The 2012-13 Bundesliga campaign could hardly have started better for Bayern Munich, who have taken a perfect 24 points from their first eight matches, setting a record for consecutive wins to start a season in the German top flight.
Following Saturday’s 5-0 win against Fortuna Duesseldorf, the Bavarians’ confidence is soaring. Franck Ribery and Thomas Mueller are in scintillating form, David Alaba is back in the first team, and Mario Gomez is closing in on a return to action. However, not all has been perfect for the German giants this season.
In their Champions League opener against Valencia, Bayern were in control for the majority of the match, but struggled to put the result to rest. Despite carving out several chances, it was not until the 76th minute that Toni Kroos scored a vital second.
The Spaniards pulled a goal back in injury time, and especially after Mario Mandzukic failed to convert a late penalty, the Bavarians’ win was overshadowed by their inability to finish off their opponents. Bayern may have taken three points, but were somewhat fortunate: It’s rare that missed opportunities go unpunished in the Champions League.
The Bavarians similarly lacked sharpness in their second group stage match, against BATE, and were duly punished. Toni Kroos missed an open goal at 0-0, and shortly thereafter the Belarusians took the lead. Bayern went 2-0 down before pulling one back, and ultimately lost 3-1. It was a humiliating defeat, one that left the German giants second in Group F.
As they head into their third group stage match, Bayern now have lost pride to make up for. As they prepare for their visit to Lille, die Roten will take comfort in their stellar record against French opposition in recent years.
Since Louis van Gaal’s revolution began to take hold in the spring of 2010, Bayern have faced off against French teams on four occasions. The Germans won each of these fixtures (two against each of Marseille and Lyon) by an 8-0 aggregate margin.
The LOSC side Bayern will face will be weaker than their previous French opponents. The 2012 Ligue 1 third-place finishers are floundering in mid-table on the domestic front, and have lost both of their Champions League matches by two-goal margins.
Lille’s poor run of form will suit Bayern well: In order to truly eradicate the memory of the BATE loss, the German giants need a convincing win. In other words, Bayern need a clean sheet and two or more goals scored. Never an easy task on the road, but most certainly manageable against Lille.
Bayern will be without Ivica Olic, scorer of five of the club’s last eight goals against French opposition, but Jupp Heynckes will have plenty of other qualified options in attack. If Mandzukic & Co. can rediscover their scoring form in Europe, they can make all the doubt from the BATE loss go away.
The table is set, it’s now up to Bayern to show what they can do.