Schalke was supposed to present Bayern’s first real challenge this season. They lived up to their billing, but for only ten minutes prior to the end of the first half. Manuel Neuer made three good saves, but had very little to do in the afternoon on a whole. Schalke was wasteful with their opportunities as was Bayern in the first half. However, Bayern produced two extremely special goals to hand Schalke their first season loss.
The first goal was brilliantly executed. Toni Kroos found Thomas Müller in the box. Kroos ghosted into the box from the left-wing. He had a defender watching him hopelessly as he accepted the return from Müller and hit the ball with the inside of his foot into the far right corner of the net beyond the gigantic Lars Unnerstall.
Müller himself scored the second. The goal was highly unconventional. Müller took the ball between two Schalke players and then niftily played it past Unnerstall and two other Schalke players to score. He had not had a great night until then, completely missing passes from his teammate twice.
Arjen Robben, who started on the left flank, had a chance to score a third but couldn’t. After all, lobbing Unnerstall is not easy. Manuel Neuer looks a pale figure compared to Unnerstall as far as size is concerned. In the first half, Mario Mandzukic had an off day and couldn’t find the back of the net. This was also due to the fact that in the second half, he wasn’t given too many chances.
Last season, the majority of Bayern’s goals came from Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Mario Gomez. This season, scoring goals has been a team effort where almost everybody with the exception of players from the back four, has chipped in. If Holger Badstuber, Dante and Jerome Boateng got at the end of a few corners and free kicks, the team could score more.
Speaking of Boateng, he made a huge error in the second half, which went unpunished. He gave the ball away in the final third to Julian Draxler. Had Draxler passed the ball to a waiting teammate, Schalke would almost definitely have scored. However, the defending by Bayern to crowd out Draxler quickly was good to watch. Meanwhile, Badstuber had another decent game at left back.
It was interesting to see Luiz Gustavo start ahead of Javier Martinez. Jupp Heynckes perhaps felt that it wouldn’t be right to hand Martinez a second start so quickly after his first. Gustavo did his job well though—he acted in his "destroyer" role well. Bayern controlled less possession in this match than usual this season—just under 60 percent.
Next up for FCB is a side that has not lived up to their preseason billing of being a dark horse for the title. Felix Magath’s Wolfsburg has stuttered more than they would have liked. On the first day of the season, they won by a single goal against Stuttgart. That goal came in injury time after Vedad Ibisevic missed a penalty and the rebound.
Wolfsburg was torn apart by Hannover 4-0 and proceeded to draw 0-0 with Augsburg in a horrible match. Finally, last week, an Emmanuel Pogatetz own goal saw them fall behind. Ivica Olic’s predatory instincts helped them to a draw.
Olic will be returning to the ground which will surely fill him up with fond memories. Bayern fans remember him fondly and he is surely going to get a wonderful reception for his services to Bayern.
Both meetings between the two sides last season were tight. Bayern was lucky to win the first one. Patrick Helmes had scored a goal which was wrongly ruled out as offsides. Luiz Gustavo scored a fantastic goal in the 91st minute to start Bayern’s unbeaten run last season. The second match was also tight.
Bayern came into the second match in horrible form. Mario Gomez grabbed a goal in the second half. Another injury time strike was needed to see Die Wolfe off properly. Arjen Robben scored that goal. The game itself was rather ugly to say the least.
Bayern will have to watch out for Bas Dost and Ivica Olic. Patrick Helmes is the victim of a second ACL injury and won’t be back until next year. For Bayern, Franck Ribery might not be back yet. Everybody else, with the exception of the long-term injury victims, is fit. Mario Mandzukic of course returns to his first Bundesliga club, one for which he scored twelve goals last season.
This is a game for which Bayern can afford to rest some of their starters. Wolfsburg shouldn’t be underestimated. However, Bayern has enough talent on the bench to see them off and give the regulars some much needed rest. This will, after all, be Bayern’s third match in seven days. This is a situation Bayern is used to; however, lack of quality subs and rotation is one of the reasons why Bayern was a runner-up in three competitions.
This will perhaps be the lineup:
Philipp Lahm- Jerome Boateng- Dante- Holger Badstuber
Javier Martinez- Luiz Gustavo/Bastian Schweinsteiger
Xherdan Shaqiri- Toni Kroos- Arjen Robben
Claudio Pizarro/Mario Mandzukic
Schweinsteiger has played every game since match day 2 of the Bundesliga. He could do with a rest. Kroos requires a rest too, but he will perhaps not be starting internationals for Germany, which are coming up soon. Müller, with the exception of 45 minutes against Valencia, has played almost 90 minutes in each match and could do with a rest. Mandzukic looked fatigued against Schalke and might be left on the bench for this one.
And finally, it is prediction time.
Prediction: Bayern 2-0 Wolfsburg
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