FC Bayern Munich: Kaiserslautern Provides a Tough Test in the DFB Pokal
A home tie in the second round of the DFB Pokal is rare for Bayern Munich. However, Bayern would probably prefer to avoid a trip to the Betze—this one won’t be easy. Bayern will perhaps take it, though, as deflections off a striker’s shin and off Jerome Boateng are not likely to occur twice in a single week.
Holger Badstuber is out for two weeks. Grumpy Holger will be missed, but David Alaba has returned and he should step in nicely for Badstuber. I would just like to talk about the defence before talking about this one. Badstuber, Dante and Boateng have been criticized regularly.
Philipp Lahm is spared from the criticism despite the fact that he has made his fair share of errors this season, mostly because he tends to be caught up-field. Boateng and Dante have formed a good partnership at the back as they have conceded only four goals in nine Bundesliga matches. Bayern is, by far, the Bundesliga’s best defence.
Also, the counter-attack problem should be put down to the management. Jupp Heynckes and Matthias Sammer openly encouraged Bayern to go for the kill against Leverkusen at 1-1. Neither asked anybody to stand back. Bayern had seven attackers on the pitch at that point—Xherdan Shaqiri, Mario Mandzukic, Claudio Pizarro, Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos, David Alaba and Arjen Robben.
Philipp Lahm had also joined the attack. By the end of the match, even Manuel Neuer was busy making his way past three defenders into the Leverkusen area. I thought that Neuer would shoot at one point. He could have actually scored past Bernd Leno! Nonetheless, Bayern has defensive problems but they are not as bad as they are made out to be.
Going back to this one, Bayern played Kaiserslautern twice last season, and both ended in commanding victories. Bayern won 3-0 at the Betze courtesy of a rather hilarious Mario Gomez hat-trick. Mario scored one from the spot, he missed a second penalty but scored from the rebound and Thomas Muller set him up for the third.
The second was a routine 2-0 win at the Allianz Arena. FCK also played Bayern in preseason. Bayern won 3-2. In truth, the scoreline made the match seem a lot closer than it actually was. Itay Schecter was able to grab a second when he found Toni Kroos asleep towards the end of that one.
Speaking of Kroos, he has played almost every match and is in dire need of a rest. Bastian Schweinsteiger looks tired, too. Muller has faded a bit as well after a brilliant start to the season.
Kaiserslautern is a tough opponent and shouldn’t be underestimated.
FCK is still unbeaten this season, sitting third in the 2.Bundesliga with five wins and six draws in 11 matches. They are on course to winning promotion back following relegation last season.
Last week, I guessed Alaba would start in midfield and I was correct. It seems like I am getting a little better at predicting Mr Heynckes’ different lineups. This is my best guess for this one:
Diego Contento—Dante—Jerome Boateng—David Alaba
Javier Martinez/Luiz Gustavo—Toni Kroos/Emre Can
Arjen Robben—Xherdan Shaqiri—Rafinha
Contento has returned to full-time training, and Lahm needs a rest. Putting Alaba and Rafinha on the left side means that there is additional defensive cover along with plenty of offensive firepower. Robben can settle games on his own if he can play as he did from mid 2009 to mid-2011. Shaqiri definitely merits a start as does Pizarro.
Kroos is more likely to play than Can, as Kroos can be rested later in the week. Schweinsteiger looks more tired than Toni currently. Heynckes could try a two-striker formation. In that case, Kroos can be rested. However, Heynckes, despite his rotation policies, rarely ever changes the formation. He did so against Leverkusen and was rewarded to a certain extent. Luiz Gustavo is apparently fit for this one after picking up an injury on Sunday.
Finally, it is prediction time. This is something I am not getting better at. It doesn’t hurt to try though!
Prediction: FC Bayern 2-1 Kaiserslautern (AET)
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