Bundesliga preview: Champions open at home

Borussia Dortmund begin their title defence at home to Hamburg when the 2011/12 Bundesliga season kicks off on Friday.Dortmund lifted their first title in nine years last season, finishing seven points clear of Bayer Leverkusen.

Jurgen Klopp impressed in orchestrating that triumph during his third full season as head coach and Dortmund have thus far managed to ward off any interest in the 44-year-old’s services.

They have also retained the bulk of the club’s championship-winning squad, with deep-lying playmaker Nuri Sahin the only exception.

Turkey international Sahin succumbed to the advances of La Liga runners-up Real Madrid in May for a reported fee of nine million euros.

In capturing the title last season, Dortmund were the beneficiaries of below-par league campaigns by traditional heavyweights Bayern Munich, Schalke and Werder Bremen.

Bremen were third in 2009-10, but stumbled to 13th the following term, avoiding the relegation zone by five points.

Schalke were runners-up to champions Bayern in 09/10 and did manage a credible run to the semi-finals of the Champions League last season, accounting for holders Inter Milan along the way.

They also lifted the German Cup, but could only finish 14th in the Bundesliga, four points outside the bottom three.

And while Bayern mounted a late rally to come third, a poor start meant they ended up 10 points behind Dortmund, effectively conceding their title with months of the season still to play.

Bayern’s failure to compete cost coach Louis van Gaal his job, with Jupp Heynckes making the switch from Leverkusen to fill the hot seat at the Allianz Arena for the coming campaign.

The Bavarian giants have shipped out Miroslav Klose, Hamit Altintop and Thomas Kraft, with Germany internationals Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng among their high-profile replacements.

Bayern begin their campaign at home on Sunday to Borussia Monchengladbach, who earned a reprieve last season after winning their relegation playoff against Bochum.

Also on Sunday, surprise contenders Mainz, who led the table early last season before slipping to fifth, play host to Leverkusen.

Schalke, German Super Cup winners against Dortmund last week, kick-off on Saturday away to Stuttgart, who were 12th last season.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Bremen host Kaiserlautern, Hoffenheim travel to Hannover and Cologne await the visit of Wolfsburg.

Of the two promoted teams, Hertha Berlin start life back in the top flight with a visit from Nuremburg, while Augsburg will play the first Bundesliga match in their history at home to Freiburg.