UEFA Champions League Group Stage Preview: FC Bayern vs. Napoli
Nuremberg ran up against the Bayern Munich machine this past weekend, and were humiliated in the Bavarian derby.
Bayern got off to one of their rigorous starts and scored in the second minute, with in-form striker Mario Gomez stepping up to head home Bastian Schweinsteiger's cross.
Schweinsteiger himself scored with a booming shot from outside the penalty area after being set up by Gomez. Franck Ribery added a trademark third while Gomez added a fourth after being set up for a tap-in by the intelligent Toni Kroos. It was comprehensive, it was engaging: it is the kind of performance we've come to expect from the new-look Bayern squad firing on all cylinders.
Defensively, Bayern were fantastic in the first half.
Keeper Manuel Neuer had to make a few good saves in the second half, however, as Nuremberg looked to lessen the impact of the blowout.
The line-up consisted of Daniel Van Buyten and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, two players who I think will not be in the starting XI in Bayern's Champions League clash on Wednesday unless Bastian Schweinsteiger fails to recover in time. Both Bastian and Van Buyten have injuries to deal with but manager Jupp Heynckes says they should both be ready to go by gametime.
Schweinsteiger was mesmerizing over the weekend, enacting his brilliant, controlling play from midfield.
He just absolutely dominated and was fantastic to watch. He had to leave the action after 70 minutes or so due to injury, though.
I am a little worried about Thomas Mueller's conversion rate at right wing—his performance was great against Nuremberg, but he could have capped it off with a goal—this is not the first time Bayern's young goal scorer has scuppered a great chance, and I hope he finds his scoring boots soon.
And then, let's talk about Mario Gomez—he has 12 goals in the Bundesliga. Not a strand of hair on his head gets messed up, he even scores some spectacular goals and sets up his team-mates these days. (I have to question what Timm Klose was doing for Nuremberg in letting Gomez free for that goal, though.) Bayern had more than 70 percent possession despite running about eight km less than Nuremberg.
Now, it's time to move on to the Champions League tie against Napoli. Napoli lost to Catania 2-1 over the weekend. They took an early lead through Edinson Cavani, but lost a man in the 43rd minute and had to bring on Marek Hamsik who was being rested to try to salvage a draw after conceding the winner early in the second half.
If I was a betting person, I would bet on them coming back in the match—they were that close to snatching an equalizer. (Also, the opposition had a player named Gomez—good omens, anyone?)
Paolo Cannavaro is suspended for this one. Salvatore Aronica is the one who should have been suspended for me, however, after his theatrics in Naples. Also, Marco Donadel and Goran Pandev haven't featured for a while due to injuries and will seemingly not play a part in this one. (If I see Pandev, I might just regurgitate). Walter Gargano is injured and will not feature. For Bayern, Schweini should be fit—if he isn't, expect a defensive midfield pairing of Luis Gustavo and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk or Kroos and Gustavo with Ivica Olic or David Alaba coming into central midfield.
Schweinsteiger is a booking away from being suspended. According to UEFA's official website, Bayern have committed the most fouls in the competition—59, or 19.67 per game.
This brought up thoughts of a red-card in my head. If the referee is unkind, Bayern might be in trouble. Bayern's home record following the opening day of the Bundesliga has been excellent: all wins and 33 goals scored with none conceded in all competitions.
Philipp Lahm, who recently has been making a few comments in favour of a Bayern move for Borussia Monchengladbach starlet Marco Reus, has to be wary of Christian Maggio, who fried him for the own goal Bayern conceded in Naples.
Kroos spoke of Napoli's tactics this week and said that the three-man defence might prove unsettling even though they dealt well enough with it in Italy.
If Bayern and Villarreal both win, Bayern qualifies for the Round of 16. If Bayern loses, they will go down to second and will be in trouble. A draw would keep them at the top but again would make for two very nervy final match-days against Villarreal and City, both very difficult opponents—especially with the City game in Manchester.
And, I am so nervous that I am not being able to go on anymore. Let me hear your thoughts about what should be a very entertaining match.
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