Wednesday night saw the height of frustrations for Bayern fans and management alike. Uli Hoeness absolutely blew up when asked about Franck Ribery's extremely "friendly" gesture to Jupp Heynckes. There are things that matter much more than a simple handshake at the moment.
Heynckes has taken some of the blame of the current mess on his shoulders. Arjen Robben continues to blame others for a mess he is partly responsible for. Holger Badstuber and Thomas Mueller had a very public fight on the pitch considering the goal against Basel and it continued into the locker room. The two, however, made peace with each other.
Before getting on to the preview, I feel like I should mention this for every beleaguered Bayern fan out there: man for man, Bayern is better than any other team in the world barring the two Spanish sides Real Madrid and Barcelona. Bayern, however, does not have the element that makes players gel at the moment. All the team needs is for that natural chemistry to return, or at least even the chemistry the team possessed despite the loss of Schweinsteiger in October.
What is definitely required is a change in attitude for all the players. They should quit blaming each other and take responsibility for their errors. And to be honest, the defence cannot be blamed for all of Bayern's issues. They have conceded five in seven games but three of those came against Gladbach. So in the last six games, Bayern has conceded just two goals.
It is the attack that must take responsibility for this crisis: the attack has managed just eight goals in seven matches. Currently, 180 minutes have passed by and the so-called "brilliant" trio of Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and Mario Gomez has managed exactly zero goals between them.
Now, let's look at Sunday's match. Schalke beat Viktoria Plzen in extra time, 3-1, with a Klaas Jan Huntelaar hat-trick in the Europa League on Thursday. While Schalke was found lacking defensively at times, their attack flowed majestically. The way they attack is similar to the way Bayern does it—the difference is that the movement off the ball of Schalke players is highly intelligent and the team has brilliant chemistry. Also, Schalke looked prepared for another half an hour even after ET ended.
Schalke almost makes a Bayern fan jealous—an attack ticking so perfectly belonged to Bayern in the first half of the season but can no longer be found. Now, for the injury news, no player is doubtful but as we already know, our favourite DM Bastian, our favourite bull Daniel Van Buyten, our favourite Italian Diego Contento and our not-so-favourite centre back Breno are all definitely out.
For Schalke, Sergio Escudero is out of this one. Ralf Fahrmann and Lars Unnerstall are both injured, leaving Timo Hildebrand to deputise in goal temporarily. Hildebrand destroyed a promising career by moving away from then-German champions Stuttgart to Valencia. Jermaine Jones is suspended until March for a malicious attempt he made of causing serious harm to Marco Reus during the first half of the season.
Speaking of Reus, his mouth almost earned him a sending off against HSV today as his side drew 1-1. Provided that Bayern beats Schalke, Bayern will leapfrog them into second. Provided Schalke wins, Schalke will jump to third. If Schalke wins by two goals, Schalke will go second behind fierce rivals Dortmund. Dortmund entertain Hanover on Sunday just after the Bayern match.
The previous meeting between these two sides ended with Bayern winning 0-2 in Gelsenkirchen. Schalke had chances to score there but couldn't take the small number of chances they had. Bayern capitalized on their opportunities via Nils Petersen and Thomas Mueller. The meeting before that ended 4-1 in Bayern's favour with our favourite villain, Arjen Robben, scoring in that one. Schalke won both meetings prior to that one last season, 0-1 in the Pokal thanks to Raul and 0-2 in the league.
So, how will Bayern set up to counter the threat of Raul, Huntelaar and co? Well, I think—rather, I hope that Jupp will make wholesale changes as he knows that Gomez can't even find a ball to hit a barn door at the moment let alone hit the barn door. So, this is how I think Bayern will line up considering the failures of recent times:
Some of you might feel that this lineup is too attack-minded to beat Schalke. However, if Bayern doesn't score, they can't win a match. Hence, at the moment, the emphasis is perhaps on finding the back of the net. Maybe this will make our team find much required chemistry and make Arjen moan by himself rather than groan about his teammates and coach.
So, finally, because there is such a crisis going around Bavatria and because I have predicted the 4-4-2 out of hope more than anything else, I feel Bayern will be beaten by Schalke on Sunday.
Prediction: Bayern 1-2 Schalke
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