Bayern Munich begin Bundesliga defence against Hamburg

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The Bundesliga returns on Friday night with defending champions Bayern Munich raising the curtain on the new season by welcoming Hamburg to the Allianz Arena.

The record champions go into the season as favourites to win the title for an unprecedented fourth time in a row, and their coach Pep Guardiola would not settle for anything less.

The Spaniard has splashed the cash this summer with Douglas Costa, Arturo Vidal and Joshua Kimmich arriving to swell the ranks.


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And while Bastian Schweinsteiger may have left to join Manchester United, the signs are that this Bayern side is even stronger than last season.

"Bayern's squad is absolutely incredible," Guardiola said at a press conference in Munich on Thursday.

"It's a super squad, and we now know each other better than we did two years ago, and that makes it a bit more comfortable.

"With a fully-fit squad, we are a very strong team."

Guardiola cannot yet count on all of the members of his squad, with Franck Ribery, Javi Martinez, Holger Badstuber and Jan Kirchhoff all ruled out this weekend.

"Of course it would be better to have all of them, they're costing the club money after all," said Guardiola.

"I'm looking forward to having them back. We would be in a better condition with them - but I'm not nervous. I only got nervous ahead of my first game against Borussia Monchengladbach but not now.

"We want to play well and win and then move on and always keep moving on.

"Of course we want to win the Bundesliga again - nobody has done it four times in a row so that would be a big step.

"But we know we have some big rivals - not only Wolfsburg, but also Leverkusen, Gladbach, Dortmund and Schalke."

Guardiola did not mention Hamburg in that breath, but that does not mean he is under-estimating his side's first challenge of the season.

The northern Germany side were one of only three top-flight sides to be eliminated from the DFB-Pokal in the first round last weekend, but that is not going to make them any easier to face on Friday.

"I have a lot of respect for [Hamburg coach] Bruno Labbadia," Guardiola said. "Hamburg have a great tradition and they are a big club. We're going to have to be fully focused on our game."

Hamburg's focus will be on avoiding a season like their last two, in which they were only able to preserve their perfect record of never having been relegated from the Bundesliga by winning a post-season play-off.

They could hardly have been given a more difficult start, although Labbadia has not ruled out coming away with something - just like on the opening night of the 2008/09 season, when they came from 2-0 down at the same venue to snatch a 2-2 draw.

"I'm not the sort of person to go anywhere if I don't think we have a chance of getting something," Labbadia said on his club's website.

"I've made that very clear to my team. I want to see a passionate game from them. This is a big opportunity for all of my players."

Defender Cleber may not get that opportunity due to a knock, but Johan Djourou and Nicolai Muller both return after missing the 3-2 cup defeat to Jena.

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