Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich, Clubs, German Bundesliga, Story

Bayern Munich will begin the defence of their Bundesliga title against Bayer Leverkusen without goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

The Germany stopper broke a bone in his left foot in April and subsequently missed the end of the season as Bayern were crowned champions for the 27th time.

Neuer had hoped to be fit for Friday night’s season opener but Bayern head coach Carlo Ancelotti has decided to hold his captain back.

“We don’t want to take any risks,” Ancelotti said at his pre-match press conference.

“We’ll see how he is next week but I think he’ll be able to play against Bremen.”

The champions will also be without Javi Martinez, James Rodriguez, Thiago, Juan Bernat and Jerome Boateng but Arjen Robben and David Alaba are in contention after missing the DFL-Supercup win over Borussia Dortmund.

Ancelotti added: “Both are in good shape. I will make a decision on the line-up tomorrow.”

Bayern finished 15 points clear of their nearest challengers in Ancelotti’s first season in charge on their way to a fifth straight title.

But after falling at the quarter-final stage of the Champions League and failing to reach the DFB-Pokal final, the Italian has challenged his side to go up a level.

“We’re thrilled that the season is about to begin,” said Ancelotti. “Our dream is to be champions again.

“I’m excited about my second season at Bayern. We want to improve on the last campaign.”

Champions League regulars Bayer Leverkusen struggled last term – finishing down in 12th place – but they pushed Bayern close at the Allianz Arena before holding Ancelotti’s men to a goalless draw at home.

“We’re looking forward to starting off against Leverkusen,” said Ancelotti.

“The first match is always tough but I think we’re ready for the match, and I hope we’ll turn in a good display.”

Heiko Herrlich, who took over as Leverkusen head coach this summer, is confident his team can cause a shock in his first game in charge.

“We’re going to Munich to take something there,” he said.

“It’s important to go to Bayern with lots of courage, believe in our strengths and employ them as best as possible.

“My team is physically in very good shape and have a good attitude. I am positive.”

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