Bayern-Borussia race set to unfold

Bayern-Borussia race set to unfold

It won't be easy for the Bavarians

Bundesliga powerhouse Bayern Munich and arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund look set to slug it out once again for the German league title when the season starts on Friday.

Both have strengthened their squads with key transfers and the pair lead the betting by a big margin over the other clubs.

For the Bavarians, however, it does not look like it is going to be as easy as last season when they clinched the Bundesliga crown by March and in record time.“This season we will need some time,” coach Pep Guardiola said last week. “At the moment I have only eight or nine players who are fully fit.” A string of injuries, including key midfielder Javi Martinez’s cruciate ligament tear last week, have forced Bayern to reconsider their transfer options.

Apart from Martinez, who was set to play the central role in a new-look three-man defence, Guardiola, in his second season in charge, will also have to do without fellow holding midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger for several weeks or even months.

A nagging knee injury that Schweinsteiger carried through Germany's World Cup-winning campaign last month has come back to haunt him, ruling him out of the Bundesliga start. “Now it seems his knee is signalling for a break. That is something that is hurting Bayern,” Guardiola said.

Winger Franck Ribery, midfielder Thiago Alcantara and defender Rafinha are also out injured.

With Bayern's six World Cup winners still to hit top form after a long campaign for club and country and their recent return to training, last term's domestic double winners lost their season-opening German Super Cup to Dortmund 2-0.

Having eased through their German Cup first round tie against third-tier Preussen Muenster, Guardiola is well aware that time is not on his side. With Vfl Wolfsburg awaiting on Friday in the season opener, the Spaniard is under pressure to start delivering just like he did in his first season in charge. Newcomer Robert Lewa­ndowski, last season's Bundesliga top scorer, has yet to hit the target in a competitive game for Bayern but the fans are hopeful the Poland striker will give them lots to cheer this season with goals and assists.

Dortmund lost Lewandowski to Bayern on a free transfer but coach Juergen Klopp hopes Italy forward Ciro Immobile and Adrian Ramos will be efficient replacements.