Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich will look to keep their perfect record alive when they visit Werder Bremen on Saturday. The German giants have won every game in all competitions for over two months, their eight wins from as many games in the Bundesliga having left them seven points clear of Borussia Dortmund heading into the recent international break.
Pep Guardiola's men will look to pick up where they left off before the recent internationals, with the German record champions appearing to be in their best form since the ex-Barcelona coach moved to Munich in the summer of 2013. Especially given the magnitude of their recent 5-1 win against second-placed Borussia Dortmund, many have called the title in Bayern's favor already.
Guardiola was quick to deny that the Bundesliga had already been decided, asserting after the Dortmund match (via Reuters) that "we have to stay on the ground." And club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge added a reminder that "there are still 26 games to go." Yet, the fact that both club officials had to say the title wasn't "yet" won in early October speaks volumes of Bayern's dominance. And it's hard to see any team, much less Bremen, stand in their way.
Heading into Saturday's clash, Bremen are in the midst of a dreadful run of form. Four consecutive losses have left the side from northern Germany 14th in the Bundesliga table, just two points clear of the relegation zone. And with another defeat on Saturday, Viktor Skrypnyk's men could very well sink into the league's bottom three.
The match will be an emotional one for Claudio Pizarro, who returned for a third stint in Bremen over the summer, the club that first brought him to Europe in 1999. The 37-year-old spent two spells at Bayern, the most recent being from 2012 until this July.
The Peruvian striker is adored in Munich, and although he might not start on Saturday, every meeting with a former club at this stage in his career is special. Yet Bremen will need something truly exceptional from Pizarro and company if they are to take something from this weekend's clash.
Date: Saturday, October 17
Time: 2:30 p.m. BST / 9:30 a.m. EST / 3:30 p.m. local time
Venue: Weserstadion, Bremen
TV Info: Fox Soccer 1 (U.S. only), Not available (UK only)
Live Stream: Fox Soccer 2Go (U.S. only)
|Werder Bremen||Bayern Munich|
|Hannover: Loss||Borussia Dortmund: Win|
|Leverkusen: Loss||Dinamo Zagreb: Win|
|Darmstadt: Loss||Mainz: Win|
|Ingolstadt: Loss||Wolfsburg: Win|
|Hoffenheim: Win||Darmstadt: Win|
Ozkan Yildirim remains sidelined as he recovers fitness following a serious knee injury. As well, Raphael Wolf and Aron Johannsson will miss out on the action for Skrypnik's side.
Possible Werder Bremen starting XI: Wiedwald; Selassie, Galvez, Vestergaard, Garcia; Fritz, Bargfrede; Bartels, Junuzovic, Garcia; Ujah
The international break offered time for Arjen Robben to recover fitness, which came at a perfect moment for Bayern given that Mario Gotze suffered a muscular injury last week that will see him miss the rest of the calendar year.
Joining Gotze on the sideline will be Sebastian Rode, Jan Kirchhoff, Holger Badstuber, Medhi Benatia, Franck Ribery, Arturo Vidal and Kingsley Coman.
Possible Bayern Munich starting XI: Neuer; Rafinha, Boateng, Martinez, Alaba; Lahm, Alonso, Thiago; Muller, Lewandowski, Costa
Players to Watch
Robert Lewandowski and Douglas Costa were on fire for Bayern heading into the international break, and they are obvious ones to watch for the visitors. However, Arjen Robben has worked hard in training recently and could make a comeback against Bremen. If used either as a starter or substitute, the Dutch winger could turn the match by himself.
Most of Saturday's match will, in all likelihood, be played in Bremen's half. And as such, the form of defenders like Gebre Selassie and Jannik Vestergaard will be key for the hosts. They will have to be clinical on the counter-attack, where summer signing Anthony Ujah will look to make his impression felt.
Robert Lewandowski vs. Jannik Vestergaard
By this point, Robert Lewandowski hardly needs introduction among football fans. The Poland international has scored 15 goals in his last six games for club and country and will face a Bremen team with a very shaky defense.
Jannik Vestergard will hope to keep Lewandowski under wraps. The 23-year-old stands a towering 1.98 meters in height and will be a formidable foe both in the air and on the ground. More will be needed of him than he's shown in recent weeks, though, as Bremen have conceded seven goals in their last four games.
Anthony Ujah vs. Jerome Boateng
Anthony Ujah was one of the few bright spots for Koln last season as the North Rhine-Westphalia club finished just five points clear of the relegation zone. The Nigerian striker scored 10 Bundesliga goals, earning a transfer to Bremen. He's yet to reach top form at the Weserstadion but will aim to turn over a new leaf against Bayern.
Jerome Boateng has had a long road to the top, but by this point he is one of Europe's best center backs. Teammate Javi Martinez even hailed him (via Abendzeitung Munich, in German) earlier this week as the best in his position in world football. If Bayern are to keep Ujah off the scoresheet, Boateng will be the key man.
Odds (courtesy of Odds Shark)