Bayern Munich vs. Hamburg: 6 Things We Learned

Clark Whitney@@Mr_BundesligaFeatured ColumnistDecember 14, 2013

Bayern Munich vs. Hamburg: 6 Things We Learned

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    Bayern Munich extended their Bundesliga lead to seven points over Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday, beating Hamburg 3-1 at the Allianz Arena.

    Although a late Pierre-Michel Lasogga goal gave the visitors some hope of snatching a point, Xherdan Shaqiri put the result to rest at the death, adding a third for Bayern. Mario Mandzukic and Mario Goetze were on target earlier for the hosts, who did not always dominate the proceedings but nonetheless came out with an encouraging result.

    Click "Begin Slideshow" for a point-by-point analysis of the take-home messages from Saturday's match.

Hamburg Have Turned the Corner Under van Marwijk but Still Have a Long Way to Go

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    Before Bert van Marwijk took over as head coach in late September, HSV were a mess. A proud, traditional Bundesliga club, the Rothosen had won just one of their first six Bundesliga matches of the 2013-14 season, losing four times and suffering humiliation in the form of heavy losses to Hoffenheim (1-5 at home) and Dortmund (6-2 away).

    A complete lack of any club ethos has had Hamburg teetering on the edge of complete collapse in recent years, huge defeats and near relegation the results of their lack of leadership and direction.

    Van Marwijk has truly helped turn that all around.

    On Saturday, Hamburg played with more confidence than has become customary as they've taken on elite Bundesliga sides in the last few years. And on another day, they may have earned a better result.

    The record still shows that HSV have lost to each of the Bundesliga's top four teams, however, and van Marwijk therefore still has a lot to do. But although a loss, Saturday's result suggests that humiliation like their 9-2 loss to Bayern in March is now a thing of the past.

Goetze: The Most Nonchalant Finisher in World Football?

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    Some footballers have a penchant for the dramatic. A goalkeeper may make a routine save look spectacular with a dive; a striker may slam the ball into the top corner.

    Mario Goetze may be the exact opposite.

    Just days after scoring a very casual goal against Manchester City, he netted the most nonchalant goal of the season against Hamburg. Taking a pass in the air with his back to goal, the 21-year-old flicked the ball into the air, turned and passed the ball on the volley into the net. After putting the hosts 2-0 up, he barely blinked. As German commentators would say: Eiskalt.

Bayern: Weary or Focused on the Club World Cup?

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    Without question, Bayern have, by a considerable margin, the strongest and most deep squad in the Bundesliga. That depth has been invaluable to the treble holders, who have had to cope with a blight of injuries to key players in their squad, including Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thiago Alcantara, Mario Goetze, Arjen Robben and more.

    The absence of many star players has been a problem Bayern have managed rather well. But it has taken its toll, as it's made serious physical demands of those who have remained fit. Philipp Lahm, for example, has barely had a break all season long.

    Bayern lost their focus and blew a two-goal lead against Manchester City in midweek and, on Saturday, did not exactly look their sharpest. It's far from a crisis situation in Munich, but two consecutive performances below Bayern's enormously high standards prompt questions of why they are not playing their best football right now. Fatigue is certainly a possibility, and having pressure to perform at this point may play a role.

    Bayern will have to be careful to find their best form soon with the Club World Cup in Morocco looming. They have as many as two one-off matches to play before taking on Gladbach on Christmas Eve in their final match of 2013.

Pierre-Michel Lasogga Has the Makings to Be a Top Bundesliga Striker

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    Two seasons ago, Pierre-Michel Lasogga was one of the Bundesliga's brightest rising talents, arguably the best striker talent to emerge from the Bundesliga academy system since Mario Gomez. But a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in the final match of the 2011-12 campaign stunted his development.

    After a forgettable 2012-13 campaign, most of which was missed as he rehabilitated his knee, Lasogga was loaned to HSV and has put his best foot forward. The striker had scored eight goals in 11 games heading into Saturday's clash, including two against a strong Leverkusen side.

    Lasogga had very little help from the midfield on Saturday but still looked very dangerous throughout the match. Few strikers are able to separate themselves from Bayern defenders and shoot on goal even two or three times in a game. Lasogga took six attempts on goal against Bayern, narrowly missing on several occasions but finally finishing emphatically with his last attempt of the match.

    With nine goals in 12 appearances for HSV, he is sure to be a top commodity on the transfer market in the coming months. And for good reason—he has all the makings of a top striker...and even has his own song from fans.

Time for Bayern's Fringe Players to Get a Chance

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    If Bayern's superstars are indeed weary, the time is ripe for their less celebrated players to be given a chance to show themselves. There is something to be said for the value of fresh legs and the energy a player, eager to make a name for himself, can bring to a team.

    Xherdan Shaqiri, for example, was brilliant off the bench against Hamburg. The substitute, who came on in the 79th minute, added a spark to the Bayern attack. At the death, he had the quickness to drive forward and slot home a third goal for the hosts, wrapping up the result.

    Shaqiri, who has only been used sparingly this season, ought to be given his chances in Morocco at the Club World Cup. The upcoming tournament would also be a good opportunity for the likes of Julian Green, Mitchell Weiser and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to show themselves.

    Bayern's first match will be against either Guangzhou Evergrande or Al-Ahly, neither of which is known as a world-beater. Perhaps that would be the right time for Pep Guardiola to experiment with some less-used players.

Bayern Are Unstoppable in the League

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    Perhaps it was well known before that Bayern were irresistibly strong in league play, but Saturday's result saw them break history (yet again), as they recorded their 91st, 92nd and 93rd points in Bundesliga play over the course of the 2013 calendar year.

    Bayern's record exceeds the previous best by three points, and the German record champions have managed to do so with still one match yet to be played. Their unbeaten record in the Bundesliga (which is also a record) now stands at 41 games. As many have said before, this Bayern team is head and shoulders above the competition in Germany.

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