How Bayern Munich Will Line Up Against Mainz
As Germany slowly comes down from its party state following qualification for World Cup 2014 on Friday night, most football fans will be refocusing their attention on the action at hand, as Bayern Munich return to Bundesliga responsibilities with the visit of FSV Mainz 05.
Thomas Tuchel's side come to Munich during a difficult time for the charismatic, young coach, with his fledgling side struggling to replicate the kind of form that brought the club so many new admirers last season.
Oddly enough it is Mainz that in fact hold one of the best head-to-head records against Bayern, with two wins and a draw out of the past six showdowns, yet such a feat this weekend seems incredibly unlikely.
In light of such success on the international stage, Pep Guardiola will be welcoming home his national heroes with the simple request of translating it to his Bayern side, as the current champions look to get back to winning ways after drawing with Bayer Leverkusen before the break.
As we've seen throughout the campaign this season, Pep is likely to stick with Rafinha at right-back and David Alaba at left-back, while Jerome Boateng and Dante continue their partnership in the middle of defence. Although the German defender wasn't at his best for Germany over the past week and was sent off in the Champions League tie against Manchester City the week before, the new coach bestows a lot of confidence in the young defender as an ideal partner for Dante.
Similarly, we're likely to see a midfield trio not unlike those we've seen before for Bayern, as Toni Kroos, Bastian Schweinsteiger and, crucially, Philipp Lahm take up the roles of the important playmakers.
It'll be interesting to note just how Lahm does after spending his time with Germany at right-back for most of both games. Equally, Toni Kroos was also asked to play as a No. 10 against Ireland and then as a holding midfielder against Sweden. He's a competent midfielder with a number of skills, but such chopping and changing of his roles at club and country can't be good for his development.
One positive that Guardiola can take from the round of qualifying games is how well Bastian Schweinsteiger performed throughout each test. Against Ireland, he commanded a tight midfield battle with ease alongside Sami Khedira of Real Madrid, while his rhythmic passes were at the heart of Germany's dominance in possession against the Swedes. Schweinsteiger at his best means Bayern at their best, and Pep will be grateful for such lucky timing.
The real headaches will begin when Guardiola takes a look at the long list of candidates for just three positions in the Bayern attack.
Does Thomas Muller deserve to start on Saturday?
Against Leverkusen, he opted for a striker-less formation of sorts by playing Thomas Muller as the sole striker instead of Mario Mandzukic, while Franck Ribery and Xherdan Shaqiri accompanied him on either wing. This simply didn't work, and although Bayern did create an incredible amount of chances, it was Muller himself who missed a number of them, lacking the clear finishing instinct of a natural striker.
Shaqiri has picked up an injury whilst playing for Switzerland, per the Associated Press (h/t Sports Illustrated), so he won't feature on Saturday. Yet Arjen Robben, Ribery, Madzukic and Muller all played for their respective countries on Tuesday night to varying degrees of success, which will play some part in the coach's decision.
Muller in particular was rather disappointing for Germany, with a jaded performance on the right wing against Sweden, and Guardiola will be aware of how ineffective he was in securing a win against Leverkusen all those weeks ago. As such, it wouldn't be surprising to see Mandzukic return to the side alongside Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery in an attacking front three that has been tested and proven its worth time and time again.
One wild card for this wonderful game of starting XI bingo is of course Mario Gotze, who played a full 45 minutes on Tuesday night and finally began to look like his old self. With a goal to call his own and some excellent buildup play with the likes of Mesut Ozil and Andre Schurrle, Guardiola may be tempted to throw his star summer signing straight into the side on either wing.
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