Dortmund's young guns out to defend title
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Borussia Dortmund will be bidding to prove last season was no fluke when they open their defence of the German league title on Friday by hosting Hamburg in the first Bundesliga game of the season.

With an average age of just over 24-years-old, Dortmund stunned the German league by taking over as leaders after the 10th game of last season and stayed there until the season's end to finish with a seven-point lead.

While Bayern have splashed out in the transfer market to lure the likes of Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and defender Jerome Boateng to Munich this summer, Dortmund have been quietly adding to their young squad.

Talented midfielders Ivan Perisic and Ilkay Gundogan have been added from Club Brugge and Nuremberg, while defender Chris Loewe has been brought in from third-division Chemnitzer FC. With exciting Japan winger Shinji Kagawa now back to full fitness after breaking his foot in January, Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp can call on the bulk of the squad which won last year's title.

Still only 19, midfielder Mario Goetze is the rising star of the team having forced his way into the Germany squad and is earning considerable praise here after a string of eye-catching performances last season. Klopp kept Dortmund's league rivals guessing last season by using different combinations in attack as the likes of winger Kevin Grosskreutz, midfielder Sven Bender and Paraguay striker Lucas Barrios all made their mark.

However, the one member of Dortmund's title-winning squad to have moved on has left big boots to be filled, with Turkey playmaker Nuri Sahin leaving for Real Madrid.

Uncomfortable precedent
Klopp, though, will be eager to avoid following the same fate of other recent German champions Wolfsburg, in 2009, and Stuttgart, in 2007, who failed to back up their title success the following season.

Neither team managed to finish higher than sixth the year after their success, something Klopp is determined to improve on. "We aren't typical champions, we aim to be contenders again," said Klopp, who has been voted Germany's manager of the year by Kicker.

Dortmund warmed up for the match against Hamburg with a 3-0 win over minnows SV Sandhausen in the first round of the German Cup and sporting director Michael Zorc says his side are ready to defend their title. "It was a confident performance, we deserved to progress in the competition," he said. "We feel as though we are ready for the season."

Dortmund's success caught the imagination in the Ruhr Valley last season, and they can expect most of their games to be sell-outs at their 80,552-capacity stadium in the campaign ahead, especially with UEFA Champions League football looming.