Bayern Hit Champions League Form as Pizarro Hat Trick Leaves Selection Dilemma

Clark WhitneyFeatured ColumnistNovember 7, 2012

MINSK, BELARUS - OCTOBER 02:  Claudio Pizarro (R) of FC Bayern Muenchen takes the ball past Maksim Bordachev of FC BATE Borisov during the UEFA Champions League group stage match between FC Bayern Muenchen and FC BATE Borisov at the Dinamo Stadium on October 2, 2012 in Minsk, Belarus. (Photo by Maksim Malinouski/EuroFootball/Getty Images)
EuroFootball/Getty Images

Bayern silenced their doubters on Wednesday as they stormed to a 6-1 rout of Lille in their Champions League Group F clash. All season the Bavarians have been utterly dominant on the domestic front, but a 3-1 loss to BATE and some unconvincing spells in the first leg against Lille and Valencia left their pedigree in some question.

However, Bayern's emphatic win on Wednesday saw them leapfrog BATE and Valencia into first place in the group.

"Blitz" is the only appropriate word to describe the manner in which Bayern dismantled the French side. Five goals in the first 33 minutes, three of which were scored by Claudio Pizarro, ended the match as a contest well before the break.

Time and time again, the Bavarians sliced through LOSC's defense with consummate ease. The final score could easily have been 10-1, but Bayern grew lax in their finishing and lacked any impetus to run up the score any further.

It must be noted that LOSC were very poor on the evening, and little can be taken from the result regarding the quality of players like Franck Ribery and Thomas Mueller. The most interesting narrative, apart from Arjen Robben's woeful finishing, was the brilliance of Pizarro.

So far this season, Mario Mandzukic has received rave reviews for his goalscoring form in the Bundesliga. The Croatian striker's scoring rate is almost on par with that of Mario Gomez, and his hold-up play has added a new dimension to the Bayern attack—not bad for a substitute.

But in the Champions League, his form has left much to desire: Mandzukic has yet to score, despite on one occasion being given a clear chance from the penalty spot.

On Wednesday, Pizarro was unstoppable. His finish at 1-0 was of the highest caliber, and he showed his class with two more excellent strikes within 15 minutes. Of his three goals, only the third, a header, looked to be the type to expect from Mandzukic. The others were too delicate, too precise; they required an extra touch of class that only Pizarro and Gomez have.

At 34 years of age, there is no chance Pizarro can be an effective, full-time starter, scoring regularly every three to four days. Mandzukic is the man for the week-in, week-out legwork. But, much like Ivica Olic in 2009-10, Pizarro just might be the right man to roll back the years every couple weeks and play ahead of Mandzukic in the important domestic and international matches.

Gomez is closing in on a comeback and will be fit to play in Bayern's next Champions League match against Valencia, but there is a very real possibility a backup will be needed at some point during the 90-minute clash. It may take him some time for Gomez to settle in and find his form, and in any case, he may at some point be either injured or suspended.

Bayern need an alternative either as his direct replacement or as a second striker, and they need to use the very best player they have for the job. Until recently, that was decidedly Mandzukic. Following his performance on Wednesday, though, Pizarro is most certainly back in the running.


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