Viktoria Plzen vs. Bayern Munich: Likely Match-Winners in Champions League Clash

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Viktoria Plzen vs. Bayern Munich: Likely Match-Winners in Champions League Clash
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Bayern Munich travel to Pilsen in the Czech Republic to meet the bottom club in Group D, Viktoria Plzen.

Having demolished the Czech champions 5-0 at the Allianz Arena last month, Franck Ribery and co. would all but confirm their status as group winners should they bring about a similar dismantling away from home.

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Gaining supremacy over their group with two games to go would send out a message that the reigning European champions want to hold onto their trophy just a little bit longer.

There was plenty of dissent over the manner in which Jupp Heynckes' future was unceremoniously decided for him when Bayern moved to line up Pep Guardiola as their next manager last season.

Yet even though the German headed off into a semi-forced retirement with an illustrious treble win, Bayern's decisive approach for the former Barcelona mastermind could well prove to be a vital breakthrough for the Bavarians.

No one has ever retained the Champions League, and Bayern will be looking to become the first club to record the feat as well as breaking a few more European and world football taboos.

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The legendary Hungarian football management pioneer, Bela Guttmann, called it the "three-year rule"—the life cycle within which a great team rises and then falls, as explored by Jonathan Wilson in The Guardian in relation to Guardiola's Barcelona.

By switching out their manager, Bayern may have attempted to outwit these constraints or at least reset the three-year count to zero, just as they did back in the '70s.

Udo Lattek was the first manager at the club to win Europe's biggest prize (then the European Cup) in 1974, yet he was replaced by Dettmar Cramer after a downturn in form the following season.

Cramer would lead the club to a further two consecutive European Cups in 1975 and 1976 to complete a historic hat-trick of titles.

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Perhaps that is why Uli Hoeness was so ruthless in changing the man in the Bayern dug out.

Judging by the team's continued excellence in the league and Europe, as well as the quiet evolution that has been brought about by Guardiola's fresh methods and ideas, a new era of domination could be close.

Considering the Germans' overwhelming favouritism going into their latest Group D game, it would seem rather patronising to pick out a Viktoria player to be branded as a likely match-winner.

The Czechs' only real chance will come from how well they organise themselves and work together against Bayern's ferocious attacking football.

Instead, here are three players from the visiting team who could well shine on Matchday 4 in Pilsen.

  

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Mario Mandzukic

The Croatian is one of the hardest-working strikers in the world and vital to Bayern's pressing game.

He is also a reliable goalscorer, with four goals in his last four games, including one in Viktoria's 5-0 away defeat in Munich.

Mandzukic has scored nine goals in 13 games and he will be hoping that his harassment of the Czechs' besieged central defenders will offer up plenty more opportunities to add to his Champions League tally this season.

Should Viktoria find a way to counteract Bayern, the Croat would also be a vital presence behind the opposition's lines, forcing errors and starting counter-attacks within their own half.

This is a match that shouldn't take too much for Bayern to win but even so, Mandzukic could well be the man who makes the biggest impression away from home.

 

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Mario Goetze

Guardiola may experiment against Viktoria and in the game against Bundesliga minnows Augsburg at the weekend in preparation for his side's clash with title rivals Borussia Dortmund at the end of November.

This could see Goetze handed a start in place of the sidelined Arjen Robben, with the German another skilful dribbler who has also been in good form this season.

His record stands at two goals and three assists in eight appearances, five of which have come off the bench.

In Bayern's previous game against Viktoria he was subbed on for Philipp Lahm and scored the fifth and final goal at the very end of the game. He also chalked up an assist against the Czech champions during his cameo in Munich.

It's also worth noting that Goetze's two goals and three assists have all come in Bayern's last four games, suggesting the former Dortmund starlet is finding his feet and his form.

With the youngster growing into his new surroundings, Guardiola may wish to encourage rather than disrupt his emergence, and that could see Goetze grab a place in the starting lineup in Pilsen.

  

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Toni Kroos

With Goetze stepping in for the injured Robben, Kroos could be handed the opportunity to play as Bayern's key midfielder.

The Greifswald-born prodigy is one of the most exciting young players in the world, and with playing time at a premium within Guardiola's talent-packed squad, rotation is key to keep players happy and ready to perform as needed.

He also played the full 90 minutes against Viktoria a fortnight ago and was one of the central figures in his side's 5-0 home win.

Kroos has been used sparingly as a substitute since in games against Hertha Berlin and Hoffenheim, so he could once more receive a starting berth against Viktoria.

Another hardworking footballer, the German is far more versatile and robust than your average playmaker.

He may even be handed Bastian Schweinsteiger's place in the starting 11 should Guardiola feel that his senior midfielder deserves a well-earned rest for the night.

Motoring through the heart of Bayern's midfield, directing attackers and sweeping up dangers, Kroos could be the reigning champions' deep-lying match-winner.

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