Borussia Moenchengladbach vs. Bayern Munich: What Pep Guardiola Learned

Clark WhitneyFeatured ColumnistJuly 26, 2014

Borussia Moenchengladbach vs. Bayern Munich: What Pep Guardiola Learned

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    Bayern Munich edged Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday, advancing to the Telekom Cup final following a penalty shootout.

    Robert Lewandowski put Bayern ahead at the end of the first half and Franck Ribery made it 2-0 shortly after the break, but Max Kruse drew Gladbach level with a pair of penalties.

    The game was tied at the end of the second 30-minute half, and by tournament rules it went to penalties. Despite being the first to miss, Bayern overcame and won the shootout 5-4.

    The game was rather abbreviated, but nonetheless offered some take-home messages for Pep Guardiola and company. Click "Begin Slideshow" for a look at what the team learned on Saturday.

Guardiola Is Right: Bayern Could Use a Third Goalkeeper

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    Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

    In a Thursday press conference, Guardiola told reporters (h/t Daily Mail) that Bayern don't need any outfield signings but could use a new third goalkeeper with Lukas Raeder having left for Portuguese side Vitoria Setubal this summer.

    The loss of Raeder leaves Bayern with only Manuel Neuer and Tom Starke, the latter of whom played against Gladbach on Saturday.

    It was an up-and-down day for Starke, who conceded the ball cheaply early on and didn't always look convincing coming off his line. He also struggled in penalties, saving one out of seven taken on his goal— although, in fairness, one was impossible to save and clanged off the top of the crossbar. On the other hand, Starke made a few good saves to keep Bayern in the game in the first half.

    It can be hard for a player like Starke, who at 33 will never compete with Manuel Neuer for a starting role, to remain motivated. A third senior goalkeeper will help keep Starke sharp and could potentially be a better option than the current back-up.

Robert Lewandowski Is the Key to Bayern's Success Early in the Season

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    Markus Schreiber/Associated Press

    Bayern's German contingent, plus Dante and Arjen Robben, were around for the maximum number of games at the World Cup and therefore will be the club's last returning stars following the tournament in Brazil. They will have an abbreviated preseason and may be affected by their relative lack of rest.

    In addition, Xherdan Shaqiri will be somewhat late to return and Thiago Alcantara won't be fit at the start of the season. Bayern need someone fresh to pick up the slack. That someone is Robert Lewandowski.

    Lewandowski demonstrated his value on Saturday as, at the end of a first half in which Gladbach had looked the better side and tested Tom Starke on several occasions, he scored a simply magnificent goal against the run of play.

    It was the first time Bayern got behind the Gladbach defense and, although the Polish striker was faced with two defenders and a goalkeeper to beat, he held up the ball well and scored in the only way realistically possible, with a delicate chip.

    Bayern will predictably be tired from time to time and may have games similar to Saturday's in which their opponents are a bit fresher, a bit sharper. It is therefore important that Lewandowski step up and punish Bayern's opponents when they lack the cutting edge in attack.

Badstuber Still Has a Long Way to Go and Martinez Still Isn't a Center-Back

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    Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

    Guardiola was given a sharp wake-up call to be mindful of defense. Against Gladbach, he started Rafinha, Javi Martinez, Holger Badstuber and Juan Bernat ahead of goalkeeper Tom Starke. Bayern conceded a few chances in the first half but went 1-0 ahead before the interval. And four minutes after the break, it looked to be game over as Franck Ribery made it 2-0.

    Within 26 minutes, however, Bayern conceded two penalties (one by each of the center-backs, Badstuber and Martinez) and were held to a draw in regular time.

    Badstuber has the excuse of not playing competitive football for nearly two years. Before his successive cruciate ligament surgeries, he was an international-class center-back.

    He still has some distance to go in his recovery, and that could mean that Guardiola will either have to use him as a still-recovering player or send him on loan to regain the sharpness that made him a reliable Germany international in previous years.

    Martinez, though, was not exactly a reliable defender when used at the back last season and showed similar form for Spain in the instance in which he was used at the World Cup.

    On Saturday, he clumsily conceded possession to Andre Hahn deep in his own half and then fouled the Gladbach winger inside the penalty area a few moments later.

    Martinez is a world-class holding midfielder but is decidedly not a center-back. Guardiola should take note of this reality with Jerome Boateng and Dante soon returning to the squad.