FC Bayern showed the depth of their squad on Wednesday, as nine changes to the starting lineup hardly affected their performance. Kaiserslautern was meant to be a tough test, but Bayern’s back-line was seriously tested on only three occasions. Emre Can showed glimpses of brilliance on the night. However, it was the brilliance of Arjen Robben and the trickery of Claudio Pizarro that won Bayern the match.
Robben, on his first start since his return from injury, was given the captain’s armband. He played like a captain as he led by example. He set up Pizarro’s first goal with a glorious pass and struck twice himself. Diego Contento was also given a first start since his return from injury and put in a very good performance.
Javier Martinez was given a start in central defence alongside Jerome Boateng and had very little to do. Boateng, while putting in a good performance, had one moment where a deflection off of him could have resulted in a goal for the second game in a row. David Alaba once again featured in midfield. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk was handed his first start of the season and played some wonderful passes.
Despite the win, the defeat to Leverkusen looms large. While Jupp Heynckes wasn’t happy at all with the performance, Bayern didn’t play poorly really. They were horribly unlucky. Stefan Kiessling’s goal came because a clearance from Philipp Lahm deflected off his shin into the back of the net. Sidney Sam’s header took a huge deflection off Boateng.
However, Bayern was extremely wasteful against Bayer 04. Good crosses from Lahm went to waste, and the goal would perhaps never have come had Pizarro not come on. Mario Mandzukic was given a well-needed rest in the last match. Mandzukic has a lot of qualities and works hard but has faded like some of his colleagues recently
Heynckes will have some selection headaches following good performances from just about everyone on Wednesday. In a recent interview, Louis Van Gaal said that Bayern has returned to former habits, as they are buying players and not producing any. If Can continues to produce good performances and the likes of Patrick Weihrauch come through, Van Gaal might have to change his opinion soon.
Now, let’s take a look at the opponent, HSV. HSV started the season miserably. Their first three games yielded three miserable losses. Rene Adler was the only one who came out of those three matches with an improved reputation. Frank Arnesen’s revolution was turning out to be a failure. Thorsten Fink looked rather blank in post-match interviews.
HSV then decided to hit the panic button. Rafael Van der Vaart flew in from London, and things changed considerably. First, HSV broke Dortmund’s unbeaten streak of more than 30 matches with a good performance, winning 3-2.
Then, they went on a run of their own. They were unlucky to collect only one point against Gladbach. They even beat Hannover 1-0! Only one team was able to defeat them since Matchday 4: VfB Stuttgart. Last week, despite not dominating proceedings, they beat Augsburg 0-2.
HSV was absolutely battered at the Allianz Arena last season. They were beaten 5-0. In the Imtech Arena, matters transpired differently, though. The match finished in a 1-1 draw as Ivica Olic rescued a point for Bayern. HSV had been a sort of bogey side for Bayern. Will they live up to their reputation?
Heung Min Son has revived his reputation at the club. He had been rather poor at the beginning of the season but then started to play well following the arrival of Van der Vaart. Artomjs Rudnevs has proven to be a good buy. Heiko Westermann is a rock at the back.
This match could in fact turn out to be a contest between the keepers. Adler will want to prove that he hasn’t lost a step despite his injury problems, while Neuer will try to continue to show why he is the German No. 1.
This is my best guess at a lineup:
Philipp Lahm- Javi Martinez/Dante- Jerome Boateng- David Alaba
Bastian Schweinsteiger- Luiz Gustavo
Arjen Robben- Toni Kroos- Thomas Müller/Xherdan Shaqiri
Pizarro might keep his place in the side after two wonderful goals against FCK. Shaqiri sent in the ball from the free-kick for Pizarro’s headed goal and he might retain his place, allowing Müller further rest. Franck Ribery wasn’t available for the cup tie. He might start this one if he is fit. Heynckes could continue to test Martinez at the back.
Rafinha is injured, as is Holger Badstuber. Luiz Gustavo has seemingly returned to fitness following a dead leg. Mario Gomez is closing in on a return. He might even make a surprise appearance on the bench this week. Expect to have the master of tap-ins, hat-tricks and awesome hair styles on the pitch soon!
HSV is efficient. They know how to take their chances. Bayern does not know how to do that. Bayern will have plenty of possession. HSV will have little to offer at the other end. Bayern’s away record is immaculate this season; four matches have yielded four wins and 12 goals. No goals have been conceded. However, HSV can snatch a draw from this one.
Prediction: HSV 1-2 Bayern