Berlin: Bayern Munich coach Carlo Ancelotti has a lengthy injury list to contend with as his star-studded champions kick off the new Bundesliga season against Bayer Leverkusen on Friday.
Under Ancelotti, Bayern dominated the German league at a canter last season as they went on to clinch a fifth successive title.
They were top of the table for all bar three weeks, when RB Leipzig briefly usurped them last November, before finishing up as winners with a 15-point margin in May.
But 90 days since their last league match, Ancelotti has a different squad, many of whom are struggling for fitness as recent results suggest.
They lost five of their six pre-season matches before winning the German Super Cup at Dortmund a fortnight ago after a penalty shoot-out.
Results such as 2-0 defeats against Napoli and Inter Milan, plus a 3-0 reverse against Liverpool and a 4-0 drubbing by AC Milan raised eyebrows in Munich.
Fatigue was a factor against the Milan clubs as Bayern played four games in 12 days on July's tour of China and Singapore.
Ancelotti is missing Germany's World Cup-winning captain Philipp Lahm and midfield general Xabi Alonso, who have both retired, while Brazil winger Douglas Costa has been sold to Juventus.
Ancelotti is also without playmaker Thiago Alcantara and new signing James Rodriguez, who is on a two-year loan deal from Real Madrid, after picking up injuries in pre-season.
Defenders Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez are out with leg knocks.
"We'll see which players will be available on Friday," said Ancelotti.
There is some positive news.
New club captain Manuel Neuer could play, but a decision will only be made on Thursday after the goalkeeper only recently returned after foot surgery.
"Since he is our captain, it would be a bonus," said chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
Luckily for Bayern, their away match at Werder Bremen the following weekend comes just before the international break.
"We'll be able to integrate all our players then," added Ancelotti, but new signings Niklas Suele and Sebastian Rudy are likely to be with Germany, while record-signing Corentin Tolisso is set to be with France.
The 23-year-old Tolisso scored or set up 13 goals in 31 French league appearances last term for Lyon.
He is expected to link up with Robert Lewandowski, who will resume his battle with Dortmund's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, last season's top scorer in Germany's top flight.
Bayern face a new-look Leverkusen team with ex-Borussia Dortmund forward Heiko Herrlich in charge.
Star striker Javier Hernandez has left for West Ham, Turkish dead-ball expert Hakan Calhanoglu has joined AC Milan while key defender Omer Toprak now plays for Dortmund.
"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," added Ancelotti.
Published Date: Aug 17, 2017 13:17 PM | Updated Date: Aug 17, 2017 13:17 PM