Bayern Munich vs. SC Freiburg: 6 Things We Learned
Bayern Munich continued their dominating run in the Bundesliga on Saturday with a 4-0 victory over Freiburg in the heart of Munich. The win now puts Munich's record in the league to 12 straight victories as they sit atop of the division with a healthy 16-point lead over Bayer Leverkusen, at the time of writing.
Oddly enough it was Freiburg who began the game with brighter ambitions as they took the task to Bayern and made the home side very uncomfortable in the first 10 minutes. Felix Klaus' blocked shot in the seventh-minute looked destined for the back of Manuel Neuer's net, while Jonathan Schmid and Matthias Ginter came close just minutes later.
Yet, as seems to always be the case these days, Bayern ultimately came through before too long when a Diego Contento cross found a lingering Dante in the Freiburg box on the stroke of the 20th-minute. The Brazilian defender threw his head at the ball and it proved enough to sneak in through Oliver Baumann's best attempts. Bayern had turned the game on its head and were now ready to dominate.
As such more goals were already on their way when young Xherdan Shaqiri grabbed a quick double through the help of Claudio Pizarro's wonderful flick on for the first and Toni Kroos' expert cut back for the second. The young Swiss forward looked over the moon with his goals and so he should be—they all but confirmed the points for Bayern today.
The second half then kicked off with a notable drop in tempo as both sides had since then undoubtedly accepted the fate of the game.
With the return of Bastian Schweinsteiger and late appearances from Mario Goetze and Daniel Van Buyten the game then descended into what one could only describe as a mutual appreciation of the win at hand. Bayern passed the ball with all the confidence and precision of a training match while their opponents simply obliged the ceremony.
Freiburg came close on occasion to pulling one goal back as a mere consolation but it was again Bayern who eventually found the net through Pizarro just two minutes from full-time with a wonderful solo run and finish.
Bayern had won again in a match that unfortunately had resorted to a simple canter.
Here's what we took from today's game.
Pep Chose to Rest His Big Guns
In an interesting and somewhat surprising move Pep Guardiola opted to pick a brand new squad for Saturday's clash with Freiburg, with a number of first team players missing from the starting 11.
Most notable of these were Mario Goetze and Thiago Alcantara, who were replaced by Thomas Mueller and the returning Toni Kroos, while David Alaba was replaced at the left back position by Contento. Mario Mandzukic also saw his position replaced by veteran striker Claudio Pizarro.
Such a move was obviously a case of resting Bayern's stars ahead of next week's Champions League clash with Arsenal on Wednesday night. The defending European champions will have to be at their best in the heart of London and Guardiola clearly thinks that is only possible with a fully fit squad.
Martinez Looks Like the Third Centre-Back Bayern Have Long Needed
We all spent much of January's transfer window speculating and guessing as to whether Bayern would indeed sign another centre-back to support the back-line partnership of Jerome Boateng and Dante for the remainder of this season.
Yet one plan we didn't see coming, or at least didn't think much of, was Guardiola's intention of moving Martinez to the back where he would play as a centre-half. A role he has now performed for Bayern in the past two games.
Whether this is just a simple exercise in squad rotation or the coach's genuine intention for the towering Spaniard is still unsure, but it doesn't take a genius to see why he likes playing the midfield-savy Martinez at the heart of his defence.
Freiburg's Genuine Competition Offered a Welcome Change
Anything but a hollow defeat is all most sides can expect when they travel to the Allianz Arena these days, yet Freiburg's effort to stand toe-to-toe with Bayern today was as effective as it was optimistic.
As we would expect from any side coached by Christian Streich, Freiburg began the game on a strong foot but more impressively, never seemed to give up despite Bayern's increasing joy at simply picking their opponents off in the first half.
The second half offered a little more balance between the two sides—despite Bayern bringing on Mario Goetze and Bastian Schweinsteiger—with the away side missing at least one golden opportunity through Sebastian Kerk to grab a late consolation goal. A defeat at the end of the day but one that Freiburg can be proud of.
Shaqiri Thriving in Ribery's Absence
In a game that was always going to demand the utmost performance from Bayern's makeshift front three, young Xherdan Shaqiri again proved his worth with one of the most complete performances of his time in Munich.
The young wideman scored two exceptional goals from the left-hand side of attack, in Franck Ribery's absence, in the first half that effectively won the game for his side and now takes his tally this season to an impressive four goals in just seven starts this season.
He is a young, exciting player who seems to be growing stronger by the day under Guardiola's guidance.
Freiburg Still Hopeful in Defeat
Unlike Eintracht Frankfurt and the pragmatic approach of Armin Veh, Christian Streich's Freburg arrived at the Allianz Arena on Saturday with every intention of competing with the German champions.
Yet despite picking up no points in Munich, the minnows from the black forest of southern Germany will still be optimistic of their chances of avoiding relegation this season following some good form since the turn of the year.
The loss to Bayern was only Freiburg's second defeat in their past five games, with victories over Hannover and Leverkusen, along with a draw against Hoffenheim last week. Augsburg and Hertha Berlin await in the next few weeks. Games that this club can certainly take points from.
Bayern Look Solid Ahead of Arsenal Clash
Unfortunately, Bayern's win over Freiburg won't be going down in any history books as the most exciting game of all time yet it did prove an effective exercise in allowing the Bavarian side to stretch and prepare themselves for the big game against Arsenal.
Although Guardiola opted for a weakened side at the start of the game, the likes of Mario Goetze and Bastian Schweinsteiger did eventually come on and were given a good run out so as to ensure perfect match fitness for next week. Add to that the return of Javi Martinez and you have a Bayern side in good form and perfectly conditioned.
A side who will undoubtedly be relishing the challenge that awaits them in London.