Dortmund's hopes humble before 50th Bundesliga

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BERLIN (AP) -Defending champion Borussia Dortmund remains characteristically modest before the Bundesliga's 50th season despite the tantalizing possibility of a third straight title.

Only Borussia Moenchengladbach and Bayern Munich have ever won three in a row, raising the prospect of Dortmund being compared to the great `Gladbach or Bayern sides of the 1970s, or the Bayern teams which repeated the feat in 1985-87 and 1999-2001.

But Dortmund is happy for Bayern to handle the pressure of being favorite, again.

Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp said his team's aim is "to play in the Champions League in 2013-14. No more and no less."

Dortmund's fans will be hoping for something more after its double-winning season. Their side opens the new season on Friday, at home to Werder Bremen.

Bayern visits promoted Greuther Fuerth on Saturday.

Understatement has been a key characteristic of Dortmund's achievements in winning back-to-back titles, inflicting five defeats in a row on Bayern and then claiming its first double by beating the German powerhouse 5-2 in the German Cup final last May.

Bayern ended that losing sequence with a 2-1 win over Dortmund in the Super Cup, but chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge warned "we shouldn't read too much into it."

Dortmund has always been happy to let Bayern handle the pressure of expectation.

"Bayern is the one to watch, the top favorite," Klopp said.

Many will agree after another offseason of busy transfer activity in Munich, including the arrivals of Switzerland winger Xherdan Shaqiri, Brazilian defender Dante, Croatia forward Mario Mandzukic and the return of Peru striker Claudio Pizarro.

But Dortmund has also brought in reinforcements, taking Germany player of the year Marco Reus from Moenchengladbach in the biggest transfer so far, and bringing in Stuttgart striker Julian Schieber and the highly-rated 18-year-old Leonardo Bittencourt from second division club Energie Cottbus.

Reus will be expected to soften the blow of Shinji Kagawa's departure for Manchester United, though up-and-coming star Mario Goetze will most likely play in the Japan midfielder's position with Reus deployed on the wing.

Klopp told Kicker magazine that the season will be a success "if we manage to play the football that made Borussia Dortmund successful in the last years."

In refusing to set defined targets for his young side, Klopp takes the pressure of his players and keeps fans' expectations in check.

"We have to concentrate on playing a noteworthy season," he said.

The pressure on his counterpart in Munich, Jupp Heynckes, is intense after Bayern finished runner-up in three competitions. Heynckes will be expected to lead his star-studded side to Bayern's first Bundesliga title since 2010.

"Personally I'm quite relaxed," Heynckes said. "Demands are always very high in Munich. That's why the pressure can't get any higher for us. So, everything as usual."

Bayern will be expected to get off to a good start at Bavarian rival Fuerth. The Bundesliga newcomer has embarked on an offseason of rebuilding after winning the second division to reach the top flight for the first time.

"Fuerth can only win. If they start the season well and generate euphoria and excitement with the fans and team, anything is possible," Heynckes said. "I wish it for them too - from the second game."

Fuerth will take some encouragement from knowing Bayern has only won two of its last five opening games.

Eintracht Frankfurt and Fortuna Duesseldorf mark their return to the Bundesliga on Saturday, at home to Bayer Leverkusen and away to Augsburg, respectively.

Also Saturday, Freiburg hosts Mainz, Nuremberg visits Hamburger SV and Moenchengladbach hosts Hoffenheim.

Moenchengladbach, which finished fourth last season, will hope to recover from its 3-1 loss to Dynamo Kiev in their Champions League qualifier, mindful of the return leg in Kiev next Wednesday.

The loss was the first competitive game in which the side conceded more than two goals since Lucien Favre took over as coach in February 2011.

"We're missing thrust up front, our passes aren't penetrating enough," Favre said.

Moenchengladbach record-signing Luuk de Jong scored an own-goal against Dynamo but will hope to show that he can score at the other end, too, after 25 goals for FC Twente in the Dutch league last season.

Stuttgart's game at home to Wolfsburg was moved forward a day from Sunday to allow more preparation for the second leg of its Europa League playoff at Dynamo Moscow.

Wolfsburg appears to have settled differences with Brazilian midfielder Diego, who is back after his one year sabbatical at Atletico Madrid, and can be expected to challenge for a top four place with the addition of Dutch league leading scorer Bas Dost, who scored 32 goals in 34 matches for SC Heerenveen last season.

On Sunday, Hannover, which faces Slask Wroclaw in the Europa League playoffs, hosts Schalke, which finished third last season and doesn't expect an improvement.

"The first two places are probably decided," Schalke coach Huub Stevens said. "We're fighting for third place."

Copyright 2016 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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