Bayern face selection headache for Bundesliga opener

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Berlin (AFP) - Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola faces a selection headache ahead of the defending champions' Bundesliga opener against VfL Wolfsburg on Friday.

Defender Jerome Boateng is suspended, while versatile Spanish international Javi Martinez tore his cruciate ligament during last week's German Supercup loss at Borussia Dortmund.

Injured midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribery and Thiago, as well as Brazilian full-back Rafinha, are also set to miss the game at Munich's Allianz Arena.

Guardiola has expressed concern that his squad, which includes six World Cup winners, may struggle to hit the ground running following this summer's tournament in Brazil.

Thomas Mueller, who scored his 100th competitive goal for Bayern in last weekend's 4-1 German Cup win over Preussen Munster, believes that his side should be able to cope.

"We're used to that kind of preparation," the German international told Sportbild.

"FC Bayern now have a lot of internationals in the squad but also a lot of very good options in order to compensate for big tournaments."

New signing Robert Lewandowski, who turns 26 on Thursday, should lead the line for Bayern.

Visitors Wolfsburg, who scraped past second division Darmstadt on penalties in their cup match, will also be under-strength.

Attacking midfielder Ivan Perisic fractured his shoulder in a friendly against Bayern in late July, while goalkeeper and captain Diego Benaglio could miss out due to an infection.

Max Grun, who saved two penalties in Sunday's shootout, would deputise for the Swiss international.

Former Bayern midfielder Luiz Gustavo may not feature after returning late from the World Cup, while Friday's game might also come too soon for former Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner.

"We'll go into the game with the best possible attitude and if they show weakness, we want to take advantage," said Wolfsburg manager Dieter Hecking.

"We need to have a really good day to cause them problems."

- Dortmund target big start -

On Saturday, Borussia Dortmund will hope to continue their fine early-season form when they host Bayer Leverkusen.

Last season's Bundesliga runners-up followed up their 2-0 win in the Supercup with a 4-1 German Cup success at third division Stuttgart Kickers.

After losing Lewandowski, Dortmund bolstered their strike-force by signing Ciro Immobile and Adrian Ramos this summer.

Key midfielder Marco Reus returned from injury in their cup game and Erik Durm believes that Dortmund are well placed to capitalise if Bayern make a sluggish start.

"This year the start is hugely important for us," the German left-back said.

"I think that with the new signings and players coming back, we're even better set up than last season."

Any slim hope Dortmund had of catching Bayern last season evaporated when they lost the corresponding fixture against Leverkusen in December.

Leverkusen then faded badly to finish fourth but they appear rejuvenated under new boss Roger Schmidt.

On Tuesday, they produced an impressive attacking display in Denmark to beat Copenhagen 3-2 in the first leg of their Champions League play-off.

Also on Saturday, Champions League qualifiers Schalke 04 will look to bounce back from a shock German Cup loss at third division Dynamo Dresden when they travel to Hanover.

Fixtures (1330 GMT unless stated)


Bayern Munich v VfL Wolfsburg (1830)


Hoffenheim v Augsburg, Hanover 96 v Schalke 04, Hertha Berlin v Werder Bremen, Eintracht Frankfurt v Freiburg, Cologne v Hamburg, Borussia Dortmund v Bayer Leverkusen (1630)


Paderborn v Mainz 05, Bor. Moenchengladbach v VfB Stuttgart (1530)