Bayern Munich Can Score Early Blow over Bundesliga Rivals Bayer Leverkusen
Although Bayern Munich are a side synonymous with the notion of imperialistic dominance over world football, the side travel to Western Germany to take on a Bayer Leverkusen side that have continuously caused them problems over the past few years.
Oddly enough, the manner in which Pep Guardiola has changed the club in his image has drawn criticism from fans and critics alike, in the sense that a number of his side's domestic encounters have offered anything but excitement and genuine quality, despite maintaining their champion form in the Champions League.
For every 4-0 thumping of Schalke, there's been a lackadaisical 1-0 slump over Wolfsburg; for every 4-1 cup win over high-flying Hannover there's been a disappointing 1-1 draw with Freiburg; and as the side return home from overcoming the richest club in England, fans worry just what will become of their side in deepest Leverkusen.
The man who has raised this mighty monster, Sami Hyypia, has had an excellent time of it since making the move to management. It was his role as co-head coach alongside Sascha Lewandowski last season that guided the club to a comfortable third-place finish and the unrewarded prize as the "best of the rest" in the Bundesliga.
In fact, it was the surprise 2-1 win at the Allianz Arena this time last year that gave Leverkusen a vital win in Munich, Bayern's only defeat at the hands of a Bundesliga side all season.
Yet this year, the first in which Hyypia is the sole head coach, the ex-Liverpool defender has gone one step better. The Factory Squad have six wins in their first seven games, with only one point separating this side's early accomplishments from the great Dortmund and Bayern Munich sides that dominated Europe last May.
As such, it is this side that will offer Bayern the greatest of tests. With 11 wins in their last 12 games, and a clear two-goal margin between them and their opponents in their last five games, Leverkusen are in perfect form and ready for a giant killing.
With a strong defence that conceded fewer goals than Dortmund last season, and a strike force containing Stefan Kiessling, a striker who scored more than any other in the league last season, the hosts will go in to this game as a formidable opponent rather than the budding underdog that Bayern have grown so accustomed to over the years.
Yet for Guardiola, the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone couldn't come at a better time. A win over Leverkusen will not only prove himself and his altered squad to the Munich faithful who demand so much so often, but will also put a huge obstacle in the path of any potential title challenge from Hyypia's own side.
For anything but a win is too much for even the most optimistic Bayern fans to spin into positive news. This time last season, Jupp Heynckes' Euro-conquering side were already top of the table with a 10-point lead on the previous champions, Dortmund. Guardiola's team currently sit on even points with Dortmund, who travel to Borussia Mönchengladbach on the same day.
On Saturday it will simply come down to whether Bayern win the game or don't. A win could mean many things for Guardiola and the path his club has chosen to follow, yet a draw or a loss could mean so much more.
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