Bayern was provided with a ‘reality check’ in the weekend when they played Werder Bremen prior to an extremely important clash against the high-flying kings of Belarus, BATE Borisov. Bayern was in cloud nine after the brilliant start to the season so far, but now will not become complacent after having to work against Bremen.
Taking into account the final portion of last season, Bayern has actually won nine Bundesliga matches on the trot. It seems like Bayern has forgotten how to draw or lose! The winning streak should continue against BATE. However, the Belarusian side shouldn’t be taken too lightly, as they did beat an accomplished Lille side on the first match-day.
Against Bremen, Bayern started with eleven players of superb quality. Bremen however came up with the correct game plan. The team was extremely compact and hardly allowed Bayern any room to breathe. Bastian Schweinsteiger looked below par as he was hassled continuously. Toni Kroos couldn’t hit as many pinpoint passes as usual too. The referee didn’t help Bayern’s cause by constantly catching out Thomas Müller for the smallest of issues.
The game itself was extremely scrappy. Bremen was brilliant on the counter. Had Bayern carved some of the chances that Bremen did, they would have scored. Bremen seemed to lack the strong mentality needed to score against Bayern. Beating Manuel Neuer is a mental game before being a test of skills too and hence Bremen faltered.
In the second half, Jupp Heynckes decided to change things up. The genius Kroos was replaced by the muscular Swiss Xherdan Shaqiri. Mario Mandzukic came on for Claudio Pizarro. And finally, Javi Martinez replaced Schweinsteiger. Finally, the deadlock was broken in the 81st minute. Luiz Gustavo scored his second screamer of the season with wonderful technique after being set up by Müller.
A second goal followed only two minutes afterwards when Shaqiri set up Mandzukic for his sixth goal of the season. Following the match, Matthias Sammer was quite critical of the team. Jupp Heynckes abetted his criticism. This was a breath of fresh air for Bayern fans who spent their time reading post-match interviews of Christian Nerlinger and Heynckes last season.
Neither Nerlinger nor Heynckes really wanted to criticize the players in the manner in which Sammer does. Aside from the wastefulness of the team, Heynckes didn’t really complain about much last season. Thus, the criticism shows that nothing less than 100 percent will suffice for Bayern this season. They are expected to win and they should do so.
Now, it’s time to move on to the Champions League. Bayern played wonderfully in their opener against Valencia; the score-line simply did not tell the truth about the match. Valencia hardly ever saw the ball. Bayern had 74 percent of the possession, the highest of any side on match-day one. Valencia did not have a single shot on target in the first half.
For all their dominance though, Bayern couldn’t score as many as they should have. They conceded an extremely unnecessary goal in injury time. Mario Mandzukic also missed a penalty. It is time Bayern decides to nominate a single determined penalty taker. Schweinsteiger would have been the perfect candidate had he not missed the most important one last season. Franck Ribery is a good candidate. Toni Kroos is a good taker too. David Alaba would be a brilliant choice but is out of the picture currently.
BATE beat Lille on the opening day in France, 1-3. BATE’s charge is spearheaded by a former Bundesliga star, Aliaksandr Hleb. However, they will need a lot more than an inspirational display from Hleb to take anything away from this match. BATE plays their home games away from their own stadium as their ground only seats about 5000 fans. BATE did perform brilliantly against Lille though as the French side looked disinterested and out of ideas by the end.
As for as injury news is concerned, Arjen Robben has been ruled out but nobody seems to have taken notice, as Bayern hasn’t really needed him. Otherwise, the players ruled out are all long-term injury victims with Mario Gomez, Lukas Raeder, David Alaba, Diego Contento and Rafinha amongst the names.
It is incredibly tricky to predict starting line-ups these days but I will still try:
Philipp Lahm- Dante- Jerome Boateng- Holger Badstuber
Bastian Schweinsteiger- Javier Martinez/Luiz Gustavo
Thomas Müller- Toni Kroos/Xherdan Shaqiri- Franck Ribery
Shaqiri played well against Bremen and might start, but Kroos is the playmaker and the perfect player for Champions League matches. Gustavo was a star performer against Bremen but Bayern doesn’t require a destroyer in this match. The back-four should remain the same, but soon, at least one of them will require a rest. A date hasn’t been set on the return of Alaba or Contento as of yet.
Provided that Bayern does not allow complacency to slip in, they should put BATE aside.
Prediction: BATE 0-2 Bayern
Just before signing off, I want to remind everyone about Boris Vukcevic of Hoffenheim. Here is me hoping he recovers soon and gets back to doing what he does best- playing the game