Valencia’s game plan on Wednesday was simple—defend and press. They did exactly that and managed to frustrate Bayern until the 38th minute when Bastian Schweinsteiger broke through for the opening goal of Bayern’s campaign. For a team that had had no shots on goal in the first half, Valencia responded well in the second.
Bayern had a tough time until Toni Kroos settled the contest exactly 38 minutes after the first goal. His goal was, as you would expect from him, just sumptuous. The strike came from outside the box and gave Diego Alves in goal no chance. Alves had earlier managed to somehow tip another awesome effort from Kroos over the bar.
However, with Bayern, there is always drama. In injury time, Bayern allowed Valencia to come back into the match with some poor play. And as expected, the goal was a result of sloppy defending on Bayern’s part on a set piece. Nelson Valdez was allowed to head in from a corner.
Shortly after, Arjen Robben earned Bayern a penalty with excellent play. In accordance to the unspoken rules of German football (and some bad memories from last season), Robben didn’t take the penalty. Mario Mandzukic hence had a golden chance to score his first ever Champions League goal. His penalty turned out to be a horribly tame one.
In the end, while Bayern did come away with all three points, they made life harder for themselves due to their own mistakes. The back line as usual did not look as good as it should. Perhaps the return of David Alaba or Diego Contento will improve the back line in due time.
Prior to the game, Heynckes’ selection had left everyone just slightly bemused. Claudio Pizarro was starting a game for the first time as was Javier Martinez. Thomas Müller had been left out of the side in favour of the dynamic duo of Franck Ribery and Robben. Ribery was withdrawn at half-time and replaced by Müller.
Robben put in a fine display, it must be said, in the attack and at the back. Philipp Lahm had a great display. Later, Heynckes introduced Luiz Gustavo into the side to ensure that Bayern got across the line.
Awaiting Bayern next in the league is another title contender, Schalke. Schalke has got off to a flyer this season. From their first five competitive games, they have won four and drawn one (2-2 against Hannover). They put in a fantastic display against Olympiakos in midweek in the Champions League. Strangely enough, the scoreline was the same as that of Bayern; there was even a missed penalty.
Tranquillo Barnetta put in a fine display; the former Leverkusen midfielder might be granted a start in this match. Lewis Holtby seems to be in his best form currently. Julian Draxler has the air of a fantastic midfielder about him. Klaas Jan Huntelaar, of course, is one of the most feared strikers in Europe.
Currently, one of the problems with Schalke is the goalkeeper’s position. Schalke has three good keepers available to them in Ralf Fahrmann, Lars Unnerstall and Timo Hildebrand. Fahrmann was supposed to be the one in between the posts at the start of the season. However, recently the position belongs to Unnerstall. A first-choice keeper is very important for good communication between the keeper and the defence.
Benedikt Howedes missed a string of games last season but has returned to fitness this season. He even scored in the Champions League against Olympiakos. This is another aspect of Schalke’s game that makes them so dangerous—the goals come from players in all positions and not just from the striker.
Going into injury news, Ribery is obviously a doubt after being withdrawn at half-time against Valencia. Otherwise, everyone with the exception of the long-term absentees (Mario Gomez, Alaba, Contento and Rafinha) is ready to go. For Schalke, Huntelaar and Jermaine Jones are both doubtful.
In the previous season, both meetings between these two went in favour of Bayern by the same scoreline, 2-0. Schalke missed some gilt-edged chances in both but was beaten by the better side. In the 2010-11 season, Bayern and Schalke met thrice. Schalke won the meeting in the Ruhr 2-0 and the meeting in the German Cup semi 0-1. Bayern took some of their anger out at the Allianz Arena and thrashed Schalke 4-1.
Who will start for Bayern in this difficult match? This is my best guess at a lineup:
Philipp Lahm- Jerome Boateng- Dante- Holger Badstuber
Bastian Schweinsteiger- Javier Martinez
Arjen Robben- Toni Kroos- Thomas Müller
So far for Bayern, the back five and Kroos have started each and every match. They will need to take rests; however, for any defender to take a match off, Alaba and Contento need to return.
And now, it’s prediction time. This match will be very close and a draw is a very likely possibility. However, Bayern is yet to drop any points and might just edge it.
Prediction: Schalke 1-2 Bayern