The on-goings in Germany’s biggest club has mostly been related to the transfer of the Spaniard, Javier Martinez. The transfer has perhaps placed a victory against Fürth in the back of everyone’s mind. Just to jog everyone’s memory, let’s take a look back to last week.
SpVgg Greuther Fürth 0-3 Bayern
A pessimist would say that Bayern struggled until Thomas Müller scored a fortunate opener. An optimist would say that Bayern had expressed passion and desire and deserved to take the lead. The match was rather scrappy compared to the other contests (Dortmund vs. Bremen/ Frankfurt vs. Leverkusen).
As Matthias Sammer pointed out, Bayern scored the first from a set piece. Endless complaints about Bayern’s poor set pieces have been heard from fans, thus the goal was a welcome change. A goal-line clearance saw the ball inadvertently hit a Fürth player and end up with Müller, who made no mistake from close range.
The quality of play improved in the second half. A second goal came from Mario Mandzukic, who scored from a rebound. The third was an own goal by Thomas Kleine. Kleine deflected Arjen Robben’s shot past his own keeper.
Toni Kroos and Luiz Gustavo both played well—Kroos was active defensively as well, rather than just offensively. His distribution was immaculate, as usual. Xherdan Shaqiri, handed a start in Franck Ribery’s absence, delivered a good performance, as did Mandzukic. Robben, meanwhile, was spotted helping out in defence!
Holger Badstuber started at left-back. Dante and Jerome Boateng formed a good partnership in the heart of defence. However, at the end, Boateng needlessly collected a yellow for a rather horrible foul near the penalty area. The referee could have easily handed out a red to him.
DFB Pokal and Champions League Draws
The second-round draw for the Pokal wasn’t as kind to Bayern as it was to some of their Bundesliga counterparts. Bayern will play Kaiserslautern. In preseason, Bayern took them on and came away with a 3-2 win. The score-line suggested the match was close; however, Bayern did dominate. In other ties, Gladbach will play Düsseldorf.
When Valencia came out of the pot in Monaco in the Champions League draw, I thought Bayern would end up with a group similar to last season. As it turns out, the group isn’t as difficult as last season’s, which Bayern came out of with flying colours. The challengers to Bayern in Group F are Valencia, Lille and BATE Borisov.
BATE isn’t the easiest of teams; they won’t roll over easily at home. Lille, of course, were the French champions of 2011. Their first attempt to roll with the big boys didn’t quite work out. This season, they came through the qualifiers beating out Copenhagen in the playoffs.
Valencia recently played Deportivo in La Liga. They let go of a 3-1 lead to draw 3-3. They are the biggest challengers to the stranglehold of the big two in Spain. Valencia’s recent excursion to Germany included matches against Leverkusen and Schalke. Last season, Leverkusen beat them 2-1 in Germany but lost 3-1 in Spain. Schalke beat them 3-1 at home in 2011 after the first leg of the Round of 16 had ended in a 1-1 tie in Spain.
Valencia brings back fond memories for Bayern, of course. In 2001, Bayern beat them in the final of the Champions League (it is difficult to even imagine that day now considering the events of 2010 and 2012) on penalties. Stefan Effenberg lifted the trophy in Milan. Of course, Valencia lost the final in 2000 as well to Real Madrid.
Finally, this draw on paper is much easier than last year; it is, however, not the easiest of draws. Schalke has got a manageable draw in Group B (which includes Arsenal, Montpellier and Olympiacos), while Dortmund ended up in the toughest of groups along with Real Madrid, City and Ajax. That is, of course, the group of champions.
Dortmund exiting the Champions League early this year could spell problems for Bayern, as last season showed. So for the sake of Bayern and German football in general, here is me hoping that Dortmund shows Bayern-beating form on the European stage and at least earns second place in the group.
Javier Martinez Transfer
Martinez has decided to swap the Europa league and Spanish Cup runners-up Athletic Bilbao for the Bundesliga, DFB Pokal and Champions League runners-up Bayern.
He is a defensive midfielder by trade but can also feature as a centre-back. The reasons behind his purchase are not too clear yet. Bayern already has a stack of players who are naturally defensive midfielders in Bastian Schweinsteiger, Gustavo, Emre Can and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk. Toni Kroos and David Alaba can feature in that position, too.
Bayern already has enough natural central defenders in Jerome Boateng, Dante, Holger Badstuber and Daniel Van Buyten. Gustavo and Tymoshchuk can feature there, too. At this point, from various interviews, it seems to be that he has been brought in for defensive midfield.
Bayern broke the bank for him—he cost 40 million euros. Despite the fact that he is going to be paying back the cash by taking a pay cut, he must possess a special quality. Rarely does any club pay that amount for a substitute. Of course, his transfer could mean that Bayern might offload a star midfielder before the end of the transfer window.
Martinez’s signature could also mean that Schweinsteiger’s injuries are more serious than initially suspected—or perhaps Basti’s position will be changed to central attacking midfielder. I feel, nonetheless, that Martinez will not walk into the starting 11 immediately. He will have to wait perhaps until Heynckes sees the need to field him from the start of a match.
One of the reasons he joined Bayern is because Bayern offered him a position in midfield, apparently. He has been handed the No. 8 jersey. This possibly a team Heynckes might field in the game against Mainz in the event that Martinez does start games from the beginning of his Bayern career:
Philipp Lahm-Jerome Boateng-Dante-Holger Badstuber
Javier Martinez-Luiz Gustavo/Bastian Schweinsteiger
Arjen Robben-Toni Kroos/Thomas Müller-Franck Ribery/Xherdan Shaqiri
VfB Stuttgart: Bayern
Stuttgart will be Bayern’s first home opponent of the season. The Allianz Arena, unlike most home grounds, holds some rather painful memories for Bayern. The Super Cup victory at home was glorious, but the Champions League final defeat still isn’t forgotten. Stuttgart started their campaign at home against Wolfsburg.
Vedad Ibisevic had a chance to win the match for his side when the Swabians were awarded a penalty. He not only missed the penalty, he followed up the act with a hilarious miss from the rebound. Unfortunately for his coach, Bruno Labbadia, and his team, Felix Magath’s side scored in injury time through Bas Dost and took home all three points.
Stuttgart played their match late on Saturday. The DFB had granted their request to push their match a day behind in order to have more time to prepare for their Europa League qualifier. Unfortunately, no other side wanted to change their match to a Sunday and Stuttgart ended up playing at an unusual time on Saturday. In the qualifier against Dynamo Bucharest, they drew 1-1 in Bucharest.
Last season, the first encounter between these two sides in the Mercedes Benz Arena was a tight one. The game was locked at 1-1 midway through the first half. Christian Gentner and Mario Gomez had scored the goals. Stuttgart had a man sent off; the effect of the red card was worse on Bayern than the away side. Bayern struggled afterward, but Gomez secured victory with a brilliant goal in the second half.
The other match was meaningless for Bayern. The game was played toward the end of the season when Stuttgart was still searching for a place in the top four. Bayern fielded a largely reserve side but dominated nonetheless. Gomez scored the first and Müller added a second late in the game. That was the game in which Bayern introduced the rather ugly orange and white kits.
Javi Martinez will not feature in this one (that has been confirmed). Jupp Heynckes might stick to a winning formula for now:
Oh, just before I finish, 2,000 additional seats have been added to the Allianz Arena to make the capacity 71,000 for domestic matches and 68,000 for European matches.
Prediction: Bayern 2-0 Stuttgart