FC Bayern Munich: A Trip to Hanover Awaits as Robben Returns to Training
This season, it is rare that Bayern head into a game on the back of a draw, but this is one of those occasions.
However, Bayern has actually won just once in their last three matches: A draw against Hoffenheim preceded their win against Hertha, which was succeeded by the draw against Napoli. Against Napoli, Bayern should have grabbed all three points, but, nonetheless, a point in Italy isn't a bad result.
Hanover is no longer the relegation battler of olden times—they are now genuine contenders for a top four position in the Bundesliga. They recently suffered a huge disappointment in the Europa League, as they drew 2-2 against Copenhagen after having led for large chunks of the match and having missed chances to increase their lead.
Hanover's passing is what must not be overlooked. The through-balls in that game from Hanover were great ones. The only problem was that Jan Schlaudraff was repeatedly caught offside.
The players in the side can shoot from long range. One of the best in this category is Christian Pander, a player who has had an injury-ridden career. The back four can be a little suspect but are largely a reliable lot: They have conceded 12 goals so far in the Bundesliga, which is slightly surprising.
In Ron-Robert Zieler, they have a keeper who has recently been given a spot in the national side, although he was partly responsible for the late equalizer H96 conceded against Copenhagen.
For me, the first name that comes to my mind when Hanover is brought up is Steve Cherundolo, the captain and the long-serving American star. Right-backs don't come any better than Cherundolo in terms of reliability and loyalty. He has made in excess of 300 appearances for the club.
Hanover's forwards have enough in them to travel the back line. I am not too fond of Mohammed Abdellaoue and Didier Ya Konan—frankly, they scare me at times. Bayern lost on this very ground, 3-1, last season, and spent the last few months battling for the last Champions League spot with them. They needed Andries Jonker to finally get them through. That match in Hanover was ugly for Bayern, especially when Breno received a red card for lashing out in frustration.
Breno and Arjen Robben will not be in contention for this one. Rafinha, who didn't play against Napoli due to injury, is set to feature in this one, as is Luiz Gustavo, who was tired after long journeys with the national side. The first 11 are all set to be in the team, and Daniel van Buyten is set to make the squad despite being ill recently.
Hanover has enough goods to trouble Bayern. But one also has to look at what Bayern has to offer.
In a good year, Hanover is usually torn apart by Bayern. The season before last, Bayern beat them 7-0 with a hat trick for Robben. Robben is back in training, but a return date is not set yet. I hope to see him back in two weeks in the squad for the Napoli match, just in case things don't go right.
Overall, Bayern should win this one. Manuel Neuer needs two more clean-sheets or so to break Timo Hildebrand's all-time Bundesliga clean-sheet minutes. Hildebrand has an excess of 800 minutes, while Neuer stands at 748 minutes. If Holger Badstuber keeps it together after an unfortunate own-goal in midweek, it could continue.
So, will Bayern win this one? It is incredibly hard to break the Bayern defence, but Hanover is yet to lose at home in Europe and the Bundesliga this season. I think it will be close, especially if Bayern doesn't get over the midweek performance.
Final Score: Hanover 1, Bayern 2
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