Hoffenheim vs. Bayern Munich: 6 Things We Learned
It was business as usual in Hoffenheim for Bayern Munich as they ran out 2-1 victors in an end-to-end match against the resurgent hosts.
The home side were the first to draw blood from a Bayern side that have fallen off the pace all too often in the opening stages of games this season, as Niklas Sule capitalised upon a Maneul Neuer fumble halfway through the first half.
Yet as we've seen time after time again, no side can match this team over the course of 90 minutes. With a fortunate deflection off Mario Mandzukic's knee and a late sliding finish from Thomas Muller, Bayern were able to pick up all three points and stretch their undefeated run in the league to 36 games, matching Hamburg's Bundesliga record.
Here's the six things we took from this momentous game.
Javi Martinez and Mario Gotze Start
It was a welcome sign for most Bayern fans this weekend to see the return of Javi Martinez in midfield alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger to complete a vital partnership that brought the club so much success last season.
Equally, it was nice to see Mario Gotze given a starting role against Hoffenheim following his run of good performances from the bench over the course of the past few weeks. It was never confirmed whether or not the ex-Dortmund midfielder had came in to the side because of Toni Kroos' supposed injury or through form, but most Bayern fans will just be happy to see their new signing getting some much-needed time on the pitch.
Hoffenheim Brought Their A-Game
Markus Gisdol and his side of merry goalscorers were well aware that any hope they may have had of catching Bayern Munich out in their own backyard on Saturday would only have come about if they had stayed true to their new mantra of attack, attack and attack.
As such it was the hosts who opened the scoring in the 34th minute when Manuel Neuer fumbled a corner cross, allowing Niklas Sule, the fledgling winger, to strike home and put Bayern a goal down.
It was only for an unfortunate deflection fro Franck Ribery's free-kick in the first half and a mix up in the box which Thomas Muller pounced upon in the second that Bayern were able to walk away with all three points.
Yet Kevin Volland missed two spectacular chances in the second half, before Bayern's second, and could have altered the entire outcome of the game if only he had been able to slot the ball beyond Neuer.
Philipp Lahm Back in Defence
With the return of a certain aforementioned Spanish defensive midfielder, Pep Guardiola opted to move club captain Philipp Lahm back to his original full-back position for Saturday's match against Hoffenheim.
Although this didn't have huge ramifications for Bayern, it does give fans and commentators alike a key insight in to how Guardiola plans to pick his squad for the remainder of the season.
When Lahm initially moved in to midfield, many worried that Martinez's days were numbered at the Bavarian club, while others questioned whether the Basque bruiser could be placed in defence instead of a wobbly Jerome Boateng.
Yet as we saw this weekend, the new coach seems perfectly content with the concept of his best full-back at full-back and his best defensive midfielder, funnily enough, in midfield.
Bayern Lose Early Goal Again
With 35 of their last Bundesliga games gone without defeat, it wouldn't be surprising to suggest that Saturday's record-breaking victory over Hoffenheim was anything but expected.
Yet another stat that has gained ground in Bayern's Bundesliga form this season is the amount of early goals the Munich side have conceded to opposition.
Niklas Sule's strike in the 34th minute was against the run of play but it wasn't uncharacteristic, as most Bayern fans would have immediately compared it to Adrian Ramos' opening striker the week before.
Bayern also conceded a first-half goal in the opening match against Gladbach, as well as recent ties against Hannover and Leverkusen, with the latter against the third-placed side costing them two points on the day.
Guardiola Sticking with Mario Mandzukic for Now
Although the striker picked up a goal under the most peculiar of circumstances when a Franck Ribery free-kick volleyed off the Croatian and deflected in to the goal, Mandzukic's presence on the field was a warranted acceptance from Pep Guardiola that his hopes of a striker-less side were still some way off.
Yet even though the lone striker had come on and won the game for Bayern last week, he looked rather jaded against Hoffenheim and was ultimately replaced by Toni Kroos in the later stages of the game when Thomas Muller, then moved up front, ultimately scored the winning goal.
Mandzukic is far from the most important player at Bayern at the moment, but he is still necessary for the time being.
Bayern Equal Hamburg's Undefeated Run
The most impressive stat surrounding this game was of course the fact that Bayern's victory over Hoffenheim on Saturday was their 36th consecutive match in the Bundesliga without defeat, equalling the record held by Hamburg for over 30 years.
As the Bavarian champions keep their spot atop the Bundesliga table, fans and neutrals alike will be impressed that Pep Guardiola has seemingly continued the imperial tradition laid down by former coach Jupp Heynckes.
Now all that's left to do is to win just as many trophies.
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