Bayern Munich will look to end a two-game winless streak in the Bundesliga as they take on Werder Bremen on Saturday. A loss to Mainz a week ago saw their advantage in the German top flight slip to five points, but a draw away to Dortmund ensured the Bavarians remained well in control of their fate heading into the final stretch of the league campaign.
Although the draw with BVB will be seen as a positive one, Bayern's run of just one win in their last four matches in all competitions is of slight concern ahead of next Wednesday's UEFA Champions League round-of-16 second-leg clash with Juventus.
Still, speaking with Sport1 (h/t ESPN) this week, Thomas Muller was bullish about his side's class, admitting he struggled to see any area in which even the great Barcelona were superior to the Bavarians.
"I wouldn't really know where they are better [than us]," he said. "Sure, you can see week after week how good they are. But they could also see us play and say that we are strong too."
For now, though, Bayern will have to focus on beating Werder Bremen.
Bremen enter Saturday's clash in excellent form, having recorded 4-1 victories over Hannover and Leverkusen in their last two outings. They've climbed from the depths of the relegation zone to relative safety, although just three points separate them from a spot in the playoff against the 2. Bundesliga's third-placed side.
A bit of a scandal emerged last week, as Clemens Fritz and Zlatko Junuzovic (full story via ESPN) admitted to deliberately picking up bookings in order to miss the Bayern game, suggesting the points were already lost.
After that demoralizing revelation, Bremen coach Viktor Skrypnyk will find it challenging to motivate his side. Yet as Darmstadt recently showed, even a side expecting to lose with many suspended players can still push Bayern. We'll see on Saturday just how much the trainer will be able to get out of his in-form side.
Date: Saturday, March 12
Time: 5:30 p.m. GMT/12:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. local time
Venue: Allianz Arena, Munich
TV Info: Fox Soccer Plus (U.S. only), BT Sport Europe (UK only)
Live Stream: Fox Soccer 2Go (U.S. only), BT Sport (UK only)
|Bayern Munich||Werder Bremen|
|Dortmund: Draw||Hannover: Win|
|Mainz: Loss||Bayer Leverkusen: Win|
|Wolfsburg: Win||Darmstadt: Draw|
|Juventus: Draw||Ingolstadt: Loss|
|Bochum: Win||Hoffenheim: Draw|
Bayern will be without Holger Badstuber, Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez but will otherwise have a full squad available. With next week's big match against Juventus on the horizon, Guardiola will likely aim to limit the minutes of some key figures.
Possible Bayern starting XI: Neuer; Lahm, Kimmich, Alaba, Bernat; Vidal, Thiago; Robben, Muller, Ribery; Lewandowski.
Fritz and Junuzovic are suspended for accumulated yellow cards, while Bremen will also have to manage without injured contingent Raphael Wolf, Michael Zetterer, Janek Sternberg, Aron Johansson and Philipp Bargfrede.
Possible Bremen starting XI: Wiedwald; Gebre Selassie, Galvez, Vestergaard, Djilobodji, Garcia; Grillitsch, Yatabare, Bartels; Ujah, Pizarro.
Players to Watch
For Bayern, Douglas Costa and Arjen Robben will aim to have a good performance ahead of their Champions League showdown with Juventus; the pair have lacked a bit of sharpness as of late. Xabi Alonso will make an appeal for playing time in the Juve match as well, the veteran having been benched in the first leg but given an impressive performance against Dortmund last weekend.
On the Bremen side, all eyes will be on the in-form Claudio Pizarro as he takes on his former club. Otherwise, Levin Oztunali, who's developed significantly as of late, could also be one to pull a bit of magic out of his hat.
Arturo Vidal vs. Sambou Yatabare
Vidal has shown resurgent form as of late, putting on the kind of performances he was signed to give. The Chilean was arguably Bayern's best player in the draw with Dortmund last weekend and was unlucky not to score. He'll have to work hard at both ends of the pitch on Saturday.
New signing Sambou Yatabare gave his first assist for Bremen in his last outing, but that came two weeks ago. Now back from a special leave of absence, the former Standard Liege man will have to adapt quickly if he is to affect the outcome of Saturday's game. A powerful player, Yatabare will be the fulcrum of the Bremen midfield.
Joshua Kimmich vs. Claudio Pizarro
Kimmich shocked Bundesliga fans as he put on an excellent performance against one of the league's finest strikers, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, last weekend. As such, the youngster is likely to continue starting in the Bayern defense. He's on a great run of form and is certainly one to watch.
After struggling for most of the fall campaign, Claudio Pizarro has experienced a resurgence of form. The 37-year-old has carried Bremen out of the relegation zone, with 10 goals in his last nine Bundesliga games. And he pitched in a goal and an assist in each of the last two DFB-Pokal rounds to bring Bremen to an improbable semi-final position. Facing his former club, he'll be keen to get on the scoresheet.
Odds (courtesy of Odds Shark)