Quality of Depth Has Bayern Well-Positioned to Beat Barcelona

Jerrad PetersWorld Football Staff WriterApril 20, 2013

On Thursday—three days after their 4-0 demolition of Nurnberg—Bayern Munich dispatched Wolfsburg from the DFB Pokal to the tune of 6-1. Two days after that, they made eight changes to their starting XI and proceeded to thump Hannover by the same scoreline.

No matter which players line up for Bayern Munich these day,s it seems the result is exactly the same—a fact that must have Barcelona quivering in advance of Tuesday’s Champions League semifinal first leg against the Bundesliga champions.

No team in world football has the quality of options available to Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes, and this season no manager has rotated his squad as adeptly as the 67-year-old.

Each player on the roster, it seems, is out to prove something every time he steps onto the pitch. And given the ability of the player he’s replacing, or has been replaced by, the old “fighting for places” cliché would seem an appropriate explanation.

On Saturday, for example, Claudio Pizarro played in the Toni Kroos role behind the lone striker (Kroos is out with an adductor injury) and proceeded to score two goals while setting up two others. He, Thomas Muller and Kroos himself have operated in the position in recent weeks, and there has hardly been a drop-off when one has come in for another.

Just ahead of Pizarro against Hannover was Mario Gomez, who was making only his eighth Bundesliga start of the season. But he scored twice at AWD-Arena and, with six goals in his last three matches, is Bayern’s form striker. Nevertheless, Mario Mandzukic will likely get the start against Barcelona next week.

Franck Ribery, who was rested in the DFB Pokal match, found the back of the net against Hannover as well—his low, hard shot beating Ron-Robert Zieler to the far post after an accurate pass from Pizarro.

The 6-1 win represented the eighth time Bayern had managed at least five goals in a match this season, and with an incredible 81 points from 30 matches, lead second-place Borussia Dortmund by a shocking 20 points with four rounds to play.

Not that there’s been a title race since somewhere around Christmas.

Rather, it’s all about the treble now for Bayern, and to that end, their squad rotation—made to look so smooth because of the quality from top to bottom—will only serve to help them accomplish the feat.

The first leg against Barcelona represents the next step toward the treble for Bayern, and with Philipp Lahm, Dante, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez, Arjen Robben and Mario Mandzukic rested from the start against Hannover, they couldn’t hope to be in a better position going into one of their toughest matches of the season.