FC Bayern München: The Battle of the 'Treble Runner-Ups'
Bayer Leverkusen will try to be the first team to take points away from the Allianz Arena this season. This match is going to be a special one for various reasons. First of all, this is perhaps the first time in an entire decade in which the tag ‘Neverkusen’ won’t be uttered by a single person. As it turns out, this will be a battle of two chokers.
Bayern of-course is traditionally no choker. However, many feel that the last letter in the club’s name, the “N”, has to be earned back. Losing two Champions League finals in the past three seasons is not the mark of a champion. Neither is squandering an eight point lead to hand the Bundesliga title over to a rival.
The lead over second-paced Frankfurt this season is only five points. Bayern must make sure that they hold on to top spot. Frankfurt is seen as a surprise package but has hardly shown any signs of relinquishing their spot in the top four soon. They have six wins to their name. Their sole loss has come to Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Bayern is coming into this match on the back of a narrow victory over Lille, 0-1. The general consensus is that Bayern played smartly to win that match. We know that the Lille players won’t be winning any fair play awards soon. However, Bayern’s play in Europe has generally been poor this season.
They were excellent against Valencia but missed a late penalty and should have won more convincingly. The loss to BATE was a wake-up call and was definitely an avoidable defeat. The attack was pretty much non-existent after the first twenty minutes against Lille.
Bayern has not put a foot wrong in the Bundesliga. Leverkusen is supposed to be one of their challengers. Bayer 04 lies in a respectable fifth spot, tied with Dortmund on points. Leverkusen’s attack has been glorious this season. Their failings have come at the other end. Gladbach was able to rescue a late draw after Andre Schürrle missed a penalty in their encounter. The match finished 2-2.
Against Stuttgart, a plethora of chances went begging and the end result was another 2-2 draw. Last week, they drew 2-2 against Mainz. They lost on opening day to Eintracht despite having led 0-1. Their midfield completely lost control of the match. Leverkusen in their most serious test so far played Dortmund early on in the season. They were resoundingly beaten 3-0.
Leverkusen was one of six German teams to have picked up victories in Europe this week. German teams recorded six victories and one draw in continental competition. Leverkusen took top spot in their group by demolishing Rapid Wien 0-4. Gonzalo Castro, one the most underrated attackers in the Bundesliga, scored twice.
Leverkusen has the players capable to take on Bayern’s defence. However, Bayer 04 might sit back knowing that Bayern could tear their back-line apart. The last two meetings between these two sides at the Allianz were extremely one-sided. In 2011, stuck in a battle for third place, Bayern absolutely hammered a title-challenging Leverkusen side 5-1.
Last season, Bayern easily beat them 3-0. The match was over rather quickly as Bayern took a 2-0 lead. That Bayern side, with a fully fit Bastian Schweinsteiger, is in my view still the best one from the past three seasons. Leverkusen did beat Bayern at the Bay Arena 2-0 though. That match was a rather strange one.
Bayern’s Toni Kroos has Leverkusen connections having spent a season and half there on loan. He will perhaps start the match tomorrow especially in light of Franck Ribery’s ‘doubtful’ status. Ribery was taken off at half-time against Lille and might not make it. Javier Martinez is seemingly out of this one too. Arjen Robben might return to the picture soon.
Line-ups are incredibly difficult to predict because Heynckes uses different line-ups every game. He has used thirteen different line-ups in the past thirteen matches! Bayern also has a DFB Pokal game against a good Kaiserslautern side in midweek. This will perhaps be the line-up:
Philipp Lahm- Dante- Jerome Boateng- Holger Badstuber
Bastian Schweinsteiger- Luiz Gustavo
Xherdan Shaqiri- Toni Kroos- David Alaba
Müller requires a rest after having run himself into the ground for both club and country recently. Alaba needs playing time and did well in midfield in his cameo there last week. Also, he excels on any spot on the wing. The defence will perhaps remain unchanged. Claudio Pizarro might get a start instead of the Croat Mandzukic who had to work hard in France in midweek.
Prediction: Bayern 3-1 Leverkusen
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