The new Bundesliga season started as the old one finished. The result and the performance is once again a reminder that the only side that can stop Bayern Munich from winning another title is themselves.
Everything about the start of the 2020-21 Bundesliga season felt familiar. Bayern sweeping past the opposition and ending the contest by halftime, Schalke impressing for the first minute and then crumbling in the fourth - even the eerily empty stadium felt familiar. While fans have begun to return in small numbers around Germany, a recent rise in infections in Bavaria led local health authorities to change their decision about the proposed 7,500 originally due to attend on Friday night.
"It doesn't matter how big the steps are but rather that they are in the right direction," Hansi Flick said of Bayern's new season before the game. It's safe to say that opening the new league season with a 8-0 win is very much a big step in the right direction. In truth, the only difference was the impressive presence of Leroy Sané in red and the new numbers on the back of Joshua Kimmich (six) and Serge Gnabry (seven). The rest was familiarly devastating.
Can the Bundesliga handle the truth?
The raw truth, displayed once again on the opening night of the 2020-21 season, is that for anyone but Bayern to win the league Bayern have to lose it first. The departure of midfield star Thiago and Uli Hoeness' public sabotage of the attempt to renew David Alaba's contract have gone some way to unsettle Bayern off the field, and are the sort of scraps of hope that Borussia Dortmund have to feed off, but on it Bayern remain in a league of their own.
How do you solve a problem like Bayern Munich? A super league? A radical re-distribution of television money? The answer remains unpopular and unclear. Until then, the Bundesliga will have to wrestle with having the best team in Europe playing a different quality of football in the same league as 17 other teams who don't stand a chance.
Schalke are very much one of those sides. They did all they could to stay afloat after the coronavirus pandemic plunged the club into financial danger. This season is about reconstructing the club's identity, restoring trust with their fans and finding sporting stability. The latter was never going to be found in Munich on Friday night, but this was another level of embarrassment for Schalke.
Are you not entertained?
Succumbing to Bayern's might after three and a half minutes was disappointing even by their own standards, but conceding one minute after the restart was perhaps even worse. When Lewandowski assisted Müller with a rabona it felt like there was nothing left to say. Then 17-year-old Jamal Musiala became the youngest Bayern Munich scorer ever and it was hard to believe this was the Bundesliga.
But this has long been the Bundesliga's face. Opening night of this season didn't tell us anything new. Bayern Munich have always been the team in Germany. Ever since Flick has been in charge they have been the best team in Europe. And Schalke well, they remain a work in progress.
The Bundesliga is not, but another season without a title race will test even its most loyal fans. Germany's top flight remains a veritable buffet of football delights. Borussia Dortmund's attack, everything about Gladbach, the magic of Christian Streich and Freiburg, the mad confidence of Cologne, that promising defensive midfielder playing for a team you've never heard of before - the list goes on and on.
But how long can the Bundesliga continue to rely on its status as the league where young players and coaches develop when the same team keeps winning the league? Surely that can't be football as it's meant to be.
Re-live Bayern's win in our live blog below:
81' GOAL! Bayern Munich 8-0 Schalke (Musiala)
The 17-year-old substitute gets in on the act!
71' GOAL! Bayern Munich 7-0 Schalke (Sane)
And Leroy Sane finally gets his debut goal.
69' GOAL! Bayern Munich 6-0 Schalke (Müller)
A magical assist from Lewandowski for Müller who makes it six.
65' Substitution for Schalke: Rabbi Matondo is replaced by Benito Raman
63' Sane has two assists tonight but is still on the hunt for a goal himself. He gets a shot away from the edge of the box but Fährmann tips it expertly round the post.
59' GOAL! Bayern Munich 5-0 Schalke (Gnabry)
Sane brings a long ball majestically under control, spins beautifully and lays off to Gnabry who completes his hat-trick.
54' Schalke win a corner after Süle clears from Uth's cross. Uth's subsequent corner doesn't make it past the near post.
50' Substitution for Bayern: Leon Goretzka is replaced by Corentin Tolisso.
47' GOAL! Bayern Munich 4-0 Schalke (Gnabry)
Bayern immediately send Sane in behind, the debutant rounds Fährmann but the ball gets too far away from him, falling instead to Gnabry who slides it into an empty net.
1' We're back underway in the second half! Can Schalke make a game of the second 45 minutes? The answer, by the way, already looks like a "no" ...
Half-time: Bayern Munich 3-0 Schalke
A promising opening 60 seconds from Schalke offered hope that this wouldn't be the predictable opening day walkover, but that is exactly what it has become. Just three minutes after the visitors' daring offensive, they were punished by Serge Gnabry, then by Leon Goretzka and then by Robert Lewandowski. Thirty minutes played, 3-0, and it could have been more were it not for some last-ditch defending by Sebastian Rudy and an impressive save from Ralf Fährmann.
Schalke, to give them their due, are not hiding. They're trying to get forward when they can with Amin Harit, Rabbi Matondo and Goncalo Pacienca doing their best. But their best isn't enough because Bayern are in a different league - individually, sportingly, financially.
To be perfectly honest, you have to ask what the point is? Is this what the Bundesliga, its stakeholders and its viewers want every season? And if not, what do they intend to do about it? Fan groups have demanded a re-distribution of wealth in the form of TV rights, that would be the "socialist" option. Others argue for an end to 50+1 and more investors, that's the "capitalist" option. Or is time that Bayern and Europe's other super clubs formed their own Super League and left the rest to it?
Whatever, this surely can't go on. It's going to have to for at least another 45 minutes this evening though. "It doesn't get cooler than this," in David Wagner's words.
43' Gnabry drags a left-footed shot wide.
41' It's like a shooting range in the Schalke box. Goretzka's shot is cleared off the line, Süle's follow-up comes back off the post. And Bayern keep coming. It's slightly ridiculous.
38' Rudy gets his body in the way of a goalbound Bayern shot for the second time, blocking from Gnabry. But it wouldn't have counted anyway after Lewandowski was flagged offside in the build-up.
37' Finally, Schalke are back on the attack as Kabak sends Harit on his way but the Moroccan international hesitates in the box and Süle clears the danger.
33' Half an hour played and Bayern lead 3-0. And it could be more.
31' GOAL! Bayern 3-0 Schalke (Lewandowski - pen)
Lewandowski places the ball low to Fährmann's right and Bayern lead 3-0.
29' PENALTY - BAYERN
Kabak brings Lewandowski down clumsily in the box and the referee has absolutely no other option other than to point to the spot.
24' Great save, Fährmann! Goretzka switches the play from left to right, where Gnabry controls and cuts inside in one touch and lays back to Kimmich, but Fährmann makes himself big to save.
21' Bayern advance again down the left with Sane, who cuts inside Rudy and squares to Lewandowski, but the Pole skews his shot over with his weaker left foot.
19' GOAL! Bayern 2-0 Schalke (Goretzka)
Müller calmly lays the ball back to Goretzka who powers home an accurate shot from the edge of the box against his former club.
17' Bayern hold their breath momentarily as Süle somehow diverts a Schalke free-kick into Neuer's arms. That didn't look overly convincing from the Bayern defender.
14' As Bayern try to counter themselves, Sane is stopped by an equally robust tackle by Kabak, which is judged to be a foul.
13' Schalke break again with Harit, Paciencia and Matondo, but the attack is eventually stamped out by a robust challenge from the blue-haired Boateng on the blue-shirted Matondo.
11' The pacey Matondo is sent long for Schalke but Manuel Neuer is alert, off his line and out of his box to clear with his head.
5' And Bayern almost immediately make it two as Leroy Sane tries and fails to round Fährmann. With the Schalke goalkeeper stranded, Lewandowski's follow-up is blocked on the line by Rudy.
4' GOAL! Bayern 1-0 Schalke (Gnabry)
Serge Gnabry controls a long ball forward from Kimmich, bringing it down and turning past Stambouli in one fluid movement before firing past Fährmann from the edge of the box. Schalke shouldn't have annoyed them.
1' And the opening 60 seconds see Schalke immediately on the attack. Pacienca flashes a cross across the six-yard-box, but Matondo isn't advanced enough to capitalize. Schalke then recycle possession but Uth's shot ends up being deflected behind for a corner, which is then cleared. Good start!
After a sombre rendition of the German national anthem - tradition ahead of the opening fixture - the 2020/21 Bundesliga season is underway! It will be a season like none before, taking place in unprecedented circumstances and partlyn without fans.
But some things are familiar: Bayern are all in red, Schalke in Royal Blue.
'Doesn't get cooler than this'
Schalke endured a season from hell in the first half of 2020, and the Royal Blues are being thrown straight back in at the deep end this evening. "We're playing against probably the best team in the world," says head coach David Wagner, adding positively: "It doesn't get cooler than this."
It could still get harder though. Schalke's next two away games? RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund. Cool.
Rolling a six
With Thiago Alcantara's move to Liverpool confirmed, Joshua Kimmich has officially taken over the Spaniard's No. 6 jersey. In other kit news, Serge Gnabry wears No. 7 tonight for the first time while substitute Joshua Zirkzee takes on the No. 14.
Fun fact 2
Bayern and Schalke are the only two Bundesliga teams who are yet to play a single competitive match this season. Most clubs played in the German Cup last week but Bayern, having only been in the Champions League final 26 days ago, have had their first round match postponed until October, while Schalke still don't know who they'll be playing, with Bavarian sides Schweinfurt and Türkgücü München in a legal battle.
Leroy Sane makes his Bayern Munich debut, while there are several changes at the back. Niklas Süle partners Jerome Boateng in place of the injured David Alaba, the Austrian missing out altogether with an alleged thigh problem amid continuing discussions over a new contract. Lucas Hernandez gets the nod at left-back over Alphonso Davies.
New signing Goncalo Paciencia, on loan from Eintracht Frankfurt, leads the line for Schalke. Sebastian Rudy fills in as an auxilliary right-back in the absence of defenders Omar Mascarell, Matija Nastasic and Salif Sane (all injured).
Veteran striker Vedad Ibisevic, signed from Hertha Berlin, starts on the bench.
The defending champions have never lost the offical season opener since it was introduced in 2002, winning 14 and drawing four. The last time the title holders lost their first game was 19 years ago, before an official curtain-raiser, when Bayern were beaten 1-0 in Gladbach in 2001.
Prematch spotlight: Robert Lewandowski
Robert Lewandowski made history last season, becoming the first player to win the treble and be top scorer in all three competitions. In the Bundesliga the prolific Pole had a hand in 39 goals (34 goals, 5 assists) – Schalke only managed 38 in the entire season!
Schalke have lost each of their last eight competitive matches against Bayern by an aggregate scoreline of 22-2. Across the three encounters in the Bundesliga and German Cup last season the score stood at 9-0.
Prematch spotlight: Goncalo Paciencia
Scoring goals has been an issue for Schalke ever since Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Raul rocked the Bundesliga by combining for 44 goals in a single season. Paciencia, who has netted 10 goals in 34 Bundesliga appearances for Eintracht, has been brought in to try and solve the problem.
Hansi Flick won a treble in just 36 games with Bayern. The Bavarians have won 33 matches, drawn once and lost twice, with the last of those over nine months ago on 7 December 2019 in Mönchengladbach (2-1). Bayern are therefore unbeaten in 30 competitive games (W29, D1)!
From the coaches' mouth: Hansi Flick
"This is the first game and I have told the team that it's not important how big the first step is, only that we're on the right track. We need to concentrate and bring a high intensity to the game."
From the coaches' mouth: David Wagner
"We made continual progress throughout preseason and fine-tuned a lot of our processes on the pitch. We are ready and full of anticipation for the Bundesliga season to get underway."
Bayern could play 57 competitive matches in the space of 253 days between September 18, 2020 (Bundesliga matchday 1) and May 29, 2021 (Champions League Final in Istanbul), encompassing the Bundesliga, German Cup, Champions League, Supercup, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.
Hello and welcome one and all to DW's coverage of the 2020-21 Bundesliga season opener as reigning champions Bayern Munich get set to welcome Schalke to the Allianz Arena on Friday night (kickoff 20:30 CEST/19:30 GMT/14:30 ET). DW's match blog goes live 90 minutes before the first whistle, until then feel free to feast your eyes on all the prematch talking points above.