With the Bundesliga celebrating an illustrious 50th anniversary, this weekend marked the start of the season. Well, it was for the second tier anyway and TSV 1860 Munich commenced their campaign by hosting newly promoted Jahn Regensburg.
Regensburg is a beautiful cathedral city and because it's located in Bavaria, this match qualified as a derby game with 45,300 fans flocking to the Allianz Arena on Saturday.
1860 were strong favourites to win this game (see match report), and justified this billing by running out narrow 1-0 winners. The Lions are quietly confident of earning promotion back to the top flight where they last played eight years ago. With an established core of solid professionals and six top quality new signings the exciting blend of experience and talent is fully expected to lift the team to the higher echelons of the 2nd division table.
The financial problems and boardroom power struggles of the last couple of seasons appear to have been put aside for now. This season it's all about the football and sealing a return to the big time.
"When I arrived at the club we didn't really know whether we could continue with professional football." This is what Director of Football Florian Hinterberger said immediately after last seasons' final league game with Alemannia Aachen. When asked whether he would enjoy a nice summer holiday, Hinterberger replied, "Vacation, no. There is no time, I have to work very hard to get a good team together."
Hinterberger was true to his word. Undoubtedly, he has been exceptionally astute and managed to bring in some outstanding new players.
Greek international midfielder Grigoris Makos is one of the highest profile signings the club have made in recent years. The former AEK Athens player even started the quarter-final match against Germany at the European championship this summer and big things are expected of the 25-year old defensive midfielder.
Another of the new recruits who starred for his sides' national team at Euro 2012 was Polish defender Grzegorz Wojkowiak, signed from Lech Poznan after playing 107 matches for the 2010 Polish league champions. Ismael Blanco is an Argentine striker who left his former employ in Poland to join the Lions as a free agent this season and 28-year old Moritz Volz, a Premier League player with Fulham for five years, has swapped St. Pauli for the Bavarian capital. Volz is a very capable replacement for right back Antonio Rukavina who departed Munich for Real Valladolid at the end of last season and will wear the number two shirt.
Attracting this type of quality player to the 2nd division of German football is no easy task. "We always have to fight to get these players. It was a little difficult but now I'm very happy that we have achieved this" Hinterberger remarked last week after the friendly against Borussia Moenchengladbach in Tegernsee.
Spanish defender Guillermo Vallori is feeling bullish about the coming season and is full of praise for his new team mates. "They are good players and good people which is also important for the stability in the dressing room." At the end of last season many of the teams' best players moved on to pastures new. That left both players and fans worrying about how they could be replaced." At the beginning of the season I was wondering what was happening but now, believe me I think it is good. I am optimistic."
With the addition of Moritz Stoppelkamp and Marin Tomasov, also bolstering the squad, the Lions are widely considered to be one of the favourites for promotion. All that remains to be seen now is whether they can handle the pressure of expectation.