Bayern spends big in bid to halt Dortmund
BERLIN - Agence France-Presse
Croatian Mario Mandzukic is among theimportant signings of Bayern Munich. REUTERS PhotoWith Borussia Dortmund out to claim a third straight Bundesliga crown, Bavarian rivals Bayern Munich has splashed the cash in a bid to thwart its rivals.
Dortmund kicks off the new league season at home to Werder Bremen today at its sold-out Signal Iduna Park stadium having beaten Bayern home and away in the league for the last two seasons.
The team then underlined its domination with a 5-2 rout of Munich in May’s German Cup final.
Bayern threw down an early marker a fortnight ago with a 2-1 win over Dortmund in the pre-season Supercup final held in Munich with new striker Mario Mandzukic and Germany forward Thomas Müller netting for Bayern.
It was Bayern’s first win over Dortmund since February 2010.
Dortmund has dampened expectations for a third title, but it promises to a battle royal when the teams are next scheduled to meet in the league on the first weekend in December in Munich.
“Where will the title end up? I do not know. I don’t think anyone does,” said Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp.
“There is only one club where the only way is to be successful and that’s Bayern Munich. I am just happy that we can compete with them.” Dortmund president Hans-Joachim Watzke said he is “calm and relaxed” ahead of the battle for the Bundesliga title.
“Bayern Munich are still the industry leaders,” he insisted.
‘Back to Munich’
In turn, the Munich camp put the emphasis squarely on Dortmund to defend its crown.
“When a team is twice champions, they cannot deny the role of favorites, but of course we will attack Dortmund and do everything we can to ensure that we bring the title back to Munich,” said Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes.
In pre-season, Bayern has moved to strengthen its squad which suffered a heart-breaking defeat at their Allianz Arena stadium to Chelsea on penalties in May’s Champions League final.
Mandzukic was signed from Wolfsburg for a reported fee of 13 million euros and Peru forward Claudio Pizarro was brought in from Werder Bremen on a free transfer to bolster the attack.
Brazilian center half Dante was poached from Borussia Monchengladbach for 4.7m euros, while Swiss star Xherdan Shaqiri was recruited from FC Basel to boost the creative midfield for 12.5m euros.
With Bayern’s Germany striker Mario Gomez, who scored 41 goals in 52 games last season, sidelined for at least the next few weeks following ankle surgery, Mandzukic and Pizarro are battling for the lone striker’s berth.
In contrast, Dortmund recruited Gladbach’s rising Germany star Marco Reus for 17.1m euros to fill the attacking role vacated by Shinji Kagawa’s move to Manchester United.
More modest signings see forward Julian Schieber brought in from Stuttgart for a fee of 5.5m euros and promising 18-year-old midfielder Leonardo Bittencourt has been snapped up from Energie Cottbus for just 2.7m euros.