bayern held off a spirited Dortmund challenge to land a seventh straight league title on the final day of last season.
“This is the first title that is important to us,” said Bayern star Thomas Mueller a fortnight before the new Bundesliga season starts.
“The game has certain explosiveness. We want to show that we are ready — we’ll put us all into it.”
As defender Niklas Suele put it, Bayern “want to give a sign” they remain the team to beat in Germany.
Dortmund has recruited hard, signing wingers Thorgan Hazard and Julian Brandt — the latter currently sidelined by injury — and luring Mats Hummels back from Bayern to beef up the defence.
And while Bayern added French world champions Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard, City winger Sane is the marquee player they crave.
– Potential club record –
According to reports, Bayern has tabled a bid of around 90 million euros ($85 million) — which would be a club record.
They have even reportedly pushed taking the official team photo back to September in the hope the 23-year-old will have joined by then.
Head coach Niko Kovac initially declared “I assume we’ll get him” last weekend, but Bayern has dramatically dialled back.
Kovac phoned his City counterpart Pep Guardiola to apologise for recruiting Sane aggressively following criticism from Bayern’s senior figures.
“We’re all well-advised to not talk about players still under contract,” said sports director Hasan Salihamidzic while chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge also criticised Kovac’s bold statement.
On Wednesday, Kovac insisted “what I said was true” as he still believes in the deal with the transfer window to close in a month’s time.
Exactly who will line up for Bayern at Dortmund is unclear.
Bayern fielded mainly reserve team players in Wednesday’s defeat to Tottenham Hotspur in the final of their pre-season tournament.
– Coman, Gnabry doubtful –
Frenchman Kingsley Coman, who suffered a recurrence of a serious ankle injury last season, “only” bruised his knee against Spurs, Bayern confirmed.
Fellow winger Serge Gnabry is also doubtful with a leg knock, but Kovac indicated both players “will be back soon”.
It will be interesting to see if Jerome Boateng features after coming off the bench against Spurs and missing the crucial penalty in the shoot-out.
Bayern is keen to sell the 2014 World Cup winner, but the club’s desire to move the 30-year-old on has irritated the squad.
“We’ve been going round in circles for weeks,” moaned Mueller. “This guy Jerome Boateng does us good,” he added in his team-mate’s defence.
This will be Dortmund’s first key test after winning six pre-season friendlies — including a 3-2 victory over Champions League holders Liverpool last month on their US tour.
They posted a 4-1 win over St Gallen on Tuesday in their Swiss training camp with captain Marco Reus scoring their fourth.
“The Super Cup is very important for us all – to start the season well and show fans what we have planned,” said Reus.
“However, it’s clear neither us nor Bayern is at 100 per cent yet.”