One should never laugh when the player of one's own team gets injured. Never! It's a very cruel thing to do.
When the line-ups were announced, the Bayern fans must have been slightly confused. Manuel Neuer had been placed in goal. Jerome Boateng was the left-back and Philipp Lahm was the right-back. Holger Badstuber had a spot in central defence. Alongside him was....
Daniel Van Buyten.
In the defensive midfield, Bastian Schweinsteiger was paired with Anatoliy Tymoschchuk. This was the second surprise. The rest of the line-up remained the same with Thomas Mueller, Franck Ribery and Toni Kroos in attacking midfield. Mario Gomez started up front.
Villarreal lined up in a 4-3-2-1. This sounds slightly defensive to me and they ended up spending most of the match, especially the second half, defending on their home ground. Schweinsteiger played a fantastic match and did not let the three Villarreal defensive midfielders snuff him out of the game.
Ribery is one who rarely ever gets snuffed out of a match. It took him only seven minutes to set up the brilliant Toni Kroos for the first real shot on goal. This turned out to be the opener. Bayern struggled slightly afterwards as Van Buyten was beaten for pace time and time again. Some fans sensed it could be a long night.
And then, on the 23rd minute, Van Buyten suffered an injury.
While the fans were sympathetic, they must have been slightly relieved. Off went Van Buyten and on came the super Brazilian Rafinha. The game settled as Bayern looked more and more sound defensively.
While the defence did come under a few more threats than usual, mostly, in my opinion, due to the absence of Luis Gustavo, Manuel Neuer only had two saves to make. Both saves showed us why Bayern dished out 18 million euros for a keeper who only had one year left on his contract at Schalke.
Philipp Lahm and Rafinha came forward occasionally, but mostly stayed back. Bayern switched from defence to attack very quickly. Bastian Schweinsteiger played very well, cutting out attacks on one side and starting them on the other. He also had one shot on goal which Diego Lopez did well to save. In the second half, Bayern dominated. Mario Gomez departed with injury for Nils Petersen. Petersen and Kroos had three chances which should have resulted in goals.
The only criticism Heynckes had of his team was that they should have killed the game off earlier. It took a superb effort by Rafinha to finally end the match in the 76th minute. Kroos was the man of the match as he scored one and set up another. Overall, it was a good performance. Bayern now top the group with three points, ahead of Napoli and Manchester City who have one each. Villarreal is at the bottom. Neuer has now gone more than 600 minutes without conceding.
Attentions will now turn to Gelsenkirchen. Bayern will take on Schalke, a team which has been the model of inconsistency throughout the season so far. Schalke can play breath-taking football in the second half, sometimes in the final fifteen minutes, but seemingly never over 90 minutes. They lost their last match to Wolfsburg 2-1. They had chances to win it but failed to capitalize and conceded a deflected goal late in the second half.
Bayern's away record is spotless this season. They are yet to drop a point on the road as well as concede any goal. Neuer will probably be in for a hostile reception at his boyhood club. Benedikt Howedes, Schalke's captain came out and said that the crowd should welcome Neuer. Raul will be the main goal threat for Schalke. Klaas Jan Huntelaar is hit and miss and missed a great chance in the Europa League against Steaua Bucharest.
Christian Fuchs and Lewis Holtby are always fun to watch. Julian Draxler, if given a starting berth, might impress. The man to watch for Schalke will be Neuer's successor, Ralf Fahrmann. Fahrmann hasn't really put a foot wrong all season long and has made some really good saves. Considering that games involving Bayern this season have mostly been one-sided, Fahrmann should have a busy afternoon.
For Bayern, expect Petersen to start if Gomez doesn't recover. Also, Heynckes might play David Alaba and take Thomas Mueller to the front. Or he might even play Ribery as the forward. Arjen Robben will not be appearing for this one considering he wasn't even on the bench in midweek. We will all be hoping he is fit by the 27th of this month.
Prediction: I have gotten every single one of them wrong this season, as in almost every match I have predicted that Bayern will concede. So this time, I am saying that Bayern will keep a clean sheet.
Schalke 0-2 FC Bayern