Wolfsburg vs. Bayern Munich: 6 Things We Learned
It was another fruitful weekend for Bayern Munich in the German Bundesliga as they travelled to Wolfsburg and endured what was a tricky affair before eventually coming out as deserved 6-1 winners.
Fans on both sides would have been looking for an open game following the horrid affair that the national team put the country through during the week and it's exactly what they got in a seven-goal thriller that saw the hosts actually take the lead.
Wolfsburg held on and even looked like potential winners at one point as they continued to trouble Pep Guardiola's side deep in to the second half, but as we've seen so often this season it was the German and European champions who eventually found their quality and set about tearing through Dieter Hecking's side.
Here's what we learned from today's game.
Wolfsburg Stun Bayern with Early Blitz
It was a game that most considered all but won for Bayern, considering the form of both sides at the moment, yet Hecking and his coaching team clearly struck a chord in the pre-match talk because the Wolves kicked off and attacked the Bundesliga champions like few have this season.
In a similar style to how Arsenal began their own game against Guardiola's side in the Champions League, Wolfsburg didn't give Bayern a moment's rest and as such claimed their prize with an opening goal from Naldo.
All a little trivial considering how the game ended up, but something that the Wolfsburg coach would have jotted down and will aim to add to in the future.
Pep Opts for Unconventional Goalscorer
Following Woflsburg's opening goal, there may have been a few nervous looks around the Bayern dug-out as some turned to find the club's top goalscorer sitting cosy on the bench.
Yet the man tasked with coming up with the game-changing equaliser was none other than Thomas Muller—the Bavarian club's second top goalscorer and a young player with an abundance of quality in front of goal.
His goal in the first half was perhaps all too characteristic of the German international. A mix-up in the box saw four Bayern shots bounce back from Diego Benaglio's goal before the irregular forward stuck a leg out and knocked the ball past the in-form goalkeeper's line. Not a goal that anyone will remember with great distinction, but the difference between a defeat and victory.
Bayern Call on Backups with Champions League in Sight
It was a victory that eventually involved almost all of Bayern's stars, but we musn't forget that Guardiola's first intention was to play today's game with a certain team, intent on giving his key players a rest ahead of this coming week's tie against Arsenal in the Champions League.
As previously mentioned, Mandzukic started on the bench but so too did Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez whilst club vice-captain Bastian Schweinsteiger didn't even make an appearance in the game.
It's also worth mentioning how Franck Ribery played the entire 90 minutes alongside Shaqiri and Muller—three players who will now be perfectly match fit and ready to be called upon against the English side in their next high-profile match.
Wolfsburg Looked Like a Champions League Side
It would be unfair to say that Wolfsburg had their brief period of joy in the opening few minutes of the game before the Bavarian juggernaut finally got out of first gear, simply because that wouldn't be a fair recollection of the game.
For even though it was Bayern who went on to win the match, for a good hour of the game it was Wolfsburg's to win as they continued to go toe-to-toe with what many consider the best team in world football at the moment.
If they can keep that kind of performance going for the remainder of the season, then we should see a new side in the Champions League next season.
Pep Shows Tactical Masterclass to Win the Game
There was a telling turning point in this game that came just minutes before Muller found the goal that broke the deadlock and allowed Bayern to push on and ensure victory. It was the substitution of Thiago Alcantara on for Xherdan Shaqiri and Mario Mandzukic for Toni Kroos.
The Spanish midfield magician made an instant impact with a through ball to set up the second goal that is worth watching again and again. Then the Croatian striker scored three minutes later.
Within 10 minutes of coming on, Guardiola's two substitutes had won the game for their club.
Bayern Show Intent Amidst Latest Challenge
This weekend's top of the table clash with Champions League-chasing Wolfsburg could have so easily been a match that would have tripped up any top side as they kept one eye on their looming European clash, yet Bayern once again showed their class with an outstanding 6-1 win.
What's more remarkable is of course the sheer distance between the side and Borussia Dortmund in second—an incredible 23 points at this moment—yet they continue to give 100 percent in every game with little to no respite.
Guardiola has taken over the reigns at this club and continued their pursuit of perfection. Yet more now than ever, they may just be inches away from it.